Lindy and I, often accompanied by the Stief brothers, Walter and Reinhart, and always accompanied by her dog Trixie, travelled far and wide over the landscape of North Burnaby before the Age of Malls.
We hunted ring necked pheasants, first with boxes we held in front of us as we tramped across the wide grassy fields they inhabited, intending to drop them on the startled birds the instant they took flight.
When this strategy yielded no birds, we determined that bows and arrows would. Despite the enormous temptation to do otherwise, we saved our meagre weekly allowances and augmented those savings with the money earned by cashing in the fruits of aggressive beer and pop bottle hunts until we had enough to purchase a couple of archery outfits from the ACME Novelty. These consisted of a fibreglass bow, half a dozen arrows, and a quiver.
Somehow it didn’t occur to us that the technique required to activate it was as important as the weapon. We took a lot of shots, lost all but a few of our precious arrows, and in the end not a single pheasant fell. Still, for all its disappointments, the hunt was engaging and fun. Now, more than a half century on, I wonder if there are still a few fields in North Burnaby where the guttural call of the ring necked pheasant can be heard.
The wilds of Burnaby Lake were a draw too, but only on weekends when we had the time to access them. It was there that we caught and jarred tadpoles and built a crude raft of two logs and some four by fours that we carted on our bikes along with a hammer and long nails to enhance our explorations.
We built forts. We wrecked forts. The forts we built were salvaged in retaliation.
There were gardens spilling over with vegetables that needed raiding. We raided them regularly. And there were fruit trees, cherry and apple, their boughs heavy with fruit that were ripe for plunder.
One of those that I will never forget was the cherry tree growing on a property on Charles Street near Fell Avenue. This tree was so full of succulent fat cherries that a platoon of kids couldn’t have made a significant dent in it if they plundered it daily. Despite this, the tree’s curmudgeonly owner guarded it as if the loss of a single fruit would drastically compromise its fecundity.
All four of us raided it one summer evening. While Lindy, Walter, and Reinhart plucked and divided the low hanging fruit, I boldly scaled the tree. After filling my pockets with cherries, I began filling my face.
There was a commotion. I looked down from my lofty perch to see my cohort scattering like mice chased by a cat. Danger was near. I knew I had to join them. There was no time to clamber down the tree. I jumped.
The moment I hit the ground, iron fists tightened around my biceps and I felt liquid warmth flowing from my crotch to my ankles.
My foe, the cherry tree’s owner, must have sensed my despair and shame, for he released his iron grip, satisfied that I’d learned my lesson.
We continued to make trips to the Valley to swing on trees, chop down others, build fires, and to fish for trout. The guardians of the stream showed up on some occasions to chase us off. It wasn’t until many years later that I began to appreciate their concern. All those years ago they realized that the small band of ignorant outlaws that we were, were quite possibly capable of wiping out the small run of trout in that small urban creek.
Where they acquired this conservation ethic is a matter of speculation, but they had it right.
The trout that we wanted to kill were unquestionably sea run cutthroat that had made their way up the Fraser River, turned west at the Brunette River, then made their way to Burnaby Lake, then to Still Creek and finally to the little creek that ran through and nurtured the valley we played in so often. Not all that many years before that their ancestors made the same trip through a pristine old growth forest dominated by giant Douglas Fir. The removal of those mighty trees must have had an enormous impact on the streams they sheltered and the fish that used those waterways, yet a remnant population of those fish survived until 1958 and may survive there still. Lindy moved away. I didn’t see her again until junior high school when we found ourselves in the same art class. She wore a short skirt and sported a beehive hairdo like so many other girls did. Gone was the tomboy and beloved companion I knew. She seemed embarrassed and afraid that I might reveal her past to our peers.
As for the creek, Google Maps tells me her name is Beecher and that she flows through the Andrew Leong Green Trail. I plan to bike there this September and look for the descendants of the cutthroat trout that were the first fish I stalked.