There was nothing to be done
but take the supplies into the tent
and sleep with them there –
four men and a wood stove. I
decided it was time to start drinking
in earnest, so I wouldn’t have to
listen too closely to the tall tales
these guys were starting to tell.
(You stay in the bush too long
and you start laughing about
diferent things than what you
usually find funny. You start
imagining things. You even
imagine all your jokes are
By 8:00 P.M. it had been dark
three hours, so everybody slipped
into their sleeping bags.
In another hour I was
in the bag, as they say, because I
was drinking authentic Canadian Rye
Whisky. And thank God for it,
because people were really telling
the stories now.
My undertaker opens the discussion
by asking me if I know what they make
womens’ perfume out of.
“Why no,” I reply. “But I’m sure
you’re going to tell me.”
“Beaver balls!” he says. “Damn right!”
(As if I were questioning his integrity.)
“Yep, great big vats of nothing but
beaver balls… you go to a fur auction and
see if I’m not right!”
Could this be true, I wonder, or is this
man pulling my leg? I quaff another beer
and crunch up the can, tossing it into
the corner of the tent. It hits the
“Also, whale sperm,” says Joe.
“You mean sperm whales, don’t
you?” I asked.
“No, whale sperm,” says Joe,
“Jesus! You guys have been
in the bush too long!”
The subject of the sources
of womens’ perfume continued
for some time, but what was said is
not fit for women, child, nor dog.
(Nor would the editors print it.)
Unfortunately your roving reporter
had to hear it all, all the gruesome
details of how perfume is extracted
from poor unsuspecting
One day some months before this,
I had motored across the lake and started
trolling in the weeds. I caught two nice
pike and went back to the camp.
Joe was from Manitoulin Island.
Walt was from New Jersey. So I say to
Joe: “Joe, do you want to clean these
fish for lunch?”
Joe says, “No, I was raised on fish.”
So I turn to Walt: “Hey, Walt! Do you
want to clean these fish?”
Walt says: “No, I was raised on
Walt knew nothing about the bush
at all. And being the only camp in about
seven miles, building the only cabin on
a two mile lake, well, Walt was out
of his depth. So Joe was enjoying
himself at Walt’s expense.
The last week Joe had told
Walt that bears want revenge upon
the human race.
“Bears have studied sociology
and they’re mad as hell,” Joe had
told him. Walt believed him. He
had a little trouble sleeping
nights after his talks with Joe.
So when a few days later
the bears actually did attack
the camp and ripped it in half
and took everything that was
edible and most things that
were not, Walt ran off in
a hurry. He climbed to the top of
a tree some distance away and he
wouldn’t come down.
When Joe was able to coax
Walt down out of the tree…much later
when Walt got hungry, Joe told him
that the bears had been planning
the raid for days.
Walt believed that, too.
(C)2016 by W.G. Milne
Caricature sketches by Ernie Taylor