Funny how everything comes in bunches. Wildlife out here, for one thing. Far from enjoying a steady stream or even trickle of animal traffic, we’re dealing with a feast-or-famine situation: Weeks of nothing, the sky swept clear of birds, the snow bare of tracks except for the eternal rabbit trails. And then it suddenly becomes impossible to go anywhere without seeing moose; long ears poke up everywhere. For good measure, wolves show up, lynx and ravens, even some caribou and a wolverine. It lasts for a week or two, and then again – nothing.
Our household items have decided to follow suit, one thing merrily quitting after the other. It all started with the little chainsaw spitting out its muffler bolts the other day. A sudden high-pitched whine, and the log I was bucking up appeared to grow a couple of slim branches in rapid motion. I spat out a thing or two myself as I shut off the saw and snowshoed back to the cabin to get its more co-operative, though elderly cousin. Thanks to Sam’s credo, which I scoffed at as pure wastefulness in the beginning, we have two of everything. Over the years, I’ve had to eat my words many times and this was to be the dawn of another humble pie episode.
It turned out that the loose muffler bolts heralded nothing bad for the chainsaw – a simple matter of tightening, and the saw was recommissioned, eating its way through firewood again the next day. But it wasn’t too pleased to be dismissed as the harbinger of breakage so quickly. The sprocket in the chainsaw bar seized up next. Since we have two of everything, we gamely got the other bar out, only to find that we have no chain for it – it being longer than the old one.
And that’s when we were off to the races. In hindsight, of course, we should have delayed cleaning our water filter. We probably should have gone to bed for a couple of weeks and laid low instead of tempting fate. But we didn’t, and so I found myself suddenly holding a two-part filter cartridge where before it had been just one. Cheap and shoddy construction, I fumed, glaring at the silicone that had attached the plastic base to the cartridge. Luckily, the filter works with two cartridges, so it was a simple matter of plugging the hole which the deceased cartridge left in the housing with something non-toxic and waterproof.
That was days ago, and after experimenting with earplugs, wood slivers and a cork, all of which leaked, we’ve resigned ourselves to a filterless life. Also, there have been other things to worry about, now that the EHIBE (Everything Happens In Bunches Effect, to give it its full scientific name) was unleashed in full force. My netbook quit, refusing to spring to life as it usually does dutifully and beautifully when I press the “on” button. Its power light glowed, but nothing else, except a certain desperation in my eyes. I pulled out the power cord, putting an end to its suckling energy from the battery bank – nothing. A short dance over the keyboard, a light smack on its bottom – nothing. I ripped the battery out, killing the power light, and consoled myself that we still have its co-operative, though elderly cousin. As luck would have it, reinserting the battery made the netbook return to its senses.
In the meantime, the pilot light in the oven of our propane stove called it quits. The sneaky thing: we never keep it lit because it wastes a lot of propane. So it came without warning that when the bread dough was prepared and heating up the wood cookstove was voted against because of the already sweltering temperature inside the cabin, we suddenly found ourselves without a working oven. The string of expletives, well-worn and familiar by now, uttered with more defeat than rage, found its way out of our mouths yet again. Sam’s arm disappeared into the bowels of the broiler, performed an operation with a wire brush and tweezers, hopefully wielded the lighter – nothing. It was not to be. And so I went to fire up the propane stove’s co-operative, though elderly cousin, our trusty and rusty wood cookstove, and bake the bread in its oven.
I don’t know if we’re through this streak of EHIBE break-downs yet or if there’s more to come. It has let me gain a new and lasting appreciation of elderly cousins, however.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.