On August 16, 1977, Elvis died.
I was nine years old. At the time, my family had a horse farm outside of Regina, Saskatchewan in Canada. I didn't know who Elvis was but obviously my Mom did. My older brother and I were still on summer vacation and when my Mom explained what had happened, we started making jokes. Elvis is, after all, a pretty unusual name and it invites commentary.
My Mom immediately threw us out of the house and made us go paint the side of our barn (grey with white trim, in case you're wondering). In the summer, Saskatchewan is as hot and dry as the Sahara and the side of the barn we were painting wasn't even in the shade. It was miserable work and it was neither the first, nor last, time that a woman would punish me for my sense of humor. Indeed, at 51, I've become so accustomed to being in trouble with one woman or another, that my world feels askew if I'm not. Thankfully, the gals in the Power House Creatives have collectively dedicated themselves to ensuring that my sense of balance is ever maintained.
That memory of Elvis' death, and painting the barn in the blazing sun as a result, is indelibly inscribed in my mind, even more than four decades after-the-fact. Neurologists call this "flashbulb memory." Here's Wikipedia's description:
A flashbulb memory is a highly detailed, exceptionally vivid 'snapshot' of the moment and circumstances in which a piece of surprising and consequential (or emotionally arousing) news was heard.
For as much as that Elvis memory was permanently seared into my synapses, it actually pales by comparison to the memory I'm about to recount. If Elvis' death was a series of flashbulb photographs ... this was a full-blown video.
In my mid-twenties, I was working as a High Net Worth Financial Advisor in Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada. In essence, I told rich people what to do with their money so that they'd get richer. As was common at the time, the company I worked for provided Reward Vacations to their Top Producers (and their spouses/dates), of which I was one. That year's vacation was on the island of Kawaii in Hawaii.
It's a long flight from Nova Scotia to Hawaii and planes typically land in Vancouver, British Colombia to re-fuel before heading off over the Pacific. As we were going to be landing in BC anyway, my date, Sela, and I decided to turn the stop into an add-on mini-vacation. And so, we departed Nova Scotia five days early and spent the time touring southern British Colombia.
We rented a Jeep and visited, amongst other things, a Provincial Park which, given the gargantuan size of Canada, was itself huge. We stopped at one of the internal parking lots and went for a hike with the intention of picnicking on a mountain plateau overlooking a beautiful lake.
It took us about an hour to ascend and we were laying out our picnic paraphernalia when I felt the call of nature. So, I excused myself and headed for the trees. As I stood relieving myself against a tree, I unexpectedly heard a voice ... which, if I'm being honest, damned near stopped my heart.
I zipped up as I whipped around. To my surprise, I could see no one.
I glanced up and spotted the vague outline of an individual amongst the branches of a tree. Bizarre.
"Are you a betting man?"
"Are you a betting man?"
This incident was already pretty surreal and I didn't know how to respond and so, due to my lack of loquaciousness, I played along. "That depends, I suppose. What did you have in mind?"
"Well," came back the baritone voice,"I'll bet you your wristwatch that I can play a whole game of hop-scotch up here in this tree crotch."
"Hop-scotch, tree crotch, wristwatch. Whatta ya say?"
Of all the insane things I'd heard in my life, this took the cake. Sela called to me, "Quill, you gorgeous piece of man-flesh, are you coming?" I yelled for her to come and join me, which she did. I explained what was going on.
As you've undoubtedly noticed, young men will go to almost any length to impress young women, and young women will go to almost any length to be impressed by young men, irrespective of the stupidity employed in the making of such impressions. It is, in effect, an unspoken conspiracy between the performer and the recipient of the performance, both of whom are determined to not let the inadvisability of an action diminish its intent. Anyway, Sela wanted to see what would happen which, of course, triggered the necessity for me to demonstrate my male prowess via one of the most ancient proofs-in-the-pudding, the betting of one's watch. And so, I agreed.
I'm not sure what precisely I was expecting, but I mostly certainly wasn't expecting what I received. Astonishingly, the guy ... actually started playing hopscotch in the tree-crotch. And, he was doing a bloody fine job of it too. How he'd mastered this machination beggared the imagination.
In any event, when he was finished, he performed a dismount worthy of an Olympic gymnast and stuck the landing. And that's when things got real. Towering above us was an eight foot individual covered from head to toe in ... fur.
The individual extended his hand, "Wristwatch." Flabbergasted ... I handed over my watch. He smiled and without another word, turned and traipsed off into the forest.
I bent down and helped Sela to her feet as she came to. We stared at each other in utter disbelief then staggered back to our picnic spot. We hurriedly packed up our belongings and descended the mountain as if we were being chased by wolves. We jumped in the Jeep and made for the park's exit. At the closest town, we checked into a motel and, still incapable of processing what had just occurred, I called my Dad in Nova Scotia.
My Dad is a retired Mountie and as I began to recount the story, he went silent. When he finally began to speak, his voice was the clipped staccato of a professional. "What hotel are you staying at and what's your number?" I responded and, after commanding me to stay put, he abruptly ended the call. Such abruptness was out of character, but then again, I'd never seen my Dad in the heat of battle.
About an hour later, there was a loud knock on the hotel room door. I opened it and there stood a Mountie in Red Surge. He asked to come in and quickly dispensed with the niceties, subjecting Sela and I to an onslaught of questioning.
The next day we headed back to Vancouver to catch our flight to Hawaii. We had a great time but, in the back of our minds, we couldn't help but wonder what was transpiring back in British Columbia. I never did get all the details but, interestingly, much of what transpired made it into a song by Canadian folk singer, Stompin' Tom Connors. Take a listen:
Incidentally, I never did get my watch back.
Have you had a similar experience? If not with Sasquatches, perhaps with aliens. I hear they like sunglasses. I have found it helps to share, to unload the burden of carrying about traumatic memories. So, please ... fell free to unburden your soul in the comments section.
This post is dedicated to my good friends, @lynncoyle1 and her husband, Brian, who are also Canadians ... and therefore possess the same ridiculous sense of humor as do I. Laughter does not relieve us of our burdens ... but it lightens the load.
All images are linked to source or are QuillFire originals or modifications of images in the public domain. The video is a parody of original works and therefore relies upon the applicable exemption from copyright.
You guys know the QuillDrill. Be verbose ... but articulate.
And remember ...
Go Love a Starving Poet
For God's sake ... they're starving!