One Damn Thing After Another by Terry Wilson
One Damn Thing After Another By Terry Wilson

Chapter 4
Changed Course
One Way Tickets
One changes from being an emigrant to being an immigrant the moment one lands on a foreign soil.
To be an emigrant one needs to have little or no fear of the unknown and preferably an actual liking for the unknown. One must have no serious regrets about past connections becoming tenuous or even severed. One must never expect the other side to be ‘greener’ by virtue of somebody or some organisation looking after you. They won’t. You are on your own and its good fun.To be an immigrant one must never say ‘We didn’t do it like that where I come from’ and preferably one should not even think like that. The new arrival should expect to be relatively underpaid until he or she has proven their worth. They should also put significant effort into learning and acquiring the social mores and conventions of their new environment. And, no matter how green is the grass on the other side, don’t be surprised to find a few weeds in it.
I have emigrated four times (excluding foreign tours in the RAF during wartime). Once from England to Canada, once from Canada to England, once from England to the USA and once from the USA to England. However, I was only an immigrant twice, in Canada and in the USA. A returning emigrant can hardly be classified as an immigrant when he arrives back in his original country. Although when I returned from Canada in 1963 I had no job or contacts so, in reality, it was exactly like being an immigrant except I was at home with the social conventions and mores.Here are a few events that occurred during times of emigration and immigration.
* * *
On the train from Quebec to Vancouver

This Canadian Pacific train takes three days and four nights, or was it four days and three nights, I cannot remember. It stops at the capitals of the provinces and chugs across the never ending prairies at about one mile post every minute. Unfortunately we traversed most of the Rocky Mountains at night to arrive in Vancouver in the morning. Some of the carriages were observation cars. A double deck type of construction permitting a good view of the mile posts as they passed by. Not surprising, under such circumstances, one becomes acquainted with one’s fellow travellers. On this occasion three of them were interestingly different.
Two were a husband and wife pair. The husband, George, I never knew their last name, was a retired salesman who had sold hardware products to outlets from Quebec to British Columbia. He was now retired and I judged his age to be about seventy years. He was affable, verging on the garrulous, and had a Pickwickian sort of appearance that gave the impression of him being an authoritative but amiable person.
His wife was very wifely. She busied herself with writing postcards and letters. She carried a voluminous fabric bag having two handles that could well have served as rings that athletes hang from, and on which they perform crucifying exercises. From this bag she could produce a range of medicines for minor ailments, pens, pencils, paper, postage stamps, sweets and reading materials. She did not contribute greatly to the conversation, but when she did at any length it was usually to the point. But clearly, in her husband’s presence, she was used to being unable to get many words into the conversation, so she had resigned herself to two. These being ‘Oh George’. They were uttered in a tone that implied a mixture of admiration, minor recrimination and slight boredom. This repeated utterance had no effect on George. Her name was Hilda.
As the hours and days and mile posts passed, we chatted on several occasions. He told me about Canada, and Canadians’ love/hate relationship with the USA. About his working days and how by hard work over the years he had amassed a nice little nest egg of funds for his old age. I told him about my wife and ailing son in London and my hopes for the future for the three of us and especially for my son’s health. George and Hilda’s house on the outskirts of Toronto was paid for and they took at least one holiday each year. On this occasion they were going to Prince George on the Pacific Coast. No, they had never been there before and when I enquired as to the attractions of Prince George for holiday making he seemed quite reticent and his wife put in more than the usual number of ‘Oh Georges’.
It was not until the last evening on the train as we were climbing the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains that with the aid of several glasses of rye whiskey and dry ginger he told me about the attractions of Prince George.
Neither he nor his wife had ever been to Prince George.
He had no contacts there. All he knew was that it was a small commercial west coast town whose economy like most others in that area was based on logging and fishing.“Are you interested in logging or fishing?” I asked.
“God no,” he replied. And then he began to explain to me the perfectly legal but to my mind very unethical practice that he and his wife indulged themselves in once each year. His wife, he explained, did not fully approve but hated being left behind. It seemed that at least some of the ‘Oh Georges’ had dented his impenetrable salesman’s thick skin.
After his retirement from the commercial world he had kept a significant part of his nest egg in liquid form. Liquid in the financial sense of not being locked into stocks and shares or trust funds or pension schemes. It generated some interest which he drew as required but the capital of some $75,000 remained intact. In the spring of each year George and Hilda would sit down and select a small town somewhere. Preferably in a developing area and, during the fifties in Canada many areas were expanding, especially on the west coast. He would then transfer the $75,000 from his bank to a bank in their selected town. He would reserve accommodation in any convenient hotel or motel and in due course pack their bags and follow their money.On arrival they would establish their presence in their accommodation and visit the bank and the bank manager to check on their funds. The bank manager would greet them. After all, it was not every day that someone from the other side of the continent opens a substantial account for no apparent reason. A bank manager would, and for business reasons should, be curious about George’s interests and intentions, and George would be only too pleased to explain. He would explain that he had some substantial funds available, the $75,000 just being something to tide them over during their visit, and he was interested in the area and could the bank manager introduce him to people in the town from which something of mutual benefit might evolve?Of course the bank manager could and meetings were arranged, sites and operations were shown, projects were discussed but nothing at any great length. Most importantly, they were invited to dinners amid other social functions and, more often than not, invited to leave their plebeian accommodation to stay with one or more of the entrepreneurs of the town.
Hilda could rarely withstand this deception for more than about ten days. Her biggest problem was what to say on the postcards to her children and grandchildren that could possibly justify her spending two weeks holiday in Prince George or some such out of the way place that they knew she could not possibly like.
So, in due course, they would pack their bags, make their farewells to their newly found acquaintancies, make encouraging noises about the future, transfer their nest egg back to its original resting place, and return to suburban Toronto.
George and Hilda were the first Canadians I had met socially and I wondered if George was typical of all Canadians. After a very short time in Canada I was happy to find that not only was he not typical, he was an extreme exception.
The other interesting person on the train was a young, mid twenties, man from Norfolk who, like me was emigrating to Canada and had also set his sights on Vancouver. Tom was a farmer’s son but he did not like farming and, as far as I knew, had no proven expertise in any other occupation. We did not see much of each other on the train nor did I see him again until about twelve months later in the offices of the local daily newspaper. In the interim period I had obtained a job designated ‘Chief Photographer’. I refrained from asking if I was supposed to wear a feather headdress. I was visiting the pictures editor about a series of pictures I had taken of the local salmon fishing fleet at work in the Pacific. There I again met Tom as we recognised each other in the foyer and he suggested we go round the corner for a coffee. I explained what I was doing and enquired how he was making out.
“I do the gardening column,” he replied.
“Were you a gardener in England?” I asked.
“No—pigs mainly, on my Dad’s farm.”
“Well, how do you manage to do the gardening column,” I asked.
He grinned. “Stroke of luck really. I got a job as copy boy. You know a ‘Gofer’—go for this, go for that, take their copy, get me some coffee. Then, one day, there was a crisis. There was a deadline coming up, the gardening correspondent ended up in hospital after a road accident and the urgent copy went up in flames with his car’s gas tank.” (I noticed that after only twelve months it was gas tank, not petrol tank.) “So I wrote the column for them,” he said and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
“Yes but how did you know what to write?” I said. v“Easy,” he replied. “Plants don’t change much year by year. The weather goes through spring, summer, autumn and winter each year. I just went through five or seven year old back copies in the library and rehashed a column about the same season. And I’ve been doing it ever since. Gets a bit tricky sometimes when readers ask questions but with a few reference books and a contact at the Horticultural Department of BC University I get by quite well.”
I went back to take some still life pictures for an advertising agency, thinking everyone seems to have an angle making money some easy way except me. I consoled myself with the thought that I actually enjoyed the exercise of creative photography, whereas the-easy-way-to-make-a-buck-boys probably did not really enjoy their work. I was far from certain. One never heard about their failures.
I never saw him again. I wonder if he has actually become a gardener.
Introduction to the New World
I had crossed the Atlantic by boat; I had crossed Canada by train. To my would be employer in Vancouver I had offered an impressive set of references. These were letters from the Geographic Magazine, from the Pictures Editor of the Evening Standard, from several publishing companies wishing me success and expressing appreciation for past skills and dedication. I also had a portfolio of photographs representing most types of photography. There were press photos, fashion shots, industrial scenes, architectural pictures. Still life and wild life and even photomicrographs. I did not know what was in store for me so I had covered as wide a range as possible.
They ignored my references, glanced through my portfolio only stopping briefly at a picture of the Queen greeting the High Commissioner for Canada. It was probably the worst picture in the portfolio. I had included it because it seemed appropriate to do so. They called in their Sales Manager who took a brief look, nodded and left and they offered me a job at $10,000 per year (about equivalent to £2,500 at that time) provided I successfully undertook a trial assignment. I agreed and was introduced to a rather surly individual in the basement who showed me the photographic set-up. The darkroom, studio and dressing room were tawdry but adequate, but the cameras were a battered Speed Graphic with a jammed shutter and a wooden stand camera with two short focal length lenses but no medium or the essential long focal length lens.
The trial assignment they had in mind was publicity pictures of a water pipe line being built somewhere in an inland mountainous region but within driving distance of Vancouver.
“But you don’t have a camera that works,” I said.
“Yes, so I understand. We’ll sort that out when you get back. Use your own for this job. You would probably rather use your own anyway.”
I did not have a camera so I dropped that subject and said “How do I get there?”
“Oh it’s easy,” he said. “The first 90 miles is good black top through the Fraser Canyon. Then there is a good dirt road for about another 50 miles. Watch out for wash boarding. I’ll show you on a map. I’ll gear it up for you tomorrow and I’ll have the instructions and the name of the contact there late this afternoon.” He went back into his office and closed the door.I had a trial assignment instead of a job. They assumed every photographer had his own camera and they assumed every adult had a car. I had neither camera nor car, not much money and my wife and sick son would be joining me in a few weeks’ time. I needed this job.
I went to the only camera store I could find. The nearest thing to a professional camera they had was a twin lens Rolleiflex complete with case. I had never used a Rolleiflex camera before. It was second hand but seemed in good condition. I gave it a thorough going over until the shopkeeper said ‘Either buy it or stop pulling it to bits.’ I bought it with funds I could ill afford to spend and then arranged the rental of a Chevrolet car for the next day. With all this investment I had better get the job. Later that day my potential employer gave me details of the assignment and a road map of British Columbia with a cross marked in an area that seemed suspiciously devoid of anything the cartographer had deemed worthy of note, such as a road or town or even a name.
So now early the next day, I am driving in a strange large car on the right hand side of the road with never ending miles of conifers covering the mountain sides to my right with a sheer drop to the Fraser River to my left. Occasionally on the river side, obscuring the drop were walls of snow piled up by the snow ploughs during the winter and now slowly melting in the cool early spring sun.
It was remarkably different from the England that I had left. Instead of the ever changing scene of woods and fields and towns and villages here were rocks and coniferous trees; more and more of them all the same in unending miles. Perhaps it was too early for flowers or deciduous trees to have leaves. The impenetrable sameness of it compared with England was somehow slightly menacing. As if man had yet to conquer this land.
Eventually I turned into the dirt road and discovered the meaning of wash boarding. The repeatable frequency of the vibrations of cars and trucks using the road cause a pattern of small ridges and gulleys in the soft surface. The frequency of this ridge/valley pattern coincides with the vibration frequency of a car doing about 30 miles per hour. The only way to avoid the resulting incessant suspension shattering vibrations is to slow down to about 15 miles per hour and gently go up and down each ridge and valley. Alternatively one can go at about 55 miles per hour and fly from the top of one ridge to the top of the next. Unfortunately, mixed in with the washboarding, were occasional pot holes. After trying the 55 miles per hour solution and hitting a few pot holes, I settled for the 15 miles per hour solution. Much later than I had intended I reached the construction site.
A water pipe line was being constructed from a lake somewhere in the coastal range of mountains down to a mining complex inland. At this point in the construction, the pipe had to go down an escarpment and, with the aid of a drag line operating a toothed bucket, a deep channel was being torn out of the cliff. The drag line was driven by a grumbling diesel engine at the top and, at the bottom, a bulldozer was clearing away rocks and scree that had been gouged out of the cliff face. Also at the bottom was a collection of trailers and pick-up trucks and numerous lengths of pipe about 12 inches in diameter. One of the trailers looked as if it was an office so I introduced myself to the occupant, a lean tanned character, who nodded as if he expected me and terminated a conversation he was having with someone by means of a rather antiquated field telephone system.
“Watch out for falling rocks when the drag line’s working” he said. “You going to take pictures from the top?” he asked.
I looked the site over to determine what would produce the most dramatic pictures. There were several possibilities but one essential shot would be from the top looking down the drag line with the heavy equipment and the pile of pipes at the bottom.
“Yes. What’s the best way up?” I asked.
He sort of half smiled and said, “Well, if you drive back the way you came for about two miles there’s a track off to the left. You can walk. Can’t get the car up that way. We had a job to get the Cats through there. Else you can scramble up the drag line when she’s not working. Has to stop every now and again to clear the rocks from the bottom. Takes about 15 minutes that way. Hang on to the chain over the steep bit there, well past half way. You wanna do it that way?”
I was running out of time and light. “Yes,” I said.
“OK, let me know when you’re ready and I’ll call Jim up top.”
I busied myself recording the scene of rocky devastation, up rooted trees pushed out of the way by two giant caterpillar bull dozers that were busy modifying the face of British Columbia and then returned to the mobile office.
“You ready?” he said and picked up his field telephone.
“Jim, over twenty I reckon. Looks like to me.” A pause while Jim replied, then “You had the last two. Bout my turn I reckon. Yea twenty on it. OK.” He hung up. “Get to the bottom of the line and when he stops draggin, he’ll have her off for 20 minutes. Should give you plenty of time.” He picked up the phone again to talk to Jim and watched me through the window as I picked my way to the foot of the drag line.
Soon the bucket dumped its load of rocks at the bottom and clanked to a rest with the tension out of its chain and steel cables. Up I clambered. It was harder than I expected. Not far from the bottom there were loose rocks and gravel. At times I would scramble up only to slip back again. At one point I had to scramble through the bush away from and back to the drag line to get round a rock face. I had to be careful to protect the camera in its leather case slung over my shoulder and this sometimes slowed me down. I looked at my watch. Fifteen minutes had already passed and I had reached a point where the only way up was to support oneself by the chain hanging in the near vertical channel. With some misgivings I grasped the chain and began to pull and scramble up this hazardous rock face.
Then I heard the diesel engine start up and the drag lines began to vibrate. They are going to start dragging again I thought. There was no way out for me except to continue to climb the last part. I exerted every effort. The camera strap snagged on a broken root, snapped, and the camera tumbled down onto the rocks below. With one last effort I scrambled up and over the top. Bedraggled, exhausted and deeply depressed about my lost camera I staggered to Jim and his diesel engine and control gear.
Jim was like a larger version of the supervisor below whose name I later discovered was Jess. They were speaking on the intercom.
“Eighteen and a half,” Jim was saying. “Bout my turn. You owe me twenty.”
Then it dawned on me they had been gambling on my ability to reach the top in under twenty minutes and vibrating the drag lines was just a little incentive to spur me on my way.I am not the sort of person who loses his temper. I operate as if I believe that the meek shall rule the world even if all the evidence I have seen indicates to the contrary. But in this case I came close to losing my temper.
“You stupid bastards,” I shouted. “That’s my camera somewhere down there your bulldozers are battering. I’ve probably lost this job now which I badly need. All because you are using me like a bloody dice or pawn in your stupid twenty buck gambling games.”
He was taken aback at my obvious anger and, sounding rather guilty, said “OK! OK! We maybe gone a bit over the top. Lemme speak to Jess.” He had a short conversation over the telephone, told his crew to get the drag line going and said: “Come on,” gesturing to a four wheel drive pick-up with a body having about two feet ground clearance. “We’ll go sort this out with Jess.”I scrambled into the cab and we headed down a track that might well have challenged a mountain goat. On the way down he asked who I worked for.
“I don’t work for anyone,” and I went on to explain my position in some detail and with some emphasis.
“Jeez! You got a bum steer,” was the nearest he came to an apology.
I did not know what was a bum steer but clearly it was meant to describe some unwarranted hardship and that was exactly the point I was making.
We bumped down a winding rocky track and eventually joined the dirt road that led to the base of the escarpment, the control point of the operation, and Jess who was waiting for us in his trailer office.
Jim explained the situation to Jess who listened poker faced and nodded occasionally to indicate his understanding. Jess then sat behind his desk, removed twenty dollars from his wallet and gave them to Jim and, addressing me said “OK. Hang on a minute. I know how to sort this out. What is your social security number?”
“I don’t have a social security number,” I said, “I only arrived in Vancouver yesterday.”
He then pulled out a form and started filling in details.
“Full name?” he queried.
“What are you doing? What is that form for?” I asked.
“It’s to pay you for last week’s work,” he said. “And if you worked last week you get paid this week. Operating a Cat is $350 a week. If you take this to Harry in our office on Robson Street he’ll pay you and that should more than cover the cost of your camera I reckon. But first you’ll have to get your social security number. You’d need that anyway. Now ‘bout that picture from the top. I got a Leica here with a film in it. You could use that tomorrow. Tonight we’ll fix you up in our motel. Too late to take pictures today. We’re packing up any minute now.”The Leica appeared to be in working order. My exposure meter was intact and I had two exposed rolls of imaged film in my pocket. $350 was far more than I had paid for my Rolleiflex. So I agreed, and their poker faces relaxed and we all had a cup of coffee from a pot that appeared to be permanently brewing. The bitter contents only palatable by the addition of large quantities of condensed milk from a can. And then only drinkable by people who had acquired the taste as a result of many years of deprivation of normal fresh coffee.
They closed the pipe laying for the night. They accommodated me in the motel at their cost. The next day I took some pictures from the top of the escarpment with Jess’s Leica and made my way back to Vancouver and spent the night at the local YMCA. The next day I processed the films in my prospective employer’s darkroom and made a set of 8”x 10” enlargements. They seemed satisfied with the results and confirmed my employment starting the next Monday. To this day I do not know if I passed their test by virtue of the quality of the photographs or because of my endurance.
I registered myself with social security and acquired a number. Armed with this I presented myself to Harry in the construction company’s offices on Robson Street. Harry paid me for my first week’s work in Canada which, according to the papers involved, occurred one week before I had arrived in the country. Taking into account my total outlay on the project that included the costs of car rental and loss of camera I was well satisfied that getting the job resulted in a net cost to me of twelve dollars and seventy cents. Now all I needed was some accommodation for my wife and son who were arriving in about four weeks’ time.
False Fame
My wife and I and our two sons had set up home in suburban North Vancouver. There each house sat neatly in its little lot and my Canadian neighbours referred to their grounds as their ‘back yard’. Keeping the back yard neat and tidy was one of the responsibilities imposed upon them by society or by their own standards. But, like cleaning the windows or washing the floors, to them it was unquestionably a chore. So when we arrived in the neighbourhood and I started gardening in a serious way, as does any normal Englishman, they were surprised at my dedication. Especially as the land consisted of a few inches of top soil on top of solid bedrock.
Although they assumed I must be a sort of horticultural masochist they were tolerant people and my immediate next door neighbour, a kindly electrician, helped me remove a small rock that obstructed the mowing of the lawn. He helped, that is, until, as we dug deeper to remove the offending object, we discovered that it was actually the peak of an underground mountain.
As a result of activities like this and the success of my flower beds, when compared with adjacent backyards, I became known for my gardening. Such notoriety almost turned to fame when my neighbour returned from a holiday in Hawaii. He brought back with him a small rooted plant that only grows in Hawaii on lava beds that are sprinkled nightly with tropic rains and encouraged into lush growth and exotic blooms by the all year round warm sunshine of that southern climate. I had no greenhouse and the chances of growing my gift through Canada’s icy winter was nil. But I thanked my benefactor and carefully planted it in a sheltered spot within sight of his front door. I cut a stake to support its hoped for growth and I watered it and fertilised it and the plant died but the stake grew.
My neighbour did not notice the morphological transition from tropical plant to cottonwood tree sapling. He used to point it out to his friends and introduce me as a gardening genius. The rate of growth particularly impressed him. Cottonwood trees are like that.
Soon after when the plant was about three feet high and we were about to leave for another part of the world he was hoping to see it in bloom.
By now he probably thinks of me as a charlatan. Perhaps he is right? I hope I have not given gardeners in North Vancouver a bad name.
The Last Weld
Once each month for the past two years I had travelled from Vancouver in British Columbia to the Yukon. I usually drove one way and flew back the other. The car was supplied by the West Coast Transmission line who were building a natural gas pipeline from the Yukon gas fields south to join the gas pipe line network that extended down to the state of Washington and beyond.
My job was to take progress pictures of a thirty inch steel pipe as it was welded section by section, to extend over mountains, across rivers and along valleys that had been gouged out of the land by glaciers millions of years ago. At the northern end of the line winter temperatures could be as low as minus 40˚ F (72˚ of frost). At these temperatures an ungloved hand resting on the metal of a car would freeze to it instantly. An old bush pilot I got to know would open his door in the morning and spit. If his spit turned to ice on the ground he would proceed with his morning chores and ablutions knowing that the weather was acceptable. If his spit froze in mid air and clattered to the ground as a piece of ice, he went back to bed. On some winter nights the Aurora Borealis flickered across the night sky like huge luminous undulating curtains. Occasionally snow storms and blizzards had to be coped with but more often in mid winter it was a frozen sunny land that I visited although the sun would rise about 10.0 am and set again at about 2.0 pm so there was not much time for taking pictures. All the rest of the day was a frozen night. In mid summer it was the reverse with the sun setting about 10.0 pm and rising again at about 2.0 am. Of course these arctic conditions were only in the far North. In Vancouver the summers and winters were much the same as in southern England.
I had photographed the gas wells and feeder lines in the north and pumping stations at various points along the route. Across level fertile plains I photographed a huge machine that would gouge out a trench, weld sections of pipe, cover the pipe with a type of plastic tape, lower it into the trench while attendant bulldozers would backfill and level the ground along the right of way. This monster would crawl across the land at less than one mile per hour. I had taken pictures of the pipe line being suspended over rivers and now the project was nearing its end and I had to photograph the last weld when the new pipe line was to be joined to the southern network of lines.
Natural gas is a dangerous material and the only way to weld two pipes together when one contains, or has contained gas, is to get them into their correct positions, then open the gas valve so gas leaks out of the point needing to be welded. Then set this alight and, dressed in asbestos clothing, move in to weld in the midst of the flames. When all the flames go out you have got a good weld.
The final weld therefore was a symbolic event in the construction of the pipe line, so it was important that my photographs recorded it. There would be no second chances. This junction of new and old pipes was at a location new to me within a day’s driving of Vancouver. My instructions were to drive north beyond the Fraser Canyon for a prescribed distance until I reached a point where the road crossed a small river. Here I would find a dirt road that followed the course of the river up stream and would lead me to the location of the final weld.
With every confidence, and armed with my trusty Linhoff camera, I reached the river road junction and took the dirt road that ran west following, up stream, the course of the river. Timing was critical because no one was going to wait for me. I had to be there on time. But I made good progress.
After about an hour’s drive along the dirt road I noticed another dirt road also following the course of the river on the opposite side of the water. At the point where I had turned off the highway there were two dirt roads. One on each side of the river. If I went back to the highway to get on the other road I would be too late for the last weld. I had no choice but to continue to the pipe line which I knew would be running North South somewhere ahead.
About ten minutes later, round a bend in the river, I saw the pipe line where it was suspended over the river, and on my side, disappeared underground. I was on the wrong side of the river. It was too late to retrace my way. My only hope was to carry my camera etc across the river and proceed a short distance on foot to the location of the final weld. I parked the car and inspected the river. It was a raging torrent of white water mixed with lumps of ice from the recent spring thaw. The only way across was over the actual pipe that was suspended by cables from pylons on each bank. The thirty inch diameter pipe was, in parts, encrusted with frost. It was a forty feet span from bank to bank. Feeling I had no choice I climbed on to it with my equipment on my back and took tentative steps along the top of the pipe. The suspending cables in which the pipe was slung diverged outwards on each side beyond my reach and served no purpose as an aid to my balance.
Some 6 yards along the pipe I looked up to check my progress and saw to my horror that out along the pipe from the opposite bank was a large black bear. He also was crossing the river by way of the pipe. I stopped. The bear stopped. We stared at each other. Me imbued with fear and the bear perhaps with curiosity or more likely, I thought, with hunger. I remembered that bears just out of hibernation are traditionally both hungry and bad tempered.
The bear showed no sign of backing off. It started to swing its head from side to side in what seemed to me a menacing manner. In the cold air its breath came out like puffs of steam. It made no sound. It did not need to. I got the message. My only hope was to retreat but I could not walk backwards along that slippery curved surface. I had to turn round, exposing my back to the bear, and carefully retrace my steps. I carefully turned round and I can confirm that, given sufficient incentive, hairs at the back of ones neck do actually stand on end. I could feel mine prickling up as I slowly retraced my steps expecting any moment a mighty blow of a paw or huge teeth into my legs.
When I got back to the beginning of the span I turned to review the situation and found the bear had done exactly the same as I. We stared at each other across the full span of the pipe. Me at one end, the bear at the other.
I put the camera down, dashed for the car, got in and shut the door. I then drove the car as near as I could to the pipe, revved the engine, hooted the horn and slapped the metal car door with my hand. This cacophony was more than the bear could stand and he disappeared into the bushes. I was the wrong side of the river and still the only way across was over the pipe line. Once again I set out over the perilous span and this time made it with no sign of the bear. I eventually got to the final weld in time to photograph it.
When it was all over I really did not fancy crossing that river again. One of the construction crew kindly drove me back to the highway and back to my car parked by the pipe line river crossing. He thought the whole event hilariously funny. He said all I had needed to do was to shout at the bear and slap the pipe. Perhaps he was right but by doing it my way at least I lived to tell the tale. Working in Canada was, I thought, remarkably different from taking pictures for the Kensington News or any other of my earlier London clients.
Continue to Chapter 5