Stoney Creek, Day 1, Wednesday

On the first weekend of June, I had the experience of a lifetime. I got to relive history! On June 6 1813, 205 years ago, the British Redcoats engaged the American army in what we know as The Battle of Stoney Creek, a small but decisive conflict that was a part of The War of 1812.

I was given the opportunity to go work at the reenactment of the battle, as a ‘sutler’, or ‘merchant.’ I was working in the kettle corn tent, selling bags of the good stuff to all kinds of people as they went by on the way to the battle or to look at the historic sites. My boss, Dana, is a real history buff, with about a million and five (at least) stories to tell about everything under the sun. He’s my kind of guy, and the kind of boss you actually want to hang out with.

Here is the story of my adventure, which I will release in a number of segments so that it is a bit more reader friendly. If you have any questions please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Enjoy!

Shopfront

Stoney Creek, Day 1, Wednesday:

At around noon, Dana drove up to my house in his big red truck, pulling an equally large silver enclosed trailer. The trailer was jam-packed chock full of popcorn making equipment, supplies, corn, sugar, oil, salt, the whole deal. The truck was loaded high with canvas, coolers, and camping supplies. Somehow we found enough room for me to ride shotgun, and I threw my bag on top of the precarious pile already threatening to topple in the back seat.

The drive was about an hour and a half or so, which we filled with yakking about Dana’s service over in Afghanistan, which I found really interesting. I had just read Dana’s book – if you want to hear a firsthand account of what it’s like to be right out there where the fighting happens, you definitely should read it, click here – and so Dana was able to tell me lots more stories about some crazy stuff. What an experience to have.

When we got to the Stoney Creek Battlefield House Park, we began unloading and setting up. On the right side of us, Jeff, or ‘Sutler Cyrus,’ sells the very creative (and delicious) Cartridge Candy, and is currently running a political campaign for Willy the Weasel, an aspiring rodent politician who doesn’t mind admitting that he’s only in it for the money. For more about Willy, head over here.

On the left side, was Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a period bakeshop that sells amazing baked goods of all shapes and sizes, including… butter tarts! Oooh those tarts were good! They also sold lemonade in green glass bottles, which was a huge hit when it got hot.

Since the vendors are part of the reenactment, everything had to be period accurate, or in other words, everything must look as if it was from 1812. All the guys wore button up pants with suspenders, and all the ladies wore long dresses. The tents were of real canvass, with wood pole supports and blacksmithed tent pegs. Everything modern got tucked away in the back of the supply tent.

After setting up everything, I met all Dana’s reenactor friends. One guy, Mike, was an amazing photographer, and since I had brought my camera along, we naturally started chatting. We talked about everything from photography tactics to the history of the War, and everything in between.

Dana and I then walked to a nearby restaurant for a fantastic fish and chips supper. When we returned we got a campfire started and all the sutlers pulled up lawn chairs, and sat around chatting until it was time to turn in. And that was the first day!

Advertisements

Liberation Day

Opa Lloyd

Yesterday, May 5, was Liberation Day in Holland. This holiday celebrates the liberation of The Netherlands from the NAZI regime over 70 years ago.

My great grandfather was in Holland for the original liberation celebration. For he was one of the liberators!

His name was Lloyd Victor Rains, and indeed he was a victor. He had signed up for the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry two years previous, and had spent the last one and a half years on the fighting front, going through experiences no one should have had to endure. He was a private, and he carried a rifle and a shovel. The shovel was used for quickly burrowing into a ‘slit trench’ when under fire, and we all know what the rifle was for.

After months of brutal combat to liberate Sicily and Italy, Lloyd’s regiment was moved around up to France, where the liberation of Continental Europe was in full swing (following the famous invasion of D-Day). Lloyd was then moved on to Holland, where the fighting continued until the end of the war. Lloyd’s was the first regiment to enter Amsterdam directly following the war’s end.

In the following months Lloyd met and married my Great Grandmother, Olga, one of the many dutch girls who came back to Canada as a War Bride.

Lloyd joined up as a teenager hoping for adventure. What he saw was not so glamorous. He hardly spoke of his experiences to anyone. I have always been fascinated by WWII, the way the entire world clashed together in arguably the most all-embracing worldwide conflict in history. It was so terrible in so many ways, what lessons can we now learn so that we never have to do something similar again?

Thank you Opa

Why Ride a Unicycle Anyway?

750_8617

Well to start, unicycles are just plain awesome.  Everyone rides a bike, so why not try something different?  Unicycles are cool, ’cause when people see you go by, positive thoughts come to mind, which lets them open up to you in a different way. Unicycles are often associated with circuses and clowns, so more often than not people will try and think of something clever to yell at you as you go by. Then you, as the unicyclist, have the fun job of trying to quickly think of something clever to say back. This happens innumerable times a day when riding around in town. I’ve had conversations with tons of people I would never have met had they not stopped me as I rode past to ask about the unicycle.

It’s also lots of fun when you start talking with someone and they realize that you’re just a regular guy, not some kind of super clown dude or something. That gives some people the courage to try the unicycle themselves.

Not only is it a fantastic tool for starting conversations and meeting people, but it’s also great exercise. Unicycling exercises much of your body, especially your core and legs, and it also teaches better balance skills as well.

My final point can be seen as either a disadvantage, or an advantage: while riding a unicycle, unlike a bike, you must be constantly ready for everything that comes your way. A bike can kind of just roll over stuff, while with a unicycle, one little bump can send you flying! Muscle memory helps a lot, but I still think unicycling requires a lot more conscious involvement. I have been riding before where I’m going super fast, unaware that a small change of terrain is coming up. I hit the bump or root or whatever, and since it’s too late to compensate for it, I go hurtling into the air, usually landing on my feet. But, as I said, this can be seen as good or bad. I like it ‘cause it makes for quite an interactive and exciting ride.

My goal is to try and get as many people as I can to shed a wheel or two and join the unicyclist movement.  #rideaunicycle!

Soaring

I recently had the chance to go flying in a glider.  A glider is an airplane without an engine, so it gets towed up by a powered plane.  The glider is released at the desired hight, and the glider pilot slowly descends back to the airport.  However, gliders actually are capable of climbing higher as well, using thermals and updrafts.  Thermals are pockets of rising hot air, which can carry a glider up.

Gliders are the sailboats of the sky, which is why they are sometimes referred to as sailplanes.  With no noise but the wind over the cockpit, it really is a beautiful experience.

The video above is some footage I took on my first glider flight.

 

The Legend of the Stuffy Box

Stuffy BoxFor my twelfth birthday several years ago, my Grandpa Ross (who was a scout with the 30th troop in Hamilton) gave me a small box full of many little treasures. When I opened the box I found inside a rolled up ‘scroll’ bound by a birthday ribbon tied in a bow. The Scroll

You could tell it was (supposed to look) old because of the (tea bag) stains and marks all over it ;) I opened up the scroll and inside I read the following:

The Legend Of The ‘Stuffy Box’

What is a ‘Stuffy Box?,’ more common folk might ask … it is the beginning of a long journey.

Every twelve year old boy should have a stuffy box.

What is the origin of the stuffy box? Well, it is a modern day legend, and let me tell you that legends are very difficult to begin. In fact, this may be the only labelled stuffy box known to mankind, so you are at the beginning, Dorian!

The term stuffy box comes from your Great Grandpa Lloyd. When your Grandpa, Ross, was a boy, he enjoyed rummaging through his Dad’s little boxes that could be found in our shed. They could contain almost anything …. Screws, bolts, springs, washers, pieces of electric cord, broken pieces of plastic from a curtain rod, or whatever.

The great thing about Great Grandpa Lloyd is that he had a lot of stuffy boxes … you could find several in the shed, a couple in his personal desk, some near his easel and paint, easily one in the washroom, and on and on it goes. He is the true founder of the stuffy box movement.

You are now ready to begin your stuffy box journey. Dorian. Do so with honour and pride!

There are things about a stuffy box you should know. First, it can never be made of new material. It must always come from a pre-existing purpose. In your case, this stuffy box was a pre-existing wine box. The lid had to be reversed and many coats of Varathane were applied by your Grandma. Special wood letters were applied to make ownership unmistakable.

Second, the wise care of a stuffy box includes having one place to keep it where it never moves.

Third, it’s preferred if it gets scuffed and chaffed a bit. You want it to look rough and rustic. It’s a working man’s treasure box … in it you can keep anything you want … a favourite screw driver, coins, stamps, nuts and bolts, candy, a pocket knife, whatever. Odd stuff.

It’s not really a secret box … that is the stuff of another legend. It is more a place to put stuff when you don’t know where to put stuff.

Every few years it’s a good idea to add another stuffy box to your collection. It doesn’t have to look the same, or even be labeled … it just needs to be a good container for stuff. Make the year ahead be full of good stuff, Dorian. Collect good stuff. Do good stuff.

Love,

Grandpa Ross.

I have shared this letter with you so that you can begin your own stuffy box journey.  Please ‘Do so, with honour and pride!’

Lost on a Mountain in Maine

mountain-in-maine.jpeg

Here are a couple reflections on the book Lost on a Mountain in Main.

Twelve year old Donn Fendler becomes lost on Maine’s highest peak, Mount Kathadin. Donn spends the next nine days trapped alone in a deadly, miserable wilderness with an abundance of cold, rain, bugs, sharp rocks, and lethal precipices.

Throughout the adventure, despite great pain, fatigue, fear, and hunger, Donn shows extraordinary courage and a will to live.

The reader joins Donn in his fight to survive the brutal wilderness as he spends more than a week alone, with no more than the clothes on his back.

Here is an excerpt from the book, which you can buy here:

“… I had come back to the same sign. For a second I was stunned. I just stood there looking at it. I knew now, for sure, that I was lost. I was running in a circle. I didn’t know what to do, so I stumbled around looking for other marks, on that same trail. I guess I went a long way over rocks and over pucker bush and sometimes under it too, searching and hunting for another trail marker. I didn’t find any, but I kept going down. I remember that. After a while, I came to a place where there was a lot of gravel, and boy, was it slippery! That place was dangerous, for a slip might mean a bad fall – maybe a hundred feet or more. I slowed down. I could imagine myself lying there, in the cold and dark, with a sprained ankle. Meanwhile the rocks were getting bigger and bigger…”

A Dream Come True

IMG_0580.JPGWhen I first started learning to unicycle (in February 2016) my only goal was to be able to ride consistently.  After visiting my Great Uncle David in Toronto – who owns a collection of unicycles of various sizes and descriptions – and trying out some of his unicycles I began to realize how many possibilities there are with unicycling. I tried his five foot tall ‘giraffe,’ and the big ‘36er’ which has a wheel diameter of 3’. You can get going really fast on the 36er, so once you get one of those you don’t ever have to ride a bike again, unless of course, you want to…

Later that summer, after I was feeling more comfortable on my 20” trainer, I decided I was ready for an upgrade of some sort. The only one I found that was relatively within my price range was a used five foot tall giraffe that was a 2 hour drive away, and not on the way to anywhere I or my family really ever goes. I was also a little hesitant to pay the price they where asking, as I didn’t know what shape the unicycle was in. I was about to buy it, but prayed first.

I decided to wait a little longer, and literally the next day I found another ad in Toronto for a giraffe that was half the price of the other one, and it came with another 20” trainer as well! The seller was just trying to get rid of them. And, since I know people who go to Toronto fairly often, this was the perfect opportunity. My very kind Uncle David generously went out of his way to pick it up for me, and my Dad later picked it up while in Toronto for another reason.

Dad got back late, and the next morning told me to go look in the back of the van. I opened the van door, and pulled out a Norco Giraffe and a 20” trainer. I found that neither of them needed a new tube despite the seller saying they did, so I was able to start riding the giraffe right away. The whole story is an example of how God loves to give us good things. We can learn to wait on the LORD for some things instead of trying to figure out everything by ourselves. As the bible says:

Delight yourself also in the LORD: and he shall give you the desires of your heart.

That summer I posted a WANTED: UNICYCLES ad online, and started buying used unicycles, and selling some of them to friends after I had taught them how to ride. I was able to find a 24” uni (unicycle), which was fun because you can go a little faster than on a 20” uni (larger diameter = larger circumference = more SPEED).

Ever since I had ridden Uncle David’s 36er in Toronto, I had dreamed of getting one of my own. 36ers just fly! A 36er’s wheel is large enough that it is almost as fast as a bike. I looked all over Canada and the US for a used or new 36er at a good price, but could hardly find any that where affordable, or located somewhere I would be able to pick it up. I looked on UDC, Creigslist, Kijiji, and even considered buying all the components and building my own (which would have been pretty cool, but was also pretty expensive). I really wanted to get one but just couldn’t seem to find one that would be the right fit, so I talked to the LORD about it.

One day in March (of 2017) I was (half jokingly) trying to convince my Mom to buy one for me. She told me to talk to Jesus about it, because he loves to give us good things.

Literally ten minutes later I got an email from a guy named ‘Mike’ who was replying to the wanted ad for unicycles I had posted months ago. I could hardly believe my eyes as I read the message. He was selling his Qu-Ax 36er with some KH accesories on it, and it was for less than any of the unicycles I had previously looked at. And, it was only a 30 minute drive from my place!

I took this as a clear sign from God that this was the unicycle for me, and in less than two hours I was back home inspecting my very own 36er! After tinkering around and changing a few things on it, the next day I was happily riding around the tennis court. It was amazing to realize that God had just provided something I had been looking for for the past year. God loves to make dreams realities for his children, and for me, He had just made a Dream Come True.