War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

kit bomb plus (more things I've learned from the infantry)

please note that as with all posts on this site, that this is very beta… lots of stylistic, grammatical errors (e.g., mixed tenses)… I write this on the fly with no time for editing/revision… be kind dear reader, be kind, this project is as real time as possible.

grasslands valley at rattle snake time/sms/August 09

the other night, 12 year old and I pulled the ’72 Boler down long prairie roads, winded through prairie grassland into the most amazing landscape I’ve seen in my entire life… hoodoos and rolling grassland, white clay cliffs… past a coyote, brown hawks, pronghorns, prairie dog towns, over a little bridge under which spotted turtles sunbathe, up a hill to a mowed grass plateau near an abandoned homestead, to the most perfect cliff-top campsite one could ever imagine. we set up the little trailer, set up our table and chairs, our awning, our portable kitchen, organized our plastic tubs which hold our clothes and necessaries, unpacked our bicycles, then settled in to breath in the 180 degree vista of the Frenchman River Valley and to watch Swallow T.V.

swallow T.V. is a name I coined in Toulouse two years ago when I opened our hotel window and looked out across the red tile rooftops and saw hundreds of swallows darting and diving and chirping their heads off like mad NHL refs. since then, my daughter and I have loved watching swallow T.V. whenever we come upon it. Saturday night was particularly lovely as this has been a tough journey in many ways, very challenging emotionally, and the hours on top of the cliffside were pure healing for us.

we made a leisurely dinner, the kid her vegetarian puck, me, a nice piece of steak, fresh quinoa (ask a vegetarian) and vegetables, and an iced cold beer for me… I don’t like beer unless it’s stinking hot or I’m absolutely done in and I was… we ate and congratulated ourselves on our great achievement of 1600 kms to one of the greatest places on earth, then read and drew and prepared for bed. I decided to hit the outhouse before bed, a 5 minute walk across the plateau, admired the full prairie moon then made my way back to our little home. daydreaming, feeling pleased with our achievements. I took long strides and listened to the coyotes and as I neared the trailer a huge rattle snake raised its head, curled and rattled at me.

the rattler, big and green and brown (probably freshly molted) was less than three feet away. I wasn’t wearing proper footwear (hiking or cowboy boots), just dumbass rubber clogs (I’m ashamed to admit to even wearing them) as I had changed for bed and wasn’t anticipating snakes in short, mowed grass. my first thoughts were, “holy shit, that’s a rattle snake”, then I took a deep breath, didn’t panic, didn’t move fast but very slowly backed off several meters then ran the long distance around to my camp. I yelled at my daughter, “rattlesnake!” and she thought I was joking. I made her run the long way around then jump into the Boler and shut the door. we burst out laughing. “you were lucky mom” she keeps saying to me every day since, “do you know that 1 out of every 4 snake bites is venomous? do you know that your legs blow up and your skin splits if you get a bite? do you know that the venom attacks your nervous system and you can’t think straight for days?” etc. etc… the girl’s a walking encyclopedia of rattlesnake info, most of which I’d really rather not know

so here’s my infantry lesson

don’t panic, stay calm, don’t make any quick moves until the right time, keep your frigging eyes open and don’t daydream when you’re in a danger zone

I guess 3 out of 4 isn’t bad

so after that excitement, we brushed our teeth inside the trailer and spit out the door and settled in for a good night’s sleep. our beds were cosy and comfortable, the wind gently rocking us to sleep.

02:00 hrs. rain. oh shit, did I cover the kitchen? thunder and lightening. not good, we’re on top of a cliff. but brave girl who comforts wimpy mother isn’t afraid of much and a lightening/thunderstorm are undaunting to her and besides, we can always go sit on the porch of the deserted homestead if the lightening gets really bad.

2:15 Boler starts rocking side to side like on a mid-November ocean. yikes. then Boler starts rocking back and forth even though I’ve put blocks underneath. I look outside my window and all the other campers are in their cars. this is not reassuring. then suddenly a little voice says, “mom, I’m scared” and I jump up, lace on hiking boots and say, “we’re out of here let’s go, I’ll couple the trailer, you grab and store things”. you see, when brave girl says she’s scared, I pay attention. she’s no wimp unlike her mother.

for the next 10 minutes I struggle against intense gusts of wind as I hitch up the trailer then begin passing our gear to the girl inside, at one point having to hold onto a heavy tub of food in order not to blow away and over the cliffside. I keep thinking one thing, tornado. being a coastal girl, there’s one thing I know about the prairies and that is that summer storms can bring twisters. our 900 lb trailer wouldn’t stand a chance in a twister.

amazingly we pack up, and leave only a few small things behind. we head out of the campground, the girl and I keeping our fear to ourselves. she puts a Mozart CD on loud so we don’t hear the thunder or the rain, and we slowly made our way back to the little village we had passed through earlier in the day. that 30 km journey seemed like 200 km, our only moment of calm coming when a porcupine ambles into our headlights and we watch it mosey across the road. no wonder they’re such common roadkill, they take their sweet time when they see headlights. fortunately we were driving slowly enough not to hit the creature.

we pulled into the campground around 03:00 hrs, cleared a place to sleep amidst all the stuff we had thrown haphazardly into the trailer in our hurry to get out of the storm, then fell asleep exhausted.

so here’s infantry lesson #2

don’t be a frigging kit bomb

even though I have improved dramatically in losing my kit bomb status, I need to tighten things up to the point where I can evacuate any situation in 5 minutes. the plastic tubs are a big step in this direction, but they need the lids to be screwed on tight, also, a place for everything and everything in its place always, but especially before bed

a few days have passed and my girl and I still congratulate ourselves on our teamwork at making the decision to leave the campground as many locals told us that that night, they slept in their basements. a woman at the park’s office told us that a colleague was hit by lightening here last spring and the girl’s brother was killed by the same lightening.

I’m glad my “infantry” training has sunk in. neither time did I panic though I was absolutely aware of significant dangers. my girl has obviously learned this too. still, somehow I wish she’d stop with the, “did you know that your leg turns black and purple and yellow and really hurts and the skin splits because of the swelling when you get a rattle snake bite mom?”

from the road,
somewhere out on the great Canadian Prairie,

Charlie Mike

4 Comments (Closed)

Bob Devine

Though nothing was similar this post has given me a few minutes of great memories of the wife, myself and 3 kids when we first started camping in an army surplus tent that took 2 adults to handle.
We only used it that one season and as we prospered gradually worked our way up to a 25 ft. 5th wheel. But I digress .
Thanks for causing me to remember those great early years.

Aug 03 2009 · 15:52


Wondered what you were up to. Nice to see you’re having a quiet time! Enjoy yourself, find the still point, know that you’re being thought of.
BTW: When I read “don’t daydream when you’re in a danger zone,” I froze. Damned good advice that I’d like to pass on to someone, but of course he’s been taught that. Oh, saw an interesting line—apparently soldiers tease journos with it— in an article (N. Post, I think) this morn and thought of you: Only two kinds of people run towards gunfire—soldiers and journalists. CM

Aug 04 2009 · 06:50


What an adventure…you probably heard that a stage at a music festival in Alberta was blown down recently by the storms…one person killed by flying debris…take care on the road. Thinking about you both.

Aug 04 2009 · 09:26


Murray, you write that only two kinds of people run towards gunfire – soldiers and journalists, I’m afraid I have to add a third kind and that is war poets!
thanks for thinking of us all of you, we’re off to the fiddle festival and camp, then the long and gorgeous drive across the prairies, the mountains, and home


Aug 04 2009 · 18:23

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled kit bomb plus (more things I've learned from the infantry). It was posted here on August 03, 2009.


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