SURVIVING IN THE NORTH WEST TERRITORIES/ PART 1 MOONSHINE SKETCHES
I`ve moved farther north. Here in the CANADIAN Northwest Territories, you
can`t tie up your horse outside for longer than an hour in fly season… If you stay in a bar too long and your horse is tethered outside, one of two things can happen by the
time your return….
(1) Your horse has gone mad and he won`t let you near him… every time you draw near he tries to bite you – and there`s no way you can ride him. In his own crazy,eyeball-rolling way the horse is dead serious about hating you… and he won`t change
his opinion about you for years.
(2) you`ll notice you can see his ribs now,when you never could before. That`s because the clouds of carnivorous insects have been eating his tender bits – and now
they`re thinking of burroughing (ok, burrowing) thru his hide to start devouring his
You can be sure his ass hole will mostly have been eaten out so it is almost beyond repair… this will not have a calming effect on your horse, and it is likely he
will hate you for as long as he lives. I leave my smokey burrow and and go outside to talk to the fool. I don`t like being outside at this time of day, but – after all, I`m the
reason he`s up here, so it`s only fair that I talk to him…. …
I can see in his eyes that he`s a long way from sober…
He`s getting that “step n`a lurch” tourists get around here. It`s easy to spot…
((Bertie`s walking past: “Hey, Bertie remember that tourist we had a few years back?”
Bertie: “Sure do… Nice fella…. Didn`t say much tho… Funny the way he ran after that
“Sure was,” Nice to talk to Bertie.Don`t see him much anymore… To tell the truth, I thought he
I go real quick over the lane to talk to the man. It`s obvious his horse is distress…
“Distress” is PUTTING IT MILDLY”
“Your best plan is to shoot him quickly and use his body for food!” I say, just trying to help.
Fella whirls around on one heel and stares off at me as if I`m in the distance when I`m
only ten feet away. Peers in my direction like he`s never seen a man in a hat before.
He says,”WHAT?” He`s looking off to the south trying to see the plane. The
Plane`s been gone for hours. Won`t see a plane for weeks now, maybe months. Well, OK we son’t see a plane for a quarter of a year.
I SAY: “You`re going to need the food for survival in these parts. And nothing
stands still here for long…”
Just as I say this, a dog goes running past us down the street like ten children are throwing rocks at him. And they say God doesn`t have a sense of humour.
Well, nobody says that up here. Up here everybody knows God
has a sense of humour… Just… not a very pleasant sense of humour… This guy. He keeps staring at me like he has never seen a hat before, keeps trying to reach up under the screenings…. I swat his hand away and kick his leg a light one.
“WHAT?” he shouts at me again
S’pose he`s been down to Artie`s Grill That`s the only place you can get liquor around here. And the man hasn`t had time to make his own.
I say: “YOU`RE GOING TO HAVE TO SHOOT THAT HORSE!”
“WHAT!” he shouts at me. He`s not asking questions now. Now he`s getting rude. And he`s standing there unarmed.. He`s sort of a big fella, but I was big when I first came
up here, too..
I I SAY: “The horses can`t stay out long this time of year…Usually they just run up and down the street a few times and peel right back into the barn. Then we lock the barn door tight.” He`s walking up close to me now.
“What do you mean this time of year?” he asks…
“I mean the summer!” It doesn`t last long but it`s NASTY, LONG AS IT LASTS!”
“Looking for a man called WILCOX!”
“You mean HENRY Wilcox?” I ask.
“I MEAN ANY KIND OF FUCKIN` WILCOX AT ALL!”
“Ha! Ha!, Well, you came to the right place! I`m Frank Wilcox.
Henry was my uncle.”
“WAS?” WAS? Did you say, was your Uncle? YOU MEAN I JUST
CAME 5,000 MILES TO SEE A DEAD MAN?`”
Yeah, that`s right. But don’t be blaming me about Henry. Snot my fault he’s
dead… you can`t just go runnin`off across the muskeg around here! It looks like a field, I know, but it`s got HOLES in it… Just watch the moose they don`t stay on top long…. Course you won`t see a moose this month…”
Once again he made a grab for my hat….kicked him harder this time closer nto the knee….This one `hurt-a-bit`!
“Har! Har” I laugh
In Jamaica they got a town called “Wait-a-bit?” but that`s a different
story…. …… …… Sure as hell wish I was in Jamaica now…. It`s hotter here —-
and you can`t get a beer to save your life…
“DON`T GRAB AT MY HAT AGAIN!” I`m taller than this fool
when I stand up straight, and you better believe I can choke the life out of him…. God knows, I’ve had enough practice! It`s just not smart to stand up straight around here -you make a better target…
HE SAYS: “You kick me one more time, I`ll rip your nose off!! Right off your
face… that`s if you have a nose!!! Under all that screen shit.”
“COME `ERE! I WANT
TO GET A LOOK AT YOU”
Artie`s laughing so hard he`s rolling in the dirt… 3 legged dog keeps sniffin’
“WHERE YOU FROM, ASSHOLE?” I ask.
“”“YOU DON`T TOUCH MY HAT! Takes too long to strap it on! Those
screens are real important to me. I`ll tie em up when we get inside… Artie`s buying us a drink.”
I say: “Artie, get up! You look like you`re enjoying what that dog`s doing to ya!!”…… a little too much!”
We go inside and I get Artie to unsnap the back of my hat where it tightens
around the neck… I hang the hat from a hook in the ceiling…. don`t have to reach too high for the hook. Ceiling`s only 4 inches above the top of my head
when I`m crouching…. which I do these days pretty much all the time…”
You get used to walking in a crouch… ask anybody who“s been in the
army for about 4 years where people are shootin’ at yer head.
Now that I got my hat off and the tourist can see my face —- it`s too dark in
Artie`s to see yer face…( I can write good English, but not always)
It`s cool in Artie`s Bar because it`s dug in the ground…like every other fuckin place around here….after the Joint Canadian-American cruise missile tests… and that dumb NUK (I mean CAN-NUK ) I`m not being racist, not that anybody’d
notice around here… nobody gives a fuck and I tell ya…after smoking your skin a foot from a wood stove 10 months a year… nobody can tell what colour your skin is
anyway… cause it`s too dark to see anywhere you can relax enough to have a look, take
drink…..after all, there`s only Artie`s.
This guy`s name is Hank and he`s not a bad guy – he`s going to have to learn
some manners…. He just took the oil lamp off the bar and shone it in my face…nearly blinded me:
“Relax, just want to see what you look like…see if you`re half mad
or if you`ve gone all the way.”
Artie laughs: “Oh, he`s gone all the way.. All the way and back!
All the way round the moon —— only the dogs up here understand him cause they sing together.”
“SHUT UP, ARTIE!” It`s nice to see him – just not that nice!
” So what were you trying to tell me about my horse?” the tourist asks me.
I was saying…. “YOU`RE GOING TO HAVE TO SHOOT THAT HORSE!….”
Artie`ll lend you a rifle and sell you a bullet.”
Artie pours us all a double shot of moonshine mixed with water, berry juice and sirop from farther south, flown up from NORMAN WELLS…
“OK, listen to me now,” I tell the new tourist. “You`ll likely be spending the winter
here, because people don`t like cruelty to animals in these parts,
so no one is going to give you a ride south….”
” Not that there are any rides south —- unless you can paddle 2000 miles up
river….” “Har! Har!” Me and Artie laugh.
I say: “After all, you’ve just lost your transportation. You’d better shoot him fast before he runs off into a lake somewhere and stands up to his neck in water for days, like the deer do.”
(Every once in a while you`ll see a deer duck his head under the water to get the flies off. He`ll stand there in the lake up to his chin in water with his eyes closed and he won`t move.
It`s hard to see em after a while – look just like a stump.)
I say: “No, your best plan is to shoot him quick before he gets in too deep and then
you`ll never catch him. But first you`re going to have to dig some holes – at least four feet deep, so they`re below the frost line. And don`t you put more than 20 pounds of horse meat in any one hole.”
Jesus Christ! I’m trying to help…!”
“Good God, you`re kidding!” he shouts, scratching all the while, and insisting
on scratching repeatedly in several unattractive places…”
After a while you see newcomers do a dance, hopping from one leg to another –
rather like a young child who has shit himself.
“I only wish I was kidding,” I say to him, giving him a sympathetic nod and
trying not to laugh. Two hours ago, he`s noticed I have a big screened hat on my head
– I look like a beekeeper, only crazier and more extreme,
(Talking now when me and the tourist first met) I say:“We got flies and biting insects up
here that make bees look cuddly and friendly – sometimes they even look like they can keep your
“Better have another drink…” I tell the poor man. I remember when the
realization first hit me – and I`m not talking about any spiritual Awakening…The
spiritual awakening you have up here is: “I’M FUCKED!” – I mean well and truly
fucked. Not fucked by a woman …not good fucked (Yeah we still have women up
here, if you know where to dig deep enough)
“DIG deep enough?” he looks at me askance, as if I`ve offended womankind.
He`s worried about this is he? The poor little fruit? Jesus Christ! He`d better go
somewhere else and flap his hands at the end of those limp wrists he has…
(OOOOooo, I`m feeling the 200 proof, that`s good. Nothing like drinking out of a tin
cup to really taste the stuff!)
There`s class and there`s class and up here this is class!
“Hey, Artie, fire a blast at Jeremiah! ( I mean a blast of sound —- bullets are too
expensive to waste…. and we really need em in the dead of winter…” I guess I’m
talking out last because…
“When`s the dead of winter?” the Tourist asks.
“Shit! Was I speaking out loud?”I’m wondering again.
“Sure wuz,” says Artie…. I stare at him like it`s the first time I`ve ever seen
him. I can`t remember ever hearing him talk… before.”
“OK, Mary`s Land”…
“The LIKKER`S STARTING TO TAKE EFFECT —— that means hallucinations
—— I like it when it happens – I think it`s an added attraction, but.l… it takes a little getting
used to…. the rules is – DON`T SHOOT ANYTHING UNLESS IT MOVES REAL FAST!”I say…
“I don`t have a gun,” says Hank.
“HEY, ARTIE, GET THE MAN A GUN!”
He`s gonna need a gun soon as he starts seeing things…Or needs to take a shit.
We all start to laugh. I lean over and say to Hank – “The outhouses aren`t the safest
places around here, either. You really do have to take a gun when you have to go for a
“Artie, you`ll have to show him how to shoot!” Artie whips a twelve gauge
shotgun out from under his smock and blows the horns clean off one of the
mooseheads by the door.
I didn`t think Artie could see that far – twelve feet! Har! Har!…. I just saw
somethin skitter real fast across the bar… I blast it`s head off quick like lightning
with my no stock sawed-off single-shot bolt action 303. I keep it as a convenience
under my right arm….I` feel naked without it; hell, I can`t walk straight without
(I probably can`t even relax and take a shit without it resting there under my arm, but
you don`t need to know that)…
…None of that pistol in the pants bullshit we used to see on TV… when we had
TV….before that Canadian flyboy blew the jail and mayor`s office, the A&P and our Arctic
version of the Dixie Chicks right off the face of the map and incinerated 4 fifths of the town in .
036th of a second.
Hank has been flown up to WAIT-A-BIT! from New York… to manage the local
newspaper THE Wait-A-BIT BANGER… and he needed a big break from His New York City
habits, his two wives and the viscious, monstroulsly sexy back-up chick singer of QUEER TIME
FUCK (an acoustic non-electric folk band… like Peter, Paul and Mary smoking crystal meth
is the new TITLE they might choose)
A sea-plane lands him and for th first time in 20 years he HEARS utter, mind-boggling
SILENCE… (Oh makes yer head throb, dog) … He walks up from the wharf… The sun is eyeblinding
silver bright… for two hundred american dollars he is given the reins of
a skittish horse fo two days…. horse takes on whiff of Hanks… and shriek-whinnie!!
Hank’s knees quiver a bit..Now the boys save him & have him in Artie’s… Hank’s
been listening and scribling down notes to the monstrous tales he’s hearing…..
” I MISS THOSE GIRLS !!!.”wails Artie and goes outside crying to have a piss.
“Fuck! Did that really happen?” Hank`s starting to scribble in a notebook….
FRank thinks: “I watch him for a while. I used to scribble in Notebooks, too – it`s
nice to see some fool at work – scribbling like the idiot I used to be.”
” Oh, it happened all right, and that`s not
all that happened…” After all the corrugated cement buildings turned to powder, the Beasts
moved back in. The lowlands here were always the Wolverines` home.
“By the way, how` you manage to have yourself dropped off by a plane that
lands here once every quarter year?”
Frank, the mayor and beekeeper hat head asked
“WILCOX hired me as a reporter!” Hank shouts.…. That stuns Artie and me
into silence… it takes a long time for us to digest the absurdity of it all and the
unbalanced strangely tilted technicolour beauty of living in a world ruled by the
smiling Trickster God —-
The Trickster had clearly has gotten us all by the cosmic/comic balls
” “You were to be my replacement,” FRanks says: “But Uncle Henry`s dead…
he ran off into the bush with a hard-on. God knows what he was chasing… They found his boots
and his Walkman,that was all -The same song was playing over and over again…and we hope the
song had nothing to do with his death.
The moonshine booze was obviously finding a place in Hank… On impulse he rubbed
his hands over the wood stove until his hands were pitch black, then he smeared his hands over
his face and the back of his neck and in the crack of his ass and he rubbed more of the soot on his
“We`ve got women who will do that for you!” said Artie
The rest of the crowd in the bar, all eight men of them… fell to their knees
and started to laugh wiht mad shrieks… at Atire’s last sentence…
“It might have been something I said,” Frank mentions:” I told him smoke is the
only effective fly repellant in the area, especially when you mix the soot with skunk
piss. But then there is always the chance a huge weasel will wait for you in your deepdug-
human-home (in the army it`s called a foxhole)….. and mount you when you
enter in the dark.”
“And you don`t always have to be covered in skunk
piss,” Artie says.”If you`re lucky you will have passed out drunk , before the animal
has it`s way with you.”
Artie knows. It`s happened twice to Artie. The first time he
was pas3ed out drunk, the second time, not so much
They tell me, if you happen to be sober at the time, the
nightmares persist for many years.
When the missile struck, we were fortunate. It was summer
and the people leave any way they can. There were only forty-six of us left in town.
Now we have 16, but this is different. This was our busy season.
The rest of them ran away…. WE shouldn`t be here now..
when that MAD FOOL CANNUCK with a bad finger twitch and good aim destroyed
all the CEMENT BUILDINGS IN THE AREA not to mention a third of the
The LOWLANDS ARE NO PLACE FOR THE DAY PEOPLE….
I’m Frank, thinking out loud: ” I never used to wear a watch in the south, but
now I have a large timepiece with several timezones on it, just in case I get lost…I
always make sure I wearing my enlarged and reinforced beekeepers screens on at
least two hours before sunset.”
” i`M NOT KIDDING, I tell him. We have creatures up
here that can dig better than we can, and they can smell raw meat a
mile off. That`s why you have to chop up your horse into so many pieces. You have to
assume the beasts will get at least half of them, or more….”
“Beasts?” What do you mean beasts? What kind of beasts?”s with
alarm. There”s a definite quaver in his voice now. This means he’s beginning to catch on.
“The white men call them, “wolverenes.” I read to Hank across the bunker.
The Indians have a different name for them – it`s a long gutteral series
of phrases they have developed over thousands of years