“From the time I was about five years old
I went to Sunday school everyday.
Grandma Kelly taught Sunday school.
It was mandatory.
I don’t know for how long. But it was a long time I thought.
“From the time I was about five years old
Grandpa Bob always had a fly rod and a sleeping bag in the back of his car.
And his hunting knife. His old hunting knife. I wish I knew where it was.
“He would come early in the morning and get me out of bed.
She knew it was happening. Sometimes she’d come along and stuff a sandwich in my pocket.
Otherwise we would just go. And we might be gone for two or three days.
“All we had was a sleeping bag and a fishing rod and his hunting knife.
Sometimes he would have a can of beans or a can of spaghetti.
He had mars bars in the glove box that he would eat like crazy because he was a diabetic.
When I was 12, I remember having my first beer with him.
Lucky Lager which is what I thought that you guys were drinking.
“Driving down the road drinking my one first beer and I remember how good it tasted.
He’d drive down these roads and we’d get to where a creek would cross.
We’d walk down the creek eight, ten hours, and you’d fish all along the way,
catching the brook trout.
“Then we’d camp someplace up in the creek. In the arch wilderness.
Camp, spend the night, and in the morning walk, fishing the holes all the way back.
I can remember going up the creeks –
I’ve got all my stories mixed up here but I can remember the ties.
“We would live off the land.
Grandpa was really good at that.
He’d make stinging-nettle salads.
I’ve eaten fresh water clams. I ate frog’s legs once.
We found this acre, it was huge, a pond. It was black with tadpoles.
Just some of the most exciting stuff I’ve ever seen. Just fascinating stuff.
“He knew where all the game trails were and what the animals were that were on them.
Grandpa Jack had taught Dad. He was a very very accomplished wilderness man.
There were old pictures of Dad and him out hunting deer on horseback.
“But anyway, when we were babies, my dad always suffered from hemorrhoids.
They were living up in North Vancouver, up in Dollarton actually, on the peninsula, and they didn’t have any money.
He always blamed his hemorrhoids on the fact that he’d come home from work and have to go out in the row boat and fish for cod for dinner that night. That was when Colleen was born.
He’d always blame sitting on that hard wooden bench, out in the cold, as the cause of his hemorrhoids.
“But anyway, we would eat so many things.
He would make traps to catch birds.
I was with him once when he threw his old hunting knife at a grouse and it went right through its breast and stuck to a tree.
Cook the frogs on sticks.
Of course we always had trout.
And there was always something green to go with it. God only knows what I ate.
I’ve got tons of stories of being with him.
“Did you ever hear the story about the first time I asked my dad about God?
The first time I can ever remember having a conversation about God I was five years old.
Lying on the banks of the Similkameen River near Cherryville.
It was absolute wilderness. Remind me and I’ll tell you another story about that wilderness.
We were there and we were sleeping and I was in a sleeping bag and I was five years old.
And I would sleep with him in the sleeping bag, he would just hold me.
We’d sleep under the stars.
Or else he was great at cutting cedar fronds or fir branches and making beds and making lean-tos and stuff like that.
But anyways, there we were on the banks. I remember asking, “Dad, what’s God?”
And I remember clear as day him saying:
‘You know I used to ask your grandmother that all the time
and Granny told me that God was everything.
God was our dog Queenie. God was the clothesline. God was the tree outside.
God was the flowers and God was the cactus plant on the window sill.’
Granny always had a cactus plant on the window sill.
“And my dad went on, ‘You know it’s funny, because I’ll tell you what happened,
she said God was the cactus plant so I started to celebrate God as the Cactus plant.
Pray to the cactus plant. Speak to the Cactus plant. Because I thought it was God.
And one day the Cactus plant died and my God was gone.’
“And it’s funny because I went to Sunday school for ten years
and in all that time I can’t remember a single story told by a preacher.
But I remember that like it was yesterday.”
Mack Gordon is a Canadian writer and performer. His plays have been produced across Canada. Published work includes, “Whistle Like the Wind” (carte blanche magazine), The Only Difference Between Me and Peter Bogdanovich (Speakeasy Theatre Press) and Six Fine Lines (Level-Headed Friends). He also runs a Family Feud Night at the Biltmore Cabaret that you can catch on July 19. You can learn even more at medium.com/@mackgord and mackgordontheatre.com.