I have a photograph I'd like to show you.

Ed Smith
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It shows OH and me being set upon by two-by-fours, a tarpaulin and inundated by what seemed to us to be about half the water shooting over Niagara Falls on a typical day.

How did that happen? Well, you see it was OH's birthday and …

I'm getting ahead of myself here. You see, it was OH's birthday and Son and I were discussing what we might do for this momentous occasion. After all, it was her 39th. Daughter No. 2 and her family were in Florida (where 14-year-old grandson Nicholas shot a wild boar, "One shot dead centre, Skipper!" — but that's another story) so we could expect no help from that quarter.

Her annual celebration wishes are a mite out of the ordinary. For example, on Mother's Day she likes nothing better than to go collecting buckets of manure for her garden. If we have plenty of horsie poop, we go to a local beach collecting kelp around the ice pans and ballycarters.

For her birthday, OH really loves boiling up in the great outdoors. Bacon and beans fried in a 20-year-old frying pan, together with homemade bread and all washed down with tea boiled up in an old tomato juice can. It's not cold enough or snowing hard enough or blowing strong enough to discourage her from this practice. All our children and many of our grandchildren have red frost rings around their backsides from the accumulated birthday parties of years gone by.

Rain and wind are another matter altogether, especially the kind of rain we had yesterday. It came down in sheets and in buckets for practically the whole day. It was, I assume, left over from the great rainstorms of Central Canada and the continental U.S. of A. If so, there was more left over than we really needed.

So, son and I discussed what we would do about this particular 39th birthday. I thought we might put a fire in the fireplace and do the bacon and beans over that. We've done it before when the power went out with varying degrees of success.

But Son didn't think that would do at all because it wasn't an outdoor fire. She'd say that was fine, but we both knew it wouldn't be. OK, I suggested, how about we drag the barbecue in close to the patio doors and prepare everything over the hot coals from inside. He didn't answer, which meant he was contemplating the situation. That could take some time, so I went to do something else in the meantime.

Son is probably the most creative and ingenious person I know in finding a way to make things work, so I should have known something was going on when some time went by with no word from him. That word finally came in the form of loud hammering from outside. I wasn't disappointed with what I saw when I got to the deck.

He had rigged up a tarpaulin over the patio doors which stretched 10 feet by 10 feet across part of the deck and was fastened to some large birch and aspen tree branches. By the time I got there, he was constructing a kind of support made of two-by-fours to hold up the center of the tarp. He carefully manoeuvred the lumber into place and had himself a space directly underneath about 6 by 6 which was relatively dry. All the while, the rain was coming down like there was no tomorrow.

But he wasn't finished. Daughter No. 2 had given us a couple of years ago one of those steel fire pots about 2 by 2 for having wiener and marshmallow roasts with the kids when the woods were too dry for outdoor fires. Son disappeared to the basement and came back up with a large armful of very dry birch wood.

In short order, he had a fire going worthy of bonfire night. A pound of bacon, two cans of beans in pork and molasses, a large frying pan used multitudinous times for that purpose and a large black tomato juice can completed the scene.

0H was absolutely delighted. Decked out with clothing designed to guard against the scattered gust of rain, we sat around that fire and had a meal fit for a king and, of course, a queen who was having a birthday. Didn't bother us at all that someone looking in from the street and seeing us in that rather curious situation might think we were absolute fools.

Had they looked in at a certain moment in the middle of this party, however, they might have called the police, the fire department and the town rescue vehicle, the one with the jaws of life. Son had gone inside for a moment (to get the desert and birthday cake) when suddenly all hell broke loose. We could hear the structure collapsing before it actually got to us, and we knew that pieces of 2 x 4, followed by a large tarpaulin, followed not long afterwards by tons of water would be raining down upon our helpless and unprotected heads.

And so it happened. But a miracle came with it. One piece of two-by-four missed my head by scant inches, another missed the birthday girl by about the same amount and the water came pouring off the collapsed tarp in such a way that it missed both of us. The whole works likewise completely missed the fire.

When Son rushed out on the deck, cake in hand, to see what was happening, he found us both underneath the structure in helpless laughter, as much from relief at not being brained or drowned as from the situation itself.

Anyway, he soon had the support system repaired and we were able to continue with the traditional opening of gifts appropriate for a 39-year-old woman.

OK, but you can believe the rest of it.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale.  His email address is edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

Geographic location: Niagara Falls, Florida, U.S. Springdale

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