Rancher prisoner teacher and champ

Noreen and Art Hawtin pose with the sign identifying their ranch est. 1936

Noreen and Art Hawtin pose with the sign identifying their ranch est. 1936

One of rancher Art Hawtin’s closest friends, another rancher in Beaverton, Ont., told me that Art had two personalities. One personality Art exhibited around family and friends, when he was soft-spoken and easy-going. Then, whenever he herded his cattle, he exhibited the firmness and purpose required. When he moved cattle into pens or onto trucks, his friend said, Art seemed to be able to speak to the animals with his eyes and his body posture.

“It was as if the cattle figured that it was their job to get into the chutes or onto the truck,” Bob Robertson told me this week. “Art made them do whatever he wanted.” [more…]

Answering the bell

Keith Ballard checks Corey Perry and Don Cherry salivates. (courtesy puckgonewild)

Keith Ballard checks Corey Perry and Don Cherry salivates. (courtesy puckgonewild)

Last Saturday night, during the “Coach’s Corner” segment on CBC TV, Don Cherry could barely contain himself. His partner on the Hockey Night in Canada segment Ron McLean asked the one-time coach of the Boston Bruins what he thought of a the hip check delivered by Minnesota Wild defenceman Keith Ballard on Anaheim Ducks’ star winger Corey Perry, earlier in the week. Cherry blurted out that it was perfectly normal, just “a hockey hit.” Seconds later, the HNIC producers showed one of Perry’s teammates dropping the gloves, challenging Ballard to a fight. Why?

“Somebody has to go after (Ballard) and answer the bell,” Cherry bellowed. “And if you don’t understand that, there’s no sense me talking about it!” [more…]

A New York state of mind

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade lasted three hours and featured all manner of superhero, including Spiderman.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade lasted three hours and featured all manner of superhero, including Spiderman.

The turkey was done. Done like dinner, because it was American Thanksgiving dinner. The pies and other glorious pastries had come out for dessert. And the relatives I was visiting on Long Island, New York, were well into their annual ritual – eating, drinking, joking and generally over-indulging – during their Nov. 27-to-30 holiday. Except, for them, after the turkey, the dressing and the dessert, there was one other indulgence required.

“OK. Where are the flyers?” my cousin asked. “Gotta check the sales.” [more…]

Respect my neighbour, or else

The unsinkable Rodine Egan at her 90th birthday party in 2013.

The unsinkable Rodine Egan at her 90th birthday party in 2013.

It happened over the weekend. She called me over to her house. As a neighbour of some 25 years, of course, I said I’d help. When I entered her kitchen, I realized she was upset. More than that she was worried. She handed me a letter she’d received from a utility and asked me to explain to her what it meant. I looked at the content of the letter as she spoke to me. She seemed to be more afraid than inquisitive.

“What does this mean?” she repeated.

As many of you know, I live next door to a most extraordinary person. At 91, Rodine Egan is not as spry as she once was, but at no time have I ever sensed that anything could frighten her.

[more…]

More liberation needed

My mother, Kay Barris, could have run the retail department in which she served as a sales clerk.

My mother, Kay Barris, could have run the retail department in which she served as a sales clerk.

The deadline for getting my news story on the air was fast approaching. My TV producer, a long-time filmmaker and friend named Sue, made some speedy recommendations in the editing room to help me get the story finished in time. At the time, her experience was wider and deeper than mine. And thanks to her skill, we managed to get my TV story broadcast that night. That’s when I delivered that horribly cliché and patronizing line about her talent.

“That’s why you get paid the big bucks,” I said condescendingly. [more…]

Wartime life at sea

Canadian sailor Jim Hunt served in the Norwegian Merchant Navy in WWII

Canadian sailor Jim Hunt served in the Norwegian Merchant Navy in WWII

Regulations clearly stipulated against it. An exposed light in the middle of the darkness, especially on the open sea when the country was at war made the vessel emitting the light extremely vulnerable. German U-boats could spot it in a second, and attack in the next. And the risk was made extremely clear to merchant navy man Jim Hunt during one North Atlantic crossing when his tanker convoy was under an escort by U.S. navy ships.

“Someone had left a porthole open with a light on at dusk on board our tanker,” Hunt said, remembering his time in the Second World War as a teenaged sailor at sea aboard a Norwegian merchant navy ship. “So, an American destroyer came alongside our ship and signaled for us to turn the light out … or they would sink us.” [more…]

On his own terms

JASUN_SINGH_PORTRAIT_EMy writing staff and I had just completed a production meeting. I had just given our writers – the senior students of our online newspaper at Centennial College – their Remembrance Day assignments. With the recent loss of two reserve soldiers here in Canada, we were all sharply focused on Nov. 11 coming next week. So, I’d gone around the table and assigned stories to our student reporters. One would write about a woman in the Royal Canadian Navy in the Second World War. Another had an interview with an Afghanistan vet. A third would feature young military cadets.

And one reporter, a young man named Jasun, needed a phone number for a D-Day vet I asked him to interview.

“May I give you a bit of background?” I asked him.

He started writing notes on a single sheet of paper with his other hand as the writing surface.

I invited Jasun into my office. He sat at my desk. I stood across from him and gave him as much detail as I could about the 90-year-old veteran he would be interviewing later that day or the next. [more…]

Loss of innocence

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo's casket in the streets of Hamilton, Ontario, on the day of his funeral.

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s casket in the streets of Hamilton, Ontario, on the day of his funeral.

Politicians, police and just plain people have offered a lot of captions to the events in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa over the past week. The Prime Minister called the killings of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo an attack on Canada’s democracy. Law enforcement officials referred to the murders as “lone-wolf terrorism.” And friends of mine have said it was an assault on this country’s innocence. A paramedic who joined those watching Cpl. Cirillo’s body pass on Hwy 401 last Friday summed it up:

“I never expected to be standing here for a Canadian soldier killed on our own soil,” Roger Litwiller told the Toronto Star. [more…]

Visual aids or impediments

Alberta Aviation Museum at Edmonton's former Blatchford airfield.

Alberta Aviation Museum at Edmonton’s former Blatchford airfield.

It was just a few minutes to go. Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, the author with whom I was sharing MC-ing duties (last Friday night), and I, were trying to organize visuals for our combined presentation about historic aviation moments. We were about to co-host the launch of the LitFest 2014: Edmonton’s annual non-fiction festival. The audience was all seated in the venue now, the Alberta Aviation Museum. She tried to get all our images to register on her computer. I tried to get them to register on mine. But we couldn’t get one laptop to talk to the other.

“It’s just a Mac-PC thing, I guess,” she said.

[more…]

No sound? No reality!

SUBCONSCIOUS_PASSWORD_POSTERThe concept was fairly simple. Oscar-winning moviemaker Chris Landreth leads his audience into the recesses of the brain of a character named Charles Langford, who’s attempting to remember the name of a long-ago friend he’s suddenly re-encountered at a party. You know… It’s when you see the face, but you can’t remember the name… Well, Landreth used that premise in an 11-minute short film, called “Subconscious Password,” which we recently saw during the annual Short Film Festival at Uxbridge’s Roxy Theatres. The film becomes a madcap edition of that classic TV game show “Password,” with every contestant knowing that the long-ago friend’s name is “John,” except our hero.

“Landreth’s spellbinding animation makes anomic aphasia unforgettably entertaining,” explained the Roxy program. [more…]