In the December/January 2014 anniversary issue, we featured an interview with Bill Suddick, our amazing illustrator who has been with the magazine since its beginning in 2004. Here are a few of the stories published along with his inspired illustrations!
For some reason, one day after I had returned home to Quebec from Florida, I was rereading an article in an issue of the St. Petersburg Times, now the Tampa Bay Times, which I had brought home with me. The article gave me an idea for an adventure and sent me on a personal quest. To help you understand my mission, I need to share part of that article. It was titled, “A Slithering Siren Song.” Talk about an eye-catching headline!
The article describes a man in Florida who “makes a living by-take your pick-worm rooping, worm charming, worm grunting or worm fiddling.” He goes into the woods “at daybreak, armed with a wooden stake he calls a stob, a heavy iron file he calls a roop iron and a mess of one-gallon cans in which he places the bounty he scares right out of the ground.
“Kneeling in the dirt at dawn, he buries the stob 15 inches deep in the topsoil. Grasping the heavy iron roop with both hands, he leans his weight against the stob and commences a passionate rubbing. The roop-on-stob collaboration produces the Sopchoppy Symphony, which has been performed in a remote section of Florida for more than a century.
“The Sopchoppy Symphony starts with a groan and proceeds to a kind of mighty grunt, the kind a distressed 100-pound bullfrog might produce, an awesome hair-raising, teeth-rattling kind of grunt. First the earth begins to tingle and then it quakes for dozens of feet in all directions.
“Then things really get weird. Within seconds, the ground explodes with earthworms. They writhe in what seems to be ecstasy, but is more likely terror-as if the demons from hell are pursuing them from the netherworld.”
Just for clarification, Sopchoppy is a nearby very small town.
After reading that article, I felt challenged. Why couldn’t I give it a try? All I needed was the right equipment and my grandson to help me. I raided my brother-in-law’s workshop next door and found a “file”-not very heavy, but I thought it would do-as well as an appropriate piece of wood. Now I just needed the grandson and that turned out to be the difficult part. When I first ran the idea past him, he thought it was cool, but trying to catch a 17-year-old young man with his own car, a new girlfriend, a job and starting back to school wasn’t working. That is what the situation was until one day a couple of weeks later.
The day started out as another soggy, gloomy one. The bright side was the fact that my niece, Lynn, and her niece, Alyson (my great-niece), were spending a few days next door and were thinking of going shopping to cheer themselves up. I was invited, but we were waiting to see if the sun would come out-if it did, shopping was off. Fortunately, during this waiting period, I remembered my sometime plan to go worm rooping.
I grabbed the phone and called next door and got Alyson. I tried to explain what I wanted and ended up babbling and confusing her all to heck. Luckily, she took pity on me and said, sure, she’d be right over, still not knowing what I was talking about. When she arrived, I showed her the article. She was enthusiastic and so we went looking for Lynn. We found her headed up my driveway on her way to trim branches for me and we recruited her.
Gathering up our equipment, including an axe to pound in the stick, we started out, knowing the biggest problem was going to be the mosquitoes. Lynn was OK; she had already prepared for the worst when she first went out, wearing long pants and sleeves and a hat with a face net. I put on long pants, insect repellent and a safari hat, but Alyson had arrived in shorts.
Between my house and the road along my long driveway is a thickly wooded area. We didn’t have to go very far before we reached a spot that looked about right. It was a small clearing surrounded by trees and the grass and weeds were quite short. Alyson got the muscle jobs. She pounded in the stob (stick) with the axe and then took up the file (roop) and set to work.
The first surprise was that it did make a strange noise, but one of us said it didn’t really sound like a distressed bullfrog’s grunt. Lynn made the whole thing worthwhile right then when she said it sounded more like a bullfrog’s fart.
So there we were, laughing like idiots, frantically trying to flap the mosquitoes off poor Alyson while she applied the roop as hard as she could. It wasn’t long before
I took pity on my crew and said I was satisfied with the experiment and we should quit. Just then,
Alyson spotted a worm, but that didn’t seem very exciting until Lynn found two more and then, wow! Worms! Believe it or not, I spotted one sticking straight out of the ground, kind of waving its head around. I don’t know if it was in ecstasy or terror, but worms don’t normally do that.
I don’t want to give the impression they were “exploding out of the ground,” but we definitely had worms. None of us wanted to collect and save any, so, having proved a point, we got out of there, away from the mosquitoes. Alyson suggested we leave the stob in the ground in case anyone else wanted to go worm rooping. Lynn said she was going to tell her son, Michael, the fishing enthusiast, about this worm-gathering technique and the three of us kept saying over and over, “I can’t believe we got worms!”
We were still saying it hours later over our shared dinner. Alyson had fun when she heard from a friend, who phoned and asked her what she had been doing on vacation.
If you were Alyson and someone asked you that question, could you resist answering,
“I went worm rooping”? Alyson certainly couldn’t!
To read the full article Dorothy quotes, published in March 2009, visit www.tampabay.com and search for “Sopchoppy man pulls worms from earth.”
By Dorothy Hannah, Lacolle, Que
Published in Our Canada, August/September, 2012
It was hiding like a shy smile amongst the bills. “Use this for something you really want,” said the note wrapped around the cheque from my friend. What did I really want?
Pink lace underwear- I wanted pink lace underwear. I’m into thongs (is that contradictory?) and I prefer unstructured bras because I’m small- breasted. Whether wired or padded, there’s always room for a small change purse in with my left breast.
At the mall, I entered every store that began with
“La.” I tried on push-ups that didn’t and hydra- bras that weighed more than my groceries. As I headed dejectedly for the mall’s exit, one last store with its bright lights, shiny oak floors, and oval tables strewn with delicates beckoned pinkly. There, on one table, were pink lace structured bras, matching briefs and, could it be, yes, unstructured bras! I grabbed a set and headed for the fitting rooms, happily expectant.
As I tried on the bra, I realized it had a nifty new closing. It still fastened at the back, but it also closed at the shoulder. I paused. Here I was at the cutting edge of new underwear fashion. I bet lots of women haven’t even seen these yet. As I attempted to fasten the straps though, was stymied. Embarrassed, I got dressed and ok it to the salesgirl who was folding and sorting. I sidled up to her and whispered in a friendly way, holding it out to her, “Can you help me? I’m having trouble with these newfangled shoulder straps.”
Without looking up, she said, “Those aren’t shoulder straps, that’s a garter belt.”
By Vivienne Mathers, Burlington
Published in Our Canada, December/January, 2008
The Sisters of Niagara
Once upon a time, in the Great White North, there lived a man named Boralis whose home was in the sky among the northern lights. Everything about him was colourful, from his flaming-red beard and deep-blue eyes, to his vibrant clothing. He loved the flashing of the night sky with its bright, dancing lights and wanted to live there forever.
His three daughters, Aqualea, Aqualeera and Aqualeeta, were different. Everything about them was silvery-white, from their long, flowing hair to the tiny sandals and robes they wore. Their greatest joy was to play in the many waters that lay scattered on the northern lands below.
In warm weather, the birds flew with the sisters as they went down to frolic in the sparkling spray and rushing rapids. When it got cold, however, the waters froze and even the best efforts of Sukusi, the ice worm, could not keep their favourite waterfall open.
For many months of the year, the sisters rested unhappily in the clouds, waiting for summer to return.
Their father could see that his daughters were sad, so he sent them south. He told them to follow the Great Waters until they found a better place to live.
The three sisters flew over the land for many days until they came to a place with many waters beneath a high mountain.
“Let’s stop here,” said the youngest sister, Aqualeeta, who loved adventure. She looked down from the rock to the water below and decided to dive down. Soon, her sisters joined in the great fun of plunging into the pools and flying up to the top to dive again. Tiny drops of water glistened on their hair, dresses and wings. On and on they played, first in the sun, and later, the moonlight. Far to the north, their father saw them from the sky and smiled.
“The mountain shall be your home forever,” he said and caused great flowing waters to drop from the mountain in a wondrous, giant waterfall.
No matter what time of year, if you go to Niagara Falls today, you can still see the spray, foam and mist of the sisters as they play. Only when their father misses them greatly, does some ice form on the water to remind them of their old home in the north.
By Gwen Farrow, Scarborough
Published in More of Our Canada, July 2013
I had been given the key to the bakery. My task was to install a new subfloor, then tile it. My three boys-Tyler (eight), Adam (seven) and Brandon (six)- had accompanied me to “help Dad” as they put it. After looking over the job, I decided to begin work behind the main sales-display case, not realizing that my choice would lead to mutilation and butchery on a scale that would leave even a slaughterhouse employee nauseous (or, perhaps, reeling with laughter).
As everyone knows, bakery aromas are intoxicating, and they were especially so to my young work crew. They immediately headed around the back of the sales case, surveying and peeking beneath the corners of the plastic coverings over a score of large trays, all teeming with bakery treats. They had found the mother lode of goodies! Squeals of excited discovery pierced the air.
“Oh, butter tarts!” shrieked Adam.
“Look, muffins with ICING!” added Tyler.
“A gingerbread man!” exclaimed Brandon.
Cruel taskmaster and father that I am, I decided to grab the bull by the horns and ordered the boys to cover the treats back up. I further informed them they could only have something after we finished our work. (Mrs. Card, the kind owner of Card’s Bakery, had told me to take whatever I fancied for the work crew, but I’d strategically kept this key piece of information to myself).
“We can have one?” asked Adam.
“Yes you can, but we need to get to work first.” The boys immediately began clamouring for jobs to do-all the while furtively studying a lone gingerbread man left uncovered in one corner of a tray. As I delegated and assigned tasks, the kids’ interest in the humanoid cookie seemed to wane. Nevertheless, I decided to keep watch on the little golden-brown fellow…just in case.
The carnage began slowly and stealthily. First an eye went missing. Then, a few minutes later, the second eye had vanished. It was so subtle, I found myself wondering if the eyes were ever there in the first place. But the next time I glanced over, the gingerbread man was headless. It wasn’t long before he was missing an arm and a leg, too. The carnage continued, but I said nothing because I wanted to see just how the lads were managing to eat the helpless little gingerbread man while I was being at least somewhat vigilant. Despite my surveillance, the remainder of the little baked fellow soon vanished, leaving behind nothing but a few golden crumbs in the corner of the tray. Then, moments later, it happened: a miracle! a divine healing! the fourth secret of Fatima! The gingerbread man was made whole!
Actually, upon closer inspection, the crew had craftily slid a second prospective victim from beneath the plastic covering out into the corner of the tray. But again, despite my best efforts, I still could not figure out how the boys were managing to dismember-then consume-the body parts undetected. This was going to take more work than I’d bargained for. Although I was down on the floor, working diligently, I decided to ratchet up my surveillance…after all, how hard could matching wits with a six, seven and eight-year old be?
An hour ground by and the floor work continued. But despite keeping a close watch on the boys, gingerbread men kept disappearing, one after another. Try as I might, whenever a new gingerbread man appeared in the corner of the tray, I could not apprehend the thieves in the act. I decided to try the deductive reasoning of Sherlock Holmes: For his age, Brandon had been showing an inordinate amount of interest in the installation of plywood. Hmm, the pieces were beginning to fall into place. It turned out the boys were working like the Borg Collective of Star Trek Voyager fame. Adam and Tyler would ask Brandon to engage me with questions, while they swept the floor next to the gingerbread-men tray. Somehow I’d failed to notice they’d pretty much been sweeping that same spot for almost two hours-both of them holding the broom together. Brandon performed his task masterfully; keeping me busy while his brothers deftly dissected gingerbread men limb by limb. Then they hid the pilfered body parts in a predetermined location-two steps down into the basement, en route to the washroom.
The cat finally made a total escape from the bag when Brandon asked to go to the washroom for the third time in ten minutes. After this request, I waited a few seconds then walked briskly to the top of the steps. His brothers were paralyzed with fear. Instantly realizing the jig was up, they were too petrified even to shout a warning to their cohort. When I reached the top of the stairs and peered down in front of me, I found Brandon, sitting on the second step with his back to me and nibbling furtively on a little golden-brown elbow. He never heard me coming. In a gruff and authoritative voice I asked, “What are you eating?” Brandon jumped as if he’d just received an electric shock. He rose almost straight up off the stair and gingerbread body parts leaped from his lap and scattered down the stairs. Without a word, he scurried past me to the hoped-for security of his brothers. I faced the three of them.
“All I want to know is, who ate the first eye?” Tyler and Adam looked at Brandon (who resembled a chipmunk with bulging cheeks). Brandon looked down at the floor.
“I guess that answers the question. Now, who ate the second eye?” Brandon and Tyler looked at Adam, who’s gaze now shifted to the floor.
“Okay, so who ate the head?” Brandon and Adam looked at Tyler. As I listed the missing parts of each gingerbread man, my questions continued to be answered in pantomime-looks from the guilty either at one another, or at the floor.
“Who ate the head of the second gingerbread man?” The boys glan- ced at one another before Brandon sputtered his answer, complete with a fine spray of gingerbread crumbs: “We can’t remember that far back, Dad.” I was trying hard to keep a stern look. “Well, how many gingerbread men did you all eat?” The boys stood silently, staring at the floor. Then Brandon found the courage for a full confession: “I think we ate a whole army, Dad.”
By Lea MacDonald, Tichborne, Ont.
Published in Our Canada, June/July, 2008