Alice

...we danced the Polonaise 30,000 feet high up, all the way from the north pole to...

I did not have a clue who Alice was when after the service of Second CRC she asked us over for coffee, but her wry smile convinced me to accept her invitation. My wife Anne and I were recent arrivals in Abbotsford then, and were carefully checking out churches before deciding which one to join, however, after 'over for coffee;' which included a lunch of dutch chicken

soup (with mini meatballs) and buns, my mind was made up – we joined Alice's church and from that time on we became friends of Alice and her husband Pete.

Second Church featured two services every Sunday. The second service was held at seven in the evening, which left plenty of time between the services 'to do something,' said Alice, and to do something meant for her to get a get a few couples of friends or relatives together for a drive into the mountains, a park, beach or any other place to climb, walk, sun, explore, or just enjoy each others company, exchange news and have fun together singing while she played her accordion.

She would drag us to a secret hill which literally and figuratively took our breath away as we were stunned by the majesty of a stand of centuries old Douglas firs, or we landed after a steep climb at a plateau somewhere, from where she showed us seven mountains, miles apart from each other. The reason why this was special enough to make the considerable effort to get up there was to show us the slight difference in coloring of these mountains.

'You would think the one farthest away to be the darkest,” she said, “but look,” the mountain closest by had definitely the most pronounced greens of the different trees and vegetation that grew on it, while the one farthest away, way in the distance was so light in color one could barely see its outline. The mountains in between varied slightly in color from the darkest nearby to the lightest way in the distance.

It was not only those extra ordinary wonders she would take us to, she always had something new and interesting to share and her bubbling enthusiasm made you feel that you had to participate in whatever she came up with, but one time she scared the pants off me, when she got me, who has a phobia about flying, as part of a group of some fifty people in an airplane for a trip to the Netherlands.

It was almost the end of nineteen hundreds, the end of the second millennium, and greatly educated people were scared that the year 2000 was going to be catastrophic, computers would seize up, records would be lost, the whole world would be in a chaos. Some had even a problem what the number of the looming year we now call the year 2000 would be. Just before all this brooding the home Frisians invited through an organization called Frisian 2000 the Frisians abroad to come home for a giant reunion.

That set the mind of Alice, who worked for a travel agency at the time, in overdrive and when her brother started his own travel business and asked her to co-partner with him her vision knew no borders. A great many of her friends originated from Fryslân and were still very much emotionally attracted to it, as was Alice herself, being born there and who all of a sudden knew how to speak Frisian (somewhat) whereby she definitely won the hearts of the contacts she made in Fryslân.

To make make friends in the old country was not Alice's only vision, she and her brother were smart enough to understand that good business could be achieved by working with Fryslân 2000, and they worked hard to get as many interested people as possible for a trip to Fryslân. They were able to form a fantastic amount of close to one hundred and fifty people 'ready to fly.'

They managed to sign on the cruise ship Jan Nieveen capable at holding their entire group for the length of the tour, nicely solving the problem of lodging and feeding the large group for the entire tour and to keep them together. The ship sailed from Amsterdam over the Ijsselmeer to Fryslân, after which it would sail through the Fatherland from north to south with several stops to enjoy a variety of entertainment and excursions.

Our group of about fifty participants originated from Abbotsford and was led by Alice, while a larger Ontario group took off from Toronto, led by Alice's brother and co-partner Jake.

Alice definitely put her imprint on our flight. She decorated the aircraft with hundreds of Frisian flags which made the majority of the non-Frisian passengers wonder what was going on, but their wondering changed to bewildering when she started playing Frisian songs on her accordion and the Frisian passengers, used to loud singing, lustily sang whatever songs she fed them. How she managed to get her accordion into the passenger area, I have no idea, but for her there was not such a thing as being impossible.

Alice was no Alice to leave it by singing only, still playing the accordion she rose from her seat and started dancing down the isle toward the cockpit, and like the pied Piper of Hamelin lured the more than willing Frisians to follow her, dancing and singing as they marched behind her to the cockpit, passed by the idle pilots who were by now flying on the automatic pilot, and hossed all the way back to the tail of the airplane. Hossing, which some call the Polonaise, is a dance which was tolerated even by the stern Calvinists (only at weddings) in which the participants, alternating boy and girl, held each other at the waist to form a single line, all the while swaying from one foot to the other in a fast forward motion, and were having a great time.

The hossing in the plane caused tripping and bumping into the seats of baffled passengers and so we danced the Polonaise 30,000 high up, as close to the stratosphere as nature allowed the plane to fly, all the way from the north pole to Ireland, when the plane slowly descended the lofty highs on the way down to earth, where I felt much more comfortable. My father on one of his trips to Canada once said “As soon as we are above the clouds, I feel so good, to be that close to God,” however, I did not share that love with him.

I had loved to participate in dancing the Polonaise, had it taken place 30,000 feet lower, but as I have a healthy fear of flying and was petrified with fear that the plane was going to crash, I sat with my head between the legs, holding onto the seat in a faint attempt to steady the airplane which flew unconcerned on the automatic pilot while Alice and her crowd were having the time of their life. Flying with Alice was never dull. Nothing was ever dull when Alice was in charge, which most often she was.

I have known Alice for more than thirty years, from the time I purchased the first building lot from her on one of the finest spot of south Sumas mountain where Anne and I built our retirement home, we shared the same view of the picturesque Sumas valley with the majestic Mount Baker in the background with Alice and Pete, and later with Alice and Herman Bandstra.

I had breakfast with Alice every Saturday for about twenty years according to her calculations, and over bacon and eggs (special) we talked about things that mattered. I learned there also that leading people and speaking in public was often very hard on her, it kept her awake many nights, although she made it look easy the next day. Alice always appeared to be in control, she possessed a unique and creative business personality, but could be tough with people second guessing her motives, she was generous sharing her wry smile, instead of being a volunteer in church she just did it. Alice showed a strong faith in God, and had a generous and loving heart.

Recently Alice took her last trip to a destination where all us one time will gather with her, in the presence of God the Life Giver, but until I join her there, I will miss her here.

I am missing her dearly.

Lament for my son (part one)

“O, my son Absalom! My son. My son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!” 2 Sam. 18:33

Time for bed - Debbi, Len and Janice

Time for bed - Debbi, Len and Janice

When Anne gave our first and only son the names Leonard Hendrik, the nurses of Grace hospital in Vancouver enthusiastically approved, as they had called him a little lion right at birth. Len, as he was called for short was a lady-killer before he could open his eyes.

He proved to be an easy baby as he just did not cry, which we lauded at first, but scared us later thinking that perhaps something might be wrong with him, but the doctor reassured Anne that nothing was wrong about him and eventually he would cry as well.

“Be happy that you have one like like that, millions of mothers envy you.” The doctor was right Len would cry after a while but he cried only tears and no sounds. We were uncomfortable with that too, but when he did make sounds and talked he used long words and words that we never used.

The first word I heard of him when our family, then living in Richmond across the Fraser river from Vancouver. When we drove over the old Fraser bridge, he looked down and said very clear – 'Water.'

From then on he talked but often words like the Latin name of a monkey tree like tree, whose name I can not recall, but the did not have pain so it seemed at least he did not cry out.

On Fridays I took him often with me to a bank I Vancouver to cash my pay check. Next to the bank was a small Italian restaurant where we ordered coffee for me and chocolate milk for Len. And of course a delicious piece of apple pie. The mama running the place liked Len and took him to her secret place where she made all her goodies, she made Len carry the pie to our table, praising him in Italian-English for his diligence, and for 'his good lookse,' which one day was going some girl very happy.

I built a platform in a tree at every house we lived in, so Len could safely built his tree-house, -fort, or what structure his imagination came up with, as his creative mind knew no borders. By building in a tree I kept him from hammering nails in floors of structures I was building, like the floor of a house we were constructing next door. His greatest joy was when a concrete-truck driver, who apparently remembered his own yearnings when he was a pre-schooler, asked Len to come along in the truck, set him on his knee and let him chauffeur that monster machine for a little way. His face radianced the same as when he scored his first soccer goal.

He made a friend of our doctor's son of the same age and together they explored the the decreasing green acres of the area which was doomed to lose its virgin state, but where they still found pails full of frogs of all sizes which they, after showing them off, and thereby terrorizing mothers and sisters, dutifully took back where they had found them, but not before they walked with their pails of plunder underneath the horse which happened to graze in their path. Len and his friend had a great life in the still mainly rural area.

When winter snow made a wonderland by coloring everything from mainly green to white, Len's sisters were involved in a snowball fight with some neighbor boys, which they were losing. Len's mind sought ways to rectify this. He loaded his Christmas gift, a little four wheel wagon, full with self made snowballs and supplied his sisters with them, who by this action made the boys surrender.

He used that wagon for another, embarrassing, purpose as well, embarrassing at least for me, being his father, although I was amazed at his resourcefulness. He was allowed to take some empty soft drink bottles to the local corner store a block away from our house and spend the few pennies they reimbursed him at the same store for some candies, but I saw him come back with his wagon loaded with more bottles than he had sold and decided to follow his actions. He returned with his wagon load to the same store, made his transaction, and went straight for the rear of the store where the 'empties' were stored and loaded his little wagon again obviously getting ready for the next transaction. He thus made it his enterprise to sell the storekeeper his own ware.

Not far from the same was a barber located where I had my hair cut and waiting my turn was reading a magazine to pass the time when came into the shop looked at the magazine in my hands then looked at me and loud enough for all to hear informed me “That is Playboy, dad.”

He said it not in a disapproving way but in fact he caught me reading a girly magazine and I wondered where he, not able to read since he didn't go to school yet, got the knowledge to check my literature and by stating it to my face certainly did not make me feel good.

Why I tell these stories about my son who died a violent dead in a car accident forty years ago? I think it is because the pain of 'losing' him has lasted its forty years, a pain somewhat described by king David in the bible, who lost his son Absolom in a violent and cruel manner as he cries 'O, my son Absolom, my son! If only I had died instead of you.”

O Len, my son...

After the Fire

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What happened after the fire.

One of the houses we built in our sub-division was for a banker who was recently transferred to another town and when he put his house up for sale, I bought it from back from him.

Debbi, Len and I moved into it. It did have a sauna, as well, but of course no furniture. We had no furniture, no clothes, no food, no beds, we had nothing whatever any normal household has. How we got all the stuff we lacked I do not know anymore. All I know that Deb and I bought pots with flower plants, lots of them, so at least we had something to look at.

Against the advice of the pastor to call Anne, who was in the Netherlands with my two other daughters visiting both of our families I did not call to tell her that our house had burned down because I did not want to spoil her holidays. We now had a place to stay until the time we were able to rebuild another house on top of the old foundation, but how we purchased beds and furniture I forgot. Our architect however, was working on a design of another house to be put on top of the old foundation.

Of course some of these plans were not foolproof –

Because the news of our house-burning was widely published in the newspapers she would not be able to keep quiet about it, therefore I decided to tell Anne. Whinny, a friend of daughter Janice got it in her mind to go to Europe and start by meeting Janice in the Netherlands. That was all fine if only she wasn't such a tattler, then I called Anne in Holland.

Anne answered.
“So, what's new in Canada?”
“Well, we had a bit of trouble here.”
“Did the house burn down.” ?? Her answer shocked me but was not entirely a surprise as Anne has dumbfounded me before that way as if she had a special awareness.
“Yes, it did.”
“Debbi?” her voice wavered. Why not Len, I thought but Anne saw Len, like her father, as survivors. She told me once what her thoughts were about Len when we spoke of his disadvantages, being aware of his difficulties of learning because he was found dyslectic.

“Believe me,” she said, “if we ever should get a war, or a famine in this country, Len would see to it that we would have food. In that he is like you.” That was quite a compliment, but I did my best during the hungry thirties and even long afterwards things for my parents which I never saw done by my friends or siblings. Anne loved Len because he was a doer like her father and his forebears, who where Len's forebears as well of course.

“We are all OK.” I didn't know what else to say.
”I had a feeling about this, we had it too good. I will be coming home right away.”
“Don't hurry, I only told you because Whinny is coming to see Janice and she knows.”
“Is everything gone?”
“Everything.” I couldn't believe that we talked so calmly about our destroyed house for goodness sake!!

“You know Lex, we have said so many times that we don't care of earthly goods, I think that this may be a test.” We were quiet again and I thought 'here we go again paying good money to the telephone company for not talking.'

When Anne started again, I heard by her trembling voice that she was getting emotional. “There is one thing that I will miss.”
“What is that.”
“Opoe's potje.”

On one of her trips to the Netherlands Anne got an old Cologne (Keulen) pot which her grandmother used for brown sugar. As a toddler Anne got a tea spoon, which was less than half the size of a Canadian one, of brown sugar from grandma when she visited her.

“I guess, I will miss my mother's antique Delft blue plate,” I said. Anne did not answer, I knew that the old sugar pot meant much to her as it reminded her of her infant years and also of her opoe, who adored her and she her grandmother. I missed my mother's plate too, but not nearly as much as Anne missed the old earthen sugar pot she called 'Opoe's potje'.

I don't know if Anne was thinking about anything else but I know for sure that even if she didn't think of anything else, the finest house we ever had, with the most unique furnishings we would ever possess again, was lost and would never be replaced. Our old piano with the finest sound, made in 1898, was eventually replaced by a Japanese combination organ-piano, but in value and sound did not nearly equal the destroyed one.

Anne had a series of prints on one wall of the old village where we lived, produced by a local artist, from who Anne received her first drawing lessons. A knitting machine we purchased during a holiday in Europe, including a wall of wool, as Anne was going into business making knitted products, but instead became pregnant with our only son Len, who was a lot of work.

A corner TV, first of its kind. A music player, all first class. Am I beginning to brag? I will stop then, but not before saying that we were on top of the world financially, health-wise, and we lived most luxuriously in that great house with so many wonderful new idea's imbued.

Janice and Erwin, happy grandparents

Janice and Erwin, happy grandparents

Our Burned House

It was as unreal an experience, as it was terrifying, to see our house burn. My mind was too slow to catch up, my actions robotic and inside a fog.

Debbi, my 16 year old daughter just before the fire with the coverall in which she escaped

Debbi, my 16 year old daughter just before the fire with the coverall in which she escaped

Saturday-morning.

An ordinary Saturday morning without a wife, when you have to do everything yourself. My wife Anne and our youngest daughter Jacki had joined our first-born daughter Janice who was holidaying in Europe, after her high-school graduation. Daughter Debbi persuaded me the night before to clean our own house instead of helping us moving, as was the plan, my brother Sidney and his household who were moving to Langley. I didn't see the need for cleaning our new house but figured that she had her reasons and in truth she had, because she had harnessed loads of green beans out of our garden and with some help, from who I forgot, but it wasn't me, had cooked them, put them in plastic bags and deposit them in our freezer.

My son Len and I drove the short trip silently to my brother's house leaving Deb home, in bed. We immediately ran into difficulties. Sid was wrestling with a refrigerator too large to fit through the door opening in the basement. 'How did you get that thing in here.' I asked. He explained that he had taken the lid off the fridge and moving it in sideways it fit just through the door. Let's take the lid off then, I suggested and that's where the problem appeared to be because Sid had taken his tools to the other house already, which made me wanting to say 'how come you can be so dumb...' but I myself had taken my own tools out of the truck as well and so was forced to go home to get a screwdriver, a lousy screwdriver. I was far from happy.

The second story of our house was connected to a free standing large garage by two heavy 4x14 inch beams carrying a platform from which an six feet wide stairway from the entrance traveled down to the ground walkway. The first floor of the house contained a double bedroom for Janice and Debbi on one side and my office, washroom and Len's bedroom on the other side. The upstairs held the kitchen, dining, and living room, the master bathroom and Jacki's bedroom. Besides a great view over the farmer fields, it showed two main roads, one leading from the Pacific ocean going north, the other from east to west where it disappeared in the tunnel under the the Fraser and via Richmond led to Vancouver.

I got what I wanted out of the garage, but before going back to the truck noticed a little cloud of steam clinging to one of the beams, which I thought was odd, but kept going toward the truck, opened the door, yet something called in me to check things out again. I retraced my steps, walked to the rear entrance under the platform to have a closer look at why that steam was emerging from the beam.

I opened the door and ran into the blackest cloud of smoke hanging from the ceiling unto about two feet from the floor, it was very dense and very black, and it was just hanging there.

Two thoughts simultaneously raced through my head – Debbi in bed, and - get a water-hose! I yelled 'Debbi get out of bed,' ran for for the water-hose, ripped open the tap, no water, ran inside, no Debbi, on top of my lungs now, get out of bed Debbi the house is burning! Still no water, Debbi quick! I can't hold the fire! Finally a drivel of water no more than old man peeing comes out of the hose. 'Call the fire department Debbi,' but that was already too late, as the telephone wires were burned through already.

And then thank God, through the smoke, on bare feet, jeans over her nighty, Debbi appeared but she was there, alive.

“Run to the neighbor, tell them to call the fire department, quick, quick.” Debbi ran while I got finally a bit of water out of the hose which was of no help anymore. Debbi said later that by the time she got at the neighbors and looked back, the fire had busted the upstairs windows, shooting flames to the outside with the force of a flame flame thrower. I still saw a chance to move a tent trailer out of the garage and then heard a firetruck siren in the distance, and another one and still another one from different locations, rapidly becoming louder and closer.

Then Debbi cried “My kitties, my kitties.” With the fire going full blast I ran around the house, busted a window, crawled through it to the bedroom of Debbi and Janice to rescue a box with half a dozen kittens which Debbie had in her room. The mother cat was nowhere to be seen for three days. But then I noticed something that made my heart stop. Her room had a sliding-door to the outside which was open only enough for a cat to crawl through but nothing else, they had stopped the door from opening wider with clothes-hanger wire in a way so complicated that no one was able to quickly undo it. If Debbi had not come out of her room when she did, she would not have had a chance, she would have been trapped inside.

The Delta firemen were quickly on the job with several trucks but at noon the house was no more except for a part of the kitchen wall and a few parts of the second story floor, and the wooden stairway to the second floor. One of the firemen asked me if I had a fire insurance. Another shock. Did I? I was not at all sure if we had put a fire insurance on our own house. My head made a noise like a fly in an empty jam pot.

We were building quite consistently about eight houses a year, sometimes more,and as soon an foundation was put in we automatically asked for insurance, but this was our own house and I was not sure at all if we did. And, my telephone was burned up with the house.

In the afternoon, when the firetrucks were gone, and the sightseeing crowd found no excitement to watch a smoldering ruin, my children had disappeared to a friends home, and I kicked into the rubbish expecting to find something that had escaped the hellfire, I eyed our king sized water bed. The blankets were gone and the top of the plastic water-bag had burned away right up to the waterline.

An elderly lady appeared on the end of our driveway walking toward me. She was originally from eastern Europa, and all of a sudden I felt a little emotional, everyone had left, my children were gone, my wife, the oldest daughter and the youngest were in the Netherlands, but here came at least somebody for me. She carried a salad-bowl with greens, I would've rather liked a pizza, but still my heart melted and my stomach growled as I walked toward her with outstretched arms to receive her gift.

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Not missing a step she brushed past me “Not for you, for rabbit,” she said, leaving me with empty hands and - an empty stomach. That is when I thought of joining my children at the Froese's who lived half a mile down the slough on which our house was built. I barely knew them but our kids were friends with theirs and I had seen them in church. Mrs Froese was a great cook, I heard from my children and who knows maybe she would have compassion on an homeless man to let me enjoy her cooking and perhaps she let me have the use of her telephone to call our insurance agent about how much my house was insured.

If it was at all insured.

Sorry Mrs Meindersma, next week more.

A Decade Later

Long before our circle of friends 'garage-shopped' my wife did, and came home with the most everyday things. She liked shopping in the US where she went at least once a week to buy scarfs in the beginning of the week, showed them to me, (sometimes) and returned them the end of the week, she seldom kept what she had purchased.

Anne shopped at garage sales as well where she was unable to return her purchases but was very choosy to buy only inexpensive things such as used postcards, which could be picked up at five for a quarter. I liked as much as she did, to read addresses and especially messages on them which were often written in different languages and came from all over, leaving us guess and fabricat all kinds of stories from the messages they carried.

Anne purchased also single teacups, she carefully chose nicely decorated ones with flower designs in dazzling colors, for pennies, and those she kept. One of her treasures was a unique thin porcelain cup which was was decorated on the inside of the cup instead of on the outside, like her other treasures. “That is the only cup which doesn't show off,” she said. She handed me the cup with a message to give to the bride for a present just before my grandson's wedding. “You have no card to go with it,” I said. “Just explain it in your sermon,” she laughed.

Ah yes – the sermon. I saved a copy of the sermon for a decade but am unable to find it, which is perhaps a blessing, but I will share some of the parts I still remember. I felt sorry for the wedding party who would have to stand throughout my ‘preaching’ and tried to think of ways to shorten it, which proved not a wise idea as I almost lost the thread of my speech.

It made me think about a dream I had about me preaching when I was a young man. the theme of my sermon was about Gods love, which is a beautiful theme, and a lot can be said about it, but an inspirational message was not forthcoming. All I was able to think of, was “God is love,” and again “God is love.” I remember my father watching me in the audience, and saying something like 'You better come down from your high horse.’ Thinking about that confused me but I kept my composure, hoping that no one noticed.

I started by saying that the first recorded wedding was some six-thousand years ago between Adam and Eve, and paraphrased a few text out of genesis about the tasks, the privileges and responsibilities of both bride and groom. I reminded both of the great privilege to have not only their parents but also their four grandparents witnessing their wedding, and that both bride and groom from now on belonged and should respect the families of their partner as their own.

I turned to the young women and young men of the wedding telling them that they were not there only to make beautiful pictures, but as they were of the same generation and being friends with the bride and groom they should would likely be the first to observe that something was going awry in the marriage they were witnessing. That it would be their task to watch and support them, be a loving wall around them protecting them, and be the first ones to help them if any marital difficulty would occur.

When the sermon was finished but before the ceremony of the vows I carefully took Anne's presents from under the lecture, undid it from the wrapping and held it up for everyone to see, and after an encouraging nod from Anne explained the significance of, yes, her prized teacup.

“This cup is a present from my wife Anne to the bride. The beauty of the cup is not the markings on the outside of it, which as you can see are rather plain, but its beauty is the flowers that adorn the inside, with the wish that you, the bride, who are beautiful in your resplendence may be just as beautiful from the inside.”

Anne had asked me to get a Tim Horton coffee-cup to give to the groom. I got hold of the smallest size one and presented it to the groom, ‘so he would not feel left out’.

In order to prevent envy in the new family I have also a cup for the groom.”

That cup , the smallest in size, belonged to Tim Hortons originally but had somehow found its way in my pocket.

I was helped by the bride insisting on using as part of her vow 'and remember that I chose you over all others,' which impressed me greatly.

The sermon was well received seeing the compliments about it, so much that Anne said

“Don't let it get to your head now.”

The bride strode onto the stage after the picture taking with a rifle pretending a shotgun* wedding.

*A shotgun wedding is a wedding that is hastily arranged to avoid embarrassment due to premarital sex. Wikipedia.

During the reception I was shocked that the mother of the bride held emotional speech after she presented a similar present to the bride with an unmistakably message to the groom – do not ever hurt my daughter in any way for I will take her back again. The present? Another cup.

That wedding was more than a decade ago, long enough to find out if it really was a shotgun wedding. It was not. Did they receive any children? They planned for three and got four. They are a loving family and the bride's mother has seen so far no need to take her daughter back, but then she didn't know that my grandchildren are original thinkers, not wife-beaters. What is more, their women wont let them.

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The Pot of Gold

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When we were children and asked for something special we were often told by our parents

“Whenever the ship with money comes in.” Of course it was even ridiculous to think that a ship loaded with money would steam into town, but strange things do happen sometimes.
”Well, at the end of WWII the German SS robbed the bank of the Netherlands in Utrecht and loaded the hoard in a large ship that under cover of darkness sailed from place to place until it reached the harbor of the Lemmer in Fryslân, were some workers robbed the Germans for a change and gave hands full of coins away. I came in possession of a few unstamped coins, which shows that that things we hold for impossible do happen. Sometimes.

The last time we camped together with George and is wife at Lake Cahuilla he had taken a kite along.

“I ever flew this damn thing before, but between the two of us I think we can manage to get it in the air, especially with a flying Dutch man like you as co-pilot,” he grinned. The kite had belonged to his son and he remembered the great times they had 'when Greg was only yea-high.'

George had either forgotten Anne's annoyance with his coarse vocabulary, or was it was the memory of his dead son that made him use even more profanities than he normally mixed in with his stories.

Because I didn't want any unnecessary hassle with Anne I carefully reminded him of Anne's dislike, but when he started calling me then my good friend, on a tone I did not recognize I knew I had stirred into something I'd better had left alone, but was surprised that he had really considered Anne's annoyance.

“I have consulted Google about the manner, my good friend” he baritoned, “and found more swear words in your damn language than in mine. With your permission, attend your lovely wife to the fact that half of the dutch cities have a damn as an appendage and there isn't nearly a dutch ocean liner without a damn dam attached to it's name.”

He went on for a while and I hoped with all my heart that I was not going to loose a friend over this thing and my futile rebuttal that the dutch dam has an entire different meaning than his damn, he challenged me to show him the difference by uttering both damn words and pointing out the difference to him if I was able to.

“Alright, you damn dutchy, let's hear your dam first,” he said. He was dead serious, I saw.

“Dam,” I said, “but I...” “Sssst, my dear misguided friend, now say my damn.” “Damn” “Now say the two dams one after the other, in whatever order you choose, and then tell me which one your Anne objects to, and which one is a so-called well mannered, civilized Dutch word.”

On our first galleon hunt George showed me a dark horizontal line at several places about a dozen to twenty feet high on the mountains around our campground which we assumed was the waterline of the ocean some hundreds of years ago. It had to be, how else had the Spanish galleon we were hunting ever getting to this place right in the middle of the desert. That line was the main ground for our galleon theory.

After we had left for beautiful BC the year before our last holiday in lake Cahuilla, our vacated camping spot had been taken by a motor-home with New York license plates, George told me, which was not unusual but what was unique, the couple owning the rig were both archaeology professors specializing in Native antiquity, who had come all that way to study ancient Indian fish traps that were supposed to be located in the Cahuilla area.

When George shared with them our Spanish galleon hunt they had some startling news for him.

The news he received from the professors ('and by the way Lex you would have approved of the cute she-professor') destroyed our fun of galleon hunting in one broad sweep as they told him that the black line on the mountain was what once had been a waterline alright but was from about 10,000 years ago, when Spain did not yet exist. That sure took the steam out of our engine.

“We might as well do something else,” said George, and when I didn't come up with a sensational idea, he did. “You know what? We are going to fly the kite.” I didn't think it was such a fantastic idea but what else were we going to do. I had a feeling that something else was going to spoil our fun, and it was, when it was my turn to hold the kite line I, by accident made the kite sway from side to side and when I sharply pulled the line trying to control it, it made a sickening arch toward mother earth and crashed onto the top of a tree, slackening the line.

George took over from me yanking the line but did not better my efforts, our source of entertainment ended before it began. We were both too heavy and weak to climb the tree, so instead of dreaming about treasure ships we started figuring about ways to get the stuck kite down out of the tree. We came up with several ideas, the closest doable being a long stick to lift the kite free from the tree and then pull it down.

Our problem was to find a stick long enough to reach the top of the tree. We scrounged the entire campground for a it and came up with one eight-foot 1x3 and a three foot sable-like palm branch, were we needed at least four to splice them together, or even more.

Gloomy we sat together on a pick-nick table bemoaning our bad luck and to top it of I felt bad for George loosing the kite that reminded him of his dead son. Through my fault no less, it made me feel very awkward. but help sometimes comes from strange places. One of the neighbors came with a partway solution.

“If I park my pick-up under the tree we com at least a few feet closer” he said, “and if I stood on top of the cab we are closer yet.

The friendly camper standing on the cab of his truck, armed with an improvised spear of the eight-foot 1x3 and a five foot long Salton cedar branch that someone had broken off a tree, spliced together with the saber like palm-branch, yelled

“I'm still five feet short,” but then who stepped daintily to the fore out of the best home a married couple can have, a two-person pup tent, but my wife Anne with two brooms tied tightly together forming the missing part of the combo spear, and the friendly camper after attaching Anne's gift of two brooms to the rest had no trouble lifting the kite free from the tree and safely to the ground.

That was the end of our kite flying as well and it was also the end of our camping in the pup tent because Anne could not get up anymore. We still went camping for one year in a van and after that lost track of George and Carole, two very enjoyable friends.

O, in what manner did we hunt for the Spanish galleon? Uniquely, in George's way, who told me once “You know how most adventurers find their pot with gold? By not looking for it. That's the damned truth, some are searching their whole xxx life looking, climbing and digging – finding not a xxx thing. And then one day when they are not looking for it, and when they're old like us – there they stumble on the xxx!!! pot of gold. So my theory is – take the shortcut – just don't look for it and then one day... one day...”

Years later I found, (when I wasn't looking for it) by way of Google that a Spanish galleon was thought to be buried in the middle of the Salton sea less than a mile to the east of our campground, reportedly filled with black pearls...!