Tasmanian non-devil

Almost a year ago, I reconnected with Richard Osborne Moyer, a man I hadn’t seen since for close to 45 years. We had worked together as farmhands in the early 1970s, but he met a woman from Tasmania, they married, and then disappeared to that island paradise near mainstream Australia.

For those of us of a certain age who never became world travellers, Tasmania evokes memories of the Tasmnian Devil, that whirling tornado of voracious appetite and very modest brainpower who appeared in Loonie Tunes cartoons.

A few things about Richard stood out in my memory from the old days.

His favorite expression was “Excellent!”

He had training as an engineer. Using his specs, we built a concrete bridge on the farm, which we dubbed the Richard O Moyer Memorial Bridge. (That’s how I, notorious for forgetting names, could recall all three of his).

He had worked on an Ellis-Don highrise on Ottawa and every morning at 8:30 a.m., a flower child on the 8th floor of a neighouring apartment stripped for the boys before drawing the curtains.

Don’t ask me what he was doing working on a farm with that kind of background because I don’t know for sure, and I never asked. I do know that, while he had short hair and didn’t do drugs, he had a little hippie blood. He’d backpacked around the world, and he told a marvellous story about hiking up a mountain in Fiji and spending time in a village among people who were still living the pre-modern-history ways.

When we reunited after all those years, one of his questions was about why I used to run in rubber boots. Not a topic from the old days that I was expecting. I told him that when I was 14 going on 15, I became obsessed with running. Because my birthday was in late November, I was a junior for one year longer than most people in my class, and I had qualified for WOSSA in the mile through some fluke of West Elgin District High School scheduling. Over the winter and into the spring, I started running three miles every morning and three miles every night.

I had read in Life magazine about a Russian runner who trained in army boots. He thought that gave him an advantage when he switched to running shoes for a race. I ran in rubber boots for that reason and also because I thought the rubber soles reduced the risk of shin splits when training on the country roads. Guess I continued the practice into my early twenties.

Let’s not confuse this with training that those who truly know what they are doing would recommend. I didn’t exactly make it to the Olympics, and some of my ideas require about the mental capacity of a Tasmanian Devil to execute. I was just answering Richard’s question.

One final note about that Devil. He could be calmed by music, except the bagpipes, which enraged him. A final note for the people in Elgin, like me, with Scotch in the blood.