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Book Remarks: Grandpa Pike’s Number Two

This week Harold N. Walters reviews "Grandpa Pike's Number Two".
This week Harold N. Walters reviews "Grandpa Pike's Number Two".

“Grandpa Pike’s Number Two” (Flanker Press) is not meant to be read in one sitting. The outhouse pictured on the cover, and the title’s inuendo, suggests occasional reading — a yarn or two a day — or, if the reader suffers from “summer complaint”, p’raps a dozen yarns before the Imodium kicks in.

That said, I read Number Two in one sitting … hove off in my Lay-Z-Boy with a cup of herbal Tension Tamer at hand. Reading the dozens of tales and musings and sometimes soul-baring anecdotes was like plucking items from a grab-bag — albeit an organized grab-bag — and discovering how Number Two can be related to personally.

To grab an example: camping.

Grandpa writes, “I don’t understand the attraction of camping and I never will.” Why, Grandpa wonders, would anyone leave the comforts of home and go off to suffer in the wilderness?

I realized I hated camping back in 1970-what-odds, when some fishing buddies lured me into the dark heart of the Avalon Wilderness where no one had gone before — except for whoever left the empty beer boxes and the loaded Pampers slung among the bushes. That night I lay without a wink of sleep in a canvas tent atop a windy knoll with — I swear — sticks and stones crippling my backbone.

I haven’t been so foolish since.

Grandpa, old man, happily, your thoughts on camping cancelled out your earlier disheartening remarks about dandelions — “the dandelion is a nuisance.”

Except for the aggressive, invasive lupine, the dandelion is my favourite flower. It is our province’s greatest symbol of hope. It survives — for frig sake, it thrives! — despite all adversity. I admire the dandelion so much that ages ago I wrote a poem to it — an ode, a paean in which I confess to practicing unseemly behaviour outdoors at the sight of spring’s first flower.

Footnote: If you truly want to read my poem, email me and I’ll send you a copy, assuming some dandelion hater hasn’t hacked my files and deleted it.

Because many of Grandpa Pike’s stories are candidly personal, I have to apologize for my initial reaction to one of them.

I habitually scribble marginal remarks, my immediate reactions — often old foolishness — to something I read.

I read the opening lines of “Bambi”.

“I have a tattoo high on my right shoulder. I had it done in New Orleans back in the early 1970s,” says Grandpa.

Shame on me. Thinking I might later attempt some feeble jest regarding the tattoo, I instantly scribbled a scrap of Jimmy Buffett’s iconic tune, Margaritaville — “nothing to show but this brand-new tattoo.”

Grandpa’s tattoo is not a subject for humor. It is part of an unhappy story that I’m surprised — but pleased — he is willing to share, especially with half-wits such as I.

Grandpa Pike also has a tattoo on his left shoulder. Its story is not funny either.

So, Grandpa b’y, I’m sorry for my initial reaction to your Bambi tattoo story. Please forgive me.

Apparently, Grandpa Pike has a connection to Placentia — see “A Walk Through A Placentia Graveyard”. Also, in an earlier story he mentions having a girlfriend in Placentia back in the 1970s.

So what?

I know that Placentia graveyard. I live up the road in Dunville. When I read about it, I wondered what brought Grandpa Pike to Placentia in this instance. None of my business, I s’pose, eh b’ys?

During his travels, Grandpa Pike met some famous people. He met a young Jean Chretien. He met an old Joey Smallwood.

I didn’t meet Jean or Joey but …

… when me and Missus were considering buying this house we’ve lived in happily ever after, the owner at the time, thinking it might tip the scale in his favour, I s’pose, pointed to the bed in the spare room and said, “Joey Smallwood slept in that bed.”

Not the same as meeting Joey face to face, eh Grandpa?

Grandpa Pike’s Number Two is a gem-dandy collection of what the old people might have called cuffers — short yarns about this and that. Don’t wait for the local library copy to be available. Unless you truly can’t afford it, buy your own copy. Read it in your favourite chair. Talk about it to your friends and — OK, if you must — lend it to them.

Last thing … in his first yarn Grandpa Pike presents this rhetorical challenge: “Name something good that ever came out of a cat’s ass.”

Maybe not “something good”, Grandpa, but I do remember sometimes seeing waxed baloney rinds excreted from Puss’s butt.

People younger than this old codger might question why I watched.

During my bay-boy youth, witnessing Puss’s waxy number two was … well, awesome.

Thank you for reading.

— Harold Walters lives in Dunville, Newfoundland, doing his damnedest to live Happily Ever After. Reach him at ghwalters663@gmail.com

Recent column: Book Remarks — The Crackie

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