Northern Lights, Saskatchewan
The Canadian Tundra 1975
Danny Jones was the son of a miner in Northern Lights, Saskatchewan. This small fly-in mining community was off the grid before the phrase “off the grid” had meaning. The main recreation of the residents of Northern Lights, besides hangin’ out in the pool hall or the beer parlor, was racing dogsled teams. Northern Lights was a town for real men.
Danny’s father Thomas Jones was a transplanted Welsh miner. The Canadian Uranium Mine called him to the frozen north. He crossed the Atlantic with his wife Sarah, and his newborn male child Daniel. Danny’s early years were unremarkable for a child growing up in a mining town. But he did grow up to be a normal Canadian boy, with normal Canadian boy inclinations.
Schooling as such was never a fit for Danny. Besides, he planned to be a miner like his dad so he really saw no use in striving for a High School Diploma. But Danny was a very social boy, and the school was his playground.
One day, Danny reached high school – Grade 9 of the 12 year program offered by the Saskatchewan Department of Education. Danny loved Grade 9 because now he could take Shop Class doing some carpentry and some auto mechanics. Danny was good at that.
Unfortunately, the other school subjects had less appeal for Danny. After two years in Grade 9, Danny had had enough schooling so he decide to retire. He was not old enough to join the workforce, and he was too young to leave his family. Therefore Danny stayed in Northern Lights and did what he could to fill his days.
Many of the teachers at school were relieved that they were no longer forced to torture Danny with academics. Mr. Huckaluck the Shop teacher was sorry to see Danny go because Danny was his best student. So after Danny dropped out of school, he continued to hang out at the Shop class.
One other aspect of school life remained important to Danny. He loved school dances. Not that Danny was particularly fond of dancing as such, but he enjoyed having a beer or two with the boys and hangin’ out. It was on one such occasion that Danny Jones was to become immortalized.
He must have had several beers that night, because Danny was generally a very respectful young man. On this occasion Danny, while standing outside the High School Gym sipping on a beer, decided to take a joy ride in the 1957 two-door hardtop Chrysler New Yorker, owned by Mr. Petersen, the school principal. You see folks in Northern Lights never took the keys out of their vehicles. In an isolated mining town, there is really nowhere to go. So the thought of stealing a vehicle never occurred to anyone.
Danny knew this car well. In fact he had done some work on restoring and customizing this Chrysler classic under the tutelage of Mr. Petersen himself. Mr. Petersen and Danny had a common bond – both had loved shop class more than anything else that the educational curriculum had to offer. Danny had even driven the car on occasion, when Mr. Petersen asked him to drive down to the Government of Canada Post Office to pick up the school mail.
But this was different. In a somewhat inebriated state, Danny felt a profound sense of freedom sitting behind the wheel of this magnificent vehicle. The motor roared and the gas pedal floated on air. Danny cruised the Main Street of Northern Lights repeatedly, as he sipped his beers and occasionally chugalugged.
It was in the middle of one such chugalug, that Danny spilled some beer down the front of his shirt and felt the liquid on the seat beneath him. Of course Danny looked down at his wet crotch and by the time he looked up again, a very solid street light post was coming right at him.
Danny swerved to avoid head-on impact, but unfortunately grazed the post. The Chrysler classic rose on two wheels and rolled over. Fortunately, the car rolled in slow motion and the formidable roofline of the sturdy Chrysler prevented Danny from being crushed. In fact, the driver door popped open upon impact, allowing Danny to simply roll out of the vehicle, with his twelve pack of Bohemian beer.
When Constable Ericksen of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived at the scene (in a police car, not on horseback) Danny was leaning against the upturned Chrysler, finishing his beer. Now the officer knew Danny well, and Constable Ericksen was not averse to lecturing Danny on the finer points of proper behavior.
“Danny, what the hell are you doing?” he began. “You have done some crazy things, but this . . .” The constable shook his head in dismay. Danny stared blankly as Ericksen continued, “What do think your parents are going to say about this?” Pausing for effect, “What do you think Mr. Petersen is going to say about this?” And finally, because all profundities come in threes, the constable concluded, “What do you think the Magistrate is going to say about this?”
Constable Ericksen was feeling very pleased with the effect of his speech. Danny stood up straight, weaved a bit, took yet another sip of beer, belched subtly, and replied, “Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.”