Sunday, March 3, 2013



Too chilly to busk ... and so I muse and toil again with tireless pen ...

The first recollection I have of my grandmother, Ollie Anger, was a defining word moment in the brown and yellow autumn of 1956 -- I was five years old.  I was at my grandmother’s house in Vanguard, Saskatchewan, Canada, and she was making lye soap.  On the front concrete patio of her red fake-brick house, my grandmother was cutting small blocks of translucent golden soap, and stacking these blocky squares against the wall of the front porch.  I’m thinking the soap had been set out on the concrete slab to dry in the sun.

“You’d better put on your jacket, it’s chilly out here,” my grandmother said.

“What does chilly mean? “ I asked.

“It’s too cold to be in your short sleeves,” she replied.

Now as I’m typing I’m thinking that I never did move back to my home, a basement suite in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.  My parents had separated and I was sent off to Vanguard to live with my grandmother and Sid (my grandmother’s second husband – her first husband, my biological grandfather, had passed away when my father was 10 years old).

This particular blog entry is about some of my grandmother’s stories, of which she told me hundreds of times until the day she passed on.  These tales were mostly summertime stories, told while we sat on a car seat, serving as an outside couch, situated on the sunny side of our home in Vanguard.  (This was the third house I’d lived in with my grandparents in Vanguard.)

And here are some story summaries as told to me by my (somewhat braggadocio – did I say that?) grandmother, Ollie Anger, formerly, Ollie Child, formerly Ollie Nye:

  • We descended from the not-so-genteel Lord and Lady Plumley;  Lord Plumley of the English House of Lords (see our Coat of Arms at the header of this blog entry).  My grandmother claimed that Lord Plumley had been hanged as a horse thief.  I did some quick research and discovered that a Sir John Plumley had been executed in 1685 for his part in the abortive Monmouth Rebellion, an attempt to overthrow James the 2nd, King of England.  The Plumleys later emigrated, as pilgrims, to America.
  • We also came to America on the Mayflower.  My grandmother had mentioned this in context to the Albert Nye family, of which she was a descendent.  I’ve checked this, not thoroughly, and have discovered that Charles Plumley was a friend of William Penn, who has been indirectly tied to the Mayflower.
  • My grandmother and her sister, Margaret, as young girls, traveled from Kansas City, Kansas to Kansas City, Missouri in a covered wagon, crossing the Missouri River in the process.  (I so remember her sister, Margaret and her husband, Bob (the Halsteads) visiting us in Vanguard.  I remember they owned a funeral home … in Nebraska, I think.)
  • My grandmother’s family lived in the Osarks, next to the James family (Jesse and Frank James and their parents).  Some quick research gives credence to this account, for Jesse James is factually from Clay County, Missouri.  My grandmother told me several times of someone in that James family skating on a frozen pond, falling through the ice, and drowning.

And my favorite
  • In July of 1931, my aunt Georgie who was 14 years old, took my dad who was 10 years old, and together they walked out of Vanguard, Saskatchewan, and hitch-hiked to the Calgary Stampede, billed at the time as the Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth, 367 miles away in Calgary, Alberta.  This had to be a remarkable journey, considering it took place near the start of the Great Depression, and considering they had to thumb first to Swift Current, then on to Maple Creek, Medicine Hat, en route to Calgary.  I can just imagine the canaille they must have encountered along the way.

This was near the beginning of my Aunt Georgie’s bildungsroman (if I were to write one), for
within a decade of this Calgary adventure, my Aunt Georgie would play softball for the Moose
Jaw Royals and travel America as a team member in many softball tournaments.  She later
joined the Air Force during the Second World War.  As for my dad, he, too, joined the service,
the Royal Canadian Navy, during the Second World War, and was an ordinary able seaman
aboard several destroyers, spending five years chasing German submarines across the North
Atlantic Ocean.

Of these stories that my grandmother told me, I am thinking that any one of them would make a fine historical fiction piece, especially the one about my aunt and my dad hitch-hiking to the Calgary Stampede.  Further musing on this particular story, one needs to ask the questions: How could two kids have the gumption to take such a chance and hitch-hike so far? What prompted my aunt to have such a strong urge to get to Calgary?  

One possible explanation, as a convergent thinker, could be that their father, George Child who was dentist, had just died, and Georgie decided that she and my dad had to get away for a time. 
As a divergent thinker this could be an Aesopian fable of sorts, because another possible explanation is (and this is totally fiction): that she desperately wanted to see, in person, the most famous cowboy of the era, Everett Bowman, who was bound to be ridin’ and ropin’ at the 1931 Calgary Stampede. 

Dear readers, I’ve an epiphany.  Whatever the reasons for such a chutzpah campaign, may I suggest that this Stampede story and the one about Jesse James enhance my buskeroo street credentials, and, therefore I reckon, it has been in the cards for quite some time that I was destined to become the cowboy busker that I am! 

I suggest, too, that these stories are certainly the stuff from which original buskeroo tunes could be created.

Characters marching in my Chaucerian Parade this week:

  • Jody, the cocktail bar manager at the Radisson Plaza Hotel Saskatchewan (where the Queen of England and her family members stay while in Regina; where the Rolling Stones stay while in Regina; you get the picture).  Jody collects plastic gift cards for me to punch into guitar picks with my handy-dandy forty dollar pick-punch.  Yesterday he handed me over 100 such cards!

  •  Rhonda, a clerk at Shoppers on Broad, who just turned 60 years old.  Whenever I busk at Shoppers, Rhonda always comes out and sings a song or three.  Rhonda’s favorite song is Last Kiss!

  • Terry, manager of Copper Kettle Gourmet Pizza.  Terry charged us just FIVE DOLLARS for an all-dressed large pizza (because we’re buskers)!


Rocket Men …
  • Rockets are still being fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip.  Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas’ West Bank based Fatah movement, are claiming responsibilities for the rocket strikes.

Summer Fun Amok … 
  • World powers are offering the Islamic republic of Iran, some small new sanctions relief in return for curbing its nuclear program.  The stakes couldn’t be higher.  The Obama administration, though pushing for diplomacy, has not ruled out military intervention to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  Israel, too, has threatened it will employ all means to stop Iran from building a bomb.  This raises the spectre of a possible Mideast war as early as this summer.

Basketball Bro-heads …
  • Former NBA star, Dennis the Worm Rodman, has publicly stated to North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, that he is a friend for life.  Back in the U.S.A. Rodman said that Kim Jong Un had asked him to tell President Obama to give Kim Jong Un a phone call.  I think this will be just a case of the Worm getting the Presidential bird.  As for busking, if you can dribble and thrum you'll be BFF with Kim Jong Un.

The Walking Dead, Raising the Ratings …
  • Shown on public television, China parades four foreigners in shackles and handcuffs, being led to their executions for murdering 13 Chinese sailors.

A Fugacious Vacation …
  • Millionaire space tourist, Dennis Tito, wants to send a married couple on a 17 month return trip to Mars by 2018.  (And you thought hanging curtains with your spouse to be a bad idea.)

And to close ... Mitty Meow Meow ...
  • Mitt Romney, in his first televised interview since his fall in the election, is still insisting he ought to be the President because he would be doing a better job.  Here, kitty, mitty, kitty is some spilled milk to lick -- obviously no felix culpa for this feline.

1 comment:

  1. I once read, "Mayflower" by Nathaniel Philbrick, and indeed it does make sense that you are a descendent of that lot.