Saturday, January 19, 2019

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Bearded Story

For a few regrettable years I sported shoulder-length hair and a short beard a la crunchy granola tree planter. My family often commented favourably about how much I resembled my uncle Dave who has for decades worn his hair in a ponytail and kept a neatly cropped beard. His look is not a la anything in particular other than a post-hippie hair habit and a practical trucker’s beard. Trucker’s, of course, like beards because the diesel fumes bite something awful at a freshly shaven face. Both my uncles, Dave and Allen, drove long-haul semi-trailers as long as I can remember, maybe even as long as Dave’s hair. The occasion that springs to mind now was about fifteen years ago when both my uncles were driving back to Langley from a trip to the Interior. They had driven their bearded faces into BC’s semi-desert lands to do a little hunting. Although it was illegal, the only thing they bagged was a rattlesnake, and because it was illegal they coiled it up and stashed it in their large brown paper lunch bag. The theory was they’d bring it home, skin it, and wrap their dear mother’s walking cane in the skin. The theory was a nice snakeskin hobbler’s stick would make her practical aluminum walker friends take notice of her daring taste in physical aids. It was a good theory. Dave and Allen were driving home high up in the semi’s cab, the freshly shot snake coiled in the lunchbag under Dave’s feet. Somewhere near Manning Park they were stopped in a roadblock where park rangers were doing routine vehicle checks for any poaching going on. My uncles idled a few cars away from saying hello through the window while passenger Dave explained to his brother how there’d be no problem because most game won’t fit in a lunchbag until it gets to the butchers. It was a good theory, but that’s when the snake rattled under Dave’s unsuspecting feet. Right out of a double-barrel those feet shot up past his practical beard and landed on the roof of the cab, and in the same motion his hands flew behind his head, snatched his .22 from behind the seat, aimed at the floor and unloaded his clip through the bag, snake and floorboards. Allen then calmly commended his little brother for successfully shooting a snake in mid-rigor mortis, a snake that was stiffening up, causing it’s bony tail to wiggle, and everyone else to spasm just a bit. The commotion was strong enough it pinned all eyes on my uncles and their laughing beards. That’s why nobody happened to spot the old driverless Model A rolling quietly through my uncle Dave’s semi story.

453 words, November 22, 2001

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Ryan Knighton

Ryan Knighton lives in Vancouver, teaches at a college in North Vancouver, and peers at the world with a strange but distinctive focus. He just signed a whopping book contract based on a series of pieces that appeared on this site, and his publisher made us erase them.

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