Life was so different back then, growing up in Haney. Nowadays parents keep a pretty watchful eye over the kids and in many cases practically every waking moment is scripted and monitored and everyone is in constant touch. Back then, in contrast, we’d leave the house after breakfast and come back for supper. In between we’d climb trees, build forts, swim in the river, ride horses, wander the streets, pick fights, sneak cigarettes, swear like sailors, go to the movies, and generally misbehave.
One of those moments I remember with particular fondness involves the demise of one of the best elementary school projects ever made, and I should add that it was my friend Chris Clarke who was the architect behind the project and who deserves most of the credit. It had started as one of those class assignments to build something to illustrate something we’d been studying and since we had all had to read Thor Heyerdahl’s account of his voyage on the original KonTiki raft we decided to build a scale model of the KonTiki. Between our parents’ basements and workshops and garages we had just about everything in terms of supplies, but I also recall cutting down a number of trees in the forested lot that lay between our two houses. Try doing that today! The raft was a work of art that came together over a couple of weeks of hard work. When we loaded it into the station wagon to bring it to school, the seats had to be flipped down, as it was almost six feet long. Now I readily admit that being the Doctor’s kid may have earned me some soft A’s on some other projects but this time Chris (mainly) and I really did feel we’d earned the A that our project did finally receive.
However we were boys and mischievous and sometimes downright dangerous, kind of typical for kids growing up in Haney in those days. That being the case, we came up with an appropriate plan to send the KonTiki to a greater glory, once it had been retrieved from school. It was sometime well into spring and the evenings were growing long so we had lots of time to meet up after supper, not just Chris and I but an assortment of siblings and friends who were in on the fun. First we made our way to the workshop out back where we kept the lawnmower and saws and tools and weapons of small destruction. It was also where we kept all the empty bottles so it was easy to make up a six pack or two of Molotov cocktails using the gas for the lawnmower and from the various rags that were always at hand. We ceremoniously carried the raft to the gravelly banks of the Alouette River, splashed some gas over the bamboo thatched cabin and pushed it off into the middle of the current, below the rapids that ran downstream from our place. We hightailed it along the trail on the bank and made it to Crystal Pool near the gravel pit well in time. We lit first one bomb and then another, pitching them at the beloved craft with at least some semblance of accuracy. The first couple didn’t do much damage but then somebody managed to get the cabin full force and a couple of others actually managed to explode on impact, to our great delight. Before long the entire raft was ablaze and we hooted and hollered as it burnt in the twilight shadows. We followed along as it was swept away and watched as it broke apart and disappeared in the dwindling flames and the smoke in the eddies and currents and splashes in the river. It felt a little bittersweet but it felt right too; we had given the sacrificial torch to the craft as a badge of honor, a token of esteem. Not only that, it was pretty dramatic and risky and we would have been in so much trouble if we’d been caught. So now I look back fondly at that scene, even though I realize that it was extremely dangerous and environmentally nasty and not at all what I’d ever condone today. But I’m glad I had the chance to grow up with that kind of freedom and exuberance, when fear was just a goad to greater folly.