There Were Moments of Stupidity…

Image: Peekin' Over...
Peekin’ Over…Taken March 2, 2008 with Canon PowerShot A550


RadioLes Returns!!



There Were Moments of Stupidity… – © Les Becker, 2010
Click the link to hear me tell the story..

(Oh, come on! Ya know ya want to!)Holy shit – 21 days into 2009, and this is my first blog post of the New Year. I should be ashamed.

I’m not.

I’m busy. It’s a good busy, that I am, and I’m happy not to have too much idle time on my hands. I’m not so happy that it’s my blog that has to suffer first, but I’m hoping to alleviate that over the rest of the month.

Hope springs eternal. Sigh…*

I’m off the night-shift – that move was not my idea, and it pissed me off, at first, but holy ol’ shit, Blogosphere, did you know there’s a great ball of fire in the sky for a short period of time every day?! I KNOW!!! I’d forgotten all about that! Good to know it’s still there.

Now that I’m actually dancing in the parking lot* in the daylight for eight hours at a time again, I seem to have more energy left over for other stuff… like cleaning house. The Idiot Child (AKA The Evil Hypnotist) was tiring of being the housekeeper all the time, so she prefers me on the day shift, too.

I’m still not cooking, though. Methinks, that will never change. The kid turns out to be a not-too-shabby chef, anyhow. Granted, she hates it as much as I do, but prefers eating to starving, and so continues to make my meals. Life is good. 😀

Sault Ste. Marie has, for the first time in possibly a decade, NOT had a January thaw. There are no complaints about the lack of snowmobiling/skiing/snowshoeing snow among the 5-Minute-Conversationalists in the parking lot – just fears of frostbite.

My father speaks to me in the middle of my head at some point during every shift: “Stamp your feet so your toes don’t fall off!” – his mantra during the winter Cockburn Island treks of my youth. I’ve taken to saying that to “my boys” – the young fellas with whom I dance every day – some of whom The Conversationalists mistake for my children, which I’m trying to find funny. I’m failing at that, but the boys think it’s right hilarious. If they were my kids, they’d be grounded for laughing at their mother.

Back to the snow, though…

The photo above was taken in March of last year, but that snowbank was even higher the other night – I know because I took a photo on my way home from Ruby’s, having forgotten I’d already done so last year. Thankfully, I don’t have to shovel (except that J.O.B. parking lot, but getting paid for something makes it less of a chore, doesn’t it) – my wonderful landlord has the Prissy-Van’s security parking area plowed every day, and Prissy has no trouble getting over the build-up the plow leaves around her, so I see no need to do much of anything about it other than gun through it in reverse and try not to hit the fence behind me.

Nine times out of ten, I hit the fence. Hitting fences in reverse at high speed is nothing for Prissy – another plus to having purchased an “All Plastic Vehicle” circa 1992, which, I understand, they don’t make anymore. I did see a similar mini-van marked “MPV” the other day… what’s that stand for, do you think? “Mostly Plastic Vehicle”?!

But, I’m spending too much of this post talking about snow, when I wanted to create my own January Thaw with a story from a late summer event that I wasn’t even in existence to witness. So on with it…

In 1962, my father tried to kill the entire family.How’s that grab ya?

The only reason I’m here to write about it is because everybody lived, and nobody called the cops.

No, he wasn’t trying to kill them all on purpose – it was one of those moments of brilliance-turned-stupid. He tried to asphyxiate the family, himself included, at the family cottage.

This was the Before I Was Born Camp – I wasn’t around, then. My parents bought a camp on Basswood Lake down the line, right next door to my dad’s nephew’s lot. Dad’s nephew, Lorne, was a good buddy – his dad, Marvin (yes, that Marvin), was a lot of years older than my dad, so Lorne and Dad were good pals. Their closeness in age confused many people into thinking they were brothers – and there’s a whole ‘nother story about a town-wide misunderstanding that had my father dead before his time, and my mother labeled as a nutcase because of that confusion. I shall have to tell it here, sometime.


Late one summer, probably in ’62, based on the age of My Brother the Trespasser, who was about two, Dad took the brood to the camp for the weekend, and Lorne took his, as well. As was the routine, the two families ate most meals together, supper being cooked by the men on the barbecue.

Now, this wasn’t the Hibachi of my experience, but one of those round, tri-legged thingies – state-of-the-art in the early 60’s, fueled with charcoal.

Also routine, was the marshmallow roast on the BBQ embers after supper, just before the kids went to bed. Apparently, juicing the kids up on pure sugar and sending them to “sleep” actually worked in 1962.

This marshmallow roast, though, was more exciting than usual.

The evening was cold. It was late August, and my dad said there was a cold snap – frost in the mornings and everything, which isn’t uncommon in Northern Ontario, but it sure can put a damper on a marshmallow roast. The kids’ hands were warm enough, holding their sticks over the barbecue, but their little feet were freezing (“Stamp your feet so your toes don’t fall off!”).

My father was a problem-solver extraordinaire, though, and of course he had himself a bright idea.

Which is how he and Lorne came to drag the the barbecue inside the camp.


The kids thought that was right cool. They had their marshmallow roast, and the only dark spot on the occasion was when Big Sis, who would have been around six at the time, started to feel a little, ummmm, unwell.

My mother tucked her into bed, wondering what bug was about to flit from one kid to another until she had four sick children to sit up with all night.

Thankfully, Mom always said, when she and my dad told this story in tandem (oh, the duets between those two, when they told a story – it’s a shame those days are over, now), the rest of the kids seemed more sleepy than usual, so she was able to get them all into bed and sleeping with none of the usual arguments or cajoling to stay up later. Un-Brother Ken, the oldest, was surprisingly willing to go to sleep without a fight, so my mom was pretty sure he was already nursing that nasty bug, whatever it was…

Kids tucked in, the grown-ups sat around the barbecue with a beer each, set to enjoy the rest of the evening. Lorne’s wife, Kay, was the one exception, having gone over to her own camp to put her kids to bed. My parents and Lorne began to chat about the day, and one after another, they started to yawn…

By the time Kay came back, my mother had decided she was going to turn in early. Kay noticed Lorne was a little loopy, which aggravated her somewhat, and she told him they’d better get themselves home. He reluctantly agreed.

Left alone, my dad checked the barbecue and decided it would be okay for the night, and yawningly got himself ready for bed.

He wasn’t sure why he decided to check on the kids – it’s not something he normally would have done, that being my mother’s habit. He checked on them, though, and all were sleeping deeply. He checked on The Trespasser – “The Baby”, as he was called until I came along four years later to usurp his position – last of all.

This is when he noticed something odd…

There was something… ucky… on The Baby’s pillow… on closer inspection he realized he’d been sick in his sleep. Dad couldn’t see leaving him like that all night, so he gently removed the pillow from under The Baby’s head and set it on a chair where my mother would be sure to see it in the morning and take care of it.

Yeah. It was 1962…

And then Un-Brother woke up, complaining of thirst. Dad brought him water to find he’d gone back to sleep already. He rechecked Big Sis and Tootie, to find that they had an odd tinge to their complexions…

Hmmm… whatever was ailing these kids, it wasn’t something he’d ever seen before… He thought he’d have to make sure to mention it to Maude in the morning.

And then My Brother the Trespasser upchucked all over his bed.

That did it for my dad. When the baby starts barfing up BBQ, it’s time to wake up my mother.

Except my mother wouldn’t wake up.

And that scared hell out of my dad.

He flew out the door and over to Lorne and Kay’s camp. They were still awake, having mysteriously become less loopy shortly after they left my parents’ place, and Kay went over to see what was what. Lorne got into the car to go fetch the doctor.

Dad went back to wring his hands and nervously wait for the doctor to arrive with Lorne, and in a fit of “keep busy-ness”, he decided he’d better put the barbecue back outside so the doctor wouldn’t accidentally bump it over…


The doctor arrived. Slapped my mom around a little in an attempt to wake her, and finally frowned and asked my dad how she’d been feeling before bed. Dad told him about the Mysterious Bug that seemed to be traveling among the kids, and the doctor went into their room.

Checked The Baby. Fine, if a little vomity.

Woke up the rest of them, one by one. Sleepy, they were, but that was kind of to be expected. No sign of a strange pallor with either of the girls, either.

The doctor was a little pissed at being called out into the middle of nowhere for nothing, and told my dad so. And then, as he was going grumpily out the door, he heard my dad tell Lorne he thought he’d bring that barbecue back inside, since it was still so chilly….

Whereupon, my father got a loud lesson in charcoal fumes, asphyxiation, poisoning, smothering one’s family, and how-can-you-possibly-not-know-that-are-you-stupid?!

My father conceded that he just might be. About charcoal fumes, anyhow.

After Lorne left with the doctor, Dad opened all the windows, and threw more blankets on the beds. My mother slept the night through, waking up to a slight headache and a good story, thankful that the kids were bug-free.

Thankful that she woke up at all.

– – –

* I say “dancing in the parking lot” because it sounds way fancier than “pumping gas for a living”. So, uh, no: I’m not a stripper.

Random Song-for-the-Day: “Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash” – Huey Louis & The News

19 Replies to “There Were Moments of Stupidity…”

  1. Wow. And I thought, in retrospect, that my mom was sort of wild for letting the gas stove run, with the door open, when our heat cut out occasionally.

    Les Says: I have been known to do that on numerous occasions (although NOT with a gas stove – your Mom WAS a bit of a wild thing, wasn’t she?) – everybody sitting around with their feet on the oven door… well now! You’ve just given me my next blog post, Shetbag. 😀

  2. Holy crap, Les! That could easily have been the end of the story, before it even began! I enjoyed reading the story, though, knowing that your existence indicated a happy ending. Glad that life is keeping you too busy to blog! That’s a good thing, in the long run, but I miss you!

    Les Says: Yeah, we’ll see how much you miss me this summer – yard ablaze, fridge empty, moldy tea flushed…

  3. OMG, that was such a tragedy ready to play out – heartbreaking to read as your poor father looked on clueless as his family were, well frankly, about to be checked out by morning. Those were more innocent days back then, folk were far less informed, and probably all the happier for it (if ocassionally life-challenged). I love the way you recount a story, make it come alive, it is a natural talent you have, and you appear to do it so effortlessly (that is not to say it is of course, stuff like this doesn’t come without applying some deal of work).

    Keep ‘em rolling Les, it’s a pure delight every time you post – even if we have to wait for it (dig)!

    Les Says: The “work” seems to come mostly in finding time to write, lately, it seems. Thanks for the accolades, as always, Shrinky… it’s folks like you I keep doing this for. 🙂

  4. You did it again! I’ve been waiting for the return of ‘Radio Les’. Once again, brilliant and engaging, quite a story and exceedingly well told. Thankfully they survived so you could be here to let me hear this! Go

    Les Says: LOL! I’m going! I’m going! Thanks, Dale. 🙂

  5. I must have trailed off there. I probably was going to say Good going or something equally inspirational but ‘go’ works too. Haha.

    Les Says: ROTFL! I figured… I was going to make something up, but I didn’t want you accusing me of putting words in your keyboard.

  6. Holy heck in a handbasket that was a damn close call, Les !!!

    Les Says: No kidding!

    …and Big Sis called yesterday to tell me that I had two details wrong: my parents owned both those camps, although Kay and Lorne used one… and Mom didn’t just toddle off to bed – she passed out in the woodbox, which is what caused Dad to panic and send Lorne for the doctor.

    Since all this happened four years before my existence began, though, I believe I ought to be forgiven for getting a couple of things off, no?

  7. Yep, you’re allowed to get a few details wrong, lol.
    If it took for your mum to pass out in the woodbox to get your father into action then Hallelujah for the woodbox!!!

    Les Says: Amen, to that.

  8. Woohoo! Glad I came to check on you! That’s some story, the whole family nearly done in, medium rare charcoal broiled and all. I’m glad I’m not the only AWOL blogger when the real life gets into the red zone. Enjoyed it as always!

    Les Says: Glad you liked it, Elle – and I’m hoping to be a little less AWOL. As in, I’m hoping to get another post up tonight. Ahem…*

    So, yeah. Check back again later, ‘kay?

  9. Well, I don’t believe my dad ever tried to poison us, but I do remember him letting me … 2 at the time … slide into a near frozen pond, only to haul me out by the neck killing himself laughing. And he did let my brother, age 3, climb a ladder to the second floor of the addition he was building …. and then there was that time … geez Louise! We are lucky to be alive!

    Les Says: “Geez Louise” is right! Was my Dad YOUR Dad?! Mine let me run around barefoot on the wood plank “floater” docks in every inlet of every Great Lake from the time I could motor around on two feet… even after I fell between the dock and a boat and was nearly squished.

    Hey, did yours ever forget your name? While you were standing right beside him? And he was reporting to a Border Patrol Agent?

  10. @Les – actually, worse. He wasn’t even aware he had kids. My mom says she remembers clearly the day my dad was sitting in a chair in the living room, and looked around as if waking up from a daze. The look on his face was “Hey! Where did these 3 kids come from?”

    Les Says: Mine knew he HAD us – just couldn’t get our names straight. I was “Diddly-Doo” until I managed to pass the name on to my daughter… after that, he reverted to calling me by one or another of my sister’s names.

  11. “xx people played doctor” seems ironically appropriate somehow, after reading/hearing this post!

    This is my first exposure to “Radio Les”, cool! 🙂

    I don’t have much to say that others haven’t already said. I’m glad things turned out okay for your family (although who knows, long-term effects of near-death asphyxiation might explain these family members’ behaviour later on, maybe?).


    Les Says: LOL! My commenters are my shrinks – y’all keep me sane. Err… sane-ish.

    You may be right about those long-term effects, though…

  12. I forgot to say, this photo is totally awesome, I truly thought it was a painting – it is worthy to hang on any wall, I love the lighting and the angle, I just love it!

    Les Says: Wow – thanks! Another medal for the “Blind Dumb Luck Wall”! 😀

  13. You had me at “Stupidity”! heh. Seriously, the title alone was intriguing enough to make it worth a read, but congratulations on a well-earned Post of the Day! I might not have discovered it if not for that.

    Les Says
    : Thanks, Mojo! I’m glad you came by. Come back again soon; there’s definitely more stupidity where that came from.

  14. Wow, quite the yarn. You are quite the storyteller. I’m glad I found you. Well, I suppose I didn’t really find you, I just happened to get pointed in the right direction (Dave and post of the day).

    Les Says: Welcome to Where the Walls are Soft, Writer Dad. I mostly tell other people’s stories… so I guess I’m more of a “Re-Storyteller”.

    I’m glad you found me, too. 🙂

  15. I absolutely love your speaking voice (and your a-boat and oat for out!) You remind me of a chick Garrison Keillor.

    I think I shall play this when I want to hear you in the room with me.

    Les Says: Wow! Niiiice compliment, Betch! Thank you!

    Wait a minute… you mean I SOUND like him, not LOOK like him, right?!

  16. Here via cardiogirl’s blog. I started out reading this post but my funky attitude has me reading the same line twice, so I decided to listen to it instead. Enjoyed it a lot, love your humor. Glad your mom woke up, had me scared there.

    Les Says: It’s good to know the Shetbag is sending me visitors… 🙂 Thanks for listening (it’s okay to read lines twice – I might even be funnier that way).

    Welcome to Where the Walls are Soft. Hope to see you often.

  17. Okay Missus’, I know you are busy and all that, but hey, cut us some slack here, we need another “fix” – do something!! (Stomping my foot..) Hmph.

    Les Says: Sigh…* Fine. Lemme just finish this beer first, okay…?

  18. I see a Movie of The Week here! or at least one of those sort of true memories like Running with Scissors of A Million Little Pieces. Great use of the single sentence paragraph by the way. I’ve always liked that kind of style.

    Les Says: Well, thanks, Descartes! Please feel free to email any movie producer friends a link, would you? 😀

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