I choose ‘Live and Let’ Die because it was the theme song for the James Bond Movie ‘Live and Let Die.’ I saw the movie at the drive inn with my dad when it first came out and it instantly became my favourite song when I was in Grade 3. I ran around singing it all the time.
This is a story about three Butch's
The first Butch was a dog, my grandpa’s dog.
He was part lab and part German shepherd. He was a fun, friendly dog that wagged its tail and followed me wherever I went.
My grandpa owned a ranch in southern Alberta, about 10 kilometres from a town called Pincher Creek.
Butch followed me all over the ranch. I remember one hot summer day when we ran into some porcupines. I was about five-years-old and I’d never seen porcupines before and was fascinated by them. There were two of them sitting behind my grandpa’s work shed and they didn’t run away. They just sat there. Butch went up to them but, thankfully, didn’t get close enough to get quills stuck in his nose.
What is even more memorable today than Butch or the porcupines is the smell of my grandpa’s work shed. It had a smell of old grease and oil. I can’t pinpoint the exact smell but sometimes when I go to an automobile garage I can smell the same smell. The smell whacks me right in the head. It’s a smell I could stand and smell all day long.
It’s funny how some smells from my childhood can seem magical.
The second Butch I knew lived in Forest Lawn, one of the neighbourhoods I grew up in.
He was four years older than me and he was trouble.
One time I was fishing down at the irrigation canal with a friend of mine when Butch and his buddies came along.
There was a bridge crossing the canal and legend had it the water underneath the bridge was filled with seaweed that would grab at your legs and pull you under.
Just dipping a toe in the water near the bridge meant certain death.
Anyway, Butch and his buddies told me and my friend that we had to get in the water and swim beneath the bridge.
We bawled and blubbered like a couple of babies. After about 15 minutes of threats they finally got sick of our crying and left us alone. That was a huge relief.
One time my mom was down at the canal and tied her inflatable mattress to a tree and floated out onto the water to get a tan. Butch and his buddies sneaked up and untied my mom. As she drifted down the canal they stole her cigarettes she left on the shore.
My mom sometimes went down to the canal because the only other place near water in Forest Lawn was the outdoor swimming pool, and my mom never went there because she didn’t want to be around 100 screaming kids.
I always went to the swimming pool. To get there you had to cross 17th Avenue, which was a fun place for kids. It was filled with bowling alleys, arcades, pool halls, convenience stores, pawn shops and take-outs, and was always bustling with activity.
My dad knew a man who owned a burger take-out on 17th Avenue and one day when it was closed my dad took me there. My dad’s friend let me behind the counter and I wandered around looking at the milk shake machine and other kitchen equipment. I bragged that one up to my friends for a couple years.
Anyway, on the way to and from the swimming pool I’d always buy a Slurpee from 7-11. Me and my friends loved Slurpees and would drink several a day. Slurpees have nothing to do with this story but I want to say that every kid growing up in Calgary, whether rich or poor, strong or weak, loved Slurpees.
Slurpees are one of the great unifiers in Calgary. Everybody drinks them.
Back to the swimming pool.
One hot summer day I came out of the swimming pool and was sitting on a wooden railing that was painted a light blue, when two older kids came up to me.
They told me that they would give me 25 cents if I could hold the ice that they had in a box. I looked at the ice and told them, “no problem.”
I picked up the ice and burnt my fingers. It was dry ice and I’d never seen dry ice before.
I’m just thankful they didn’t ask me to put the ice in my mouth because I probably would have done it.
The third Butch I knew lived in Ogden, the second neighbourhood I grew up in.
All I knew about the Butch in Ogden was that he was one year older than me and he was big and that I would never want to mess with him.
But me and my friend Dean, who were in Grade 8 at the time, ended up messing with him accidentally.
There was a set of stairs that went straight down a steep hill between school and where we lived.
If there was a broken stair, kids would set it up so that the next person coming along would fall and tumble down some of the stairs. It was something that had to be done.
Anyway, one day Dean and me ran across a broken stair and set it up and went to the bottom of the hill and watched and waited.
My heart nearly jumped out of my mouth when I saw Butch come to the top of the stairs. He came trotting down, hit the stair and went for a tumble.
It was cruel, but funny. He got up and came running after Dean and me across the huge park at the bottom of the hill. We had a good enough head start and he couldn’t catch us.
We figured that next time he saw us we’d be dead, so we avoided him as much as possible.
I guess Butch wasn’t as mean as the other kids who lived on South Hill because there was no consequence for what we did. It was like nothing ever happened.
He was the last Butch I ever knew. I haven’t met another Butch for more than 30 years and I don’t care if I ever meet one again – unless it’s a dog.
Here is the song on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sn8alMYSu44