4

One More Mountain

Lucky had long ago stopped looking ,  stopped listening to the steady hum

of traffic , buzzing past him , as he walked along the roadside .

His eyes were trained only on his feet , watching for the sharp 

pointed bits of gravel or the 

few  shards of glass from broken bottles .

Lucky thought about his eyes . It was a time longer than yesterday that he knew

his eyes were getting dull . The doc said he had catter something .  Caterpillar ? 

No , that wasn’t it . The  foot bumps were becoming more frequent and harder

to absorb when he stumbled  .  He knew it meant going under for a cut job . 

That glasses would have to be bought and he would have to wear the damn things for 

as long as his eyes were open . Should  he be grateful for the free overhaul he

got at the last shelter ?  Catter something  .  I just can’t see me , no how , getting

glasses at my age he thought . Damn these old blinkers of mine anyway .

Why is it that when a man gets past seventy the body tells him about all the

things that are getting rusted and busted inside  ? That it ain’t no use any longer

to set your feet on the road ; where you been for so long that you become part

of it yourself  . You become every pebbly  , rock hard part of it . 

 

His boots  , look  at them  !  The soles worn so thin that they no longer sprung up

over the stones but sank into each one of them  . Making him feel  each of

them  , like it was a toll he had to pay every day just to get up   .

 

He brought himself back to the hill  .  It rose up before him  . Up  , Up  , Up  . Seeing

the blue patch of sky above the dirt and grassy slope jarred a memory to life  .

It was off the coast of Victoria. 

The memory of being on the corvette made his

guts tighten  .  There he was  ,  leaning over  , backside to the wind   and  his guts

churning over and over  ,  spewing out into the black water , into nothingness , and

then seeing the behemoth  . The whale  . Blues  , black and huge and oh so very

beautiful and clean  . The  size of her and him in a corvette  . What a puny  , good

for nothing  , moulded hunk of metal that was  . 

 

The hill already  .  Lord I’m tired today  ,  he thought  .  Give me the hill one more

time  .

It’s  mine by rights  , Lord  .  No one knows it better  . You hear ?  No one  ! 

 

Lucky stopped  ,  not looking up to see what he had to do  ,  but knowing every part of it  .

The weight of the pack was always with him  .  Even when it humped up beside

him   , it was there  ; testing him  , teasing him to put it back across his back  .

 Ride with it  , he told himself   , don’t let it make you give up like it did to old Charlie 

Hampton  .

Charlie . He still missed his road partner . Now , no one to talk to , except himself  . 

Maybe just another excuse to give up as if he didn’t have enough already . 

 

The pack  , for so long  , was a part of him like he was part of the road  . No  , the

road is different  .  It has life  . The road took people away  . Sometimes it brought

people back  ,  sometimes it didn’t  .  It was real and this he knew for certain  . It was

real  ,  just as the grassy hillside was real and it gave him comfort to know that

the grass would be just like a woman  , lying there waiting , to let her fold around

him  ;  taking him to peace  ,  complete  , with no answer necessary to anyone  . 

 

His mind returned to where he was  . The dull sense of heaviness made him

take the first step on the road going up  . Another step followed the first  , and so

he began  ,  giving no thought about what he would see at the top of the hill  .  If

only I could get that word  , he thought  . 

 

His eyes were rhythmically lifting with his feet  . The word , “catterman , ” came to

his mind  .  What the hell is that  ? Half and half  . Somehow the image of it gave him

a thin smile  . Maybe that is what I am  ,  half caterpillar  , half man  . I walk about as

slow and that’s the truth  .  Can’t no caterpillar feel as tired and worn down to the

gristle as I do  .  That’s another truth  .  Knowing the truth didn’t make him 

feel any better  .

 

Lucky was almost to the top  . Come on you useless clodhoppers  , get me up

there   . I got business to do :  goods to cash in on  ; my belly to fill  ; my bottle to

drink and my tobacco to smoke  .  Lord, what would I do without my pipe  ?  A

Three Star Brigham  . The best money could buy way back when  .  Got to get me

some cleaners  .  The draw ain’t there like it used to be  .  Hell  , what isn’t  ? Ain’t

nothing and that’s the truth  .

 

His feet were like lead when he focused his eyes and looked up  . He was

there  . Thank you Lord for giving it to me one more time  .

 

The beautiful whale in the blue sky above me  ;  may it be there forever  . 

© Peter B. Armstrong

 

Advertisements
1

Catching 

Do you ever , in your mind , go back to some past  time , hoping to catch an event that has stayed , for many long years , in 

your memory ?  I don’t mean the circumstances or the second by second unfolding of what it was.

I guess I’m trying to recapture the essence , the sensory perception , I experienced in a small , moment from  years ago. 

Hearing the song ‘ Girl From the North Country ‘ was for me a crucible of a time encapsulated by something  visceral and 

eternally indelible.

Only to me , mind , no one else.

The 56 Ford was carrying our beer under the hood , where we were sure it was safe from prying eyes. It wasn’t. 

Teenagers , out for a blast , to the mountains , eager to imperil  limbs on ski hills just for the thrills on and off the slopes . 

Two days of freedom to Banff , to the majestic Rockies , I so much have taken for granted in my later years.

I will try hard not to  go too far past the song of Dylan’s from the radio to my ears in the backseat of the Ford. The four of 

us and the 6: 30 AM road in front going West into the blackness. Humming tires taking us along in slumber, quiet words 

and staring eyes at the wispy shapes; losing the mind in mindless thoughts.

Behind us the pale , pinkish red rays were  dressing themselves above the low hues of bluish black as their symphony was 

just beginning to touch the mountain summits one by one.

Eyes West all in black , eyes behind cracks of dawn , and I’m suffocating and being drowned by the haunting words being 

sung out from the radio.

“If your travelling to the North Country Fair ” and so the words begin , sung by a singer whose name was Tom 

Northcott , from Vancouver.

It seemed Dylan wrote those words specifically  for me but it was really  for me and millions of others who felt the million 

dollar hurt upon their souls and broken hearts. 

It was a portend of my future drowning in hell , oblivious to all feelings of surviving.

So why now , I ask , am I back in the backseat of a 56 Ford listening to a 3:30 minute song I first heard 53 years ago.?

Liam Clancy said this before he sang this song, ” My very favourite song that Dylan wrote in those days in New York. It 

always brings me back to the first time I saw her. It always evokes that moment for me. It’s something you never really 

get over,” Liam said . I agree but wish I didn’t .

In my writing this ,  I am unravelling my life for no other purpose except to speak my silent voice , if I think something 

shaped me into who I am today all those  years later . 

                         Peter Armstrong  

       

0

My Last Angst? Hardly!

It seemed not a big deal turning ten , I suppose , looking back into another 

century of time. I was no longer a single digit. It kinda seemed OK to have 

another join the first. It’s not like I had a big say in the matter. 

We, I mean my parents , had a way to configure ages on a wall. Being the 

youngest , I was quite naturally low on the feet and inches side of things. No 

metric in those ages of time. 

So here comes ten and on goes another stroke mark joining the previous one 

marked when I could stand up straight , without succumbing to gravity as you 
now find me. 

I dutifully lined up my shoulders to the plywood basement wall just on the 

other side of our downstairs phone which gave me , later on , a private portal 

into ecstatic highs , the deepest of fears and taught me what procreation 

meant.

Becoming ten was a time of feeling important in a child’s world of 

uncertainties where remaining ten was never an option. 

New things were going on like playing games  with a bit more edge , like  

stretch , shooting off arrows every which way, and throwing anything a titch 

harder.

It also opened up to us the secrets of the lawn mower and its idiosyncrasies. 

Shovelling snow, a no brainer , except leaving it till the temp was way below 

zero and a memory  away from a warm house that I could see into but not 

enjoy until the job was done. Procrastinating made  the snow  that much 

deeper and harder to push , so it seemed at the time. 

I gladly  embraced my first decade.

My mediocrity in all things school became more pronounced. I always 

struggled to ‘ get it.’  Picking a seat on the first day of a new unknown grade 

was always a challenge ; never in front ; never in a corner , somewhere in the 

middle , where I would hopefully become invisible . 

So I put my brave face on everyday and hoped to not be  picked last for 

that recess game or by the gym teacher who knew , of course , everyone’s rank 

for each sport because the scale was set by him.

Did any of us have it harder than ten year old kids today? No, not by a long 

shot ,  from my own experience mind you.  Of course today’s ten year old will 

say the same thing in a few decades down the road.

They may say , hopefully , politely , ” Did you guys ever live in the dark ages. ” 

Or in other words ” What planet did you come from ? ” 

That is the most polite way I could say it in today’s jargon. 

© Peter Armstrong 

0

Call Me a Sucker or a Repentent Believer

I am a patsy, pushover and a giver in to, to simple or deeply meaningful 

melodic , word driven songs from the here and then.

You see, I feel a literal life giving connection to the music that gave me peace 

and solace in another lifetime right up to this very day.

 Folk music is an integral part of my life, so much so, that I will not or cannot 

dismiss lightly anything that is to my 

ears a piece of poetic lyrical beauty 

because I know it will touch me in a visceral, meaningful way. 

Let me pass on some examples from Dylan. ‘Girl From the Red River Shore’ or 

‘Every Grain of Sand’or ‘Don’t 

Think Twice ‘or about 450 other songs he wrote.

So, yes, I was deeply in need of solace and a root like familiarity in the semi 

latter part of the last century and I 

found it in music. 

My greatest regret, well not quite that profound, was to not to be able to play 

guitar like I heard it played on the 

turn table. 

My guitar teacher and I finally said enough pain is enough from both ends. 

Not long after, still attached to the past I, happened to come across an even 

stronger Deliverer than Bob 

Dylan.When He came onto the scene I was stuck in the past and could not see 

past the end of the week for any 

kind of relief.

If the Dylanesque times rescued me from not losing my grip, my conversion 

lifted me higher than the Grand 

Canyon from the hurtin, solo being I was.

So I fell in love with Praise and Worship music in all of its simplicity, just as I fell 

in love with all the folk musicians 

from the Dylan era to the present. I am, and will be always, deeply affected by 

folk music but I know without a doubt 

Praise and Worship music is transcendent in its power because the words have 

a greater Authority behind them 

than mere mortals. Now keep in mind; what I am referring to is Spirit led lyrics 

and not humanistic led lyrics.Both 

brought me light and hope.One was temporal and beautiful the other is Holy 

and Eternal.

© Peter B. Armstrong

0

I’m Back In Time To 9

Go and play , be a boy among the crowd of all five of us, thrown together by 

geographical happenstance. We had a sort of a nonchalant attitude of who 

was who on the big ladder of acceptance aka importance dictated by what 

we got from Ma and Pa. What was so little given on no particular moment was 

not to rue but it bit deep anyway.

The hill of dirt was the battle ground for warfare tactics to see who became the 

King of the Castle for 1 minute in 

time. It  is still being fought over years later and 100 times longer in memory 

on hills all over the world.

The hill called Nob, by the city was a pinnacle enclave above the others who 

were all built up but remained below 

the summit. 

Did I see any higher power at work for my station? No, none at all, just a 

circumstance of breeding I realized for 

any  misfortune or fortune received.

Class distinction certainly. Who’s got what? Big time separation , of course for 

our narrow minds, but friends 

forever, forged in blood and scrapes, some accidental, others not , we pledged 

loyalty of brothers like any other 

hood from here to NYC. 

It was 9 and fine until you get out  of being 9 and see the big world looming, 

large and hellish looking, of being 10.

© Peter B. Armstrong

1

The Brakes Had Left My Mind

“Watcha up to?” I asked the neighbourhood mechanic, who was just about on

top of the ladder amongst the pack of juveniles I hung out with.

“Putting together an engine,” he said nonchalantly.

“Oh, ” I sort of exclaimed, not having a clue except I saw a lot of self-important

pieces of steel laying strewn about on the garage floor looking for the nearest

neighbour they could fit in with.

So after that very informative exchange I decided to venture further into

uncharted territory sort of. No sort of to it! I was definitely stepping off of the

face of the moon.

“Hey! Your bike looks cool, all shined up,” I thoughtlessly said.

The Triumph was waiting in the shadows just ready and already purring to 

itself.

If I could read, I would have seen the sign over it ‘Just Try Me Buster.’

Like I said I do have a feeble mind.

Ever have that feeling that there was something gnawing in your cranium

waiting to be sought out like this is important but it lost out to complete

irrationality?

I am glad you have never felt that way. You definitely have no need of accident

insurance.

Anyway, I got back to the too subtle hint of the danger machine. It was waiting

for its introduction to my bones and flesh.

The horse wrangler asked, ” Why don’t you ride Angel here for the one hour

trail ride? Best horse ever. You two will get along just fine. Just don’t pull on

the reins too hard.”

After having heard the reassuring voice of an old cowboy in my mind

I got back to the waiting chrome beast, eyeing me

hopefully to show me what it had to offer in a spin around the old block that

had long been my comfort zone.

So my mechanic buddy said with no discernible  malice, “Why don’t you try it

out Peter? I just tuned it.”

Stupidity ranks right up there with oh why not? or what have I got to lose? or

how hard could it be? 

Take your pick and the question will soon find its answer.

“Here,” he said, “Let me show you the throttle. Oh, and this here is the brake.

Did I say I was now mounted and getting extremely close to the point of no 

return?

Here’s the layout. In the alley , two thirds of a block away facing North , is a T

intersection. If you decide to cross over the T without hitting anything you will 

end up in some guy’s front  yard , or worse , sort of.

Now going West to East , of course , you will need to be aware that this is a road 

for traffic.

Ok. Let’s go back to the beginning of my serendipitous trip, at least in my

mind. My happy goal was to circle the old familiar block, trying to not look

too proud of myself as I nonchalantly coasted to a seasoned stop back in front

of my Juvie friend’s open garage door.

I’m on the beast , which can hardly wait for its stage performance to this fiasco

of a play. Me ,  being the unwitting Court Jester , or the Joker ,  in a pack of cards.

“Ok,” he said in a teacher’s only voice, ” Here’s the throttle, there’s the brake. 

Don’t go too fast.”

What great advice I thought to myself rather belatedly.

I think I remember him saying just before take off, “Here, I’ll put it in gear for

you ? ” 

Somehow I turned the throttle with one of my hands and that’s about it.  I

don’t remember much after that except I knew what fast was and I didn’t know

what slow was or that other important phrase , being in control.

I do remember facing eternity, approximately 3 seconds after common sense

left me.

I think I heard a little bit of what a motorcycle sounded like in first gear.

My fifteen-year-old life, being what it was, flashed before me as I had no

inclination to stop apart from hitting something softer than a car or a house if I

should be so lucky.

The decision to hit the fence was my only inspiring moment in this whole 

charade.

I steered the beast into a white boarded fence belonging to the second last

house on the left side of the alley, before the impending doom of the T 

intersection.

The chrome beast, I am almost affectionately calling her that, tried to rip

through the fence but to no avail.

Myself, however, did a perfect head-first assault over the fence and 

ungracefully

ended up sprawled across a perfectly well planted and thriving garden.

Laying there somewhat mystified about what just transpired I heard my Juvie

buddy yell, yes I believe he was yelling, “Why didn’t you put the brake on?”

You tell me I thought. Did  he ask anything about my welfare? Of course not.

That would break some kind of code only known to us, even if we didn’t know 

it then.

Collecting my senses we examined the wreckage. My ego was torn asunder of

course. The handle bars were the main focus of attention.

“I can fix them,” he said triumphantly. Of course he could. He could fix

anything and do it with glee and a little bit of panache.

“Glad it wasn’t worse, ” he added for my sake.

Although we remained friends and had other adventures of teenagerism,

he kept a warning eye out for me if I ever started to ogle his bike with

anything other than a passing glance.

Randy this one is for you.

 

His midnight ramblings shook the neighbourhood. One kid’s need to cry out I am 

here.


© Peter B. Armstrong

0

If Only They Were Perfect

I saw some kids trying to spell words like eclectic and psychology today and

they missed on all of them. It made me feel sad that I saw that, for now I know

they are not as bright as they were made out to be. I guess I feel cheated by

the hype that was put down by the announcer guy. I wonder how many letters

the CRTC will receive for false factualizing. Come to think about it let’s see

how many words they get right. Go You Kids And Never Stop Trying.

© Peter B. Armstrong