Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Bear and the Backscratcher

Back scratchers do not have video screens, so I was surprised when my 10-year-old grandson Anderson asked me to make him a wooden back scratcher.

Kids do make odd requests so I agreed to carve a back scratcher with his name on it. My only concern, besides my dubious woodworking ability, was that when other grandchildren saw or heard of this, they too would ask for one. I could see myself trapped in a crowded workshop for months, patiently carving back scratchers.

So I decided to invent a story about how I got the back scratcher; a story that would explain why it would be impossible to get another. The story went like this:

I was walking the woods at Shaman’s Rock when I came across an old guy sitting outside the entrance to a cave. He had silver hair grown well below his shoulders and a silver beard that touched his belly button. The patch of face not concealed by hair was wrinkled and tanned brown by the sun.

He was carving a piece of birch branch and paid little attention to my approach.

“I’ve never seen you out here before,” I said to him.

“There are many things out here that you do not see, nor hear,” he replied, raising his head and revealing a pair of dazzling blue eyes that illuminated the darkness of his face.

“So what are you carving?” I asked.

“Back scratchers. For the bears.”

“Back scratchers!. Bears don’t use back scratchers.”

Those bright blue eyes locked me in a look that said “you have much to learn and much to understand,” then he told me a story.

He was walking the woods when he saw a bear rubbing his back against the rough bark of an ancient oak tree. The bear spotted him and summoned him to come and talk.

“Do me a favour old man,” said the bear. “Scratch my back. The itch is driving me crazy.”

The old guy knew that it was important never to upset a bear, or any of the forest animals. So he scratched the bear’s back as it sighed contentedly. Scratching through that thick fur coat was tiring work.  

Back at his cave the old guy realized the bear likely would come looking for him to scratch its back again. And, it would tell other bears who would line up to have their backs scratched.

Then he was struck by an idea: He would make the bear a personalized back scratcher and show it how to use it.

The bear loved the back scratcher and as word spread, other bears came to the cave to place their orders. The old guy was happy because carving back scratchers was much more enjoyable and less tiring than scratching a bear’s back.

“So the bears are happy,” said the old guy. “And when the bears are happy, everyone is happy.”

I gave the old guy a skeptical look and was about to tell him how ridiculous I thought his story was when he stared into my eyes and said:

“When you help and respect nature and all its inhabitants, it will help and respect you.”

Then the old guy simply vanished and I found myself standing in the woods with a freshly whittled and decorated back scratcher. Carved into its middle was the name Anderson.

I’m sure Anderson will enjoy his back scratcher. When the other grandkids see it and ask for their own, I’ll tell them the story of the old guy and the bears and how I keep looking for him in the woods to ask him for more back scratchers.

The story might keep me off the back scratcher assembly line. Yeah, good luck with that.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My First 100 Days

Judging the first 100 days in office is ridiculous, artificial and something invented by the news media.

That’s how U.S. President Forrest Trump sees it. I feel it is important however, as president of my family, to review my performance for the first 100 days of each year.

Trump’s first 100 days have been fantastic, spectacular, unbelievably good, the best of any president ever and best of any to come. He instantly achieved his prediction of being “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

My 100 days report card is not nearly that effusive because I don’t have his vast store of superlatives. But I can report some modest successes, and some failures.

First, in the area of foreign affairs, I had none. In fact I didn’t even have any domestic affairs.

I did travel abroad for consultations. I went to California to ask my granddog Rusty to join my cabinet of advisors. When it comes to cabinet advisors, I pick only the best of the best.

Rusty is a pretty smart cookie with ideas on how to make life even better for the family pets. He is thrilled to be in my inner circle because the publicity will boost sales of a new dog food that he is promoting.

I also travelled to Hamilton for talks with Louie, my first great-granddog. He is a chocolate brown lab and advised me that more money must be spent to ensure a constant supply of tennis balls are available at the cottage shoreline.

Over in Mississauga I met with Georgia, my Great Dane granddog and senior special advisor. She told me that our family congress would vote for a budget that includes money for a new, larger and more comfortable couch. Grandcat Rainbow agreed wholeheartedly.

Money has been a problem during the first 100 days. The nine-year-old presidential pickup truck needed major repairs. So did two of the presidential teeth.

Despite these financial setbacks I remain steadfast in my promise to build a wall to keep the red squirrels out of our great cottage land. They are aggressive, noisy good-for-nothings. Bad, bad. Totally destructive.

Nobody builds walls better than me because I have fantastic ability and I am really smart. Squirrels are dumb and actually I would like to see them ride the MOAB into squirrel heaven.

Unfortunately the courts stupidly have ruled that red squirrels are a protected species and must be treated nicely. Dumb. Really dumb. Judges need their heads examined.

Meanwhile, the first 100 days infrastructure program is running a bit behind. The new back window project and some other stuff are not  completed yet.

These projects and the squirrel wall are making it difficult to bring in a balanced budget, which is a must because I am not allowed to increase our debt.

Ontario Premier Kathy says she is going to balance her budget despite millions of dollars of new vote-getting spending. She can do that because when she wants to spend more, she borrows more.

Her debt, now more than $300 billion, equals the debt of all the other nine provinces combined. Interest charges on that debt are $12 billion a year.

If I run up too much debt, a guy with a head bandana and tattoos arrives in a tow truck and takes away my pickup. And the bank kicks me out of my house. Then there’s nothing to do except wander into the woods, sit on a tree stump and listen to the birds.

I can report that I did file my income tax return ahead of this week’s deadline. I am willing to make my returns public in case anyone out there needs a really good laugh.

Overall, it’s been a pretty good first 100 days. However, I didn’t realize that being president of the family was so complicated. Hockey tournaments to drive to, baseball practices to attend. School concerts. Easter gatherings. Helping to pick out birthday and anniversary cards.

The media doesn’t understand all the complications I must deal with. Reporters  are meanies who say everything I do is wrong. I’d like to hit them so hard their heads spin. But then my editor might not let me write this column anymore.