Left to Die
Ever since I was a small boy, I was always in jail with my mother. My mother and her friends drank a lot, and I used to go to jail with them. I was very small at the time, two to three years old. My parents had drunk all their lives and they didn’t look after my brothers and sisters. They just went drinking all the time.
We had nothing to eat in the house. We had to go to my grandparents to feed all of my brothers and sisters. I had seven brothers and four sisters. We had a hard time of it, until I was fourteen years old. My grandfather and grandmother started raising me when I was fourteen. I stayed there till I was seventeen or eighteen, then I started working. My brothers and sisters had to be given up to welfare. They were raised in a welfare home.
I started working in a place near Prince Rupert, BC, piling lumber. I looked after chip cars and chip boxcars. I had to run back and forth, looking after the chippers at the same time. That was my first job. The chip cars were about three or four blocks away from the chipper, and you had to fill up the cars with wood chips and move the ones that were already filled. Then I went and worked on Buck River, trimming lumber and “drop shouldering”, where you separate the good lumber from the bad lumber. We built small log cabins and we lived there right in the middle of everything.
I used to hunt all the time, when I was working, on the weekends. I used to go hunting for moose. On Saturdays and Sundays, we stayed in a bush looking for moose, my friend and I.
I also fished when I was working. I would put a fishing net into the river in the morning and then I’d go back to work, and in the evening, after work, I’d go back to the river and check the net. I often caught sixty or seventy fish. I had to gather all the fish up and haul them three fourths of a mile, uphill. I would drop the fish off at my next-door neighbour’s. She worked and she knew that I’d bring the fish up. Later she smoked them. I’d just drop the fish in a big bathtub filled up with water and let the water run, keeping it cold. Then we’d cut the fish all up. Lots of people wanted to buy some fish, but we told them that they weren’t for sale. We smoked the fish and we dried them and we half-dried them-you freeze them half-dried. Same with the moose, you dry them or char them.
I was working on Buck River when I met this woman from my hometown. We had a couple of kids. My kids are all grown up now. They phoned when I was working and when I came home my wife was gone. I said to my kids, “Where’s your mother?” They’d known about it all that time since before they phoned: she’d taken off to Kelowna. Three months after, I got a phone call from the kids, my daughter and my son: they were with my wife. So, I had to go up there and take them home to their grandmother. I took the day off and went by bus to pick them up. Their mother died when they were still small. She killed herself because her boyfriend had taken off on her.
I used to ride to work on a bike, eight to nine miles from home. It was a mountain bike and I rode it to work everyday. After my wife died, I kept working at my job. Sometimes I’d tell my foreman that I was going to work somewhere else, and I worked in Prince George for a while, traveled around for a while and dropped the kids off at their grandmother’s. I worked for Lepaul Lumber for a year and then went to McKenzie the next summer, where I worked for F.F.I. (Friendly Forest Products). I stayed with my sister, who was working up there. I stayed there for two years and then I told my sister that I had to go back home. My boss took me back and then I worked for Steve Logging. I stayed there the rest of my working life, until I got hurt.
I was hurt in 1993-car accident-while I was working. I was sitting in the backseat and two of the men were sitting in front. The guy that was supposed to be driving fell asleep, and the guy that drove for him was 25 years old. He didn’t know how to drive; he didn’t even have a license. He lost control, and we bounced to one side and bounced off to the other side. I remember when we were bouncing around the door opened, and I hit the door and the door slammed shut again. That’s how I broke my neck.
I could’ve died there, but people phoned the cops. They shipped me to Vancouver right away. I’ve been here ten years, since I was forty or fifty. The guys who were driving the car took off, disappeared. I don’t know what happened because I was knocked out. They left me to die, and they never went to court or got charged. From seventeen years old to the day I was hurt, I worked all the time, and I never got sick in my life. I never got sick, until I got hurt.