RD Put Luck May 2018

Positively grounded!

    Doc MacLeod was right. It was years ago. I had a wicked stiff neck, and looked to him for relief. Last week, when I fried my Tacoma’s electrical system, I was taken back to that time when.
    I’ve been boosting dead batteries since pre-teens and never had a problem. I was waiting until I had a vehicle held together, not as in the old days with baling wire, but with computers. I was in a rush. It was late afternoon. Red and black look nearly alike in fading light. This is why blaze-orange muscled red aside as the safer colour for hunters, or anyone not wanting to get shot during deer season.
    Blaze-orange was not worn and perhaps not even thought about back in the 1960s when in Colorado, home at the time, two hunters on motorbikes were mistaken for elk and shot dead. About that time, I gave up hunting. 
    I do not know why both my heavy-duty jumper cables are red. It would be comforting to think that this was a factor, although it never was an issue before. The clamps are one black, the other red. 
    These cables were expensive 20 years ago when they were bought. They have earned their value over time. 
    Cheap cables have wimpy clamps and minimal diameter wire – barely sufficient to carry juice over any distance. Alone, their short length is a curse as we attempt to snuggle close enough to the “dead” vehicle to connect up.  Invariably, the battery is on the side, hard to reach – blocked by another car, a tree, the henhouse.
    I stow my costly cables in a vintage post office canvas bag, behind the seat. They are long, thick yet flexible, and firmly attached to clamps with large, powerfully-sprung jaws. They do the job. Just don’t hook them up backwards. They are as good at melting down a fuse or two, or more, as they are – when properly clamped – at surging a dead battery to life.
    From age 12 or so, more times than I’ve fingers and toes, jumping dead batteries has gone without a hitch. All these years.
    It was 1976, Rural Delivery was just hatched. Revenue coming in barely met needs to print and post the next issue. Fortunately, a friend at Co-op Atlantic, the late Stephan Haley, enlisted me to illustrate a history of the co-op that he was writing. Between RD and the illustration gig I was spending many hours bent over a typewriter or illustration tablet. 
    Too many hours, with the result that a wry neck had me hindered to the point I could barely walk upright. (Friends might ask, so what’s new?) Anyway, I made an appointment with Lloyd MacLeod, MD. He scheduled an X-ray. Some days later the results were in.
    “Degenerative arthritis,” the doctor announced. I was devastated, and felt a need to explain the long face. “I’ve never had anything like this before.” 
    “Well,” the doctor replied with a chuckle, “You’ve never been this old before.”
    Just so, I never screwed up jumping a battery before. Doc MacLeod’s words ring in my ears.

    I had a neighbour who I bet could tell positive from negative battery poles with eyes closed and never got his cables crossed. “Had,” because Ernie Himmelman died a couple of weeks ago after two years and some months undergoing treatment for cancer. 
    His death came shortly after that of a long-time friend of Rural Delivery who lived in the Annapolis Valley. In the course of their lives both were significant members of their respective communities. Yet how different their communities, and how relative what constitutes “significance.”
    George Foote was 83 when he died in his sleep. He grew apples and raised bees on the family farm near Berwick, N.S., and was fully involved in church, farm, and community organizations – and paid $75 for the first display ad in RD – total ad income our first year. His send-off in Kentville drew so many that the funeral home chapel, its annex, and an adjoining building, which I took to be a garage (a limousine was parked in a far corner), were packed.
    Ernie was 66. He was this community’s “Mr. Fixit,” keeping many cars and trucks going past their prime in a shop of his own construction. Lack of a hoist and numerous mechanical aids a Red Seal Mechanic would consider basic necessities seldom stood in Ernie’s way. Nor did the fact he could not read, having left school at a very young age to go to work fishing.
    Inability to read was never for lack of brain power. Ernie could take most any machine apart and piece it back together without missing the smallest part or where it was meant to go.
    At his request, there was no church or memorial service to see Ernie out. “Foolishness,” might have been his take on ceremony, which in any form is a rare commodity in our small, relatively isolated enclave. 
    How otherwise it was, across the province, where words like “fun,” and “cheerful” would not be out of place describing the service for George Foote, presided over by Christina Bigelow, pastor of his Baptist church in Woodville. 
    We expect a funeral to be a somber occasion. And there were prayers and a reading of scripture. But family stories related by Pastor Bigelow in her address were so many, humorous, and well-told, they brought laughter and more tears of joy than sorrow to those attending the service. They recalled the life of a man who in many ways was a personification of good nature. (See more, page 52.)
    Foote Family Farm, no small operation, will continue, George’s wife Trina told me over the phone. “We are going to keep on for now,” she said. “See how it goes with the help of his kids when they are here.”
    Over here, Ernie’s wife Barb will be fully occupied with knitting, crafts, and picture puzzles – for, as she often says and demonstrates, “I have to keep busy.”
    As for me, time to water the windowsill gardens. DvL