A Scorpio Versus Scorpions

The following story was written by Gayle about an unfortunate incident she experienced during her and Ian’s time living at their house in Chapala, Mexico in 2006.

A Scorpio Versus Scorpions          ScorpionVectorImageVP

Scorpio may be my sign of the Zodiac, but that’s really all I ever wanted to have to do with the creatures!

One March evening during our sojourn in Mexico we had just enjoyed a long moonlit soak in the hot tub when about 10 p.m. Ian went inside to refresh our drinks. I took advantage of his absence to get out my foam exercise “noodle” and do my daily aqua sit-ups.

(Little known to me, there must have been a “wee creepy” sleeping in the hollow inside of the noodle, which decided to join me for his or her water exercises!) I had just put the noodle aside when I noticed what I thought was a floating begonia flower that had likely dropped from a planter hanging over the pool. Instead of picking it up with our pool sieve, I stupidly went to scoop it out with my hand and it stung me on the middle finger! Practically blinded by the pain, I slapped my hand down on my thigh and got two more stings before flinging it over the edge of the tub. Then, with terrible burning sensations in both finger and thigh, I (in Ian’s words) “came out of the pool like a tsunami and screaming like a banshee!”

There was no question in our minds that I had encountered a very startled scorpion – and we weren’t about to look for it to verify our suspicions. We quickly dried off, got dressed and within a few minutes were off to the 24-hour Red Cross clinic at the other end of Chapala.

By the time we got there (about 15 minutes later) it felt as if my entire arm and upper leg were on fire, my tongue was feeling “funny” and my lips were numbing, but luckily I had no swelling. I was rushed into a ward, put onto a bed and hooked up to an IV within a few minutes. Then came two huge syringes about 5 inches long and one inch in diameter. The combination of antihistamine and steroids gradually rid me of the mouth-numbing sensations but the excruciating stinging just kept up.

About an hour and a half later I was released and we motored off to the nearby town of Ajijic, which has the only nearby 24-hour pharmacy, to fill a prescription for pain pills (which, incidentally, didn’t seem to me to help much).

It was then midnight. I attempted to sleep but was so miserable and restless I knew Ian would get no sleep if I stayed in bed, so I went upstairs to our den with a window wall overlooking the lake and distant mountains and read through the night as best I could. The pain finally left my thigh (which sported two ugly red welts) by the following evening. The pain in the arm started to abate that first night but the finger itself just kept up that fiery stinging sensation for about 36 hours, although only a slight prick marked the spot. For the next couple of weeks my finger was totally numb; then, very slowly the feeling started coming back.

Two months later, I just had a very slight numbness at the tip of the finger. A doctor friend of ours prescribed a “second generation antihistamine” tablet to keep on hand at all times. He says any subsequent scorpion sting would probably result in an even worse and quicker reaction so it’s important to be prepared and, before heading for a clinic, to take the medication.

We’ve read that the scorpions in our area are only “semi-deadly”, that on a scale of one to four they are only a “two.” Imagine what a number “four” could do! (We’ve also heard of a local woman who died from a scorpion sting because she didn’t get medical help!)

Need I say that, ever since, I’m very careful to check my noodle before doing any exercises? And I steer clear of any scorpion I see, letting Ian zap them on sight. We continue to find the occasional dead one in the house, but Ian’s monthly spraying seems to get the critters before they get very far. Considering this encounter and others we’ve had with “wee critters” in Mexico, we don’t think we were cut out to be “southerners!”

Exercising with my noodle on a non-scorpion evening.

Exercising with my noodle on a non-scorpion evening.

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Our hot tub, garden and surroundings in Chapala, Mexico

 

Dragonflies and The Great Blue Heron

One of my all-time favourite blogs from a writer friend. I hope others will enjoy it as much as I did. Please also read my comments to Jim at the end of his blog.

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Judi'sPhoto

       Ten years ago, on April 22, 2004, Judi Osborne passed away leaving behind a legacy of selfless caring for others that brought hope and courage to thousands of women throughout her own too short life.  This story honors Judi’s memory, and the extraordinary example she set for all who knew and loved her during her personal life and in the 30 years she devoted to the YWCA locally and nationally.

       This is also a story of love lost and love found, and about the unexplained mysteries that connect both of these stories.

(Please see also the notes at the end)

Dragonflies and The Great Blue Heron

For more than a decade, Great Blue Herons had a special meaning for Jim and Judi.  During those years, Jim had no hint this special meaning would one day have a much deeper significance.

Jim and Judi enjoyed watching the graceful…

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Another Campbeltown Story Inspired by James Collett’s Photography

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Thanks again to Photographer James Collett for this terrific picture of Ian’s hometown as seen from Ben Guillion, the mountain pictured in our previous post. We have made the following comments on James Collett’s Photography page where we found this photo:

“Another beautiful view of my hometown, Campbeltown, from Beinn Ghuilean (Ben Guillion mountain). I have a story in my memoir “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” which takes place after World War II when I, as a boy, “salvaged” a machine gun from the wreck of an aircraft on Ben Guillion and lugged it to a hiding place in the middle of some whin bushes, much like those shown on this picture. I never was able to find it again (probably just as well.) Here’s the story which happened around 1946:

I think I was about twelve when the following happened. Just to the south of the town, and bordering on it, is Ben Ghuilean (the Gaelic spelling; normally now it is referred to as Ben Gullion. The word “Ben” in Scot’s English means “mountain.”) This is a reasonably-sized mountain. I have already referred to a small airfield five miles from town. This airfield was still used after the war to some extent for training Royal Air Force pilots. One foggy day a two-seater aircraft plunged into the side of that mountain, killing both airmen.

It was quite a climb to the crash site and, needless to say, there were lots of (morbid-minded) townsfolk who just had to make the climb, though they would never have considered doing so at any other time. Apart from the strenuous effort, it was well known that there were adders on the mountain. (Adders are a type of viper, a little over two feet long. The bite of this snake, while it wouldn’t kill you, would make you very ill for some time.) This thought didn’t bother us brave (or stupid) lads, as we spent quite a lot of time on various faces of the mountain. (I had killed an adder some time before and preserved it in alcohol in a glass jar to keep in the house. No one objected at first, but later I had to keep it where we kept our coal.)

No one was allowed anywhere near the crash site until the bodies of the two airmen were removed. People were collecting bits of this and bits of that—stuff that probably went into the rubbish bin (garbage) a few weeks down the road after they had lost interest in the incident. Not so with “yours truly.” I noticed that there were two machine guns, one on each wing, and I set about removing one. What did I want a machine gun for? Maybe I was going to take it to class for “show and tell.” Na, we didn’t have that silly exercise in those days. I really had no idea why I was taking it. I guess it is what the modern kids would call “cool.”

Anyway, I struggled with it for ages and finally got it free. Even today, I still marvel at the fact that I got a machine gun from an aircraft without having a spanner (wrench) or even a pry-bar. I carried the heavy thing down the mountainside on my shoulder to the foothills, where I hid it by throwing it into the middle of some “whin bushes” (furze or gorse). These bushes were evergreen, covered all over with long, sharp dark green needles, standing three or four feet high and at least that across, with nice yellow flowers. (They grow wild in Scotland, but I don’t believe they grow in North America, unless maybe on the east coast.)

I hid the gun because it was still daylight and I didn’t want anyone to see me walking into town with a machine gun over my shoulder. Besides, I had to walk past the police station! I would probably have been arrested (or worse still, maybe even talked about). So, what did I do when it was time to retrieve it? Well, I got hold of some old potato sacks (gunnysacks), my friend Ian McKenzie and his four-wheeled cart, and the two of us headed back up to where I had hidden the gun.

What do you know? It wasn’t there! Did I have the correct bush? “Look over there …. No … try this one … .” There were lots of clumps of bushes. We just about went crazy! I was quite sure that I had taken note of where I had hidden it so that I would find it again. It should still have been there. Well, the two of us searched for ages, all around where I thought it should be, but with no luck. Since the bush was very prickly, I had to get flat on my belly, as low as possible to try to avoid the needles and crawl into the bushes at every place I thought the gun might be. It was awful! We got all scratched and thoroughly disgusted before we decided that it wasn’t there. Remember that during this “carry-on” we little boys were wearing short trousers that came only to our knees.

What I finally figured was that someone had seen me hide the gun and, after I had gone, removed it and took it to the proper authorities. Either that, or I had got really screwed up and there is still a machine gun hidden among some bushes for future archaeologists to find a long time down the road. Anyway, it was a very stupid thing to do and I don’t know what my mother would have said if I had walked into the house carrying a great big machine gun. One thing’s for sure—I would have got a thick ear!

Quoted from “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” by Ian Moore-Morrans, copyright © 2012. Friesen Press.

 

A Photo A Week Challenge: Blue and White

Thanks, James, for another fine photo of Ian’s hometown area. He had Campbeltown’s mountain, Beinn Ghuilean (or Ben Guillion as Ian and others sometimes spell it), in mind when he penned his short story “The Moonlit Meeting” which can be read  by going to that section of our blog.

Ian describes the background to his story thus: “I wrote this short story around 2001 when I was living in Pictou, Nova Scotia. It was my first attempt at writing dialect, though this time it wasn’t Scots-English but Irish-English. I heard this dialect a lot as a youngster since my step-father, Bill Moorhead, was from Larne in Northern Ireland.

“When picturing ‘Mary’s Mountain’ I had Ben Guillion in mind, the mountain that I climbed many times just outside my hometown of Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula in Argyllshire, Scotland. On a clear day we could see the coast of Northern Ireland from Campbeltown.”

Enjoy Ian’s short story “The Moonlit Meeting”

I wrote this short story around 2001 when I was living in Pictou, Nova Scotia. It was my first attempt at writing dialect, though this time it wasn’t Scots-English but Irish-English. I heard this dialect a lot as a youngster since my step-father, Bill Moorhead, was from Larne in Northern Ireland.

When picturing “Mary’s Mountain” I had Ben Guillion in mind, the mountain that I climbed many times just outside my hometown of Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula in Argyllshire, Scotland. On a clear day we could see the coast of Northern Ireland from Campbeltown.

I added the leprachaun character because I like the idea of leprachauns – even have a small one pinned up in my den and wear it in my pocket whenever I attend a St. Patrick’s Day party.

We Scots and the Irish are brother Celts and I like to try to dispel the false impression that we are enemies. I have no problem with the Irish – after all, the Scottish people originally came from Ireland (and St. Patrick was born a Scot). In fact, my great-grandfather Edward Morrens, son of Irish parents, Thomas Morrins and Rose Robertson, was born and died in Campbeltown (1832-1906), so I surmise his parents moved to Scotland sometime before his birth. As far as I can tell this was the beginning of the Morrans family in Scotland, at least my branch of it. You’ll note the variation in spelling of our family name. I can only conclude that the record keepers were careless spellers or some of my ancestors were illiterate.

In 2006, when my wife Gayle and I were living in Chapala, Mexico and attending the Lake Chapala Writer’s Group, I submitted this story to the local English-language magazine, El Ojo del Lago, where it was published. Here I’m including the story in its entirety for your enjoyment.

I like to think of “The Moonlit Meeting” as a fable and hope you can identify the moral lesson.

A fictional short-story © by Ian Moore-Morrans, 2006. First published in the English-language magazine, El Ojo del Lago, in Chapala, Mexico, 2006.

  “THE MOONLIT MEETING” 

 

A big full harvest moon had risen high in the sky the evening I climbed to the top of Mary’s Mountain, a steep hill close to the edge of the small town in the Scottish Highlands where we had recently moved.

          There were strange stories about the place. Some said it was haunted by a ghost named Mary who had been murdered up there many years ago by a jealous lover, and that her ghost still roamed the area, especially on full moon nights. Others said an old sea captain had hanged himself from a tree up there after losing his sweetheart, his ghost wandering around looking for her. I didn’t believe in things like that and wanted to prove to myself it was all a lot of nonsense.

The hill was quite high and steeper than the normal hill, although why it was called a mountain, I’ve no idea. During the day, one would get a nice view of the countryside from the top. Also, the town was so close that, with careful calculation, you could pick out the roof of your house if it was close to that edge of town.

Why did I decide to go up there that evening with all those weird stories going around? I suppose it was to save face. I had opened my big mouth, saying there was nothing to be afraid of. My friends immediately dared me to make the climb on the night of the first full moon.

“Hey, you go up there and meet the pirate if you like. We’re not going! Do you know he walks about with a huge dagger between his teeth?”

I had to do it. There was no way out; I had to go!

After a strenuous climb to the top, I stood for a few minutes, hoping it would help me to calm down. All I had thought of on the way up was the pirate captain carrying a great big knife between his teeth.

Suddenly, a man’s voice startled me. “You – you over there, you got any smokes?” My head snapped toward the direction of the voice, but the rest of me just froze. It entered my mind immediately that it was the ghost of the old sea captain.

“Hey you, you up there, you deaf? You got a smoke fer me?” the voice said again. I noticed there was some sort of accent, which reinforced the old sea captain thought. I still couldn’t see anyone and I didn’t know whether ghosts could be seen or not.

“W-where are you, I c-can’t see you? And I d-don’t smoke.”

“Oy’m ‘ere, look to yer roight and down. Oy’m – sittin’ – roight – ‘ere.” the voice loudly said, spacing the words like the listener was either deaf, stupid or both.

I looked over and down, and to my complete surprise I saw a little man sitting on a large, flat stone about fifty feet away, just a trifle lower on the hill than I was. He was very short, certainly shorter than I; dressed in strange clothes and wearing a funny-looking hat with a long feather, something like an elf’s hat. His clothes reminded me of what people wore a long time ago. He had a short, grey beard – and best of all – he wasn’t a ghost!

“Just me bloomin’ luck, begorra, a youngster an’ all, too!” He slapped his hand on his knee. “Oy’ve been waitin’ up ‘ere fer ages, wantin’ a fill fer me poipe and the only living thing that comes up ‘ere during dark ‘as to be a lad who don’t smoke.”

He sounded rather annoyed as he sat there shaking his head.

Then he changed the tone of his voice to one I found a little more pleasant. “Hey, me boy – would ye care to go back down to that town and fetch me oop a fill fer me poipe so Oy can ‘ave a nice wee smoke? Oy’d be the ‘appiest little leprechaun this side o’ Dublin and Gloccamorra, and that’d be tellin’.”

“You? A leprechaun? You’re not a leprechaun – are you?” I asked as I moved a little closer to hear him more clearly. Irish, I thought, yes – definitely an Irish accent – I think – maybe.

“Well now, me foine young un’, ‘ow many like me d’ye see around ‘ere, eh? Now, looks ‘ere, ye know about us little leprechauns, don’t ye? ‘Ow we can do things?”

I said I’d heard something about a pot of gold in fairy tales but didn’t believe it. I also told him that I hadn’t believed in leprechauns either – at least, not up until now.

“Well – well now, there’s certainly no pot of gold,” he said with a little laugh, shaking his head at the same time, “Oy can tell thee that fer sure, or Oy’d be off with it me’self, wouldn’t Oy? But what there is, though – is luck. Now, if ye’d just take yerself down there and get me a couple of things that Oy’d like, then there’d be plenty o’ luck for ye for years and years. All the luck in the warld. All yer live long loife.”

“Oh – well – um, what is it you’d like?”

“Well now; just let me think a minute.” He put the fingers of his right hand to his lips and used them to drum gently, as though to help him decide. “Sure now – one thing is –,” he looked at me, “Now then, tell me this – does yer father loike a wee drink of the whiskey?”

“Yes, sometimes he does.”

“Well now, does he smoke a poipe, too?”

“No, he doesn’t, he doesn’t smoke at all. The only thing he has like that in the house is a box of cigars for handing out to friends at Christmas time.”

“Begorra, is that so?” he sounded surprised. Then a big grin appeared on his face. “Well now, a foine cigar would do just roight fer a wee smoke. You go down to yer ‘ouse and bring me oop some of yer father’s whiskey and a few of ‘is cigars and I’ll guarantee ye the foinest luck that anyone ‘as ever ‘ad. One thing, though,” he stopped speaking again for a few seconds, looked very stern, and pointed a long, bony finger straight at me, “ye can’t tell anyone ye are doin’ this for me; or instead of you getting all of that good, good luck, ye’ll get all bad, bad luck. You wouldn’t want that fer sure, now would ye? Fancy going all through yer loife with nothin’, not even a penny ever in yer pocket, and sick too. Ye’d be sick every day – ye wouldn’t loike that, now would ye?”

I told him that I would hate to be like that, it would be horrible.

“Well then,” he retorted in a curtly manner, “just go an’ get them things fer me and Oy’ll make sure that ye ‘ave every luck in the warld, just loike Oy sez.”

He then put a big smile on his long thin face as he got to his feet, walked towards me and then sat down again on a stone just a few feet away, wrapped his arms around his knees and rocked back and forward on his behind. It was then that I noticed his glossy, black, pointed shoes with a big silver buckle on each one. That proved it, only leprechauns had shoes like that.

I didn’t know what to do. If I didn’t go and get the things this little man wanted, I’d have terrible luck all of my life. And if I did go and get them, I’d have to steal from my dad’s liquor cabinet, for I knew I couldn’t ask – or I’d have all that bad luck. But then, on the other hand, if I did manage to get them, I’d have such wonderful luck that I’d be able to get my parents lots and lots of marvelous things, and that would make up for stealing them – wouldn’t it? Oh my – why did I ever have to meet up with this leprechaun?

“I’ll go and try and get them for you, but if I don’t manage it, you mustn’t blame me – will you?”

I raced down the hill as fast as I could. When I got home I was breathless. I had to wait for a few minutes before I could go in or my mother would ask me why I was panting so hard. My father had gone bowling with his friends, making it a little easier for me to get what I wanted.

After some small talk with my mother, who was watching TV in the den, I slid myself into the dining room to the liquor cabinet. I left the light off and, after making sure my mother wasn’t watching what I was doing, made my way quietly to the cabinet, opened the door and gently took out one of the bottles, hoping it was the right one. Hurriedly looking at it – it was almost half full – in the light of the street lamp coming in through the window, I could make out the word “whisky” on the label. I was in luck.

Putting the bottle into a grocery bag I moved silently over to the desk where I opened a drawer, then the cigar box, only to find just one cigar in it. I took it. Whew! I’d managed to get both items.

I stole silently through the kitchen to the back door, opened it very slowly, and then headed up the hill to where the little leprechaun was waiting for me. I handed him the bag with the stolen stuff in it.

“I got you some whisky; but I’m sorry, sir, there was only one cigar left, is that okay?”

“Oy, me hearty, yer a foine young lad, that’s fer sure.”

And with that remark he lit the cigar. Puffing away, he then unscrewed the bottle cap and had a good swig.

“This is the best noight Oi’ve ‘ad for a long toime, just loverly i’ tis. Tell me yer name, young ‘un, and ‘ow old ye are.”

“It’s, umm, Richard,” I told him as I nervously cleared my throat, still a little jittery after my ordeal. “I’m thirteen.”

He gave the impression of being very content as he puffed on the cigar in between mouthfuls of whisky. He just sat there, looking out over the town and not saying a word, just puffing and sipping as though I wasn’t there.

After what seemed like a long time, I was still waiting.

“Sir, will I now have all the luck in the world for getting you these things?” I hesitatingly asked.

“Well then, young Richard, how should I know? You told me you didn’t believe in leprechauns and you were quite right.”

I immediately noticed he didn’t have an Irish accent any more. Then he continued. “You see,” he gave a slight laugh, “I’m one of the actors with the Bromlake Theater Company that’s on its way here. I came to town early to do some promoting for our show.” He stopped to have another little laugh. “I came up here to relax and when I saw you coming here alone, I thought that, as I was still wearing one of my stage outfits, I’d have a little fun with you; and you were silly enough to believe me! It should teach you in future not to pay too much attention to what others try to make you believe, or make you do, solely for their benefit. You can see how easy it was. Really had you fooled, didn’t I?”

“You’re not a leprechaun and you’re not even Irish?”

“No, sorry to disappoint you on both counts. I’m not. My name is Larry, Larry Wakely. Look for me on the billboards.”

Then he tucked the bottle between his knees, reached into his vest pockets and took out a couple of things, wrapping one inside the other. He was still enjoying his laugh as he handed something over to me.

“Look ‘ere, me boy,” he let out one more leprechaun-like phrase before reverting to his normal accent, “here’s a ten pound bill. Give it your father to cover the cost of the goods you brought me, I wouldn’t want to be accused of stealing them. And you’ll find wrapped inside three free passes to the show. I hope you enjoy it. No hard feelings, eh? So – well – goodnight, young man. Thanks for the drink – oh, and the smoke, too. And by the way, how did you like my “Oyrish” accent? Not too bad, eh?”

And with a wink and a nod that would have made any leprechaun proud, he jumped to his feet and walked off into the night with the almost empty whisky bottle. He was puffing away merrily on my Dad’s cigar and laughing out loud as he disappeared down the hill.

Boy, did I feel stupid – being taken in as easy as that! I should have known there were no such things as leprechauns! And it showed me just how easy it was for others to get me to do their bidding without me fully realizing it. But I must admit I learned a very good lesson that night.

“Never again,” I said to myself, “that’s the last time I’ll be sucked in like that.” And I meant it, too. Ever since then, I’ve been very careful who I hang around with. If ever someone tries to “peer-pressure” me, as it’s called, I just walk away – it’s as simple as that. I think that’s why I’ve never smoked.

Then, of course, next came the hard bit. I had a massive pile of explaining to do to my parents. I can still remember it – and it wasn’t easy. It was good I had free passes for the show to help prove my story!                                        © Ian Moore-Morrans, 2006

*”whiskey” is the Irish spelling; “whisky” is the Scottish spelling.