Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dog's in the Cradle

Mac the dog turned one on the 13 (last Sunday). I was at work that day, preparing for yet another visit from the bigwigs.

My dog turned one just the other day.
She said "Thanks for the ball Dad,
C'mon lets play!
Can you teach me to fetch?"
I said "Not today,
I got a lot to do."
She said, "Thats ok."

But I swear I heard her say As I walked away,
she said, "I'm gonna eat your shoe
Dad, you know I'm gonna eat your shoe..."

With apologies to Harry Chapin.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Friday, May 4

There are different signs of spring in the north than what we are used to in the south. We still look for the familiar “v” of geese in the sky, but instead of robins, we look for the first seagull at the dump. The first day the temperature rose above minus twenty was a big milestone. That was back near the end of march. The days are now much longer than they are short. We go to bed with light peaking in from behind the blinds. The snow is all gone, here in the first of may, except in the shaded areas on the edge of the woods. But until today, the river was still a solid mass of ice.

Last Monday I took the dog for our first walk down on the beach in a year. The ice along the banks of the river was breaking up. Mac was wading into the water for drinks, and she was trying to get up onto the unbroken sheet of ice that covered the river. There were several skidoos parked on the edge of this ice. People who were camping on the far side of the river had traveled home to Tulita, only to find the edge of the ice gone. Danny, one of the fellows I work with, saw people racing their skidoos across this open stretch of water and up onto the rocky beach. If you get a skidoo moving fast enough, it will stay on top of the water for a while. I guess it’s better to run your skidoo on to the shore than have it carried away on an ice floe.

Today, Nicole and I ate our lunch, unaware that the frozen river outside our window was about to break free. As soon as I went in the store after lunch, the boss and his wife took the truck down to “the point” to see the ice breaking. The Point is at the southern end of town. It is where most people launch their boats, and where the barge lands to unload. They came back a half hour later, saying that the ice was cracking and the water rising a bit.

By two o’clock, there was open water in front of our hose. Big pans of ice were slowly drifting past. Everyone came down to blueberry hill, at the corner of our company’s property, to watch the ice drifting. Trucks were roaring back and forth towards the point, and teachers led screaming kids down for the show. We watched as the remnants of the ice road drifted past on a single pan of ice, like some tiny tectonic plate.

I didn’t get off work until eight thirty, but as soon as we finished supper, Nicole and I took the dog for a walk down by the river. It was a very different scene from what we had seen at lunch. The river was flowing much faster, and the large pans of ice had been replaced by a mishmash of smaller (although still large) chunks. The water had risen again to the point where the beach was covered in ice and tree trunks.

We stood by the edge of the ice and watched the river rise and fall in quick spurts. Jams miles downriver were causing the water level to rise and fall, sometimes as much as a foot or more. I've uploaded an AVI file to show how fast the ice was flowing. (7mb, 21 seconds)

Sunday, May 6
The elders are right. Within three days of the river breaking, there is always a snowstorm. Ours came . Fat wet flakes. It piled up fast. We got about five centimeters. By suppertime the sun was out and water was dripping off the roof. At times the ice was flowing by amazingly fast. Other times, it slowed to a crawl.

Today we took another walk down to the point. Even more ice had been pushed up onto the shore. Places where we had stood on Friday night were now covered in massive chunks of ice. There had been a large piece of scrap metal down at the point on Friday night. It probably weighed more than a ton. Today it lay twisted among the burgs.

Each piece of ice was unique. most were dirty. Other pieces were bright blue, and stood out among the white and brown. Still other piece were almost crystal clear, with tiny flaws littered throughout.

Now, as I get ready for bed, I can say that there is more water than ice visible in the Mackenzie. In a few days there will be boats in the water where skidoos traveled only a week before.