Irrational fear is one of our most dangerous enemies. H1N1 is an irrational fear, every year the seasonal flu kills 40,000 people with challenged immune systems and H1N1 is a more benign flu than the seasonal flu; yet because of the Obama administration’s irresponsible hype over this flu, an unrealistic fear has become a form of national hysteria.
I saw irrational fear years ago with a friend, his name was Johnny or Barb Wire Johnny. He was one of the best horsemen, I’ve ever known. Johnny lived in the bush country of Northern British Columbia, he was an outfitter, trapper, and horse trainer. A small man with long black flowing hair that the most beautiful women in the world can only dream about.
With a gentle heart and calm steady hands he could make the best ranch horses, mountain horses, pack horses, and driving horses I have ever seen. For all his abilities, Johnny had his personal demons; like many in the North he was part native and possessed a weakness for alcohol, a common affliction in the North. He also had a taste for high venison, most of us ate moose and moose hardly ever spoils, but Johnny liked to hang his venison until it started to spoil. It caused him to have a permanent case of dysentery and Johnny never quite made the connection. Like many of the old timers, Johnny wore moose hide moccasins and leggins, in the winter he also wore a union suit beneath his moose hide clothes. That’s a pair of woolen long johns with a flap in the back for life’s necessaries.
Unfortunately, Johnny might be overtaken by his dietary problems at any moment, so he liked to stuff straw or hay in the back door of his union suit, just in case. Moose hide stretches and Johnny was always stretching his leather leggins from riding horses and stuffing the hind end with straw. It was funny to watch a little man with an oversized and sagging butt walking away, but I never said anything.
I was Johnny’s connection to the outside world, I would bring the whiskey, horses for training, and cash paying hunters. I lived on a ranch with a phone, a real advantage for a business man. There was usually at least a dozen people listening to every conversation, but it was a phone none the less. I helped him with the hooves, shoes, and teeth and he taught me of the mystical world of man and horse or the science of turning two critters into one, many of these lessons I use in my business to this day.
Johnny struggled for a long time trying to make spurs out of barb wire that would work with moccasins, no matter what he did he couldn’t get them to stay in place. I finally made a pair of spurs in the forge that would work for tiny moccasin’ed feet, he was so grateful it was touching. Little did he know, I would use his knowledge and techniques to build a business that would take me all over the world.
On a cold October day, I was bringing in a couple of hunters from the States along with several green colts for Johnny to train, when darkness overtook us. Traveling in the dark is risky business, it’s easy to lose an eye or run a snag through yourself or your horse, so we made camp about twelve miles from Johnny’s cabin. The temperature dropped to 30 below, and the hunters suffered from the cold; but I didn’t want the hunters to ride in the dark, there are just too many accidents waiting to happen.
We rode into the yard in the grey light of a snowy morning and heard screaming like someone was torturing Johnny in the cabin. I drew my rifle from the scabbard and jumped off my horse and hit the ground on the run. The cabin door was latched from the inside, I kicked it open while listening to Johnny screaming in agony. I stepped into Johnny’s cabin expecting to put rounds through one or more bad guys.
Johnny saw me and yelled, “shoot him Skook! Shoot him!”
I surveyed the scene in front of me, propped my rifle against the cabin wall, drew my knife and walked towards Johnny‘s bunk.
During the night the fire had gone out and Johnny’s moisture laden breath froze his beautiful black locks to the iron bedstead. While trapped by his own hair, Johnny let his imagination run away with him, he dreamed or envisioned the devil holding him down by the hair; consequently, he promised to give up drinking when he saw his departed mother praying for him over the tongue of the wagon.
I drew my knife through Johnny’s hair next to the iron rail, he jumped up and ran outside to collapse on the ice and snow in front of the two hunters who probably thought they had entered into an asylum.
I walked outside, knelt down and consoled Johnny, who was in his sweat soaked union suit and barefoot. “Skook, Skook you are the bravest man in the world. You threw down your rifle and took on the devil with your knife. There has never been a braver man than you.”
I smiled, all I had to do is let Johnny carry on with his delusion and I would be a legend in the Omineca Peace Region for hundreds of years. “No Johnny, the devil wasn’t in the cabin. Your hair was frozen to the iron rail on your bed.”
Johnny looked at me as if I were crazy. “I, I saw my mother on the tongue of the wagon praying for me.”
I shook my head, “No Johnny, it’s impossible to see your mother on the tongue of the wagon from your bed, that was your imagination.”
Johnny was slowly regaining his grasp of reality. “I swore if I could get loose from the devil, I would give up whiskey, but the devil didn’t really have me.”
“No Johnny, the devil wasn’t there,” I told him.
“Then I don’t have to give up drinking!”
I could see an advantage disappearing, I tried another direction, “it depends on how you look at it Johnny.”
Suddenly with an inner calm, Johnny asked, “did you bring the whiskey?”
I couldn’t lie, “yes, I have whiskey.”
“Good, I need a drink, you talk to those hunters while I get ready and then we will take them out for a hunt.”
Johnny’s hysteria is not much different from the hysteria over H1N1 or the Global Warming Hoax; Johnny was duped by his own imagination and was on the verge of believing anything during his delusion, especially if I had taken sadistic pleasure in perpetuating the delusion.
Americans are proving to be a gullible people, following the pied piper-like images of Al Gore and Obama. Their delusion and vivid imagination is being used to ensnare them into the belief that the government will save them from destruction and death, if only they will trust the good intentions of the Socialist State. Thus our lemming like public is being duped by the Obama administration.
A basic difference between me and the Obama administration is that I didn’t want to use a delusion to advance my own agenda.
A professional horseman for over 50 years, Skook continues to work with horses. Skook has finished an historical novel, Fifty Thousand Years, that traces a mitochondrial line of DNA from 50,000 years ago to the present. The story follows a line of courageous women, from the Ice Ages to the present, as they meet the challenges of survival with grit and creativity. These are not women who whimper of being victims, they meet the challenges of survival as women who use their abilities without excuses or remorse, these women are winners, they are our ancestors.
Fifty Thousand Years is available in paperback and e-book, it is getting great reviews. You can purchase a copy here; Visit me on Facebook.
Good stories are the ones that make me both laugh and cry, and this is one of them 🙂
Good story, it reminds me of the stories in Field and Stream from the old days.
LOL! Barb Wire Johnny sounds like an indelible character on your life, Skookum. Thanks for sharing.
As for the formerly-known-as-swine-flu panic, I suspect that’s losing a lot of steam… save the steam of citizens royally PO’ed about the government creating a panic, having ample notice, and still not having the supplies they promised in the midst of their planned chaos.
In other words… it’s a good thing. Shows that putting your faith in this admin, over others, is about as smart as Johnny traveling without that hay in his rear trap.
Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And once turned round walks on,
And no more turns his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Who among us has not yet known fear?
up close heard the mighty grizzly roar
a child, trembling in the dark with tears
For our Fear itself has history and lore
Many fear the night
and stay near the light
Fear stalks us in different ways
Master fear or tremble all your days
Out fear is real or created
Thus evil can be elated
Using fear to manipulate
Satan’s key to Hell’s gate
Al, the libraries had some old volumes of F&S from the first half of the twentieth century. I loved that stuff. Hunting and fishing camps were not PC and guys got blood on them when they killed game. I read that stuff by the hour as a boy. Now the stories are a little too clean and the characters are not the crusty hunters and fishermen of the past. I will fight that political correctness of the outdoor world in a few years.
Mata, thanks. Most of my friends like Johnny were self-educated. Many were well read and a couple were Communists, I saw their newspapers. Some had vast libraries and could argue religion, philosophy, or politics with anyone. It’s a long winter and nights were over twenty hours long for a good part of the winter. There was no tv and it was real hard to get a radio station. Crossing rivers on horseback was a skill and a mistake could get you killed. I miss that country.
Long Live the Republic!
Thanks for sharing that Skookum. Loved the story. You paint a picture in the minds of your readers that you can almost see.
As far as the F&S stories, I have read a few myself. My dad was a hunter and I went with him on many occasions. We enjoyed the venison from my dad’s hunting trips. ( I never went deer hunting with him. By the time I was old enough, people were getting kind of crazy and shooting at the first thing that moved. One guy was in a tree stand wearing bright orange and was shot. The shooter said the stupidest thing I could imagine – “I thought he was a deer!” – in a tree? Dressed in optic orange??)My grand father had a small farm but I never got to see them kill or clean the chickens & cows we would later eat.
The point being, like you said, you get blood on you. I remember being in the service in the 80s and having SOME guys who did not want to sit with me to eat on the occasion we had steak because I ate mine too rare for their stomachs. The juice grossed them out.
I wonder how people who eat meat now, could do it if we could not go to the local grocery store and just pick it up.
“I miss that country.” – There is a lot to be said there and my stories are not as much in the “out back” as yours 🙂
I was around for the first round of swine. Knowing my parents, I wasn’t vaccinated then (might have even caught it back then). I barely got the childhood vaccines and only when schools made them mandatory.
I have never seen a flu hyped like this one. The most outlandish claim that I saw was that even if you caught h1n1 that you would need to get vaccinated anyway *ahem* “your body may not have formed enough anti-bodies” – something I have never heard about ANY OTHER seasonal flu shot.
A while back, I argued with a former co-worker over this whole thing. He labels himself as a “free thinker” and a skeptic. During the discourse he threw several links at me concerning studies about the vaccine. He wasn’t thrilled when I pointed out that the studies were performed by the CDC and the drug companies who marketed the vaccines. He couldn’t.wouldn’t understand that they have a vested interest in pushing the vaccines (*money/profit*).
He really wasn’t thrilled when I asked, “Are you sure you are a ‘free thinker’? Your thinking seems to be more lemming-like and you don’t seem skeptical enough to be a skeptic, especially when it comes to human motivation.”
Whoa there Hawk! You managed to bring up many forgotten and distant memories for me in a just a few lines.
I didn’t have much feeling for cattle, our cattle were free to roam over a hundred thousand acres in the summer and became semi-feral out running or defending themselves against the Grizzly, Timber Wolf, and Mountain Lions. Those predators are usually just as happy with an animal that dies and is not toxic, but even the coyotes stay away from the severely infected animals. I always milked cows that were not necessarily bona fide milk cows. You can always tell when you meet a guy who grew up milking cows, his hands will have a grip like tool steel. Occasionally, a cow would need to be freshened up or sent out to the range herd bulls to get bred and spend her time with the herd until she had her calf and was ready to start giving milk again. Consequently, I would need to bring in an old cow who had been living wild for months or start in a new cow who was “reluctant” to let you milk her. This was dangerous work. They would try to kick you, run over you, or crush you; many was the time I had a five gallon pail of milk under a cow and almost done milking, when she would kick it all over me. Eventually, they would become civilized and become fairly safe, I would have to go get them in a large pasture twice a day and sometimes they would be over a mile away, after spending time looking for them often in the dark, I broke them all to ride back to the barn. They didn’t seem to mind and it saved me a lot of walking.
Of course people loved to talk about me riding cows with suggestions that I get a horse. I didn’t use a horse because our pasture was fairly wild and if the cow wanted to run through timber and avoid getting caught it could turn into an ordeal. The cows and horses didn’t like each other and that made the problem a little worse.
Of course most of the milk was used to feed pigs. I enjoyed the pigs and they liked me. I named them after people in the church, sort of matching up personalities. I hated to butcher them, but I was known as a good sausage maker, bacon maker, and I could smoke the best country hams. People who came to my place always preferred to have a pork meal when they came to visit. We hardly ever ate beef, it was elk, moose, and pork at my place or sausage recipes with a combination, beef was a cash crop.
When I began traveling with my business, people would ask me about my life in BC and I would always talk of hunting and packing and of how it took three stout pack horses to pack out one good sized bull moose. There was always at least one who would look at me as if I were Ghengis Khan and ask how I could kill and eat the wild animals. I’d look them in the eye and ask them why they needed someone else to kill the animals they ate and how can you judge the steaks of animals through cellophane and decide which one is good enough for you?
I can drop a moose have him field dressed and quartered with the back boned and in the panniers and be lacing the quarters on three pack horses within an hour, that’s moving out. Te front quarters are the heaviest and will go on the biggest strongest horse, the boned out back in the panniers will go on the smallest or oldest horse, while the hind quarters are laced on the second strongest horse. In rugged country or boggy country fit horses can make 12 miles a day, in open country they can make 20 to 25 miles with this load. Crossing rivers is always dangerous.
Religion is more important in the back country and I have spent many hours in the Mennonite Brethern Church. Because of my soft soothing voice and different not so politically correct interpretations of the stories in the book, I was often asked to read and lead discussions. I would get more laughs than Bob Hope or Jack Benny, but I wasn’t trying to be funny. I think country people are more easily amused.
I use the term H1N1 out of respect for pigs. I am sure they would have become Christians if I could have just communicated with them, they are extremely intelligent animals and I will never raise them for slaughter again.
Thanks Hawk for bringing back so many memories. You made my day!
I think you should go hunting or on a fishing trip, in the western states or Canada. Godspeed my friend and enjoy life.
I just want to tell you what pleasure your stories give me. Please, when you write the book, let me know. Thank you.
Thanks for reprising Barb Wire Johnny. Self deluded fear is one quality that separates us from the other species.