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L. Shelby - About Writing - Great Great Grandpa and the Chinook

Great Great Grandpa and the Chinook
by L. Shelby

When my grampa's grampa was young he moved up north to Canada, where the sky is so big it smashed most of the land flat, (which is what happened to Saskatchewan, in case you were wondering.) Not wanting to get crushed by the sky my grandpa's grandpa moved a little further west, and set up a ranch in the foothills of the Rockies. He tried building his first house in a little valley with a cute little bubbling creek, known as Picture Creek, because the movement of the water had etched little landscapes full of hills and trees, and animals, onto the rock gullies as it burbled its way down the mountain.

It didn't take him too long to build that there house, but no sooner had he done so, than the wind began blowing, and it blew and it blew and it blue that log cabin he'd built into matchsticks and kindling, and not only that, it blew my great, great grandpa right out of the valley, and halfway to Fort Calgary. Well he was durned fond of that pretty little creek and durned stubborn about letting nature get the best of him, so headed right back to that there valley and built another log cabin, only with walls twice as thick. But when the wind blew again, it blew the new house to pieces, and this time he went all the way to Mosquito Crossing before the wind dropped him in a heap, and went raging on across the prairies to go plague St. Louis.

Well my great great grandpa never did give up easy, so he dragged himself right back again. 'A wind that hard, just ain't natural' he told himself. So he went climbing further and further up the valley, and when he reached the top end, he discovered that it was shaped just like a funnel in the rock. Why that there funnel was collecting all the winds for miles and miles and sending it whipping down right onto the spot he wanted to build. Well, my grandpa's grandpa knew what to do then, he went over to where them chinese coolies was building the Canadian railroad, and he borrowed him some dynamite, and he blew big chunk of rock out the side of the cliff and plugged up that funnel, and then went back down to build him the finest log cabin ever, thinking that his troubles with wind were sure to be over.

By this time it was coming on the end of August, and after his cabin was all done, he went to bed and when he woke up in the morning he was buried alive by a huge blanket of snow that had fallen overnight. For forty days and nights my great great grandpa lived in that cabin buried under the snow, eating canned beans, and a side of pork he'd hung from the rafters. But the pork was soon gone, and then the beans, and then he ate his boots and the harness of his poor horse, disappeared forever, no doubt, under the snow, and by the time he'd finished the saddle he was feeling awfully thin, and when he found himself eyeing the furniture with hungry fascination, he decided he needed to do something about all this.

So he broke open his window and began digging a tunnel through the snow. As he dug on upward he pushed the snow down into his cabin, and before long his cabin was full of snow. So he started filling in the tunnel behind him, and he dug up and up and up, until it felt like he'd been digging for at least a month. And then all of a sudden he couldn't dig upward no more. He'd reached some kind of barrier, and now matter how he tried digging one way or another he could only go sideways, and not up. Well this had him a bit hornswoggled for a while, but he finally figured out what was happening. That there snow drift was so deep, it went all the way up to the sky. So he dug himself eastward, and sure enough, once he was away from his valley he eventually got to a place where the snow wasn't quite so deep, and he could break out of the top, and slither along on the drift, so long as he was careful not to lift his head up too high and bonk his head right royally on some low lying stars.

Later he came up on the tops of some lodgepole pines, sticking up from the drift and he lopped them off, and made himself a sled, and went sliding on towards Fort MacLeod in search of supplies. He was coasting along nicely and thinking everything was just fine, when a Chinook wind began howling behind him. That hot dry wind came roaring over the mountain, and melting up the snow, and my grandpa's grandpa saw that if he couldn't stay ahead of it, he would, at best, be slogging through mud all the rest of the way, and at worst, maybe he'd be drowned in the snow melt. He lay down on his stomach, and rowed with his arms. Faster he pushed his sled and faster, but the wind got closer and closer, and soon his feet were sweltering as the Chinook licked at his toes, so that he was almost glad he'd already eaten his boots. He kept on rowing, but the Chinook was gaining ground, and although the front of the sled runners were still on snow, the back runners were floating.

By this time his beaverskin coat was like an oven, and he was sweating so hard he was drowning anyway, so he stopped long enough to struggle out of his coat, and that was all the Chinook needed, and it swept past him, leaving him floating on his sled in a raging torrent of snowmelt. He clung to the pine boards as he was teetered and tossed, and tossed and teetered until he would have been willing to toss his cookies, if only he'd eaten in the past week or so. The flood carried him far and wide and when he finally saw dry land, darned if he hadn't been washed all the way out to the east coast, and there he was looking at Prince Edward Island.

My grandpa's grandpa was still just as durned stubborn as ever, though. He swam ashore, and the next year he tramped back across Canada, all the way to the Picture Creek valley, where he saw the goldarndest thing... but the stars are all out, and the aurora is dancing, and that story's a tale for another night, and another campfire.

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