The Hockey Sweater is a quintessential Canadian short story. It was written by Roch Carrier in 1979, and has been read- or watched- by a majority of Canadian kids over the years. It was originally entitled Une Abominable Feuille D'erable Sur La Glace (An Abominable Maple Leaf On The Ice) but the name was simplified to The Hockey Sweater when the story was translated into English by Sheila Fischman. In 1980, the National Film Board of Canada made an animated short of the story and called it The Sweater.
The short story was written by Carrier about an actual incident which occurred in his childhood, and is a celebration of Canada's enduring love for the game of hockey. It also highlights the oldest rivalry in hockey- the one between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Their fans are rabidly partisan, and ne'er the twain shall meet. Lastly, The Hockey Sweater is a love letter to the legendary player Maurice "Rocket" Richard, revered by generations of young hockey players and fans. Fun fact: for a number of years, a line from Carrier's story was printed on the back of Canada's five dollar bill:
Without further ado, here's The Sweater, narrated by the author and original sweater wearer, Roch Carrier:
The man in this photo is Wilfrid "Wop" May, Canadian hero. He was a flying ace in World War I, and was actually involved in the dogfight during which the Red Baron was shot down. He rose to the rank of captain and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1918. After the war, May became a bush pilot in Edmonton. During this period, he was hired by the Edmonton police to help in the search for a murderer. It was the first time a plane was used in a manhunt. One of the most celebrated events of Wop May's career occurred in January 1929. In northern Alberta there was an outbreak of diphtheria and May, hundreds of miles away, was asked to fly in the desperately needed medication. The incredible feat is recounted in the vignette below. What the vignette doesn't mention is that in 1932 Wop May was also involved in the most famous manhunt in Canadian history, the search for Albert Johnson, the Mad Trapper of Rat River.
"Anybody who has listened to certain kinds of music, or read certain kinds of poetry, or heard certain kinds of performances on the concertina, will admit that even suicide has its brighter aspects." - Stephen Leacock
** Since Canada's 150th birthday is at the end of the week, I'm going to put other things on hold for a few days and devote a number of posts to Canadian content.**
Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster were Canadian comedians whose career lasted from the late 1930's until Wayne's death in 1990. They met in high school in Toronto and later both attended the University of Toronto, where they began writing for and performing in the school theater. In 1941 they got their own show on a local radio station. Their comedic talent was soon noticed and they were given a show on CBC radio.
During World War II, they joined the Canadian army and became part of a group of entertainers, performing for the troops in Europe. They returned to CBC Radio following the War and developed The Wayne and Shuster Show. They again spent time entertaining the troops during the Korean War. Wayne and Shuster, famous in Canada, became well-known in the States following an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in the late 1950's. They became Sullivan's favourite performers and appeared on his show 58 times.
The comedy duo turned down a lot of offers for permanent positions in the United States, preferring to stay in Toronto, though they did go Stateside frequently to film shows and comedy specials. Wayne and Shuster's humour was a strange blend of slapstick and literate humour; they weren't adverse to sight gags and delightfully bad puns, but would also produce skits which sent up Shakespeare and other classic works. They would also spoof TV shows and movies, commercials, Canadian parliament, and pretty much anything else which took their fancy. Some of their most famous skits include Julius Caesar, Shakespearean Baseball, Frontier Psychiatrist, and The Brown Pumpernickel (The Scarlet Pimpernel). Below is another well-known skit- "I Was A TV Addict":
On Sunday night we watched the 1982 film The Man From Snowy River, which I hadn't seen in years. The movie is set in Australia and- added bonus- is filmed there. It is the story of young mountain man Jim Craig who, after the death of his father, must go to the lowland to make his way in the world, hoping to one day return to his father's land. The Man From Snowy River stars Tom Burlinson as Jim, Sigrid Thornton as Jessica, his love interest, and Kirk Douglas in a duel role as both Harrison and Spur. I don't recognize most of the actors in the film, though they may be well known in Australia for all I know. I quite enjoyed seeing The Man From Snowy River again after all this time. To be honest, the plot isn't anything to write home about, but the film has other strengths which compensate for weaknesses in the story. One of these is the cinematography, which is great. The Australian scenery is absolutely breathtaking, and it is beautifully filmed.
Another thing to love about the movie is the soundtrack, which is quite good. One of my sisters had the piano music for the Main Theme and Jessica's Theme and I heard those frequently while growing up, so it's a good thing that I like them.
The Man From Snowy River is also a great film to watch if you enjoy watching people galloping skillfully about on beautiful horses. This is essentially an Australian western, and the horsemanship in it is impressive- especially in one scene where Jim rides his horse Denny down an impossibly steep cliff. The first time I watched the movie, I thought that this must have been a trick shot, with the camera at some sort of angle. I couldn't figure out how they would do it though, because the scene looked on the up-and-up. As it turns out, the scene was legit. Burlinson, who did most of his own stunts in the film, rode down the cliff side several times, as did his stunt double. The resulting scene uses footage from both of their rides so as to see the insane descent from different angles. It's pretty amazing.
Incidentally, the film is based on a poem of the same name by Australian bush poet Banjo Paterson which he wrote in 1895. Fun fact: he also wrote "Waltzing Matilda".
THERE was movement at the station, for the word had passed around That the colt from old Regret had got away And had joined the wild bush horses - he was worth a thousand pound, So all the cracks had gathered to the fray. All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far Had mustered at the homestead overnight, For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are, And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.
There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup, The old man with his hair as white as snow; But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up - He would go wherever horse and man could go. And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand, No better horseman ever held the reins, For never horse could throw him while the saddle-girths would stand - He learned to ride while droving on the plains.
And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast; He was something like a racehorse undersized, With a touch of Timor pony - three parts thoroughbred at least, And such as are by mountain horsemen prized. He was hard and tough and wiry - just the sort that won't say die - There was courage in his quick impatient tread; And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye, And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.
But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay, And the old man said, "That horse will never do For a long and tiring gallop - lad, you'd better stop away, Those hills are far too rough for such as you." So he waited, sad and wistful - only Clancy stood his friend - "I think we ought to let him come," he said; "I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end, For both his horse and he are mountain bred."
"He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko's side, Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough; Where a horse's hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride, The man that holds his own is good enough. And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home, Where the river runs those giant hills between; I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam, But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen."
So he went; they found the horses by the big mimosa clump, They raced away toward the mountain's brow, And the old man gave his orders - "Boys, go at them from the jump, No use to try for fancy riding now. And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right; Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills, For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight, If once they gain the shelter of those hills."
So Clancy rode to wheel them - he was racing on the wing, Where the best and boldest riders take their place, And he raced his stock-horse past them and he made the ranges ring With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face. Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash, But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view, And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash, And off into the mountain scrub they flew.
Then fast the horsemen followed, and the gorges deep and black Resounded to the thunder of their tread, And the stockwhips woke the echoes and they fiercely answered back From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead. And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their way, Where mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide; And the old man muttered fiercely, "We may bid the mob good day, No man can hold them down the other side."
When they reached the mountain's summit, even Clancy took a pull - It might well make the boldest hold their breath; For the wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full Of wombat holes, and any slip was death. But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head, And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer, And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed, While the others stood and watched in very fear.
He sent the flint-stones flying, but the pony kept his feet, He cleared the fallen timber in his stride, And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat - It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride. Past the stringybarks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground, Down the hillside at a racing pace he went, And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound At the bottom of that terrible descent.
He was right among the horses as they climbed the farther hill, And the watchers on the mountain, standing mute, Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely; he was right among them still, As he raced across the clearing in pursuit. Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met In the ranges - but a final glimpse reveals On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet With the man from Snowy River at their heels.
And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam; He followed like a bloodhound on their track, Till they halted, cowed and beaten; then he turned their heads for home, And alone and unassisted brought them back. But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot, He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur; But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot, For never yet was mountain horse a cur.
And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise Their torn and rugged battlements on high, Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze At midnight in the cold and frosty sky, And where around the Overflow the reed-beds sweep and sway To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide, The Man from Snowy River is a household word today, And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.
It was a rainy Saturday yesterday, so I stayed in and did some of the spring cleaning which I hadn't gotten done in the spring. Organizing my bedroom closet and bureau was no fun, but I did find a couple articles of clothing that I'd forgotten I had... so, a silver lining, I guess. Speaking of the expression "every cloud has a silver lining," it can be traced back to the writings of John Milton in the 17th century. In his 1634 work Comus: A Mask Presented At Ludlow Castle, Milton wrote:
I see ye visibly, and now believe That he, the Supreme Good, to whom all things ill Are but as slavish officers of vengeance, Would send a glistering guardian, if need were To keep my life and honour unassailed. Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud Turn forth her silver lining on the night? I did not err; there does a sable cloud Turn forth her silver lining on the night, And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.
The idea of clouds having silver linings caught on, and this was often referred to as "Milton's clouds." It's not until the 1800's however that we have literary examples of the expression being used as an idiom. The 1840 edition of The Dublin Magazine contained a book review of a novel entitled Marian: Or, A Young Maid's Fortunes written by a Mrs. S. Hall: 'As Katty Macane has it, "there's a silver lining to every cloud that sails about the heavens if we could only see it." ' It was also written in The Atlas newspaper during the 1840's: "The good nurse's consolatory proverb is agreeably borne out, that there is never a cloud without a silver lining." It can also be found in an 1869 book by PT Barnum: "'Every cloud,' says the proverb, 'has a silver lining,' and so I did not despair.'"
As a palate cleanser from Rent, let's watch a clip of a great movie- 1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood. The legend of Robin Hood must be one of the most frequently filmed stories in existence; I have seen quite a few of them, and this version has always been my favourite. I must confess, however, that I have a fondness for the 1973 animated Disney version as well. The Robin Hood movie which I didn't really appreciate was 1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner. I had never bothered to see it, but some guy friends insisted we watch it one movie night as it was one of their favourites. They were somewhat annoyed when I and another sister who was present kept giggling uncontrollably at the "dramatic" parts, like Christian Slater's angst-y rant. But how could we help it? We had grown up watching the wonderful 1938 film, which is so much better than Prince of Thieves, which was joyless, and funnier when it didn't mean to be that it was when it was attempting to be humorous. The Adventures of Robin Hood has a stellar cast: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains to name just a few. It's a great adventure story with a lot of heart and humour, and also an amazing sound track. Love it.
I've been reading Abraham Cowley's 1650 essay Of Agriculture, which was written in praise of the noble work of gardening and husbandry. I myself admire those who cultivate gardens, especially since I struggle to keep my house plants alive. One of my brother-in-laws is an avid gardener, though I don't how he finds the time, as he and my sister have nine kids and he is a full time pastor. Nevertheless, this is his vegetable garden this year:
Here is a particularly good passage from Cowley's work: "I shall only instance in one delight more, the most natural and best-natured of all others, a perpetual companion of the husbandman; and that is, the satisfaction of looking round about him, and seeing nothing but the effects and improvements of his own art and diligence; to be always gathering of some fruits of it, and at the same time to behold others ripening, and others budding: to see all his fields and gardens covered with the beauteous creatures of his own industry; and to see, like God, that all his works are good."