17 stings and a bottle of vodka

1967 Jacklah River, B.C. Nils ….. and me worked there all summer, thinning forest that had grown since the logging about 15 years earlier. Only the trails remained, they were used by deer and bears, not many other walked them, but they were generally kept open. We had to fall large trees across the river, to use as bridges.

We had chain saws, lived in a tent, visited Gold River once every 14 days, for supplies and a map of new areas to thin. Cooked all meals on an open fire, next to a very good steelhead stream. Met, and saw a lot of bears, deer sometimes, and only once a cougar, high on a cliff. But we saw the victims of the cougar.

This one morning we came upon a freshly killed deer, a doe, still warm, we must have scared the cougar away.

picture from hunting in Canada

The belly was ripped open, the small fetus partly eaten, a most gross scene of a kill. I got so mad, I carried my 30-30 Winchester for the next week, but we never saw the cougar. The next morning I sneaked up to the kill  site, sure to get my first cougar. The kill was gone, I could follow the trail way up the hillside; the cougar had probably dragged it all the way to its den, may be to feed its small. That took some pain away.

 elk and cougar

We worked alone, often up to a few kilometers apart. But when I sat down to fill gas and oil, and file my chainsaw, I could hear where Nils was working. At lunch we would meet at a cool creek, have lunch and tea, and a small break for a long afternoon.

At one of these breaks, I saw and felt my first hummingbird.

Size like a big bumble bee, the hummingbird hovered near my right ear, and actually stuck its tongue deep in my ear, hoping it was a flower with nectar. I was as surprised as the bird. I love hummingbirds and have feed them every summer, it is so nice to have them around.


One day, close to lunch time. I was cutting some trees and brushes to make room for some nice seedlings. The only objective with thinning the new forest, is to give the best and nicest trees light and room to grow, and about 8 ‘ distance to the next. Anything shadowing or hindering these selected, would be cut down, and, in time become fertiliser as they would rot. In the long meantime they would hold the other growth down, until the selected seedlings could make it. Then nothing stopped them, they were the next kings of the forest, until they were logged, and the cycle started again on a very productive forest.

I noticed , but too late, I cut into a wasp’s nest the size of a football. The wasp attached me without hesitation. Right in the face. I dropped the chainsaw, this was ’67 and no safety on the saw, it kept running and spinning around on the ground in front of my feet.

 I yelled and screamed, started running towards the river, wiping the wasp off my face, and when I got there, dipped my head and body under into to cold stream. I was still sitting there when Nils came running, he was sure I had cut myself, when he heard the screams, it was an easy thing to do. If one of us were disabled, the other one could not launch the boat at the beach, and make it to Gold River, he would have to wait a week or two until somebody got concerned about us. Therefore we were as careful as we could be.

I counted 17 stings, all on my neck and hands, I wiped them off my face, but did not think of the neck. In the tent we had a bottle of vodka, for medicinal purposes, that night I drank the whole thing, and went to work the next day, never a touch of hangover from the vodka, but swollen and sore from the stings. Talking to a doctor later, he said it was a good thing, that we had some medicine. I have later met people who have had over 30 stings, and survived.

We often got a few stings, and none of us were allergic. But, some years later, a good friend of mine, died from one wasp sting, in the throat. He was an outdoors man, clearing som ski runs at a new ski hill, working by himself, and found later, when he did not come home.

Many years later, about 15 years, I hiked the area with my friend Tony …., way up to a small lake with lots of fish, a nice trip, and the forest was growing so nice, it was a pleasure to see what our work had produced. Tony had worked up Nootka Sound when he was young, and got an infected appendix, brought to an indian reserve, where a nurse operated him while getting the instructions on a radio phone to a doctor in Victoria. The scar was not pretty, but he survived and could laugh about it. But, when he laughed, his whole right side would shake like crazy, she had cut some muscles more than necessary. Tony’s sister was a Playboy Playmate in 1964, a nice girl, I know her well.

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