Cannabis On Ice
nothing but goose meat!” Will Babchuk fired back at his older
cousin, Eddy Babchuk, who was also my oldest brother. A Babchuk
family showdown in the snow played out as Will and Brandy from one
branch of the Babchuk family, and Eddy and myself from another
branch, stood in a circle of anger, shivering in the Canadian winter
cold on Jan. 1, 1975.
a cool move, Eddy flipped out a comb, slicking back his black hair in
the identical manner Fonzie did on the new hit TV show Happy Days.
Eddy’s hair meant the world to him, and that hair had to be
perfect. “Ay cousin Will, I’ve kicked your ass since you were
five.” Eddy slipped the comb back in his pocket, clinching and
unclenching his fists. “And I’ll do it again!”
my spirited cousin Brandy Babchuk stepped in between a 20 year old
Will and a 25 year old Eddy, attempting to prevent the fight.
piss off!” The six foot Eddy shoved Brandy aside. Whack! He drilled
the short stocky Will in the nose. Thud! He followed up by a hard
kick in the balls.
New Year's Day family fight unfolded at a place called Fishing Lake,
Saskatchewan in the heart of the Canadian prairies. Fishing Lake
was a small resort twelve miles from the
bustling town of Foam Lake, where both Brandy and I attended school,
both of our families shopped and conducted the majority of their
business. Ironically, the town named Foam Lake had no body of water.
Frequently, many of their citizens made the ten minute drive to
Fishing Lake, utilizing our fresh water lake and recreational
facilities as if it were their exclusive playground.
slenderly built Pa stepped out of our creaking and battered front
door wearing his long underwear, glass of whiskey in one hand and
shouted, “Way to go Eddy. Winner and champ as always!”
two combatants in this one-sided bout squared off many times in the
past with the identical result. The bigger and older Eddy beating up
poor Will. “Take that!” Thud! Eddy kicked Will again while he
laid helpless in the snow, bleeding profusely. “Never mess with me
family always wins,” Pa hollered.
softball playing Brandy made a snowball quickly, throwing a perfect
strike taking Pa’s whiskey glass out of his hand, splashing his
precious liquor all over his dirty face. “Enjoy that, Uncle
her a lesson Eddy,” Pa raged as he wiped himself with a torn
followed up with another perfect strike snowball, drilling Pa
squarely in the nose. She then turned to Eddy. “You are a lowlife.”
flipped her the finger and mocked his five foot four girl cousin.
a flash, Brandy scooped up snow, letting fly with a snow missile
Eddy in the head. “I’ve had enough. If you ever touch my brother
again!” She marched up to Eddy, staring him in the face, poking him
in the nose. “I’ll tell everyone in town who stole that
snowmobile hidden behind your shed.”
reddened, lips trembling, looked in panic both ways, gulped. “Ah,
I, I never stole nothing.” He turned and fled.
feisty Brandy turned to her older brother. “Let’s go Will.” She
jabbed me in the ribs playfully. “And thanks for the tip.”
chuckled as we helped Will to his feet. “Thought my big brother was
gonna piss his pants.”
and I assisted a woozy and bloody Will to their house. Will and Eddy
were the oldest in their respective families, and a perfect symbol of
the feud that raged on between our two Babchuk families for the past
decade. All started by some never to be talked about unknown incident
between my Pa and Brandy’s father who was my Uncle Gord.
exacerbated that feud was the two Babchuk families lived directly
across from each other. Actually, we shared the same narrow driveway
to access our farmyards, and did that fuel the controversy. The
shared 200 foot driveway opened up into a large gravel cul-de-sac
like area with one farmyard on one side, the other farmyard on the
other. It was as if the original area was designed to facilitate two
co-operative families working together. Except, that was far from
what was transpiring.
well, both farmyards sat across the highway from the Fishing Lake
resort. A tucked away park like setting, supporting a scenic crystal
blue water lake with a wide variety of fish, beautiful silky sand
beaches, four hundred summer cottages and a well maintained 18 hole
Golf Course. The Fishing Lake resort hopped in the summer, peaceful
quiet in the winter. Well, unless our two families started yapping at
each other, then the war could melt all that prairie snow.
am Pinball Babchuk, and I am now a grown man. However, back then in
early January of 1975, I was a 13 year old runny nosed kid. I
received my nickname, Pinball, as a little guy for I gravitated
straight to any pinball machine in my vicinity. I never revealed my
real name which was my Pa’s name. Why had my moron of a Pa saddled
me with his name which he never revealed or utilized himself?
17 year old Brandy and I enjoyed a close relationship, to spite our
two warring Babchuk clans. I worshiped my clever and attractive girl
cousin who was 4 years older than myself, and so much cooler. Only
Brandy understood her gangly uncoordinated younger cousin who lacked
confidence. For everyone in my family from my lazy Pa, my know-it-all
brother Eddy, my bossy sister Shirley and my sleazy sister Darcy
treated me like shit. They blamed me for our mother’s death, for
when I was born, sadly my mother passed in childbirth.
hour later, I ate dinner at Brandy’s place. I spent more time in my
cousin Brandy’s home than my own. Around the table her entire
family savoured the delicious food, cursing Eddy and my family which
amused me more than anything, as my family rated somewhere around
damn Goose Meat!” Smack! Will hammered the table, still upset with
my brother Eddy. His reason for referring to Eddy as Goose Meat,
stemmed from a small goose barn my Pa owned, and my irritating
brother's continual boasting that someday goose would be the most
popular meat in the world.
down,” ordered Uncle Gord. Unfortunately, Gord Babchuk sat in a
wheelchair. An accident last fall crippled the poor man. With spring
three months away, his family faced a major decision.
we gonna make money?” Buddy inquired. He was the youngest of Uncle
Gord’s children. Buddy was growing like a weed at 16 years old and
was challenged in the brains department. Except, the curly haired
Buddy possessed a couple of offsetting traits. First, the ladies
found him irresistible. In Uncle Gord’s family, Brandy and Buddy
stole all the looks, and Brandy monopolized the brains.
farm.” A bandage wearing Will stated while filling his glass with
more Pepsi, clearly the drink of choice in this house.
finished her meal, moving her plate aside. “With what?” She
grabbed a hair tie, putting her long brown hair into a ponytail.
Uncle Gord muttered and grimaced as the accident that crippled him,
demolished their one and only tractor with no cash to replace it, and
no bank to borrow them money.
we gonna get the money for a new tractor?” Aunt Molly asked in a
gruff tone. “And I’m not gonna go to work.” She looked at Buddy
and Brandy. “You two quit school and get a job.”
mean like Will,” Buddy said with a smirk.
Will was fired two weeks ago from the Chicken Farm in the
neighbouring town of Wynyard. Our hometown of Foam Lake and the
snooty town of Wynyard claimed to be bitter rivals. Therefore,
Wynyard was never this family’s favourite place, the firing merely
reinforced the point. Unfortunately, Will was wrongly terminated, not
his fault, but the hard working Will suffered a slippery setup by a
co-worker. Will’s good hearted personality made him vulnerable to
certain types, being conned on occasion with his trusting nature
fool!” Smack! An overweight Aunt Molly slapped Will on the arm.
“And you get a job, and hold it this time.” Will turned many
shades of scarlet, hanging his head in shame.
loud chewing Buddy grabbed for the Pepsi bottle. “I’m failing
everything again. Haven’t been to school in a month. So, as of now,
I quit. Ye ha!”
in school will be sad,” I commented.
will be the happiest man in Foam Lake,” snickered Will. “And
Buddy, keep your mouth shut when you chew.”
off little man.” Buddy said as he continued to chew with bits of
food flying from his mouth.
down you two,” scolded Brandy. “I’m graduating high school
this spring.” She wore that determined look of hers. “No
question.” The independent girl stated she was leaving home upon
graduating. However, with her Dad’s crippling accident and the
family’s difficulty, she spent many hours reconsidering that
stupid.” Aunt Molly snarled. She had a beautiful face, but let her
body slide, and smiling never came natural to her.
her daughter Brandy possessed an engaging smile, lighting up many a
room. She loved to flash that winning smile when her mind raced. For
my charming cousin’s mind and body revved on high constantly,
always thinking, always moving, always talking fast. Even way back in
her early days of school, across the front of her first grade report
card in big bold letters, displayed the telling message; ‘Inability
to sit still!’
why don’t we use that greenhouse that has sat there doing nothing
for five years?” Brandy asked, leaning forward excitedly. “And go
big this spring!”
rubbed his bruised ribs. “And all the equipment just sits in the
barn. Lights, trays, lots of good stuff there.”
old junk,” Aunt Molly grumbled.
Gord shook his head in disgust. “Never pay. Tried it before.”
shaggy haired Buddy, which was his standard look, speared a few
perogies, reloading his plate, shoving one in his mouth while
talking, “Too much work.”
thing about Aunt Molly, she made the finest Ukrainian perogies and
cabbage rolls in the country. Aunt Molly’s food melted in my mouth.
I relished each mouthwatering moment at this table. For over at my
house, only one person possessed any type of culinary skills, but my
inactive and lethargic sister Shirley very seldom put her skills to
use for anyone except herself.
other factor that made dining at this table special was the
cleanliness and aroma. Today, I smelt a vinegar scent, two days ago
it was pine. Brandy kept the home spotless, managing to creatively
have a pleasing scent flowing through the rooms on most days.
Buddy.” Will leaned forward helping himself to another cabbage
roll. “Hey, maybe we should use the barn. Put in some windows from
the old house, and grow plants there too.”
point,” the brown eyed Brandy added. “We only got one cow left in
there anyway. And that cow is Will’s.” Brandy tended to look out
for the shy Will. Many times she stepped into take his side. For her
older brother experienced plenty of ridicule over the years in school
and at home.
this greenhouse nonsense,” Commanded Uncle Gord. “Just go get
on Dad, you know how tight the jobs are right now.” Brandy winked
at her father who could seldom say no to his only daughter. “If we
run it right, we can do well. And maybe we’ll make enough to buy
that tractor next year.”
Gord never gave in an inch even with Brandy’s smile dazzling the
room. “No way.”
I’ll go join the circus,” said Buddy. “And paint the elephant’s
starting the greenhouse will be like a circus.” Brandy slapped
Buddy lightly. “Come on little brother, join us!”
all stupid!” Aunt Molly cried with her blood vessels ready to
burst. “I’m not lifting a finger to help with any damn
old cow,” said Buddy to his mother. “You wouldn’t lift a finger
anyway.” Amazingly, Buddy was the only person who could speak to
the opinionated Aunt Molly in this manner. Anyone else would have
received a swat, but she maintained a soft spot for her youngest
worked like a dog in that greenhouse when we ran it years ago.” She
wagged her finger at all her kids. “It was hell.” She checked
herself. “Well, sometimes it was okay selling the plants. But other
than that, pure hell!”
Buddy and Will smirked as all three of Aunt Molly’s kids heard
their usually brooding mother’s greenhouse story a hundred times
attempted to remove some of the tension from the room and whispered,
“You know, the Romanov brothers are looking to rent more land.
Maybe they’ll rent your two quarters. Heard they’re paying okay.”
I wrote a dollar amount on a corner of a newspaper Brandy was gazing
at. “And they pay cash up front.”
brilliant Pinball!” A sparkling eyed Brandy flashed me a thank-you
smile. “It’ll cover some of our more pressing bills. And give us
just enough to survive on, until the greenhouse can bring in cash.”
damn way!” Aunt Molly removed her eyeglasses, slamming them down on
the table. “Not renting to those jerks.”
Uncle Gord slapped the arm of his wheelchair. “Don’t like how
maybe this will make the decision for us,” Brandy pulled out a bank
statement. “As of yesterday, your account has $2.01.”
never win.” Aunt Molly brushed her palms together, scattering
crumbs on anyone within six feet. “Will, go get me another foot
long hotdog and a large Pepsi. Load it up with sauerkraut, pickles,
onions and mustard.”
days since Brandy shocked the family with their financial picture. I
crowded in with that cash strapped family in a jam packed Foam Lake
ice hockey arena, fans hanging from the rafters. The final event of
the 1975 Foam Lake Annual Winter Carnival, and the Carnival Queen was
about to be announced.
wanted to witness this event. Pretty girls from all over central
Saskatchewan flocked to compete for the $500 prize money. Even the
nearby city of Yorkton’s TV station covered the spectacle along
with a number of the neighbouring small town newspapers reporting on
the crowning ceremony.
got a good chance,” I muttered.
just lucky her best friend Gabriela didn’t enter,” commented Aunt
Molly. “Brandy couldn’t compete with that.”
Lafarge seemed to have convinced many in the town of Foam Lake that
she was destined for Los Angeles, California, and the good life with
her looks being the ticket to that paradise. She carried herself like
a beauty queen, promising everyone she’d remember them, when she
lived down in the golden state. Except, Gabriela stood five foot
five, a little short of model material.
crunched noisily on his chips. “Gabriela told me that Carnival
Queen is nothing.”
me the same,” I said. “Talked about how she’ll make more in an
hour as a top model than this prize money.”
eyebrows shot up in surprise.“Really?” He pointed across the
arena. “Hey, look at Gabriela and Cindy!”
gazed at the two friends of Brandy, who taunted and mocked her while
she stood up on the makeshift stage. The short red haired Cindy
Kowalski was the mouthy member in this trio of friends. I believed
the freckle faced Cindy despised her two more attractive friends,
compensating by speaking louder, openly being ruder, criticizing
endlessly and continually seeking out trouble. Thankfully, Brandy
ignored her two friends, keeping her composure and dignity, focusing
on the pageant.
this friend trio, on many occasions Brandy played the role of odd
person out. For both Gabriela and Cindy’s families perceived
themselves superior to Brandy’s family. In fact, both Gabriela and
Cindy perceived themselves superior to Brandy. Especially in the area
of boys, for Gabriela and Cindy had been dating since eighth grade
when their boy obsession began.
and Cindy bragged and talked endlessly about their current boyfriend,
switching love interests every year or so with much fan fair and
drama. Ensuring to publicly announce the new boyfriend a day or two
after the emotional breakup. Except, that new man had been well
secured before that previous breakup commenced.
they ridiculed Brandy about her unwillingness to join the boyfriend
game, wanting to line Brandy up with some guy who was beneath them
but more suitable for her. As well, whenever Gabriela and Cindy’s
mothers saw Brandy, the first thing out of their busy body mouths was
a question about when she would finally get a boyfriend.
was ruled out on other occasions within this friend trio. Social
events such as weddings, church functions, school parties and dances,
found Brandy on the outside looking in with her two friends ensuring
Brandy knew how much fun and good times she had missed.
exception occurred at a Foam Lake school dance a couple of years ago
where an eager to fit in Brandy attended with the other two. The
mischievous Cindy procured some booze to liven up the dance. Except,
thanks to the trouble making Cindy, Brandy consumed altered alcohol,
whereas the other girls drank untainted liquor. This caused a stomach
pumping episode in the Foam Lake hospital for Brandy with her two
friends enjoying the prank immensely. My worry, no matter what the
result in this carnival, Gabriela and Cindy would ensure Brandy knew
the public address system a voice crackled through the arena, “And
the runner up in this year’s Carnival Queen pageant is Janet
Molly laughed mockingly. “See, if Janet can only get second,
Brandy’s got no chance.”
Public address announcer continued, “And the winner of the 1975
Foam Lake Carnival Queen pageant is the beautiful Brandy Babchuk!”
day after the pageant win a shivering Brandy, Will and I attempted to
talk our uncle into selling his gas generator. “Come on Uncle
Mike,” the persuasive Brandy pleaded with her favourite uncle who
resided in Foam Lake.
bitterly cold day as we hovered around that sizeable machine half
buried in snow. Poor Brandy, really needed a decent coat for this
cold weather, but all her money was being funnelled into the
business. I tagged along for the ride, for if they were successful, I
would assist them to load it on the truck.
I loved spending time with Uncle Mike. The thoughtful Mike Babchuk
introduced me to good books, introduced me to enlightening radio and
TV programs, and taught me how to play chess. Excitedly, once a week
he and I duelled over his marble chess board.
kids,” Uncle Mike said.
you never use the generator,” stated Will.
Mike shrugged his shoulders. “I might.”
kicked the generator lightly. “Damn thing needs fixing.” Will was
beginning the negotiation process already.
you know how I’ll have to ride Buddy,” Brandy said with her teeth
chattering. The second gift Buddy possessed was the ability to fix
anything mechanical. Except, the skill he lacked was to actually
complete any size task. His older sister seemed to be the only one
who could motivate him to focus long enough to successfully reach the
end of a job.
Mike gazed down sheepishly. “Besides your parents ordered me not to
sell it to you.” He took a long breath. “In fact your Mom got
right nasty.” He assumed a look of terror. “And her and I don’t
get along at the best of times.”
Uncle Mike!” Brandy begged. “The electrical costs will kill us if
we don’t have a gas generator.”
enough,” responded Uncle Mike. “The electrical bills from the
Saskatchewan Power Company were one of the things that did your Mom
and Dad in when they ran the greenhouse.”
fidgeted. “It’s worth so much to us!”
noticed her expressive eyes beginning to show panic as if this
mission was tanking quickly, so I suggested, “You know Uncle Mike,
maybe once in a while Brandy could drop some of her delicious healthy
cookies to make up the difference in price. And ease the storm Aunt
Molly will send your way.”
idea Pinball,” exclaimed Brandy. For the confirmed bachelor lived a
healthy lifestyle. The redneck town of Foam Lake made fun of his
eating patterns, his walking and meditating. Except, he looked twenty
years younger than his age.
Mike assumed a sad expression, jamming his quivering red hands in his
pockets. “Aw, kids I’d love to sell it to you. But if your Mom
knew we were even talking about it.”
Will shrank as he kicked the snow. “That witch!”
please Uncle Mike,” implored Brandy with desperation in her voice.
can’t sell it,” Uncle Mike said in his soft spoken tone. “But
if you kids took it when I wasn’t looking; sneak it in when your
parents aren’t home and set it up before they even know.” He
looked at Brandy and smiled. “I consider myself an okay cook. But I
can’t come close to those healthy treats. So, I want no money, but
I want a batch of those yummy cookies once a month.”
Buddy, a freezing Brandy and myself worked like slaves the next week
preparing the greenhouse and converted barn. Every day after school
Brandy and I joined Will and Buddy, rolling up our sleeves, tackling
whatever required doing. Whenever Brandy entered the greenhouse, she
injected a certain vibrancy which seemed to rejuvenate and refocus
her often arguing brothers.
day after school when Brandy and I joined the boys, swearing greeted
us, some minor dispute turned nasty. Many times the spark that
started the disagreement was whether Chevy or Ford was a better car;
whether the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Montreal Canadians was the
better ice hockey team; whether Bugs Bunny or the Roadrunner was the
better cartoon; or whether Playboy or Penthouse was the better
magazine. Within seconds Brandy steered the lads on track.
trio pooled their cash. Will sold his remaining cow, and with
Brandy’s Carnival Queen winnings, they had enough for their startup
costs. They purchased seeds, fertilizer, additional lighting and
heating equipment, some building supplies for the barn conversion,
along with other miscellaneous items. Even had enough for a critical
motor part to enable their old one ton truck to limp along which they
required for the transporting of plants. That was another job Brandy
would be riding Buddy on.
after all that spending, completely out of cash, they still fell
painfully short. For they had to cover operating expenses until
spring when the plant sales kicked into high gear. In addition, that
rust bucket truck of theirs demanded much more, requiring major parts
and labour lavished on it, in order for it to survive the entire
evening when I returned to my house, my family went ballistic on me,
riding my ass hard for helping their mortal enemies, prying for info.
It was not as if we had massive amounts of work to do around our
place. For Pa and Eddy’s reputation revolved around laziness, hard
work stayed clear of them. Every few years they attempted to plant
some sort of crop on the one quarter of land Pa owned. Except,
farming never seemed to be their calling. Nothing ever grew, and they
blamed it on their bad luck.
they operated a goose barn, but they put limited effort into the
struggling venture. Although that dilapidated structure housed their
whisky still. They invested a certain amount of energy into brewing
their own home made whiskey, fuelling their personal cravings for the
potent juice. I swore those buzzed geese were enjoying a permanent
high from the powerful fermenting whiskey fumes.
and Eddy were best at talking, complaining, smoking, chewing tobacco,
drinking and dreaming, but when it came to actually doing something
about that dream, they were sorrily lacking. So, Pa dreamed of one
day being a big moose or elk rancher. However, he never figured the
time was quite right to move on his dream. Eddy dreamed of being a
famous race car driver, one day winning the Indy 500. Again like Pa,
Eddy never took any meaningful steps towards his dream.
Pinball, you loser and traitor! What are those retards doing now?”
Eddy asked as he gazed out our kitchen window in the dark, attempting
to figure out what his cousins were up to. Both our kitchen window
and our front porch looked directly onto Uncle Gord’s farmyard. So,
my family spent many an hour observing and critiquing every action
across the way.
greenhouse,” I replied.
Pinball. I know that.” He shoved his face up against the
windowpane. “But what are they doing right now. I can see them
unloading something big off that piece of junk truck, and putting it
beside that greenhouse.”
nothing,” I said attempting to sound convincing. For I knew tonight
was the night that gas generator would suddenly appear. Conveniently,
Uncle Mike offered to drive Brandy and her parents into the city of
Yorkton to play bingo. Brandy shared a fresh batch of her cookies
with her co-conspirator on the trip, ensuring they would not return
until late. This afforded Will and Buddy ample time to sneak in the
fools will never make a go of a greenhouse.” Shirley rubbed her
large breasts crudely. “Fucking tits of mine. Damn breast feeding.”
my unhappy sister complained. Shirley, who was 23 years old, popped a
kid recently. Let’s just say that the homely and overweight girl
was desperate for a partner, and the Ice Maker at the Foam Lake Arena
drew the short straw. They dated for the past three years but no sign
of the man walking down the aisle yet. Except, Shirley would never
give up on him.
our mother’s death at my birth, Pa convinced one of his distant
relatives to come and live with us, taking care of us kids. However,
we were a handful, and the lady left us five years ago. Rightfully,
she claimed taking care of two adults like Shirley and Eddy was a bit
much. She believed it was time for them to get off their asses. At
that point, I felt for Shirley as she assumed some of the
responsibilities for the household. That may have created some
bitterness and anger inside the young lady.
dream was to raise kids and watch soap operas, and in a way, she was
living her dream right now. Except, she oozed miserable, wanting the
Ice Maker to marry her. Although, she claimed if she had one dream
outside the home, it was to prepare food in a restaurant. Mind you,
her lack of hygiene could be a detriment to the customers.
my new boyfriend Billy says, they should sell their land and move
away,” said my 16 year old sister Darcy. My bubblegum chewing
sibling was without a doubt, the town slut. Granted my sister was a
real looker, but in that trashy way, everything she did oozed steamy
sex. The boys drooled continually for the way she wore her flowing
blonde hair, winked her inviting blue eyes, puckered her juicy red
lips, strutted her well put together body in her revealing wardrobe,
and applied her piles of cheap makeup that outdid most hookers.
embraced sex at a young age, and she never looked back. Her nickname
at our Foam Lake High School was Pond Pumper. Picked up that handle
when she decided to pleasure more than one lad beside a large pond of
water. However, the one oddity, Darcy never studied, and she ranked
top five in her class. Although, my trashy sister had a knack of
having the smart boys doing her homework, and her grades in the
classes with male teachers were noticeably higher.
Tommy was your boyfriend yesterday?” I asked.
stupid whore!” Shirley said in her grating voice. Shirley rode her
pretty young sister hard, knocking Darcy’s confidence at every
was.” Darcy giggled. “Ay, but Billy gave me a ride home from
school today, and well, you know.” Brandy and I rode the jolting
school bus between Fishing Lake and Foam Lake each day. However, due
to Darcy’s popularity and giving nature, she received a more
personal chauffeured service from the boys.
yeah.” Eddy sneered at Darcy. “Same old story, fucked your ride
take much to get Darcy’s leathers off,” sniped Shirley. For Darcy
loved wearing leather pants or jacket, emulating Leather Tuscadero
from Happy Days.
guffawed. “Both my tramp sisters, always spreading them legs.”
stuck out her tongue at her older brother. “Beats the way you pay
two dollars to screw the native girls.”
I’m cool. Don’t have to pay the renegade girls.” Eddy spat on
his hands, slicking back his hair. “They love me!” Eddy carried
good looks and a good body, topped off with his ability to smooth
talk, he enjoyed a certain way with the girls. Although, his lack of
hygiene detracted from his overall presentation.
chewed the last bite of her sandwich as she talked, “Maybe you can
get ‘em to the back seat, but you leave your mark.”
a real man!” Eddy took a shot of their moonshine which him and Pa
consumed while chewing their tobacco every night.
like a real pig,” hissed Darcy. “Those girls can’t wait to get
out of your back seat.”
They love me!” Eddy jerked his finger towards the window he looked
through. “Speaking of getting out, I wish that Uncle Gord’s band
of renegades would get the fuck out of here.”
we need to encourage them,” Shirley said while making herself
another triple decker sandwich. The new mother was tipping the scales
around 250 pounds these days. She claimed it was a result of the
baby, but she usually packed about 225 during normal times. “We
could let loose a bunch of rats in their house.” The often gloomy
Shirley began to attend church since the baby was born, not sure it
was doing any good so far. Although, I thought the church experiment
revolved more around sucking up to her Ice Maker’s parents and
potential in-laws, than the reform of Shirley.
chomped on her gum. “Ay, why not just burn their house?” Now this
statement fit right in with what Darcy’s dream happened to be. For
she dreamed of being a biker chick but not just any biker chick.
Darcy thought big, she wanted to put her brains and body to good use,
latching onto the head of a biker gang, being the Queen of the biker
bitches. Oh yeah, she talked a secondary dream as well. It
complemented her primary dream, wanting to be a stripper in one of
the big city clubs with her peeler handle being, Leather Rider.
Pa spoke up, “Yeah! Burn my older brother’s house. That would get
that bloody cripple moving his wheelchair fast, running from them
flames.” He let out a cackle that sent a shiver down my spine,
followed by spitting a stream of black drool in a stinking tin can
that Eddy and Pa kept in the middle of the table for that purpose.
fact, our house reeked between the sweat, whiskey, tobacco, odour of
gamey meat from Eddy’s kills, Eddy’s lingering odour of oil and
gas, Eddy’s cheap rank cologne, Shirley and Darcy’s even cheaper
perfume, Pa’s infrequently changed goose shit smelling clothes
along with my poor nephew’s infrequently changed diapers.
Continually, I sprayed air freshener, having little impact. Could I
have an impact on where this conversation was heading?
I deepened my voice for there was no way I’d let my family rev up
their warped minds. “Let’s get real you guys.”
Shirley struck me hard on the shoulder. “You’re just afraid that
skinny Brandy might get hurt. I think you love her.”
my cousin.” I rubbed my shoulder. “Don’t be sick.” It was
great for a not very popular grade eight like myself to have Brandy
and her best friend Gabriela, the two hottest girls in the twelfth
grade, giving me a little attention when we passed in the Foam Lake
school hallway. “We’re good friends.”
plunked himself down in a chair, spitting his gross wad, missing the
tin can. “Ay, I’d sure do her.” He wiped his mouth with his
dirty sleeve of his leather jacket that was exactly like Fonzie’s.
I often wished my older brother would have been cool like his idol
from Happy Days, but Eddy oozed filth, a true bottom feeder. “Angel
face, that bod rocks, and them big boobs are oh so fine.”
Shirley smacked Eddy over the head with a cast iron frying pan,
dropping him to the floor. “Don’t you ever say how beautiful she
is.” She shook her fist at her older brother. “I hate that girl.”
Intense anger flooded her face, a killer glare resinated from
Shirley’s eyes. “And I wish Miss Carnival Queen were dead.”
Bang! She hit the table with the frying pan. “No, I don’t wish, I
want her dead!”
damn way we are growing that shit,” Will screamed three days later
in the greenhouse. “Get those seeds out of here.”
trio of cousins and I prepared seedling trays on Saturday working
with a gas generator and Elvis Presley singing sweetly in the
background. Also, we enjoyed the sweet aroma of wood smoke, for we
dragged in an old wood burning stove to augment the overtaxed
generator. Brandy insisted on music, and Elvis was usually the choice
with plenty of Pepsi or steaming hot coffee available to keep us
rode Buddy like a drill sergeant at times over the past three days
since her brothers hauled the generator into the farmyard. Then she’d
praise him lavishly, serving mouth watering cookies and refreshments.
It was the only way. Buddy felt so proud when that generator fired
up. The real beauty, one generator produced enough power to run the
requirements for both the greenhouse and converted barn which sat
side by side, but only if we pampered it.
surprising, the hollering at Brandy’s home was through the roof
when Aunt Molly and Uncle Gord learned of that generator. Aunt Molly
hurled a Pepsi bottle at the wall as Uncle Mike’s name was trashed
repeatedly with an endless stream of threats delivered. Except in the
end, once it was up and running, all the complaining shifted to the
noise the generator manufactured along with the cost of the gas to
keep it operating.
fortune shone on my trio of cousins, as that trip to bingo in
Yorkton, returned Brandy $500 richer from her blackout win. Now they
had plenty of cash to cover operating expenses, fix the truck
properly and finally, purchase Brandy a warm and fashionable coat.
drugs Buddy,” Brandy stated. “No way, we could go to jail.”
but, but let’s just give it a try,” begged Buddy like a little
puppy. “Mom and Dad never come out here. They’ll never know.”
distanced himself from the group, shaking his head in disapproval.
“I’m not going to jail!”
raised his hands, palms out in a defensive position. “I’ll say it
was mine, you guys knew nothing.”
heard at school you can get twenty dollars an ounce for that whacky
tabacky,” I whispered.
Steven, the ministers son, said it grows like crazy out here.”
Buddy put his hand level with his eyes. “He claims those weed
plants grow that high. Do you think?”
laughed. “That Steven’s such a stoner; that’s about the only
thing he’d know.”
fool, where would we put the plants when they grow that tall?” Will
inquired as he paced back and forth, twitching nervously from merely
talking about the sensitive subject.
scratched his head. “Umm, don’t know!”
know, there’s that little hidden ravine next to your land that sits
on the Native Reservation,” I suggested. “Has plenty of water,
and the only access is from your land.”
yeah, nobody ever goes their,” said Buddy with his infectious
enthusiasm filling the greenhouse. “And the natives will get blamed
if the weed’s ever found.”
can’t to that,” Will said.
snickered with a goofy grin as he said sarcastically, “That
wouldn’t be right.”
hippie lettuce is certainly becoming more popular,” I said. “Even
buzzed out Margaret Trudeau enjoys her joints.”
maybe Pierre takes the odd toke too,” speculated Buddy. “Hey, do
you think the Trudeau’s could be our customers one day?”
sure,” I said as I joined in Buddy’s fantasy. “We could grow
their own special blend calling it, Margaret’s magical meltdown.”
The comment garnered a chuckle from all, relaxing the group a bit.
you guys, There’s no way we are growing that stuff,” Brandy
insisted. “Just no way.” She thought for a long moment. “I went
through the numbers on the greenhouse and Dad’s right. It’ll be
tough to make a go of it. So, we’ll have to do something different,
but not this. ”
Brandy,” Buddy whined.
we need to think of this another way?” I asked. I sat with her when
we went through those numbers. I knew what a tough go a straight
greenhouse would be, and Aunt Molly would not change any of her
bucks an ounce makes me think different,” Buddy said in a dreamy
like tone. “Ah, but what…” Buddy rubbed his head, math not
being his strong suit.
excelled at math like Brandy. I knew both of our minds were
calculating. “50 ounces and you have a thousand dollars. That’s
just over three pounds.”
be easy to grow.” Buddy danced around like a kid. “I’ll take
care of them. You won’t have to touch the plants.” He continued
his jig. Crash! He wiped out a tray of seedlings, sending the
uncoordinated lad plummeting to the floor.
took a few minutes to collect ourselves after the lengthy laughing
session. That comical fall by Buddy seemed to take the tension from
the group. “But seriously guys.” Brandy dried laughter tears from
her eyes. “There is no way we’d ever be involved in selling that
crap to people.”
you should never,” I said. “But, I know a kid whose parents own a
cottage out here, who has an older brother in Yorkton. They can’t
get enough good weed there. He’d buy whatever you got, they come
and get it. You’ll never have to get your hands dirty.”
the generator close tonight, real close,” I murmured to Brandy over
the phone one night about 11:00 PM in late February 1975. “Something
is going on.”
seeds had taken hold, sprouting up, excitement building for the trio
of cousins and myself. Except, one generator outage could ruin us.
One of the four of us checked in the middle of each night to ensure
that precious generator continued to hum away.
this particular night, I overheard my family whispering about their
plan. An exceptional set of ears was a gift I had been blessed with,
hearing most words spoken from my upstairs bedroom.
never nailed a time for their foul play. However, Pa and Eddy were
too lazy to rise in the middle of the night, and they never arose
early in the morning unless absolutely necessary. So, I figured
they’d strike sometime after midnight when the alcohol ignited
a full moon shone that night. I enjoyed a clear view as I watched
through my bedroom window as Eddy crept outside, attempting to keep
quiet. Except that seem to be impossible. First, he took a leak,
whistling loudly while he emptied his bladder, letting the entire
countryside know he was done with an earth shattering fart. Second,
he combed his hair, ensuring he looked just right before his secret
mission, singing a few lines of the Happy Days theme song.
he slipped on the ice, falling flat on his ass, launching a string of
profanities. Fourth, as he attempted to come in from the back of the
farmyard, it required him to go through a barbwire fence, that fence
got the upper hand, ripping his pants, slicing his hands, filling the
night with a stream of curses again.
when the injured Eddy reached the greenhouse. Err! Err! Snapper
snarled menacingly at Eddy. For Uncle Gord’s dog was a half wolf,
half greyhound who never appreciated uninvited guests. Snapper had
been tied to the front door of the greenhouse with enough slack in
the leash to do damage. A disoriented Eddy staggered up much too
close to the protective canine before realizing his plight.
Err! Snapper sounded his last warning. Screams then echoed through
the night, along with intermittent low growls, snapping of teeth,
tearing of clothes, cries for help, followed by more intense screams,
followed by one gigantic scream.
least I could do was to greet Eddy at the door. The sight stuck with
me for years. Basically, a pantless Eddy stumbled through the door,
blood pouring from cuts and bites. He swayed on his feet, pain and
terror enveloped his entire face, tears rolling down his eyes.
me whiskey,” Eddy muttered in a strangled voice as he fell to the
floor, curling up in a ball. “Forgot about the fucking dog!” He
grasped for his crotch. “Thank God, that dog didn’t get my junk.”
Then his eyes rolled in his head, and he passed out.
March of 1975 and spring kicked into high gear. The generator hummed
less with the warmer temperatures, and the plants were now two months
into their growth cycle with a projected date of Mother’s Day. That
day happened to be the most popular date for any greenhouse in this
trio of cousins developed two and a half potential revenue streams.
First, customers that came directly to the greenhouse. That would be
Brandy’s department for her sales and customer service skills were
off the charts. She could sell ice, ice cream or anything cold to the
cheapest of Eskimo. Second, Will and I would load up the truck on
Saturday and Sunday, journeying to the larger cities to set up shop
at the various farmer’s markets being held.
half of revenue stream fell into Buddy’s area. Those crazy
marijuana plants shot up similar to the way Buddy was growing, like a
bad weed. That was no surprise, for Buddy poured the fertilizer
generously when it came to his cannabis plants. They dwarfed the
other greenhouse plants, worrying us continuously, paranoid that
anyone other then the four of us might enter the greenhouse. The now
six foot six Buddy promised he’d transplant the rapidly growing
pleasure plants as soon as the weather was right.
and my siblings never spoke of Eddy’s tangle with Snapper the
watchdog. Eddy continued to support the scars from that one-sided
wrestling match which all four of the greenhouse gang had the
privilege of witnessing. I use the word greenhouse gang, for I had
become a part of this greenhouse team, even warranting a key. A key I
guarded with my life to the mega sized padlocks now on the greenhouse
and converted barn which only the four of us possessed.
Aunt Molly planned her large vegetable garden and immaculate flower
garden, for she possessed an exceptional green thumb, she vowed she
would never enter the greenhouse. She cursed that greenhouse and us
continuously, criticizing our every move. Our paranoia grew as we
witnessed Aunt Molly and the scheming Shirley chatting amiably. That
had not happened in years, had hell froze over? We speculated that
some topic had drawn the two enemies together, and the way they
glanced at the greenhouse, we figured we knew what that was.
my suspicion grew when I overheard my sister brag to Eddy one day,
“I think the foolish old bat is falling for it.” They both then
laughed like conspiratorial hyenas.
Uncle Gord’s attitude seemed to be melting. We heard no criticism
lately, mind you, no praise either. For talk around Foam Lake swirled
that the Babchuk’s were back in the greenhouse business, and they
were doing it in a big way. We figured Uncle Mike generated most of
the positive talk as he told everyone about his niece and nephews,
who had a real flare for business, and all were damn hard workers.
a particularly warm spring afternoon, Brandy and I drove Uncle Gord
into town. Buddy took charge of getting Uncle Gord in the car when we
were departing the farm. Unceremoniously, he grabbed his Dad,
carrying him like a sack of flower, hurling him in the backseat with
little regard for the rough ride he subjected his father to.
the drive into Foam Lake, we listened to Uncle Gord complain
constantly about that roller coaster ride Buddy put him through. Once
we arrived in town, Uncle Mike wheeled Uncle Gord down for a beer at
the bar in the Foam Lake Hotel. For this was the first time Uncle
Gord ventured to the bar since the accident, a huge step for the
Brandy and I picked up supplies for the greenhouse operation. We ran
into Kelly Alberts, a friend of Brandy’s. Kelly was one of those
guys who would have been gay, but he was either in denial, scared to
come out or was just unaware himself. Today, Kelly had blonde hair,
for he changed his hair colour frequently. He joined us, heading for
the Blue Room Cafe which was part of the hotel and attached to the
bar. It allowed us to catch up as Kelly was a fun loving guy and a
major Foam Lake gossip. This enabled Brandy to enjoy one of her
favourite unhealthy delights, french fries with gravy and ketchup.
Also, this allowed Uncle Gord some added bar time.
Dad needs rescuing,” Uncle Mike surprised us as he slipped into our
booth. “I can’t get him out. He may have had one too many.”
Nervously, Uncle Mike played with his glasses. “Molly will kill me
him it is time to go,” I suggested as I stole another fry.
that,” claimed Uncle Mike? “He won’t budge.
Brandy, you’re the only one he’ll listen to. You gotta go in
there and get him out.”
look of utter fear settled on her face. “I’ve never been in
there. I can’t go! I’m only 17.”
to, and he can’t think I sent you.” Uncle Mike leaned back in the
booth. “Only way, and you know he can’t drink any more than he
has with that medication he’s taking, or else.”
turned to Brandy, “Look I’ll stand at the side door of the bar,
watching for cops .”
grinned. “I’d go in, but I tried to go in last night. The hulking
bartender tossed me out.”
determined look now returned, she gulped. “Okay Pinball.”
two of us proceeded to our stations, me at the side door, Brandy
behind her father. He never realized our presence. The most
noticeable difference was that Uncle Gord wore a big happy smile as
he conversed with the gang around the table. The first smile observed
since the wheelchair became a part of his life.
Gord spoke with exaggerated hand gestures, “And those kids think
big. They know what their doing They’ll be the biggest greenhouse
in Saskatchewan soon.”
caught a tear in Brandy’s eye. Her father was laughing and talking
about how great his kids were. We thought he hated the greenhouse
idea, yet he glowed with pride.
that Brandy, she leads them all!” Uncle Gord boasted. “She’s a
Brandy tapped her Dad on the shoulder.
gazed up at her in shock. “Oh Brandy! Ah, you can’t be in here.”
He looked over at me. “Get out of here Pinball!” He turned back
to Brandy. “You have to go.”
brushed her hand through her hair nervously. “Sorry Dad, we all
have to go.”
okay, okay Brandy, let’s go!” Panic set into Uncle Gord’s eyes,
as having his underage daughter in the bar freaked him out.
Especially as the bartender began to shuffle over to their table.
Brandy maneuvered the wheelchair, gracing her father’s friends with
her lethal smile. “And for putting a big grin on my Dad’s face,
on your first trip to the greenhouse, everything’s half price for
Gord shouted back at his pals. “Told you she’s a winner!”
Friday afternoon before Mother’s Day weekend in 1975 and the
greenhouse plants were ready for sale. Brandy and I snuck home from
school early, all of us waiting anxiously for customers. Frantic,
best described the last few weeks, preparing and toiling for this
special weekend. The greenhouse had been cleaned and organized,
hoping to make each customer’s experience outstanding, but would
weeks ago, Brandy slipped into the local Foam Lake newspaper to
purchase an ad for the greenhouse opening this afternoon at 1:00 pm.
Except, the weird man at the rag leered at her and attempted to be
overly friendly. Brandy vowed to never go back and deal with the
roving hands creep. We decided on a completely different tact. For we
advertised the grand opening by placing a flyer in every home in
town, as well as plastering posters on every available spot in Foam
Lake and neighbouring towns.
nights ago in preparation for the grand opening, we transported the
weed from the greenhouse to the hidden ravine. It was a pitch dark
night while we slinked about, working quietly. Buddy scratched his
head as we were in the process of moving the last weed plants and
whispered. “Do you think Snapper could be acting funny from chewing
on the weed?” For the past month Snapper had become glazed eyed,
become real mellow, become real hungry and become a slacker as far as
his guard dog duties.
he been nibbling on the plants?” I asked.
Buddy confessed. “But I didn’t think it’d hurt him.”
Snapper did miss those fun plants when they left the greenhouse.
Thankfully, the doggy withdrawal only lasted a few days with Snapper
returning to his feisty and protective self once he lost his source.
first thing in the morning, Will and I were off to pedal plants at
the Yorkton farmer’s market as part of this kickoff weekend. We
would be heading back on Mother’s Day. Somehow, Brandy managed to
secure us a prime spot at that popular farmer’s market, and she
managed to talk the Yorkton Enterprise into giving us a free
newspaper ad. I was there with her on that trip to Yorkton. Brandy’s
ability to smooth talk people into giving freebies was amazing. I was
learning the power of the smile.
paced back and forth in front of the greenhouse. “There’s nobody
they’ll show.” Buddy sat back in a lawn chair, putting his feet
up, totally enjoying the no customer, no work moment.
Losers!” Shirley bellowed from her front porch. “No ones coming.
Molly yelled from her garden, “Shirley’s right! Just a big
waved at her Aunt. “Hi Aunt Molly, looks like you and I were the
smart ones, again.”
the fuck up,” blared Buddy. “You two lazy cows.”
fools,” Aunt Molly huffed, returning to the planting of her garden.
“Buddy, get over here and help me.”
my answer Mom.” Buddy let fly with a rip roaring fart,
reverberating through the farmyard. He chuckled and chugged on his
Pepsi, taking pride in his noisy accomplishment. For Buddy’s
ability to frequently pass gigantic gas swelled the young man’s
fool.” Aunt Molly mumbled.
a pig!” Shirley yelled at Buddy.
Oink! But you can’t eat this bacon.” Buddy sprang to his feet.
“Holy shit! Here someone comes!” A carload of folks eased into
another is coming,” Brandy shouted. “Isn’t it exciting?”
people filed out of both cars I realized it was Uncle Gord’s gang
of pals from the Foam Lake bar along with their wives. The momentum
from this group seemed to spill over for the rest of the afternoon as
a steady stream of plant seeking cars found their way to the Babchuk
I think back to that Mother’s Day weekend in 1975, I learned
business lessons that stayed with me for the rest of my life. We were
merely four kids working hard, channeling endless energy and passion,
believing in ourselves, realizing the opportunities out there were
unlimited. We put ourselves out there over the past few months
leading up to this day. We took chances, making mistakes, learning
from those mistakes and drove on. For the risks were worth the
potential returns, and we loved the freedom of running our own show.
had all caught the entrepreneurial bug. However, the one realization
that disappointed me was how certain individuals begrudged us any
sort of success. Over the past months we had been subjected to
ridicule, subjected to jealousy, subjected to sabotage, and the worse
thing, it stemmed mainly from those that were closest to us.
saddened me more than on that Saturday morning of the Mother’s Day
weekend my Pa struck. For when Will and I were loading up the truck,
preparing to head to Yorkton, full of energy and excitement, he made
his move. Pa, Eddy and Shirley strode over before sunrise which was
very unusual for the late sleeping gang. The hostile group confronted
me with raging eyes and fists clenched. They demanded I go back into
Pa,” I pleaded. “We got a big day ahead.”
Pinball,”Pa snarled. “Got work for you. Get on home.”
work?” I asked. “You aren’t doing anything, and I did all my
chores first thing this morning.”
chuckled and spat tobacco on the ground. “I’ll find something.”
wash my car,” Eddy said. “Wash all our cars.”
idea Eddy,” Pa agreed as he rubbed his crotch with his fly wide
open. Pa took pride in his penis size, thinking nothing of flaunting
it. In fact, both Pa and Eddy thought nothing of taking a whiz
anywhere, enjoying themselves even more if a crowd watched their
can look after my fucking kid too.” Shirley stood there in an ugly
sack of a night gown, chewing gum like a cow, stringy hair hanging
down, accentuating her slob reputation.
looking after your baby right now?” I asked. For Shirley was
notorious for leaving her baby unattended, even forgetting where the
poor little guy was. I swear I spent more time with the baby then
her. On most occasions when I walked in the house, her child’s
diaper required changing. She claimed she’d get around to it when
her smoke was done, when her TV show was over or when she finished
eating. So, I would roll up my sleeves and do it.
in the house, take care of that fucking brat,” she yelled.
Pinball, move it,” Eddy snarled while he finished styling his
greasy hair, slipping a grimy comb back in his pocket.
attempted to protest. “But…”
Eddy punched me in the stomach. “Move!” He screamed.
would not go down, even though I was sucking air. I glared at him
fought the pain, taking my time, straightening up, squaring my
shoulders. “I’m going to Yorkton,” I muttered with my voice
quavering. “You can beat me up Eddy, but I’m going!”
attempted to step in front of me. “No Will!” I said. “Let Eddy
be a big man and kick my ass. He can’t stand to see anyone else
you son of a bitch?” Eddy rolled his shoulders and roared. “I’ll
kill you!” He punched me in the eye, knocking me to the ground.
“Pinball, you’re a dead man!” He wound up for a kick that never
landed as the muscular Buddy and Brandy had slipped behind the group
squaring off. Big Buddy grabbed Eddy before that devastating kick
could do damage. “Ever touch Pinball again,” whispered Buddy.
“I’ll rip you up worse then what Snapper did.” Buddy towered
over Eddy, holding him with a vice like grip.
slow moving Shirley attempted a kick to my ribs. Bonk! Brandy whacked
her over the head with a metal lunch pail she held in one hand.
Brandy packed lunch for Will and myself. Her weapon stopped a
whimpering Shirley in her tracks with the lunch pail falling to the
Bitch!” Shirley moved over to the truck, snatching up a sizeable
pipe wrench from a toolbox, turning to Brandy, threatening under her
breath, “I’ll kill you skinny movie star.” That was the term
Shirley utilized for Brandy. Shirley took on that wacko look as she
approached, swinging the lethal weapon, flashing a sick psychotic
smile, determined to end her cousin’s life. “Gonna enjoy fucking
up that pretty face before you die.”