The Walrus 

Bomb That Brush

Renegade retirees


illistration by Jason Whibley

Published in the September 2008 issue of The Walrus

POWELL RIVER- An axe, a machete, and a chainsaw protrude from the backback Neils Voss tosses into a pickup. "My logging camp in a bag," the sixty-seven-year-old quips as he jumps into the back seat. It's 8a.m. on a Sunday spring morning, and a five-truck convoy carrying fourteen seniors starts up a logging road into the rugged hinterland of coastal British Columbia. When the pothold track ends, the occupants don packs weighed down with sledgehammers, weed wackers, awls, and come-alongs, and set out on foot. The Bloody Old Mens's Brigade is on its latest mission: slashingtrails and building a bridge, a floating dock, and a picnic table with a roof.

Two ferries and 135 kilometers northwest of Vancouver, the Upper Sunshine Coast is as close asit gets in Canada to retiree heaven. Mountains draped in lush hemlock and cedar tumble towar the sandy beaches of the Georgia Strait. There are three golf courses, miles of hiking and canoe routes, and, as the name suggests, more hours of sunshine than anywhere else on the BC coast. But that wasn't enough for Tony Matthews back 1987. The Powell River resident, who a couple of years earlierhad leaped at an offer of earlier retirement from the town's downsizing pulp mill, got bored trekking the same trails, and began clearing a four kilometre path through dense bush to his favourite fishing lake. When he needed help building a footbridge over a stream, he called on three retired buddies. Amoung them was a powerhouse named Roger Taylor, who had been master carpenter at the mill for 45 years.

From "An Ode to a Group of Retirees Who Changed My Understanding of Friendship"

Some fifteen years ago, about this time/
Retired and restless men still in their prime,/
Had an idea, the gumption and the grasp,/
To build new trails and bridges that would last.../
It sprung from thoughts to help Powell Riverites,/
And came from the BOMB squad's immense forsight./
As time passed by we used their paths/
And walk with joy our land so vast.
-Helmut Godau, 2004......

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