For Mushy – I Think We’re Wearing Her Down…

Joycie, Rex, and Ruby – 1928

Hey, a picture is a picture, right? Ruby dug this out especially for me to post here. That’s her on the right, sitting behind her brother Rex, on their tricycle – doesn’t she look like a little devil? And I’ll bet Rex dropped Joycie on her head off that trike about 30 seconds after the shutter clicked. Not that he did drop her on her head – just that he probably did. Just sayin’.

Rex is the brother of Blackberry Summer fame. Ruby hadn’t told me much about Rex up to this point, so when she presented me with this photo, saying, “There. I wonder what that Mushy fella will say to that?”, I asked her about him.

Rex was about 18 months older than Ruby. She was about three in this photo, so he’d have been a little over…. five maybe? He had asthma and it plagued him all his life. When he was eight, it almost killed him because of a Scarlet Fever vaccination.

They didn’t have a doctor in Northland, so every year or so, one would come in by train and stay a few days, checking up on people and taking care of any emergencies that might crop up while he was there. The rest of the time, Northlanders most likely were doctored up by midwives, veterinarians, and God Himself.

On the last day of an annual visit, if there were any school kids of the right age, the doctor would innoculate them all one after another, just before he jumped back on the train out of there. The kids would all be lined up, and with the midwife assisting, the doctor would stick them all, assembly-line fashion, no questions asked, no names taken. Prick, prick, prick, prick, pack up and go home.

Rex had asthma, but the doctor didn’t know that, and he didn’t bother to ask. If he had bothered, he’d never have given him the shot. Five minutes after the doctor left for the station house (which, ironically, was where Rex’s dad was, being the section foreman, after all), Rex went into convulsions. The quick-thinking midwife scooped him up and ran for the station house, where the train was just pulling in, and Rex’s dad watched the doctor save his boy in the nick of time.

When I asked Ruby what the doctor did to save him, she said she hadn’t a clue, just that it had been close. She also laid dollars to donuts that the doctor never gave another shot without asking a kid’s history first.

Rex survived, though, and grew up to work for his dad on the railroad, which kept him employed until World War II. He tried to sign on, of course, but his asthma did that idea in. He ended up working as a time-keeper for a chain-gang of POWs for the duration of the war, at a camp further up the ACR.

The POWs he was in charge of were mostly Italians. The were a friendly bunch, and the Canadian government treated them very well. They may have been called a “chain-gang”, but not a one of them wore a chain. Where would they go if they ran? Into the Northern bush to starve or freeze to death? No, they weren’t that stupid. Better off where they were, where they were housed and fed fairly comfortably, considering, and each and every one of them worked hard, Rex said.

In the evenings, some of them built tiny little ships, with masts and sails that were squished magically through the necks of whiskey bottles and glued down. The masts, sails all furled up, would be stuck to the ship with rubber cement, and laid flat on the decks with little strings attached to the tops of them. The tiny dab of rubber cement stayed flexible long enough that when the whole works went through the bottle neck, the strings could be pulled gently and the masts would stand up straight and the sails would unfurl. Rex said it was a great thing to watch. By the end of the war, he owned three ships in bottles, and had them ’til he died.

A lot of those POWs applied to stay in Canada when the war was over. We must have been pretty decent people back then, I guess. Who would choose to stay here otherwise, and freeze for six to eight months of the year?

Random Song for the Day: “Belgium or Peru” – Cuff the Duke

16 Replies to “For Mushy – I Think We’re Wearing Her Down…”

  1. Hi Les! btw, I dunno if you do tags, but I tagged you anyway, just in case, check it out! God Bless! I didn’t want to spam you with a tag comment so you could just delete this if ever. And I would like to thank you for replying to every comment. yours is truly a blog with a personal touch.
    > Lex

    Les Says: Hmmmmmm….. normally, no. I don’t do memes/tags. But cuz you say nice things ( 😀 ), I will go check it out and… MAYBE I will indulge the internet. Depending on the tag, of course.

    Thanks for coming by again, Alexis – there is always room for yet another regular visitor here, and I’d like to think you’re one of those now (I miss the ones that go AWOL terribly!).

  2. Bless her little heart…she sent me a photo! She is a doll…and yes, probably a mean little doll who ruled the roost!

    She reminds me of a girl I used to play doctor with back about the 2nd or 3rd grade! Same strong wide face with deep piercing eyes. I’m sure their stare could still seen a chill up a man’s spine.

    Please tell her thanks for the little peek into her past, but I’m still holding out for one of her about 18, then one about 30, and then one of today which would be the very best. I’m sure she was a handsome woman and still looking fine today. A woman may get older, but she keeps her beauty in her eyes and in her smile…I can’t wait!

    Les Says: I think it may just happen the way you’re hoping, Mushy. When I went for coffee tonight, I asked her if she’d mind looking around for a photo of herself as a teenager. She smiled and said she’d see what she could do… 😀

    And yes, she’s very beautiful. I haven’t seen any photos of her yet from her teenage years… or her 30s…. just recent ones. She really doesn’t seem to like pictures of herself – her house is filled with photographs of everyone near and dear to her, but nary a one of herself is on display. I think she may yet let me post another one of her here, though.

    Ruby may not trust “that internet”, but she sure gets a kick out of you and the rest of her fans. I know you’ll be tickled to know, though, Mushy, that you are the only one she talks about by name. When the subject comes up, everybody else is referred to as “those people that read on your website”.

  3. you bet I’m one of them now. I love reading your blog and since I’m new here I’m trying to dig on your old entries. I love the way you write.

    Les Says: Thanks so much, Lex! That really means a lot.

  4. You have the greatest stories, Les! Or maybe it’s just that you tell ’em so well. Or probably both!

    Hey, if Ruby doesn’t find more photos of herself, we could ask for an age-progression photo from the “artist” who did the river babies’ pictures!

    Les Says: Oh no…! Nobody’s gonna ugly up my Ruby! Nuh-uh!

    It’s weird though… Joycie at a year and a half looks just like Joycie now… same with another of the sisters I see at Ruby’s… the one standing up (with all of her head intact – I haven’t come up with a new name for her yet) on the right. She has the same features even now, and she’s in her 90s, I think.

  5. You’ve truly found your muse with dear Ruby, through your writings we’ve all grown to love her. I love the places you take us to and the word pictures you paint for us. You have a gift bonny lass, I feel proud to know you.

    (Enough with this head-swelling stuff, can’t believe I’ve just written that – you must have caught me on an off day..)

    Les Says: Awww….. you are SO sweet. Or really, really drunk. 🙂

  6. Ruby is absolutely fascinating and I can’t wait to read more! I sure hope you can get more pictures.

    Les Says: I hope so too. I’m trying to “deke her out” by suggesting older pictures first. I’m thinking that, by the summer, I’ll be able to get a nice photo of her with her flowers – hopefully with a beer in her hand. 😉

  7. That’s pretty scary about Rex and the shot and the asthma. Wooh, doggy. Is that his actual full given name Rex. Is it Rexford or just plain ole Rex on his birth certificate? People were so spartan back then.

    My mother and her siblings have no middle names because her mother said she was only going to ever call them by one name. Period. No middle names for them. Isn’t that crazy?

    Les Says: I change all the names for Ruby’s clan, because she’s so nervous about her privacy. Rex is the only one so far for whom I didn’t come up with a pseudonym. I couldn’t fathom a better name for him than “Rex”, and then Ruby tells me that wasn’t his name at all; it was “Alan”. She doesn’t know why they called him by Rex instead, but since it had been changed for me, I left it alone.

  8. Oh yes, she looks like she had a devilish streak in her! I love this story!

    Les Says: I can just picture her planning devious things to do to Joycie…. just by the expression on her face.

  9. Great story Les, and yeah, I can see how those POW’s would have thought camp was a better place than the great white northern wilderness. Must be why they put the camp where they did eh ?

    Les Says: Around here, there wouldn’t be anything but bush and snow anyway… but it would sure keep them from running off.

  10. Ruby, that devil, teasing poor Mushy with a girly pic! Great story as usual, glad that you’re sharing her so she’ll always be here with us Internet folk!

    Les Says: Yeah, and if I could just get her to dig out more pics…!

  11. Back to check on any updates, I guess just like me you’ve been away for awhile. Anyway, I hope you’re well and God Bless! Looking fwd to your next post!

    Les Says: Augh! I tell you, Lex – I can’t seem to get anything done “digitally” lately… everything is happening in the so-called Real World at the moment and I can’t say I like it much. I’m adapting, I guess… 🙂 I’ll be back where I belong ASAP.

  12. Just checkin’ on you, Les. The real world has be all distracted, too! What happened to our priorities?!

    Les Says: LOL! I”m getting there – honest. I even plan on a “Why the hell haven’t I been posting?!” post. Tonight, even! Maybe. 😀

  13. That was a wonderful read. fascinating to read about the POWs. They had german here in Temple in a camp up on the hill where the hospital is now. Your story about the baby almost dying reminded me of a story about my mom. I’ll have to tell that one soon on the blog. give Ruby a squeeze for me, and yerself.

    Les Says: Oh, Hairy – it’s so nice to see you! I can’t seem to get to your space lately (or anybody else’s, either, for that matter) – Time has compacted into a squashed little box that allows me to vacuum and cook dinner, and that’s about it. Sigh…*

    Thanks for coming by – you may have lit a fire that finally gets me moving. Fingers crossed…

  14. what a terrific post .. I really could ‘see’ it all ..

    david sent me!

    Les Says: Well, thanks go to David! I’m glad you dropped in, Daryl – hope to see more of you!

  15. Lovely post. Great reminiscence. Came over from David’s blog. Thanks.

    Les Says: Thank you, Crazycath. David’s been sending quite a few today (wish they’d ALL comment! Hint…* 😉 ). Hope you visit again!

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