Mortimer has a decision to make.
Will he join the new and improved Park Warden Service and continue with a career that has allowed him to work in Canada’s most spectacular places and meet some of the country’s most influential people?
Or will he move to the sidelines and ease into a well-deserved retirement?
Weighing the pros and cons of the past three decades and the events that have shaped his life, Mortimer reveals the humour, passion and frustration of working in Canada’s national parks.
April 1, 2008
Mortimer hemmed and hawed as he rubbed his thumbs over the surface of the badge, its sheen increasing with each pass until finally he could see his own distorted reflection mirroring its way into the detailed design. The beaver sitting astride its lodge of mud and sticks looked impressive, encircled by a row of maple leaves sculpted below the jeweled crown and riding just above the “Park Warden- Garde de Parc” inscription that provided the bearer with official status.
A lot had changed since Mortimer first joined the outfit but the official badge had managed to stay somewhat true to form while those sewn on his uniform shirts and various jackets had gone through a multitude of iterations. The image of the beaver had been bastardized, stylized, supersized, you name it, but was finally coming back around to some semblance of a physically accurate representation of the animal whose legacy was intimately tied to the country it helped to shape.
But, Oh Canada! thought Mortimer. Never underestimate the tinkering of those above.
The latest version of events surrounding the poor beaver had to do with the current Liberal Minister’s musings. Apparently she thought that the animal on the redesigned redesign of the national park logo looked sad. Reportedly, without batting an eye, she had ordered her underlings to have the re-designer “put a smile on the beaver”.
At the same time, squirreled away in a separate cubbyhole of Parks Headquarters, senior scientists trying to raise the profile of the deteriorating state of park ecosystems were busy putting the finishing touches on a request to this same Minister, building their case for an infusion of cash to improve what they were touting as the “ecological integrity” of the national parks, the latest buzzwords in scientific circles.
Invariably, field staff who got wind of both initiatives, including cynical souls like Mortimer, combined the two ideas to create a tagline they thought might be the next mantra proffered by the bright lights in Ottawa.
“Improving the ecological integrity of our national parks – putting the smile back on the beaver.”
It had a nice ring to it Mortimer thought, although truth be told, he was aghast at the notion that senior managers might take to it and actually put it out there for the consumption of the general public.
How to build credibility? No.
But the Big Picture stuff was beyond Mortimer’s current crisis despite the trickle-down effect in could invariably have on park staff. No, his current concern was of a more personal nature because it was decision time.
And time was running out.
Mortimer had been a park warden for more than two decades and over the years had become a jack of all trades – an expert of sorts, in all things parks. He enjoyed the park warden lifestyle and the variety of challenges you could face during any shift. The job was far from routine. He knew as much about technical rescue as he did about wildlife capture, which was considerable. He knew the Parks Act inside out and could probably give any defence lawyer a run for his money in a court of law.
He could be tracking a wounded bear in the morning and hauling an injured climber off of a mountainside in the afternoon. Or conducting surveillance for deer poachers at night and appearing in court the following morning to testify before a judge on a different matter.
Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on which side of the issue you were on, things were changing. For the first time in its hundred year history, Canada’s national park wardens were going to be issued sidearms, handguns, pea-shooters, call them what you will, and Mortimer and other park wardens had to decide if they wanted to be part of the new armed contingent or not.
It was a tough choice, made tougher by the fact that those park wardens with extensive law enforcement experience, who were selected to join the new version of the Park Warden Service, were also being considered for an exclusive investigation unit, akin to detectives, leaving those not selected to this special force to assign them the nickname, “The Dicks”.
Great, thought Mortimer. We’ve been calling our boss of bosses in Ottawa, “The Beaver” because of his protruding incisors and chubby cheeks and I could end up being a “Dick”.
Poetic justice or what?
To complicate matters, the future of those who decided not to join the new and improved Park Warden Service was somewhat up in the air, not necessarily the best place to be considering the outfit’s track record of crash landings!
The thought had barely crossed the threshold of Mortimer’s brain when the door opened and the lady from Human Resources walked in.
-So have you decided?
April 1, 1980
Mortimer’s first day on the job had seemed anticlimactic at first. He had shown up early and sat on a leather upholstered bench across from the receptionist’s desk, waiting for the Chief Park Warden to arrive.
The receptionist had been kind enough, offering him coffee, which he had declined, and suggesting he take a seat and wait.
– Bart’s normally late, she said from inside the confines of the glass enclosed front office as she continued about her business, thumbing through the daily paper. From time to time she would focus her attention on a particular article only to sigh and shake her head and move along to the next page.
– Checking to see if we are in the news, she said, not wanting the young man to think that she didn’t have anything better to do.
– I understand, said Mortimer.
– It’s part of the morning ritual, she added. The Superintendent is ultra-conscious of any media attention the park might attract. He doesn’t like getting caught with his pants down.
Mortimer nodded his understanding as the receptionist returned to her work, his attention drawn to another newspaper that seemed to have slid into the gap between the bench seat and an adjacent table. Shifting his weight to release the trapped daily, Mortimer laid the paper on his lap and read the headline.
“Park Superintendent Being Investigated For Improper Use Of Federal Vessel”.
Avoiding eye contact with the receptionist, Mortimer quickly scanned the article and was about to draw her attention to it when the outside door opened and a tall, gangly man marched in and stormed into a nearby office bearing a nameplate on the door that read “Park Superintendent”.
Before Mortimer could pass the newspaper to the receptionist, the tall man reappeared, sticking his head out around the door.
– Miss Stockley. Get in here right away, he said. And get Bartholomew here on the double, he added, slamming the door as he disappeared a second time.
Caught off guard by the brashness of her boss, the receptionist shot a flushed look at Mortimer who shrugged and carefully slid the newspaper back where he had found it. Just then, the outside door opened again and an elderly looking man wearing a cowboy hat and green park warden uniform stepped over the threshold.
– Are you the new seasonal? he asked Mortimer, barely giving him time to respond to the affirmative before grabbing him by the shoulder and escorting him out the door.
Leading him to a weathered looking pickup truck with a single red light on top of the roof, the park warden told him to get in and to be quick about it.
– My name’s Joe, said the older man as he climbed behind the steering wheel and quickly extended a hand to Mortimer. Joe Squires. You don’t need to be around for this. It’s going to get ugly.
Wheeling the truck out of the parking lot, Joe barely missed colliding with a newer model station wagon as it sped around the corner and screeched to a stop in front of the park office, a set of red and blue emergency lights on the roof continuing to rotate as the driver jumped out of the car and raced up the stairway to the office.
– Would that be the Chief Park Warden? asked Mortimer.
– Bart? said Joe. No, that would be Robert, the sawed off little runt who would be Chief.
– So, another park warden? asked Mortimer.
– Boy, you’ve got a lot to learn, said Joe shrugging his shoulders. No, he’s the Visitor Services Manager.
– But the red and blues? said Mortimer.
– I’ll explain it later.
– But I think I’m supposed to be meeting with Bart right about now.
– You can meet with him later, said Joe. If he’s still the Chief once Stringbean is finished with him.
The young seasonal shot a quizzical look at Joe who returned the favour.
– I would not want to be in Bart’s shoes today, said Joe.
April 1, 1980
The large wooden patrol boat moored to the Headquarters wharf was an impressive sight to behold, its sleek Cape Island design giving the impression of speed and power.
As they exited the warden truck and walked towards the boat, Mortimer wondered aloud if this was the vessel referred to in the newspaper headline.
– What was that? said Joe, turning around to face his newly recruited underling.
– Oh nothing, said Mortimer. I just noticed the headline in the morning paper and wondered if that was the boat in question?
Joe shook his head and laughed.
– I wouldn’t let that arsehole near this boat if my life depended on it, said Joe. Especially if my life depended on it. Here’s the boat the newspapers were talking about, said Joe, walking to the other side of the wharf and pointing down to a fiberglass watercraft with twin outboards.
The boat looked brand new but on closer inspection Mortimer could see a large crack running across its bow.
– Did he run into something? asked Mortimer.
– You might say, said Joe. Eye witness accounts suggest the operator might have had one too many and ran the boat up on a fellow’s yacht. Apparently it looked like a dog fucking a football, as the saying goes.
-Hadn’t heard that one before, said Mortimer, smiling.
– Well, you’ll likely hear them all in this outfit, said Joe. If you stick around long enough I expect you’ll come up with a few of your own.
– No doubt, said Mortimer. How long have you been in the Warden Service?
– Since Christ was a cowboy, said Joe. See, there’s another one. They just slip out like that before the brain engages. Hopefully you’re not religious. Jesus help you if you are. See, there it goes again.
Mortimer just laughed and said nothing.
Joe led him over to the larger boat and climbed aboard. This would be the Shanadithi, he said, showing Mortimer into the cabin. She’s named after the last Beothuk Indian. All of our boats have Beothuk names. The Gobidin will be yours to use and take care of, he said, pointing to a smaller plank boat moored behind the Shanadithi. They were all built in the park, with the exception of the hot rod with the cracked hull, of course. I’m not even sure why Bart bought that thing. It eats gas, you can’t really land it anywhere and when those motors are opened up and it’s flying across the water at 60 miles an hour, you can hear it coming a mile away. The local fishermen just look at it and shake their heads. More government waste they say. It’s probably just as well that it’s become a play toy for the Superintendent. It keeps him away from the rest of our boats.
– So what would you like me to start working on? said Mortimer.
– Well, we should go to Stores and get you some uniform and equipment. If you are going to be a park warden you’ll have to start looking like one. After that I can show you around and when the dust settles I’ll introduce you to Bart. We may find him hiding in the Compound anyway after today’s meeting with the Supe.
– Maybe it can wait until tomorrow. Give things time to cool down.
– You’re learning already young feller. C’mon, let’s go get some of this greenery for you, said Joe, waving his hand down along his uniform. If you’re lucky there’s some stuff lying around from the last guy we hired as a seasonal. He was about your size.
– What happened to him? said Mortimer.
-You wouldn’t want to know. I want your first day to be a positive experience, said Joe with a smug look on his face.
-Mortimer held his tongue and just smiled.
April 1, 2008
Mortimer was lost in the No Man’s Land of indecision.
He could walk away with a good pension and almost as much severance pay as one could get working for the feds. Almost 30 years’ worth, which equated to one weeks’ pay for each year of service. Even after taxes, that was enough money to buy that new pickup he always wanted and probably have enough left over to put downriggers on his boat.
If he really wanted to max out his severance and avoid the taxeshe could probably stash it all in his RRSP. He hadn’t been able to put anything in there for the past twenty years so he had tons of contribution room.
But why do that? Save it for what?
Life is about living, thought Mortimer, and if he pulled the pin from work, he planned to do some serious living.
Fishing trips up and down the coast, canoe trips on some of those northern rivers he always dreamed about, and even a few trips into the States. He wanted to visit every national park in North America and time was wasting.
But then, if he stayed, if he decided to stick it out for a few more years with the Warden Service, he’d bump up his pension even more, probably get a senior position because of his years of experience, and in five more years, yes, that’s all he would work, he promised himself that, he’d be on Easy Street.
And it might not be so bad being a Dick. A special unit dedicated to more serious cases had been a dream of his for years. They could put an end to wildlife trafficking for good or at least put a serious dent into it. He knew just where to start too, with his old nemesis, Stumpy Bogs.
Stumpy Bogs, or Stumpwell Bogdanovich III as he was more properly known, was an Eastern European fur trader who had defected to Canada during the Cold War. Sometime before that he had lost his left hand in a trapping accident in Siberia where he was reputedly live trapping Snow Leopards and selling them to the Chinese.
Mortimer had tangled with him in the North and had assigned him the handle of Stumpy Bogs just to avoid writing out the name in his notebook.
But Mortimer had never been able to put him away, largely because of political interference from someone connected to The Beaver. Mortimer had been told to stand down but not before he embarrassed the mucky mucks in Ottawa with a well-placed story provided to a major national newspaper.
The heat from that piece nearly cost him his career were it not for the selfless professionalism of his reporter friend who refused to give up his informant and took a demotion instead to a smaller paper in the journalistic gulag of Little Bent Tree, Saskatchewan.
Mortimer never forgot the sacrifice and sent regular care packages to the bald-ass prairie town, keeping his friend supplied with previously frozen fresh fish and news from the outside world.
Becoming a Dick might in fact kill two (or more) birds with one stone and help secure his friend’s release from the armpit of southern Canada while seeing to it that Stumwell Bogdanovich III was taken out of action once and for all. Excorcising the political demon that had The Beaver by the balls would be the coup de grace.
Mortimer could barely contain his enthusiasm.
– So have you decided? the lady from Human Resources asked again, nudging Mortimer with the eraser of her yellow HP pencil.
– Why, yes, yes I have, said Mortimer, jerking to attention. Where do I sign?
April 1, 1980
– Sign right here, said Noah, adding the last items to Mortimer’s very own Personal Equipment Inventory.
The Storesman had managed to pretty well outfit the young warden with shirts, pants and a patrol jacket and had even thrown in a half dozen clip-on ties and a belt. Although the uniform spanned at least two eras and two additional style changes, Mortimer felt as if he had died and gone to Heaven.
– That should pretty well take care of you up until the snow flies, said Noah. If you’re still with us by then come back and see me and I’ll rustle up a parka and a fur hat for you.
– What about boots? asked Mortimer.
With that comment Joe let out a huge laugh.
– Jesus Murphy, this isn’t Sears, he said. You’re lucky the last guy was even close to your size. And as far as footwear goes, you’re on our own for that. Somehow, having standard footwear doesn’t mesh with the outfit’s idea of “uniform”. One of the little idiosyncrasies we have to deal with.
– Any chance I could get a Stetson? said Mortimer, glancing past a couple of the felt cowboy hats that lay crumpled on a small table on the opposite side of the counter. A newer Stetson, he said with a grimace.
– New ones are as scarce as hen’s teeth, said Noah, picking up a crumpled version and tossing it on the counter. See if this one fits.
Mortimer pushed his fist into the top of the hat and tried to restore it to some semblance of its original shape.
– Steam works wonders on these babies, said Noah. Just give it some TLC and you’ll have it looking spanky in no time flat.
– Thanks, said Mortimer half-heartedly.
– Hey, said Noah. If it’s any consolation I’ll put in an order for a new one. With any luck you should get it just before you retire.
– That slow, eh? said Mortimer.
– Slower than creepin’ Moses, said Noah. Anyway, that’s pretty much all I can do for you. You’ll have to see your Chief Warden about your badge and PPE.
– PPE? said Mortimer.
– Personal Protective Equipment, said Joe. But Noah’s just shittin’ ya. PPE consists of a flashlight and a set of handcuffs in case you tangle with some bad guys. If you’re lucky, Bart will have an old thirty-thirty for you in case you need to defend yourself against a marauding bear or a horny bull moose. If you’re quick on the trigger you should be able to do yourself in before you get eaten or trampled to death.
– Nice image, said Mortimer. Thanks for that, I think.
– Of course I’m only joking, said Joe. The gun will probably be a rusted old twelve gauge.
– And again, thanks for that, said Mortimer as he gathered up the pile of clothing and laid the crumpled Stetson on top. I guess we should go find Bart.
– Yah. He’ll issue you your badge as well as the PPE, said Joe with a grin. And I’ll bet he throws in a few of the new Warden Diaries with the duplicate copies. Now there’s a brain storm from someone in Ottawa with nothing better to do with their day.
– To keep track of your day’s work? said Mortimer.
– Exactly, said Joe. The bean counters want us to account for every waking moment. It’s the new rage. Time management or some such silly thing. What they don’t realize is that wardens don’t work by the clock. This job isn’t nine to five so it really throws them for a loop when you plug something in that doesn’t mesh with their little system. And when you try to account for all of the different jobs in all of the different parks from here to the other coast, most of what we do ends up getting captured as “Other Duties”. And good luck with trying to tease that apart.
– So what’s the point, said Mortimer.
– Exactly, said Joe, opening the outside door. C’mon, I’ll take you to our leader.
Warden Diary Entry – April 1, 1980 – Joe Squires – Spent 2 hours helping the new recruit, Mortimer Powell get settled. Looks promising. Note to self – They say “looks can be deceiving”!
April 1, 2008
– Where you always sign these forms, Mort, said the lady from HR. At the bottom. I also have another new form here for you to sign, she added, passing Mortimer the paperwork.
– An attes … an attesta … an attestation, Mortimer pronounced the word carefully. What exactly is an attestation?
– Nothing much. Just another form. Just sign it, please, so we can get on with this.
– Well, I don’t really like signing something unless I know what it is I’m signing, said Mortimer. I got bit by that mistake on my first day of work.
The lady from HR gave out a muffled groan and headed back for the door.
– Come and get me when you’ve figured it all out, she said. I’ve got twenty other people to deal with today and unfortunately veteran wardens aren’t on the top of my list.
Mortimer barely grunted an acknowledgement as the lady from HR closed the door behind her. This latest form was like nothing he’d ever seen before, which after dealing with government paperwork for more than three decades, was saying something. As far as he could gather, the form, once signed, absolved the outfit of any responsibility for Mortimer’s actions as a park warden, even if he was acting within the full scope of his job description.
That’s odd, thought Mortimer. It’s almost like they’ll leave me swinging in the wind if there’s any dispute at all, which there will be I’m sure, if I do my job. Oh well, I won’t be signing that one anytime soon, he added, tossing the paper back on the desk.
As he worked through the ream of other paperwork that would make his acceptance of a new Park Warden position official Mortimer kept looking back at the paper on the desk. Finally, a smile creased across his face.
Grabbing the form, Mortimer marched out of the office and knocked on the door of the lady from HR.
– Good one, he said. I only just got it.
– Got it signed? asked the lady from HR.
– No, said Mortimer. Got the joke. April Fools. Good one.
– It’s no joke, said the lady from HR, her frown reinforcing the fact for Mortimer that this was no laughing matter.
– Seriously, said Mortimer. Who came up with this piece of crap?
– It doesn’t matter, said the lady from HR. We’ve been told that all new park wardens either sign it or relinquish their rights to a position.
– But it basically absolves Parks of any responsibility for anything I do while performing my official duties and leaves me holding the bag. Years ago, I was named in a legal suit back East and the outfit barely backed me then, even when it was as clear as the nose on your face that the plaintiff was a whack job. The judge even said as much and pretty well threw the guy out of his court. If I sign this, I’m on my own.
– C’mon Mort. Don’t you think you’re overreacting? You need to put your trust in management. When have they ever let you down before, really? I mean recently. Besides Mort, we’re under pressure from the big boss in Ottawa to get as many former park wardens in these new positions as possible. They’re taking a lot of flack for messing with the Warden Service and they need to show that these changes aren’t such a big deal.
– Well they are for me and pretty well everyone else, said Moritmer.
– Mortimer, really? Please just sign the form and we can move on.
– Sorry, but no can do. You can forge my name or whatever you have to do to appease The Beaver and bump up the number of satisfied former park wardens on your employee survey, but I do have my principles.
– Oh God, those again, said the lady from HR. Very well, she added, pulling a rubber stamp from a drawer and pushing it into the ink pad on her desk. We’ve had to “sign” your forms so often I had the girls make up a rubber stamp with your John Henry. Hopefully no one up the line will notice. It was digitally enhanced so it looks pretty authentic.
– Good enough for the girls I go out with, said Mortimer, looking at the forgery and grinning at the lady from HR.
– Welcome to the new and improved Park Warden Service, Mortimer Powell, she said, brusquely closing Mortimer’s file. There’s a webinar this afternoon at 1pm outlining the requirements to join the new special investigation unit, if you’re interested. Do you want to become a “Detective”, Mortimer?
April 1, 1980
– So you’re Mortimer Powell, said the man behind the desk, standing up to shake the new recruit’s hand. I’m Bart Smith. Chief Park Warden. Glad to finally get you on board.
– It’s good to be here, said Mortimer.
– I’m glad Joe kept you out of sight this morning, said Bart. The Superintendent was hopping mad and looking for anyone at all to take his frustration out on. Thankfully Robert, the Visitor Services Manager was around. The poor sucker. But if he wants to drive around with red and blues on his Parks car, which is completely illegal by the way, then he might as well start learning that it’s not all roses. Being a park warden I mean. Especially working for Stringbean, the Supe … the Superintendent I mean.
Mortimer stood silently wondering what he got himself into. Bart seemed friendly enough Mortimer thought but maybe he was getting more information than he needed at this stage of his young career. Christ, it wasn’t even lunchtime.
– Anyway, enough of that, said Bart, having also finally realized, moments after Mortimer had similar thoughts, that he was giving out too much information. I’ve got to stay one step ahead of these young guns, Bart thought to himself. University educated as if tech school wasn’t good enough for them.
Reaching into his desk drawer, Bart pulled out a small pile of badges and thumbed through them.
– Here, take this one, said Bart, pushing a newer looking model across the desk towards Mortimer. That guy won’t be back.
– Six five six, Mortimer said, picking up the badge and noting the number engraved under the emblem of the beaver.
– Hopefully it’s your lucky number, said Bart.
Mortimer stood motionless as he stared at the badge. It represented everything he thought he had wanted when he first came to learn about park wardens and their role in protecting Canada’s national parks. Working for wildlife. Finally. Savour the moment. Firsts only happen once.
– And here’s a pair of handcuffs for you and a ticket book, said Bart, rummaging through the drawers of a large metal cabinet standing next to his desk. I think there’s an old flashlight in here somewhere as well.
Mortimer inspected the items as he pulled them across the desk.
PPE, he thought to himself as Bart sat back down and opened a side drawer on his large wooden desk.
– And here are a few new diaries, Bart added. Get Joe to show you how to fill them out. Basically you’re supposed to write down everything you do in a shift and record the amount of time spent doing it. At the end of each month you tear out the duplicate copies of each page and file them away for your own records and turn in the completed diaries to me so I can track what you guys have been up to. I really don’t want to know how much time you spend picking your ass so just write down the important stuff. Everything else goes under “Other Duties”. I review them and add my comments. If they’re really well done I’ve got some gold stars I stick to them before I hand them back. Recognizing performance is how Ottawa said it, I think. Works like a hot damn.
– So I’ve heard, said Mortimer, reluctantly adding them to his pile of PPE.
Just then a park warden truck pulled up in front of Bart’s office window, its single red light rotating rhythmically on top. Jumping out of the truck and running into the building, Joe quickly appeared at Bart’s door.
– I need the new man, he said to Bart, walking in and motioning for Mortimer to follow. There’s been a car accident on the highway, he added, barely able to catch his breath.
Mortimer looked to Bart who nodded for him to go with the older warden.
– This is how it goes, he said. Never a dull moment. Don’t forget to write it all down. And get Joe to show you how to fill out those tickets. I’ve got you scheduled for night shift on your own tomorrow night, he added as Joe and Mortimer disappeared out the door.
Warden Diary Entry – April 1, 1980 – Bart Smith
Meeting with Superintendent – .5 hours – Follow up required with local Pony Soldiers (RCMP) to determine source of newspaper report.
Other Duties – 7 hours
April 1, 2008
Mortimer looked around at the empty room and wondered where his colleagues were. Surely there were others who wanted to be part of the new special investigations unit.
Yes, he had heard the lunch room banter and the jokes people were making about the special group to replace the former “Secret Sams”, but he was hopeful that this time things would be different. The “SS”, as it was known, never did live up to its name, despite the code-locked doors and special ops gizmos squirreled away in their vaulted rooms.
Mortimer figured that the outfit’s big mistake was bringing in retired RCMP officers to run the show. While he had known and worked with many great RCMP officers over the years, most of the regular members weren’t really that interested in conservation law enforcement and saw the park wardens as “tree cops”, only slightly higher on the law enforcement pecking order than security guards.
And word was that those who did “leave” the RCMP to lead the park law enforcement program had run out of options with the Mounties and were really just doing it to top up their already lucrative pensions.
So the “SS” became a bit of a laughing stock among the regular park wardens and never were able to live down the reputation, despite having some excellent people who, in reality, would have done a better job of running the unit than the leftovers the RCMP had gracefully talked The Beaver into taking. But true to form, The Beaver had little faith in the Warden Service and was quite keen to wrestle control of the outfit away from the cadre of what he saw as old-school Chief Park Wardens who had constantly been a thorn in the side of park management. So bringing in people from outside who would report directly to him was the first step in a changing of the guard that he had been longing for.
When these former Mounties were haunted by some of the skeletons in their own closets, The Beaver was quick to distance himself from those running the “SS” and sacked his Director of Law Enforcement Operations for not doing thorough background checks on the new hires.
But the “D of LEO” as he liked to refer to himself, had done a thorough background check on his boss and reminded The Beaver of some less than puritan stories of his own. So when it came time to name someone as head of the new special investigations units, the former Director of Law Enforcement Operations was an obvious “choice”.
Despite ALL of that, Mortimer still wanted to be part of the unit and figured he was far enough down the totem pole to avoid all of the bullshit that invariably happened at the top. Unfortunately, Mortimer periodically suffered from short term memory loss and had forgotten the direction that shit usually flowed.
Most others hadn’t.
So when no one else showed up at the webinar, Mortimer figured that someone had gotten their signals crossed and didn’t realize that today was the last day to decide if they wanted to be a … detective … okay, a Dick.
Oh well, thought Mortimer, as the screen lit up. It improves my odds of being selected and I can make good use of this next five years.
Stumpy Bogs, you better be looking over your shoulder.
Slowly, the first webinar slide filled the screen with a voiceover from none other than The Beaver himself.
As The Beaver’s monotone voice drilled into his brain, Mortimer could only think that the outfit’s slide presentations hadn’t changed a helluva lot since the last century. Hopefully there would be a sunset at the end.
– Welcome fellow park wardens from sea to sea to sea. Today marks the beginning of a new chapter …
April 1, 1980
The scene looked like mayhem as Joe pulled the warden truck across the highway behind the wrecked car, effectively shutting down traffic in one direction. Some distance behind the damaged vehicle, a large cow moose lay shattered on the side of the road, its front legs pushing out at odd angles from the bloated body.
Several vehicles had stopped to render assistance and two people were already positioned at opposite ends of the scene, directing traffic.
– Thank God for Good Samaritans, said Joe as he exited the warden truck. Come with me Mortimer and grab the first aid kit behind the seat.
Mortimer got out and grabbed the large red, metal first aid box and ran to catch up to Joe just as the older warden was approached by a young man from one of the other vehicles.
– We’ve got two elderly folks in our car, he said. They aren’t seriously hurt but were cut up pretty good when the moose came through the windshield.
– No doubt, said Joe, motioning for Mortimer to accompany him to the man’s car. Let us have a look at them.
The elderly man and woman were sitting on opposite sides of the car’s back seat, attended to by two young women.
As the wardens approached, the young woman bandaging the old man’s forehead looked up and smiled.
– They’ll both be fine, she said. Marge and I are registered nurses and we’ve treated their obvious injuries but they should go to the hospital to get thoroughly checked over. Shock is probably the biggest concern so it would be good to get them there asap.
– Sounds good, said Joe, quickly assessing the first aid the nurses had performed. Mortimer, get on the radio and call the office to see what the status of the ambulance is. I got Arlene to call just before I came and got you from Bart’s office so they should be close.
– Will do, said Mortimer, turning to go back to the warden truck just as the sound of sirens could be heard in the distance.
– Sounds like they’re on their way, said Joe as he motioned for Mortimer to come back. Turning to the old man he asked, How are you feeling skipper?
– Bruised and battered but these young ladies have taken good care of the missus and myself, he said, looking to his wife for confirmation.
– They’ve been wonderful, she added. We were very lucky that they came along.
– That’s good to hear, said Joe. If the moose had landed on top of you things could have been a lot worse. Where are you folks from?
– Just down the bay but we were coming back from town.
– You mean St. John’s? said Joe.
– Yes, our daughter and her husband and their two kids just moved in there last month so we went in to give them a hand until they get settled.
– Good for you, said Joe, looking up to see the ambulance pulling in alongside. The paramedics will take over from here but I’m glad you are both okay. We’ll let them do their job and my able assistant and I will deal with the moose. I’ll have to grab the vehicle registration from your car and if you want, we can also grab your belongings and put them in the ambulance.
– That would be wonderful, said the elderly lady. You’ve all been so wonderful, she added, looking at the young nurse attending to her lacerated arm.
Joe and Mortimer turned to leave but were surprised to hear another siren and see a second warden truck approaching the scene.
– What the? said Joe, shaking his head as the truck pulled in with the Park Superintendent behind the wheel.
– How is everyone? he asked, rolling down the window, and sticking out his long neck.
– Fine, said Joe, but turn off that blasted siren.
As the Superintendent complied, Joe looked at Mortimer and mouthed the words “what the hell?”
– I borrowed one of the warden trucks and figured I’d help you with the moose, said the Superintendent.
– Great, Joe lied. Do you know how to use the winch and ramp?
– Not really, but it can’t be hard, if you guys know how to do it.
Joe bit his tongue and rolled a few choice oaths around in his head.
– Fill your boots then, said Joe. Mortimer and I have to deal with the tow truck and help get these folks belongings for them. Bring the moose to the pit and I’ll get the Highways crew to bury it later.
– No need for that, said the Superintendent. I was planning to get my family to help me salvage some of the meat. Not for us, of course, but we do entertain quite a few VIPs out of our own pocket so I thought we’d defray some of our costs. No point letting the meat go to waste.
Joe didn’t want to mention the fact that the meat used to go to underprivileged families and folks on welfare but the government health inspectors had decreed that uninspected meat couldn’t be used for human consumption and had to be disposed of.
But he knew that he could argue until he was blue in the face and Stringbean would veto whatever he had to say.
So he bit his tongue some more.
– C’mon Mortimer, we’ll deal with the car, he said turning away from the Superintendent, his crimson face doing little to hide his disgust.
– VIPs my ass, he said under his breath as he grabbed Mortimer by the arm and moved him in the direction of the wreck.
Warden Diary Entry – April 1, 1980 – Joe Squires
Orientation of new warden, Mortimer Powell – 3.5 hours
Attended to moose-vehicle collision – 4 hours – Two people injured- transported to hospital by ambulance. Vehicle towed to town. Assisted by Warden Powell. Refer to accident report for details. Moose dealt with by Superintendent!
Follow-up – Check boathouse to make sure he doesn’t hang the meat there again!
Warden Diary Entry – April 1, 1980 – Mortimer Powell
Orientation and Uniform/PPE issue – 3.5 hours
Assisted Warden Squires with moose-vehicle accident – 4 hours
First day on the job. So it begins!
April 1, 2008
– And that concludes our presentation, said the narrator as a golden sunset slid across the large screen.
As the room descended into silence, Mortimer’s low snore rippled across the surface of the meeting room table.
Occasionally coming up for air, Mortimer’s head was cradled in the notch of his arm which lay flattened on the table top.
The Beaver’s drole soliloquy would be the perfect antidote for the sleep deprived and Mortimer quickly succumbed to its overpowering BS factor, slipping into Dreamland somewhere after “fellow wardens”.
For a time he was back in Terra Nova, then slowly, in perfect sequence, his career ambled through his subconscious.
Those early years in Terra Nova set the tone for a career that was to span almost three decades.
Indoctrinated into the “work hard, play hard” philosophy that was the mantra of the young group of park wardens he worked with, there was never a dull moment. Parties, poachers, pretty girls, patrols, they seemed to all come together in Terra Nova. And that was only the “p’s”.
For all his peculiarities, oddly enough another “p”, Bart had treated them pretty well even though he seemed to garner little respect from Joe and the older contingent of park wardens. Somehow, Mortimer and the younger wardens managed to straddle that divide and not get caught up in the office politics.
Their goal was to enjoy the life that Parks offered and they did.
It could be Paradise or “Peyton Place” and funny enough they chose Paradise.
The parties in the housing area were all-nighters and the patrols the next day often turned into the same. Much to the chagrin of some, the park wardens didn’t work by the clock, but they worked and they had success.
Problem bears that found their way into the campground were dealt with and not destroyed, much to the consternation of Stringbean, who had a Texas style philosophy along the lines of the ”three strikes and you’re out” mentality of some of the old guard park managers.
Even Bart, was willing to go the extra mile, literally, to make sure a bear wasn’t put down, using his powers of persuasion with the local RCMP to use the Mounties’ helicopter to sling a troublesome bear into the more remote parts of the island of Newfoundland.
Poachers who had been profiting from the lack of attention given to their antics were surprised to find a cadre of young park wardens who showed up at the most inopportune times, putting a serious dent into fish and wildlife poaching along the park’s coastline.
Even Stringbean was slightly more diligent when it came to his use or abuse of power and although Bart was reluctant to take him on, he often dropped hints that his young wardens were not above charging their own mothers, let alone a superior, or even a Mother Superior!
Stringbean would have to watch himself, as frustrating as that might be for “a man who thought the sun shone out of his arse”, as Joe was often quoted as saying.
Inevitably, Mortimer and his buddies would have to move on to get their permanent positions and so they parted company and Mortimer began his cross-country trek that took him west and north, finally landing him on the opposite side of the country, in the west, where the sun sets.
It was just setting when the lady from HR came in with a handful of other forms for Mortimer to sign.
– Mortimer. Mortimer. Wake up!Follow egeorgemercer