Travel Thursday: Gordon Gibson’s “Bull of the Woods”

Gordon Gibson was a pioneer of large-scale logging in British Columbia and writes of his life with bravado and wit. This extract relates days of old, when tipping was a sign of manhood.

One day I telephoned Louise from Powell River. I told her that I could have three days in San Francisco and asked her to go out with me. When she agreed, I chartered a plane and flew to Vancouver, then caught the flight south.

Travel Thursday: Gordon Gibson's "Bull of the Woods"

I met an interesting character on the plane. He asked me to give him two tens for a twenty-dollar bill and then offered one of the tens to the air hostess as a tip. When she turned it down, he put it in the envelope and left it on the seat ahead.

By chance we took the same bus from the air airport to the St. Francis Hotel. After we haad registered he asked me to join him in the bar. When I excused myself to phone to Louise, he suggested thaat she get a friend and thaat all of us join him for the evening. I thought he was a little forward but he seemed like a nice enough fellow.

It turned out to be a very embarrassing evening for me because we went to the very first nightclub that I had ever been in. It was private club having a fancy brass elevator. I saw him give the elevator operator a ten-dollar bill. I began to feel uneasy.

We went to the bar and he ordered a special bottle of champagne. I threw a ten-dollar bill out to pay for the next one. I thought that was big money. he insisted that we were his guests and told me to give the money to the bartender as a tip. I said, “I’ll take the goddamned money back. If you’re going to do the paying, you can damned well do the tipping too.” Later in the men’s room, I demanded, “Have you counterfeit money? How in the hell did you get so much?”

“That’s none of your damn business, Gibson,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of money left to me by my dad and I’m going down to Santa Anita to run my racehorses. I imposed on you by inviting myself for the evening, so Ii would like to pay the bill.” That was the first and last time I was ever impressed by a big spender.

Louise thought that I was a cheapskate because I let another man pay for all of the drinks and then took back my tip. She told me that evening almost ruined our relationship.

Driving an Old Chevy Sportsman

It was a long hill, the town another hundred miles, when the shot rang out, pulling the van sideways like we’d been hit by a low bull. chevysportsI swung the wheel against it, thinking there was some kind of battle ahead, a force to contend, something big and threatening, and pulled over. DSCN2517‘What the fuck was that?’ Mike’s eyes were wide.

‘I think the tire blew.’

The rear tire was in shreds; the spare was threadbare.chevyblowntire

‘You need new tires, man.’

‘I know.’

The jack was broken and the bolts fused.Newfoundlabrador2010 081

We sat and drank and finally got the tire, off bolt by bolt, and I thought about how much I loved my van. 

Murder of a Chinook in the Johnstone Strait

The weather was warm, the water dark and cold; we were trolling for salmon down the Johnstone Strait in British Columbia._MG_4317My rod snapped and I reeled in a good sized fish, some two feet, my first catch, and in only 30 minutes on the water. I pulled it beside the boat and watched, in surprise, as the guide gaffed it in the head and then dropped the flopping thing into the boat, bleeding profusely, and bashed it again and again, leaving a trail of thick blood pools across the brilliant white bottom. At last it was dead.

“Oh…no.” The guide picked it up, examining its fins and then measuring it. “We have to throw it back.”


“It’s a Chinook and it’s only 24 inches. It has to be 24 and 1/2.”

“But it’s already dead.”

He picked up the carcass, both of them pale. “I would get into trouble if I brought it back to the docks.”

We watched him sink the dead fish into the deep dark blue. I looked at Micaela, both of us in an odd kind of shock, thinking this was akin to murder, and then Micaela’s line went taught. She half-heartedly reeled it in, but it jumped the hook. _MG_4316“Yes.” She smiled. “It got away.”

Mortality on Crown Mountain, British Columbia

I did West Vancouver’s Grouse Grind in 52:20 – a straight-up climb of 2800 feet – and was ready for more.

Goat Mountain

Goat Mountain

We carried on over Dam Mountain and then around Goat to the steep descent to the Lynn Valley Saddle. And then It was time for the climb up Crown. Crown25That’s when it hit me. I was flagging, bumping into branches, tripping over roots. I was stopping, looking up, thinking too much about the daunting journey ahead, psyching myself out, getting more and more exhausted, staring at my sweat dripping onto the rocks. Crown18I had to stop again and again, seriously considering turning back, Micaela far ahead, waiting. I thought I might not make it but moved my foot ahead, toiled on, step to step, dragging my inert legs over root ledges, and at long last made it to the top. Crown12I sat, mute, only able to think about the long descent and that horrible climb back up Goat and realized that this might indeed be the last time I would be here on this mountain.

Peak of Crown Mountain

Peak of Crown Mountain

I ate and ate – something I had stupidly neglected to do on the way up – and we began our long return, which amounted to a lot of slips and half falls through the labyrinth of exposed rock and dirt. We devoured our final batch of chocolate and attacked the ascent back up Goat. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. Not at all. It was almost a game again. Crown24We were going to make it after all. I was elated to be back, whole, in the parking lot and then in the fair city of Vancouver with a cold Steam Whistle in my hand.steam_whistleThe next morning was not so joyous. My knees were done. I had suddenly degraded to a state of gimpy and old. I glowered across Burrard Inlet, at the distant mountain top, and wondered when I would return. Soon, I promised myself. As soon as I could.

Combat Fishing in Campbell River

I just returned from a salmon fishing excursion to Campbell River, British Columbia._MG_4340 I had expected to be quietly drifting along the coast, maybe even catching a few of the 45 million salmon reported to be running up the rivers.

Instead I found a gaggle of 60-70 boats going back and forth in a narrow, in and out of each other, fighting for the fish; it’s referred to as “combat fishing” by the guides._MG_4316I didn’t fish so much as have the rod handed to me by the guide when there was a bite and then just reel that in as best as I could. (I batted .500)_MG_4321It was an odd experience, complete with one boat even running over a seiners’ nets, not like my childhood memory from many years ago, sitting there in the cold with father, hanging on to my rod and staring down into the infinite blue, catching mostly dogfish. 20140709_120958I did however catch more fish this time (4 times as many); I’m still trying to understand if that makes it all worthwhile.

Opening scene from “Baller”

Opening scene from screenplay, Baller:

The land is empty and vast. The road continues up into the mountains, winding past small towns and lakes, the distant colors and light entrancing and forbidding. Crown8BAZ drives the van. EMILY is in the passenger seat. MAX is still asleep, curled up, with DAVIS beside him, the comforter balled up around his head, and POPO, the cat, on top of that, staring out the window. BLAIR sits at the end of the bed, his feet propped across the can on a pile of bags and gear; he is reading Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth. The music of The Grateful Dead’s Wharf Rat plays on the stereo.

MAX (Moaning): Turn the music down, man.

EMILY turns the music down halfway.

MAX: No more Dead!

EMILY lowers the volume further. POPO can now be heard moaning over the sounds of the music and the road.

MAX: The cat too, man.

BLAIR (Reciting from The Power of Myth): The adventure is its own reward – but it’s necessarily dangerous, having both negative and positive possibilities, all of them beyond our control. We are beyond protection in a field of higher powers than we know.Crown15EMILY: Who is that? Nietzsche?

BLAIR (Ignoring her, continuing to recite): If we have been impudent and altogether ineligible for the role into which we have cast ourselves, it is going to be a demon marriage and a real mess.

EMILY: I like that. Demon marriage.

BLAIR: Joseph Campbell is a genius.

Both MAX and POPO moan, almost as if in agreement, and the van rattles on into the hinterland of British Columbia.

Writing in Adrasan, Turkey

We have arrived in Adrasan, Turkey. 20140706_104424It is a place of slow-moving rivers, cicadas and ducks everywhere, in short Nirvana. 20140705_220949I have a perfect view of the idyll from our little balcony. 20140706_104415There could be no better time to finish the first draft of Baller, my script chronicling tree-planters finding their way in the northern wilds of British Columbia.