DNA and a dogged detective

Longtime Alberni reporter Shayne Morrow (left) reveals the pioneering role an RCMP officer played in the early use of DNA when he solved an old case of rape and murder. Reviewed by Kathryn Neilson. FULL STORY

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#78 Born to be wild

March 21st, 2018

Hi Darlin’:

Before we get started, let’s just note that I’m trying hard to overlook the fact it’s the anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. It isn’t easy to overlook something which caused the death of approximately a million humans, most of them unarmed civilians.  I didn’t understand or agree with the invasion at the time it happened and all these years later I still don’t agree. Some now call it a mistake, others say it’s a blunder, but, really, for some of us it is proof that the International Court picks and chooses who and what it will denounce. It comes so closely to another anniversary some of us remember with horror, the slaughter of Mei Lai…

But the sun is trying her best to shine, and the birds are still feasting, there are green nubbins showing on the lilac bush. My neighbours’ cat is coming for her hand-out. So, I’ll try and concentrate on nature instead. The kittens on the pussywillow tree are making pollen and the silvery pelts have turned golden. But so far there is no sign of other bees besides the bumblybees…

That’s worrying… What are we going to do if we lose the bees? I tell myself maybe they’re just feeling dozey, staying in their hives, yawning, stretching their legs, fussing with their wings, waiting because they know there is going to be one last nasty cold snap…

Lord knows it was cold enough last night! I wakened around two-thirty’ish and thought Egad… got up long enough to grab my housecoat and drape it over my side of the bed. Got back into the still-warm spot and before I had a chance to yawn or even to get comfortable my bed-mate was snuggling closer, closer…

MerryMary, the pug was feeling chilly, too. I gave her one little bit of the housecoat and she murbled her appreciation. MerryMary’s “murble” is this odd sound she makes when she’s particularly appreciative… It’s indescribable. It sounds nothing at all like “murble” but that’s the term I’ve invented for it.

Lately I’ve been crittersitting, sharing space with FancyNancy for a couple of weeks. Her people went to Saskatchewan and didn’t take her with them. FancyNancy is a very expensive, elite type of cat. I’m told she is a “Bengal.” Well, go ahead, ask me if I’d pay two thousand dollars for a three-month-old kitten!

Two weeks with FancyNancy has educated me, at least to the point where I know I wouldn’t have a Bengal if it was given to me free of charge! Relax, I’m not going to burden you with the litany of woe; I was so happy to see her go yesterday that the feeling of bliss still buoys my mood. She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone, and I’m sure my arm will heal.

Years ‘n’ years ago I shared home with a gorgeous calico we called “Slipper.” A paragon of cathood! Slipper came on our daily Therapeutic Perambulation, walked beside me with her tail up in the air, pacing with that regal kiss-my-back cat stroll, ignoring the leashed dogs and every once in a while making this contended little “chirp” of a noise, her “aren’t we having fun!” sound.

And often she would leave us and dart into the tangle of blackberry mess at the top of the road. I’m sure she massacred mice, voles, and, sadly, probably songbirds as well. And one day she didn’t come home. I looked for her, searched for her, called her, wept, snivelled, and snottered for a couple of weeks before I accepted the fact she had almost undoubtedly become lunch for the cougar who shows up from time to unspecified time.

That was years ‘n’ years ago. Well, maybe two months ago I looked out my front window and… there was SLIPPER! I almost burst into tears! I was SO happy! Except it was really Slipper. It turned out to be “Patches” and she lives nearby with a very nice fifteen-year-old girl named Liz, one street over from me. There is no chance of petting Patches, and certainly no hope of picking her up and cuddling her. I’m told she barely tolerates Liz.

Patches was born to be wild. Some of us are. But she shows up at least once, often twice a day to explore the offerings. Mostly kibble but sometimes canned meat (oh, I know, it’s mostly road kill and leftovers from the slaughterhouses and we really shouldn’t but we do). I put the offering out in the storm porch, that’s as close as Patches will come…if I were to try to go out and talk to her she’s be gone in a flash… she allows me to watch her through the sliding glass door. MerryMary no longer has total fits of fury about the invasion. At least now I can walk around my own place without suddenly have a Bengal cat hanging from the leg of my jeans.

I have never fallen into the trap of raking leaves. I wasn’t sure what the reason was for fallen leaves, but I saw no reason to rake them up, put them in a bright orange trash bag and leave them to be taken off by the garbage truck. However, my daughter has explained it all to me. If you have ANY questions of any kind, the way to get them answered is to have a daughter. But you can’t have mine!

Bugs and beetles and all such creepycrawlycritters lay eggs under the fallen leaves. The leaves act like blankets for the eggs, protecting them from winter cold. Then, when Spring (bless her) arrives, the eggs hatch into little wormytypes… and the birds arrive back from their long migratory flights and feast on the bounty of protein. Yay! My yard is a seething sea of birds backs, bobbing up and down as they peck up the squirmywormies.

I’ve always got my bird book handy. Trouble is, living birds are sort’a roundy and the pictures in the book are undeniably flat so it’s not always easy (or even possible) to tell what type of bird is feasting in the side yard.  Even if I can’t identify them, I can still enjoy watching them, busy, busy, busy.

Fitznoodle came over and in only three hours got most of my garden boxes ready. That’s one of the down sides to getting “old”… I can’t do things I used to enjoy doing. So, I’ve had several talks with myself and seem to be starting to accept the idea that I can at least enjoy what I am still able to do.

I have a few things blooming in the storm porch, and that cheers me. Hellebore, one of the prime promises of better days and nights to come. It’s in the storm porch and I will, eventually, move her to the garden box. Just not yet. I haven’t sown seeds, yet. I’ll wait until there’s less chance of frost.

The bees might know more than I do.

__

Anne Cameron grows pussywillows on the western edge of Vancouver Island. She received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia in 2010. Her 23 books include Daughters of Copper Woman, the bestselling work of fiction ever written about B.C. and published from within B.C. She has banished herself to Tahsis, a small town not far from Friendly Cove where the shenanigans called British Columbia all began.

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