Thursday, November 24, 2011


It was the middle of November and the monsoon season was still going strong. The musher had seven pairs of boots lined up, drying by the wood stove and had gotten used to wearing mud impregnated pants. The way he saw things, there was no sense in washing his clothes every day as wherever they traveled, the ground was soaked beyond absorbing any more rain. So, here he was by a roaring fire in the stove in the “Bunkhouse”, trying to get the chill out of his arthritic riddled bones…

After putting the dogs through their paces for the last two months, it was time to shuffle the line-ups a bit. He would need to pick out the racing prospects, bump up the daily mileages way past the “20 mile” mark and push them beyond their comfort zones. At the beginning of this training season, he had grandiose plans of running the three major “100 milers” but after consulting the programs for those races, he came to realize that where in the past, these events were “10 dog” strings, the rules had been changed and the organizers would now allow a standardized “12 dog” team to participate. This to the musher made a lot of sense as it gave the participants a chance to better prepare for the East Coast’s main event, the CAN-AM 250, in Fort-Kent.

This was fine and dandy but it would also throw a curve ball down his way and into his own kennel. Out of the twenty-three dogs on hand, he did not have a dedicated and full compliment for such a racing team. At one end, he had at least five semi-retired “easy go lucky, let’s smell the roses and fart as we go along old-timers” and at the other end, he had all those small almost tiny “’tight ass cheerleaders”. While the old “Viagra” clan still had it in the back of their mind that they could mix it up with the best, the young “chicks” and of course “Vince” the giant, were a bunch of “green horns” that had no track record whatsoever. These two factors were something that he needed to seriously consider as these mid-distance events were no cake walks.

Going down the list of contenders, he started to realize that the picking might be slim to fill the roster needed for a “12” dog team. The last sixty days of training had not gone according to plans. They were way behind in accumulated mileage and with all the different events that happened during that period, the “Canadian Snowhounds” might be in what you might call the “Hurt Locker”. It wasn’t necessarily their fault but life had a way of putting forward certain challenges and October had provided him many of them. Sitting there, adding and subtracting names of dogs, he was scratching his head, wondering why he bothered with this madness. After complete analysis of the situation, he had come to a plausible conclusion. It had not been an “easy going” throughout the last month and the obstacles had been numerous. He had gone through “Hell Week” times five and if this wasn’t bad enough, “JR” aka “Don Juan” had managed to break out of his enclosure to then eat through the wooden grill at “Orka’s” sleeping quarters. Of course with this mission completed, they escaped and gallivanted throughout the entire night. Not only did the smooth talker have his ways with the young virgin, they eventually met up with a skunk who could not be convinced in having a threesome so they got sprayed “big time”. After spending a few hours washing the two love birds, it was decided that the “Great Houdini” would be allowed to sleep in the house. This was a last resource solution as he needed to be kept under immediate adult supervision. Let’s face it! “JR” had strong hormones and an “iron will” to match and the musher could not stop him from trying to get that “piece of tail”. In the past, all imaginable tricks of the trade had been tried but nothing would curb that wild will to breed. Keeping him in the house seemed to be the only solution but this was a figment of the man’s imagination. “JR” was only marking time and being cute while waiting for the occasion to get back to his harem. And as you would have it, it happened. Maybe two days later, he was no longer at the musher’s side and hearing all the commotion coming from the “Howl-A-Day Inn”, it was obvious that something was up. When the man got to the building, it was too late. The “Stud” had managed to climb a seven foot wall, crawl through a seven inch space up by the ceiling and copulate with another young bitch. Looking at “Thunder” with that crossed eyed look on her face, back to back and stuck there with her soother, there would not be much more that could be done other than phone the veterinarian and have the two bred females spayed. Not that he was being prejudice but he needed to be responsible and additional mouths to feed were not in the cards at this time (As a side note, when they were eventually operated on, not only would they miss out on the training but between the two of them, “Orka” and “Thunder” were carrying thirteen puppies…)

“Hell Week” had also brought other headaches. Since castrating a bunch of males that previous summer, there was a new chemistry in the barn. Where the aggressive males had now calmed down, the other more subdued dogs had figured they’d climb up the hierarchy ladder. “Leonard” who had been the most reserved one of the bunch was suddenly walking around with this “ridge back” of raised hair, strutting along and shoulder checking any contenders. For some reason, he started bullying young “Vince” and after a while, the “Friendly Giant” got tired of this and would take a stance. The fight, although short, was most serious and “Leonard” was soon to realize that with all that hard training, the baby fat that “Vince” once carried during his teens had now been replaced by bulging muscles. The giant was a powerhouse compared to him and poor “Leonard” would remember this episode for as long as he lived as he would now be sporting a real ugly reminder. In their encounter, “Vince” had managed to take a chomp on his opponent’s head. When all was done and over with, “Leonard” was in real pain and was missing half his right ear.

It’s amazing how certain incidents will cause certain undesired past events to re-surface and send a “PTSD head case” into a frenzy. Seeing that poor dog yelp in pain, shaking his head and splattering blood all over the place was to give this ex-soldier an unwanted blast of adrenaline that rushed instantly to his head. Unwillingly, he was transported back in time to an incident that had happened way back then in that previous life of his.

Although totally different in nature, the missing piece of ear had brought back forgotten souvenirs, memories that he had long ago forgotten about. It was a winter exercise in Wainwright, Alberta, called “Rapier Thrust” and the year was 1982. There he was, a pimple-faced Military Policeman employed with the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, in the “Junior Ranks Club”, his heart pounding through his eardrums ready to battle a fellow soldier, the infamous “Billy Cogle”. He had no willingness to take on this man as these two individuals had previously clashed on numerous occasions and to say the least, “Billy” enjoyed inflicting pain as well as receiving it. The young MP had tried on several earlier occasions to remove the individual from a drinking establishment without violence but this had always ended up as being a useless exercise. “Billy” was the type of guy that found pleasure in resisting arrest and when he was in one of his drunken stupor, he always had an attitude where he would not go down without a fight. Many of these altercations had occurred and both parties had the now mended but broken bones to attest to this. The last time they had fought, the young Corporal had managed to get the upper hand and had literally pounded his fist at Cogle’s forehead for at least 25 times. This masochist would not fall down nor would he abandon. Here he was, bleeding like a pig, laughing it off and asking for more. Shaking his head almost in discouragement, the arresting officer stopped hitting the man as he could not comprehend as to why this man could not be knocked out. It was insane the beating he had put on him and here he was still standing. So out of pity, he decided that enough was enough and chose to use a different approach.
“Hey Billy,” he had told his tenacious opponent, “I don’t know about you but I think that I’ve had enough. What would you say if we’d call it a night?” For some reason, on that evening, that’s all that had been needed to finally settle the matter.

But that particular night at the Wainwright Junior Ranks Club, this was to be a different can of worms. The boys had just come out of the field after a hard sub-zero week of grunt work. They needed to vent and there was some heavy duty celebrating going on. Dancing on the tables, drinking beer out of “mukluks” and throwing empty cans at each other, it was a party and it was hardcore “Army” style. So that evening, when he received the call from the bartender, Roussel knew what was to be expected. These infantry types were known to throw a punch or two and the “Boyz” from 2 PPCLI could back the reputation of being the best of what the Canadian military system could muster. He had been posted with this unit as a replacement to another policeman who had been put in the hospital so many times that he couldn’t handle the job anymore and would puke every time he had to come on duty. That had been two years ago and during that period, the newcomer had been put through the “ringer” more than he cared to remember. Dealing with individuals with nicknames like, “Grizzly Adam”, “King Kong Kingshott”, “Crazy Man Andrews” and last but not least, “No Neck Rowe”, who by the way were all specimen that stood taller than six feet at an average of 240 lbs, he had had his shares of fights with them and this on more than a few occasions. He had won some but also had lost a few but at the end of the day, the troops had accepted him as one of their own and had some sort of respect for him. So when he walked into the “Bar”, hands in his pockets, the first thing he decided to do was to stay close to the door and take time to observe. All the “animals” were in the zoo and it was best to try and defuse the situation in an amiable way.
“Hey guys,” Andrews yelled over the noise, “Gino, the Meathead is here!”
“Hello Gino!” a bunch of them replied as they threw a volley of beer cans in his direction. “How the hell are you?”
There wasn’t much to answer to this other than “Fine” so that’s what he said. To better try and get control of things, the young MP whistled to get their attention and it somewhat worked.
“OK Guys! Party’s over! The Bar’s closed and it’s time to go to bed!”
He had almost convinced them that it was a good idea till “Billy” got up, grabbed a wooden chair and pitched it across at the bottles behind the bar. “Fuck that shit!” he said, “We’ll leave when we feel like it!”
The crowd regained momentum and you could feel the excited tension fill the air. It had been a while since these two gladiators had squared off and “Billy” felt like putting on a show.
“Ah come on Billy, I really don’t feel like scrapping tonight!” was all Roussel could blur out. “Be reasonable and I’ll take you to the shacks!”
He might have been swayed to do just that but his soldier friends were antagonizing him and chanting “Go Billy, Go! Go Billy, Go!” Like a Maestro, his arms in the air as if he was directing the orchestra, he demanded that they scream louder and they did. Figuring that the decibel level was high enough, standing by the bar, he ripped his combat shirt right off his own back. To the cheering crowd, he threw it behind the bar and invited his reluctant rival to come out and “Tango”.

There was no way out of this one and the young MP would have to accept the challenge or at least he would have to lead Cogle into believing that he would fight him.
“Oh Billy”, he mocked him, “Put your shirt back on! You smell and you’re going to find it mighty cold when I drag you outside by your feet!”
This seemed to stir the pot as insults started flying back in his direction.
“Are you sure you want to do this tonight?” What are the boys going to say when I’m wiping the floor with your unconscious frame?”
This did it. His fuse was lit and there was no turning back.
Putting his hand up, Roussel continued, “Hold on for a second there, Billy Boy! Let me take my parka off. You want this to be fair don’t you?” To this he agreed and allowed his “next meal” to peal that bulky piece of outer clothing.
“OK Billy, I think I’m ready now.” the enforcer of the law said. “Let’s get at her!”
With that he motioned the drunken fool to come forward. It had the desired effect and “Billy” was stunned and somewhat hesitant to make the first move. So the MP did. He walked towards him and invaded his space.
“One way or the other Billy, you’re leaving this place.” he spoke to him most seriously.
There was more hesitation but this was interrupted by some “yahoo” who yelled, “What’s it going to be Billy? Are you going to kiss him or what?”
That did it. He lunged forward and started to swing.
The dancing partner knew better than to take him on fist to fist, toe to toe so evaded his right hook, spun him around and from the back put a choke hold on him. The intention was to put him to sleep but the maneuver didn’t exactly work according to plans and instead of having a good tight noose on the individual’s throat, Billy Cogle had managed to bite into the MP’s left forearm. The more he tried to choke him, the more the soldier was biting hard into that arm muscle. He was in pain and told him so, “Billy, let go buddy! That fucking hurts!” He wouldn’t and at one point he started growling like a mad dog.
Talking through the pain, Roussel told him again, “Billy, for the last time, give it up!” There was no reasoning with the man. He just wouldn’t let go of that piece of flesh. So seeing that available right ear, right there, in front of his mouth, he decided to play the same game and went for it, bite for bite.
It didn’t take long for the soon to be arrestee, to start yelling in excruciating pain. He could really feel it and while trying to escape “Jaws”, he tried to pull his head away but this resulted in serious consequences. Roussel had a good bite on it and it ripped apart, leaving him with a piece of ear in his mouth. Still holding him in a now well re-adjusted choke hold, he could taste that copper flavored liquid. Knowing that it was blood, he decided to capitalize on the situation and rubbed his face in it so that it would be smeared all over his own face. It was all theatrics of course but when Cogle fell to his knees holding the right side of his head in agony, foaming red and white stuff at the mouth, the man pretended to be completely delirious. He spat the piece of ear on the bar where it bounced a few times, turned to the crowd and said, “Anybody else want a piece of me?”
For some reason, the place had gone totally silent and this time when he told them that the “Bar” was closed, they all co-operated and went home. As for poor “Billy”, he eventually got up and the role of the “Big Brother” would now have to be played. The “not so crazy after all” Corporal put his parka back on and took him to the hospital for some needed medical attention.
A few days later, there would be everlasting peace in the valley whenever Cpl Roussel was on duty. The rumor had spread around like wildfire within the unit lines that it wasn’t good to screw around with the baby “Watchdog” as he had rabies. As for “Billy”, as strange as it might sound, he became a real good friend, one that would always have his back and this for as long as the two individuals worked with the “Patricias”…

So by now, you would think that there would have been enough excitement but this “Leonard losing an ear” saga would only bring us to maybe the middle of October. There was to be a couple more “Adrenaline” filled moments but I would suggest that we’ll save those for later on! = - )

To be continued…

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