It’s the future and I’m on my way to Georgian Bay in a SunCar rental. SunCar was called Autoshare when I first rented a car from them back in 2008. In those days, there were keys to be picked up from and returned to key boxes, entries to be made in a pad, and gas tanks to be left half-filled. None of that’s necessary anymore. SunCar’s entire fleet of cars are solar-powered, now, and smarter, by far, than most of their drivers.


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RISING WATERS

Named for their distinctive dorsal marking and only known habitat—a few miles north along Nottawasaga Bay from Meaford, my home town—the now-extinct Nottawasagan Daisybacks are the only species of toad ever known to cooperate with one another in the capture of prey. Sharing the chameleon’s ability to blend with their environment, only their ‘daisies’ were visible amid the stones and tall grass of their shoreline habitat where, in small bands, they’d arrange themselves within striking distance of one another and spear duped insects off one another's backs with their sticky tongues.


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THE DAISYBACKS 

WITH MEAFORD IN MIND

>  OLD PHOTOS  <

The summer I turned 10, lured by its promise of a better life, I took up shoplifting.


From Bardeau’s poolroom, I bettered my life with chocolate bars—from Bright's Drug Store, with ball-point pens and Popular Science magazines—from Spears’ Book Store, with Classic comics and coloured pencils—from Steadmans Five-and-Dime, with marbles, squirt guns, India-rubber balls, and countless other treasures. I bettered my life in other places, too, but mostly these. Life was good.


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Knuck and I have been friends since he was four and I was five. His real name is Ronald, which boyhood friends changed to Knucklehead, then Knuck, which I’ve called him ever since.


After teachers college, he taught for several years, achieved his BA after hours, married another teacher, then returned to school for his law degree. On passing the bar, he began lawyering in Guelph, where he continued to practice mainly criminal law till just recently. At the time, he and his family lived in Fergus, near Guelph, in a beautiful old house on a tree-lined street close to a river. When I had a car, I'd drop by from time to time.


On one such occasion, a warm summer evening after sunset, Knuck and I grabbed a beer from the fridge and strolled on over to the river, where we walked to the centre of a pedestrian bridge and stood chatting for a while in the quiet of night.


Though not our practice to exchange views of one another, in the course of discussing how long we’d been friends, Knuck said that what he'd always liked about me was that I never wanted anything. Having always liked Knuck but never wondered why, and feeling obliged to respond in kind, I said that what I’d always liked about him was that he never made a fuss when I got up to leave. A stranger might have thought I was joking. Anyone might have. But Knuck didn’t laugh, so I think he understood what I meant. 


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WHAT I LIKED ABOUT HIM

The little voices are at it again, one insisting I apply my tax rebate against a bank loan, the other crying out, “Don’t be stupid! You’re 66! Rent a car, hit the road, and don’t come back till the money’s gone!” After some initial indecision, common sense prevails and, within days, I’m heading north in a rented Toyota. (July 2007)


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TIME AWAY 

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WHISTLER IN AISLE ONE !!!

Except for a few months, I lived the first eighteen years of my life across the road from Georgian Bay at the edge of a small town built at the mouth of a river, a town called Meaford. Among its amusements were three bridges, a swimming hole, rock bass, fishing boats, an apple house, a woolen mill, an old dam, a stone dock, a lighthouse, a suicide hill, river trails, the Sisters*, the clay banks, ball teams, hockey teams, pool halls, soda fountains, a movie theatre, a library, a market square, auction sales, band concerts, dances, fall fairs, a downtown-Saturday-night, no computers and, for the most part, no television. Few are so fortunate.  *two big rocks offshore