an old poem – Dutchie goes down the road

Dutchie goes down the road

(from 1973)

The little Dutch boys played
around the bunker,
threw hand grenades and fired
the Schmeisser Machine Pistols,
Live ammunition for toys
after the death of the war
in the spring and summer of ’45.
They were half starved kids
but they had the strength to play.
They could run where they wanted
except for the minefields,
of course.

Dutchie told me about it
after beating my ass for the second time
at chess, in the rec hall, at Syncrude
north of Fort McMurray, Alberta
“We had everything we wanted.
It was just lying around,” he laughed.
He stayed in camp that weekend
so he wouldn’t drink, he was tired of it.

The morning they let him go
he was drunk.
The General Foreman was an old pal of his.
But it didn’t matter.
His back hoe stuck in the mud.
He’d walked it off his log pads.
His thermos bottle had been full of vodka.
“I don’t give a shit,” he said.

They used the widepad D5 cat
to come in and hook up the tow cable.
That cat could practically float on water
with those extra wide tracks.
The mud was so glue-like,
held the hoe tight, so stubborn
that the cable snapped
and the General Foreman
got missed by the flying cable
by about six feet or so
He would have been cut in half.
A little like a Schmeisser
might have chopped him.

My operator swore.
Then he laughed,
“Boy, that’ll sure ruin your day.”
Everyone who was there witnessing the event
took a step or two back.
I took more than that.

Dutchie laughed and laughed.
“Screw it,” he said.
His great potatohead face
with the skull-close crew cut
and his big flapping ears,
he had no chest but a decent beer gut,
white reedy arms.
He looked past all of us.
He was already down the road
driving south to Red Deer
where he owned two houses.

Someone took the crewcab
to get another tow cable.
A thicker one.

Dutchie threw his thermos bottle
as far as he could,
the orange and tan vessel
arcing out
over the torn up mud, clay and muskeg.
He stepped into the cab of the hoe,
slammed the door shut.
We could hear his portable radio start up.
A country tune.

“Leave him alone,”
said the General Foreman.
“We need to get another hoe in here.
He’s not going anywhere.”


Author: William J. Gibson

62 year old - writer/photographer Canadian, survived open heart surgery, received kidney transplant, sometimes dour, sometimes amusing, over six feet in height, severely follicle challemged

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