Tales from the Tundra Ch. 1byRonRyder©
1. Albert loses his girl.
It were all too brief, but a grand time for all that! There were just me, ‘er and the cold, clear pristine air of the far North. Jane were a lovely lass. Her skin were lilly white so when you stood ‘er up outside you couldn’t tell ‘er from t’snow. We lived like nature intended, days trappin’, fishin’ and skinnin’ -- Jane proved a dab ‘and at that -- and our nights -- well, put it this way, in t’morning t’permafrost were thawed a good ten yard around the tent!
I knew it were over when one day she rolled off me, sighed and said, ‘Hudson….’ …..
Strange this you might think ‘cos me name’s Albert. But I got used to it just like I got used to ice-fishing in Albert Bay…! ?
‘Hudson,’ she said. ‘Wouldn’t it be just terribly splendid to live in a hise again. Have cake and scones … ’
‘Aye Aye,’ I thought to mesen’ ‘here it comes’.
‘… and the gay voices of children playing merrily in the grounds!?’
I told ‘er No. Bugger No! And that were flat! She dint say nuthin’, but the next morning when I awoke, she were gone. Lock stock and barrel.
A couple o’ days later I packed up t’sled and set off wit’ dogs to Watson Creek. I made an early start. It were a truly magnificent night. The Northern Lights was flarin’ and the moose was silhouetted against the magenta sky.
Along the route I passed a tent I knew belonged to One-eyed Pierre. Around it the permafrost were thawed twenty yard!
Aye Aye, said I, I know who that is!
I ‘ad an instant overcomin’ with jealousy. Me ‘and strayed briefly to the ice pick affixed to the sled. But I controlled me basic urges and stayed it in time. She wanted a family man, and a family man she’d got. With 12 wives and 57 sprogs sprinkled liberally throughout La Belle Province, Pierre had more than proved hisself. He’d make ‘er ‘appy, where I could not. I bowed me ‘ead to the better man, and moved on.
2. Albert meets Bluenose.
It were evening when I reached Watson Creek (Pop. 6) and the wind were whipping the snow around me ear’oles as I mushed down t‘ill and into t’town. In no time I `ad the dogs fed and was settled into a quart of Theakston’s ‘Old Thunder’ at the Croix d’Or. A very welcome drop of stuff it were after a full days mushin’, I’ll tell ‘ee that.
It were early so I were alone in t’bar, but suddenly t’double doors slammed open and in walked a tall, red-faced, black-bearded gent with a blue nose. He had on a trappers coat, but open, laike, so it were more round `is shoulders than covering his body and you could see this were a gent who enjoyed life, laike, if you see what I mean.
The newcomer glared around the bar and greeted me with a gruff
But it were only when he ordered three quarts of Hoegaarden that I put two and two together. Stealthily, I nipped to the door and watched as he dispensed two of the quarts to two girls he ‘ad tied to the back of his sled. They both `ad thingy’s `angin’ around their necks with writings on ‘em. One said:
“I’m his favourite Sister”
The other said “No you’re not, I am!”
They was both nuzzled deep down in their Hoegaardens so I couldn’t see their faces to tell whether they was evil or not, but by now the circumstantial evidence were overwhelming. In awe, I returned to my seat by the stove and watched as the newcomer re-entered. No doubt about it, the blue nose, full-beard greying slightly at the edges, that imposing figure and the manner and bearing, I were in the presence of the famous Bluenose of Bratford!
I thought of introducing mesen, but after al, ‘oo were I, Albert a poor trapper. So I ‘eld me peace, waitin’ laike. After a while, t’gent I assumed to be Bluenose took an extra deep draft, such a deep draft that ‘ee might very well ‘ave emptied t’entire load, jug’n all down ‘is throat. He snorted and shook his head backwards and forwards like a bear comin’ outa wata laike, and said,
“Jesus Christ! That’s SHIT!!’
further firming up my suspicion as to his identity.
‘Excuse me,” I said, feigning a Bratford accent. ‘Are you, p’raps, the famous Bluenose of Bratford?’
‘Wot’s it to you?’ said the gent I took to be Bluenose suspiciously. ‘Are ‘t Plod?’
I gaive a little laugh, y’see, ‘cos there weren’t no plod for six ‘undred mile in any direction.
‘I’m Albert,” says I. ‘Albert the trapper.’
‘OhEye,’ says Bluenose. ‘What’ll thee be drinking?’
‘Well thank ‘ee kindly,’ says I, I says, ‘it’ll be a quart of Theakston’s Old Thunder. Very kind!’
The man I took to be Bluenose glared at me, a fearsome expression on ‘is face.
‘Are you havin’ me on son,’ he said, threateningly. ‘I weren’t meanin’ for you, I were meanin’ for me. This Hoegaarden’s SHIT!’
Well this, of course, placed ‘im as either Scottish or Yorkshire, and I’d never met a Scot what would speak a language I understood. So my identification of this newcomer as Bluenose was signed and sealed. It were ‘im! No doubt about it!!
What I ‘ad to find out were ‘What brings the famous Bluenose of Bratford to Watson Creek?’
3. A fair trade?
Well to cut a long story short, it took me eighteen quarts and a bag of reindeer bones and I still d’int get the story out on ‘im ‘til t’followin’ noon!
‘Albert,’ ‘e said, putting his arms around me in that way I `ate, but them touchy feely types just keep on doing to’m, ‘You’re all right.’
He did this seventy three times, and then collapsed on the floor and passed out.
Aye Aye, I said, he’s a goner. I wondered about the girls outside in t’freezing cold, but when I looked they was ripping strips off each other so I din’t laike to interfere. I `ad a quart or two and went back, and in the end they calmed down and I invited them up to the room Peg-leg Annie had reserved for me in the Croix d’Or. It were the only honourable thing a gentleman could do!
MiGod were I shagged out in t’morning!!
Bluenose awoke exactly where he collapsed the night before with a fearful hangover. Annie fed him six pounds of moose bacon, eighteen eggs and a haggis that some lunatic Scotsman had once exchanged for a quart of ale and that she’d been trying to get rid of ever since. Din’t make no difference though. Bluenose kept on belchin’ and fartin’ as though there weren’t no tomorrow. All the while me an’ the girls was concludin’ business --- I’d kinda got a second wind --- and it weren’t until we `eard `im bellowin’ an’ hollerin’ that we reluctantly brought matters to a final head. He din’t seem to notice, though. Just tied up the girls, stuck ‘em on the back of the sled and mushed off.
Hour later ‘er were back! It were openin’ time in Bratford, an `ed realized how far it were to t’next pub. Besides, ‘e said, said ‘e, he’d some unfinished business with me, Albert the trapper.
Aye Aye, thought I. Now your number’s up! He’s found out about you and them bints!
But it were different.
‘Albert,’ he said, putting his touchy feely arm around me again, Yuck!!,
‘Albert, I want to do something for you.’
Aye Aye, says I. I ‘ope he ain’t … y’know --- no prejudice laike, but it ain’t my bag, that kinda thing. But I needn’t ‘ave worried.
‘Albert,’ he says, says ‘e, ‘I am on a long, long haul. A quest for the Holy Grail.’
‘Oh Yer are, are Yer,’ I says, says I, a bit suspicious laike.
‘I am indeed, Albert,’ he says noddin’ gravely. ‘You’ve not to speak of it, ‘cos my official task is to research the RLD’s of Northern Canada gaining material for my book entitled, “The RLD’s of Northern Canada”.’
Well I s’pose you’re wondering, laike I did, what RLD’s is, but they’s just red light districts, y’see. Nothing odd or kinky, laike.
‘Well I can ‘elp yer there, Blue,’ says I. ‘I know every one ‘twixt ‘ere and Moosejaw, five thousan’ miles to t’west.’
So it were my turn to get plied with ale, and `is turn to pay, and in the intervenin’ 12 or so hours I tole `im every detail about every RLD in Northern Canada. O’course, not 1% were true, and that 1% referred to the only genuine RLD in Northern Canada I knew anything about, which were run by Peg-leg Annie from the very room in which we sat. There were only one girl, you’ve guessed it, Peg-leg ‘ersen, but with Watson Creeks population steady at 6, an’ trappin’ losin’ its appeal in favour of the Montreal Stock Exchange, there weren’t no call for a full stable. Peg-leg were a lovely lass, an’ ‘er could handle all t’business entirely on ‘er own.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, Blue eventually passed out agin’, so I done the chivalrous thing by his ladies and `andled me an even heavier night than the previous one. God strewth, them Bratford lasses was demanding! My respect for Blue gained ground with every passing hour! ‘ow he kept up the pace, day in day out, I really cannot fathom. ‘at’s off!
In the mornin’ it were similar. Annie had no haggis, but she conjoured from somewhere a genuine black puddin’ --- well, ‘er were black, at least that I can say! On partin’, Blue were a real gentleman.
‘Albert,’ he says, ‘I’m really grateful to you. I won’t forget this.’
He put his f*****’ touchy feely arm around me agin --- Oohh! I couda punched ‘im, if only he weren’t so f*****’ famous!!
‘I want to share with you my secret,’ he says.
Aye Aye, says I, watch out here!
‘Far out to the west, far, far, further than the eye can see, the ear can hear, the wind can convey, is a maiden so fair, so desirable, that the very ground melts before her passage.’
I thought of One-eyed Pierre an’ ad’ a little giggle, ‘cos he’d no doubt be getting the treatment round about now!
‘So fair is she that I would move heaven and earth to reach her. Albert, you must help me! Guide me to her, and you shall be rewarded handsomely!’
Aye Aye, says I. Rewarded eh! Well, I may only be simulatin’ Yorkshire, but I weren’t born yesterday nevertheless. So I says to ‘im.
‘Glad to ‘elp, Blue, but it’s got to be cash in advance.’
‘Then so be it. But not cash. Let’s trade. I notice on your sled your carry provisions for the dogs.’
‘A bag o’ bones, Yes, I do, I do!’
‘Exchange them for one of my girls, then,’ says ‘e, ‘in evidence of good faith.’
At first I were taken aback, but I recovered quick!
‘Which one?’ says I.
‘Oh take your pick,’ says he. ‘It’s all the same to me!’
I did. She were rough, But she’d do for me, rough as she were!
‘What fortune we have different tastes,’ says he. ‘Lead on. The Grail, the Holy Grail!’
4. In search of the Holy Grail.
Brrrr! It's bloody freezin' up here. They just don't heat these IT cafes proper this far north. Brrrr!!! Where were I? Oh yes!
Well, guidin' that Bluenose and his evil Sisters in pursuit of t 'oly Grail were one thing to agree to, but it were only when we was well away that he tole me where we was off to. The 'Peg! I laugh out loud, me! He’s off his trolley, barmy, meshugge!! I mean, can yer imagine, a solid mush all the way from Watson Creek to t’ 'Peg, in winter, two thousand mile through the tundra chasin' a bint he called AGFN, if you will. AGFN. Well I laugh out loud, me! An ‘oly Grail, ‘an ‘ee can’t even pronounce it! Off 'is trolley! I mean as if 'e din't 'ave enough on 'is 'ands with them evil sisters!!
'AGFN is the Princess of my Darkest Desires,' 'e says, 'It's an hobsession! I have no choice.'
Well he were payin' and I will admit I'd grown to appreciate t’nightly ministrations of me ES. We made sweet music there under the clear, cold, star-filled sky the two on’us. Them was good times.
'Er'll still be 145 days 'ard mushin' at the least from ‘ere', says I to Bluenose a’ter a day or two, thinkin' 'e might reconsider laike. But d'you think it registered? 'e were squireing his ES all night and lying there pantin' sleepin' it off while she mushed t’dogs durin'
t’day. 'an o'course a sled loaded down with thirty six crates o' Murphy's don't make for optimal progress. I felt for them dogs, I really did!
It weren't obvious how we'd fall out but it happened funny. He says to me one day, he says, 'I can't stand monogamy for 145 days, give 'er back. She's mine, not yourn'!'
Whereupon I says, ‘Bugger that! You made a promise, you stick to it.'
'Case thee forgot, he'd loaned me one of the ES in part payment for me guidin' services. But him, crafty bugger that 'e 'is, 'e just fell off of the sled one day and lay there comatose in t‘snow. I tole 'er he were playin' possum, but both ES just dropped what they was doin' and ran like sheep over to 'elp, an' no sooner was they within striking distance than 'e struck 'em both! an' in no time the three of 'em was rollin' around an' 'oo woulda thought a true blue Yorkshireman from Barnsley would get off on snow -- an' that whip Ooooooh!.... well, I'll spare thee t’ details.
Perverse, if thee ask me, but I'm no saint so if that's 'ow they gets off, thinks I, there's all the snow they can want an' more in these parts.
Anyroads, it were clear them Evil Sisters belonged to ‘im. Yes, the one with me ‘ad ‘ad ‘er fun, but it were clear where ‘er ‘art belonged. An’ I ain’t one for ‘olding a bloke to a deal if it ain’t workin’ out. So I jus' mushed away an' left 'em to it, an' that were t'last I ever saw on any o'em.
Next port 'o call - Churchill, Manitoba as I recall -- I nipped into an IT Cafe and saw 'e were back 'ome in Burnley and all in one piece, though 'is website were all buggered and 'e sounded a bit subdued laike. The Far North'll do that to yer, tha' gnaws. It's an 'ard country. It changes people.
‘An as for the Holy Grail, well it seemed that were not abandoned, only on ice, as it were. I ‘eard much later ‘ed decided to make t’trip via Boeing747! Bloody sight more sensible than trying to mush a fookin’ dog sled three month through t’snow, I can tell thee!!! Only now, mysteriously, ‘er of the Holy Grail were not AGFN anymore but ALN. And there were talk of some new rival, SD or whatever --- well, don’ ‘spect me to follow the why’s and wherefore’s of t’Great and Mighty. I’m jus’ Albert, a poor trapper. Mind me p’s and q’s and keep outa mischief, me!
Still, I did ‘ave a curiosity about me and as chance would ‘ave it, a final hencounter with ‘isself, some time later. It were in t’ ‘Toad an’ Strumpet’, pig of a bar down Whitechapel -- why I were there mesen I’d be ashamed to say! Anyroads, in walks Blue, large as life, plonks hisself down at t’ bar and calls hautily for a pint of Hoegaarden. (Can’t get quarts in London, bitch of a place!). I blink! Jes’ like that first time at Le Croix d’Or in Watson Creek. Is it ‘im or is it not? Well it were ‘im. And after five minutes or so my curiosity got the better of me so I sidled up to him and said, quite polite laike,
‘Ow do, Blue!’
He turns on me with them red bleary eyes ‘e always seemed to ‘ave and says,
‘’Oo the ‘ell are you. Fuck off!’
‘I’m Albert the Trapper!, says I. ‘Remember? You me an’ them Evil Sisters…..’
‘E waved a hand seeming to acknowledge so I took this as encouragement and eased mesen onto an adjacent barstool.
‘Ow about another?’ says I, noticing ‘ed drained his glass in practically a single swallow.
‘Bugger off!’ says ‘e, but he accepted t’pint when it came. I knew ‘e would. He’s Yorkshire, tha gnaws.
Anyroad. After a bit I steers ‘im onto t’ Holy Grail, whereupon he gets suddenly quite violent, spluttering and snorting ‘til the Hoegaarden covered his beard with foam and dribbled down his chin. Seems Her Grace ‘ad undergone another transmogrification: AGFN to ALN, now to ‘Elaine’…..
I left him banging ‘is head on t’bar screaming at the top of his lungs over and over again ‘She made me shag her, that fucking Saccharine Queen!’
I mean, can you make sense of it? Me not. I give up on him entirely. Some folks jes’ don’t seem to be hung together, do they.
5. Annie discovers ‘The Net’.
I't ‘ad bin a while since I’d hit Watson Creek in midwinter and biGod ‘er were cold. So I ‘eaded straight for Annie's Croix d’Or. O'course, I always 'eaded straight for Annie's when I 'it Watson Creek so there weren't nut’in' remarkable 'bout this. To me surprise she's got in t’ Fullers' ‘London Pride’ wot I arsked 'er for 'cos t’last batch of Theakston's were off. A good slug of Fullers and the 'eat of the room an' I were feelin' much improved. That's when I noticed!
'Wassat?' I says to Annie, squintin'. The light dawned. 'A terminal! Yahoo!! Lass, tha's on t’net?
'I am too,' says Annie proudly. 'I 'ad this 'ere bloke come through last month an' he sold me the 'ole bit!'
'Gerraway!,' says I (wondering, but too gentlemanly to ask, the nature of the bargain that were struck!).
''e did! 'an very interestin' it is too.'
'I'll bet,' says I, sniggerin' a bit thinking she'd been lookin' at naughty sites!
'F'r'instance,' she says, 'There's this ‘ere site Escort Talk...'
Aye Aye! The old ears prick up....
'.. where they have all kinds of working girls telling things about the trade and do's and don't's 'an all'.
'Tha’ don't say,' I says, says I, somewhat apprehensive. Somehow I ‘ad a premonition!
'I do! 'An I wanna tell you, there's goin' to be some changes round ‘ere, that's for sure.'
'Oh Aye', says I, I says. Booger, I thinks. A premonition indeed!
'Aye,' she says, 'there is.' Annie speaks a funny kind of dialect bit like english really, which is odd considering she's never set foot outa Watson Creek in her life ‘cept when she went down to Montreal to get her leg done.
'Do you know,' she says indignantly, 'what them ladies charge!!'
'What do them ladies charge?'
She tole me! I damn near fell off me stool!
'Holy Mary Magdelene,' says I. 'Who the 'ell'd pay prices like that? We could ship ‘em
over ‘ere by t’planeload an’ ship ‘em back fucked stupid for ‘alf of that!!'
I pondered on this for a mo’ wonderin’ whether that would class as ‘pimpin’’, but I reckon not ‘cos then every airline running flights into Bangkok……
'An there's all kinds of websites the girls run themselves, like this one......'
'Aw, come on Annie, let's....'
'.... This one, 'an that one..... I got 'em all bookmarked. Gonna be some changes around here, that's all I can say!'
'Like what kinda changes?' says I, suspicious laike.
'Well -- I got this idea from one of the ladies' website --- I'm gonna demand all my clients tell me their real names.'
'Their real names. Real names. Wot's on their birth c't'f'cate.'
'What's the point 'o that?'
'Protection, y'see. Suppose some mad lunatic come in 'ere on a lonely night when's no-one around -- there's enough of them lonely night's when the wind cuts across the tundra and the wolves ‘owl, I can tell you! An' suppose 'e were to cut me up in little pieces and throw me to the dogs. What then eh!? Who'd know?'
'Well, Annie...' says I...
'No-one'd know!' hisses Annie. 'He'd be off scot free away over the tundra an' the Mounties'd never get their man. 'cos they don't know ‘oo 'e is, see.'
‘But if'n I got his name, his real name an' I send it in an e-mail to 'Saw-em-off Sally', we'd know who 'e 'is and either the Mounties'd get 'im, or she would! (An' I know which I'd prefer if'n it were me in 'is shoes!).
'Annie, get a hol' on yersen’,' says I. 'Why would anyone want to cut you up and feed you to t’dogs? A man'd 'ave to be orf his nut to do a thing like that! No-one ever give you an ‘ard time, did they?'
'Not yet they didn't.'
'I mean, where is this place where they cut ladies up in pieces and feed 'em to t’dogs....?'
Annie twiddled her mouse expertly flicking through the pages until she came upon the desired page.
'Christ!’, she says, ‘How ‘d you pronounce D-E-R-B-Y.'
'D-E-R-B-Y, Dirby? Wheresitat? Which country?'
''ang on I'll look up the IP address..... There you are. UK.'
'Dirby UK,' says I. 'Never 'eard 'n it. Must be a crazy place. Maybe they've cannibals too?'