A Labour of Love

February 13th, 2014

I made a New Year’s resolution to get some more of my own stories written and also to complete some more historical research about my agency and this province and then write about it, either in journals (my cousin is the editor of the British Columbia History journal) or in some magazines. I also wanted to get more organized and systematic when it comes to preparing for and writing my International Game Warden book review column.

When it comes to the latter, it’s not my strong suit. I really don’t like routine and regimentation. They say that’s not good for someone in a paramilitary law enforcement role, but the flexible scheduling that comes with being a game warden helps to balance that.

I’m not what people would refer to as “Type A”, which is allegedly the most common personality type in law enforcement. I’m more of the artistic and spontaneous type. Some might see that as lazy or unmotivated, or at the very least a procrastinator, when it comes to my extracurricular creative endeavors. The reality is that I tend to bite off a lot more than I can chew and I have to be invested in what I am working on.

I finally started researching and writing a story for a regional “game warden” magazine and it took on a life of its own. The problem was that I couldn’t stop looking for more information and writing the story. As they say, my creative juices were flowing and by the time I was done it was a lot longer than I’d expected it would be, and it ate up a substantial amount of my time. That time was supposed to be spent writing this column. I tried to allocate blocks of time to the various articles and projects, but this particular project was so interesting to me that I didn’t want to work on anything else until I’d completed it.

So I finally got it done and was told it was way too long to be a feature in the magazine. It is actually 1000 words longer than the BC Game Department feature that I did for IGW 8 years ago, and that one came in at 12 pages of text. At this point I’m waiting to see if it will become a two or three part feature, will get hacked to pieces, or will just get tucked away and forgotten. It was a labor of love for me, so one way or another it will eventually get published somewhere, in its entirety.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

February 13th, 2014

My latest column in International Game Warden magazine has become quite controversial. After eight years behind the “desk” I must say this is a first for me. I have received two calls and two emails already telling me that they are disappointed in my review, because the author of the book in question was using the book as his personal soapbox to disparage and seek revenge on people who he feels did him wrong. These people are all in support of the people disparaged in the book, and have suggested I should have researched the integrity and character of the author before re-iterating his spiteful comments.

That is not my role as a book reviewer. Book reviews are not research articles. The book, whether it is a work of fiction or non-fiction, is what is being looked at, not the character or past history of the author. This is not investigative journalism. I have to assume that the author is credible and if he states that the book is a work of non-fiction, I have to take that at face value. If I was to research and comment on the integrity of the authors of the books I review, I might soon find myself without any material to review. I review books, not authors.

At any rate, I entirely appreciate and understand their disappointment in me, but I write these reviews primarily as a service to game wardens, and receive very little in the way of compensation. I review books, and occasionally comment on issues that tick me off, that’s it. If I enjoy a book, I say so. If I hate a book, I still try and find something positive about it. I have often thought that what I do for IGW and for the game warden community is a thankless task, and to be quite honest, it was confirmed that it is, at least in this case. On the positive side, these contacts also confirmed that people actually do read what I write.

I will be trying to make amends in my next column, and possibly through a positive article in the magazine, and I have decided that for the first time since I created this website, I will not be publishing the specific controversial book review here, or will publish it with a strong disclaimer. In all likelihood it will remain only within the pages of the magazine, which for the most part is only distributed to current and former “game wardens”. This online version is available to the general public, and I do not feel they need to be brought into this mess.

Does this whole controversy discourage me?  It’s too early to tell.  Right now I am feeling somewhat sick to my stomach, as I do not have very thick skin, and I do care what people think of me and my work.  As you’ll see in a subsequent post, I am not a Type A personality – I can’t just brush this off and say “whatever” – it affects me, and I will do what I can to make it right, and to learn from it.

The rest of the story

September 4th, 2013

So I’m working on my column and looking at a couple of back issues of Iinternational Game Warden magazine and I realize that I have not even read the Summer 2012 issue.  As I am looking through it, I see that my short story “Security Guard” is in it.  I had submitted that story a couple of years ago and was wondering if I’d ever see it in print.  So I give it a read to see what type of editing might have been done to it.  All seems pretty good until suddenly the story just ends.  Just like that.  Wham.  Where the heck is the punch line?  There is a whole paragraph missing at the end that ties it all up and explains all the groundwork I laid.

So if you read the story and thought it was kind of anti-climactic, here it is again, in its entirety, with the missing paragraphs present.

Security Guard

by Gerry W. Lister

I was working as a Conservation Officer in the small northern British Columbia town of Chetwynd.  Another officer and I shared a second floor office above one of the banks in town.  I presume office space in town was hard to come by, so you took what you could get.  They weren’t bad digs, but public access to our office required our clients to pass through the lobby of the bank.  As our district was pretty rough-and-tumble, it was commonplace for us to seize a high volume of rifles and shotguns from hunters who chose to violate the law.  On occasion, after the conclusion of an investigation or court proceedings, we were required to return these rifles to their owners.  One can imagine that the sight of an armed man (very rarely did we apprehend female poachers) walking through the lobby of the bank might be somewhat unsettling to the customers, so the bank required us to carry the firearms to the subject’s vehicle and turn it over to them outside.  This exchange usually occurred on the sidewalk in front of the bank which faced the main street in town.

Although our main duties were law enforcement, we had agreed to assist the Pollution Prevention Branch by maintaining an air quality station on the roof of the building.  The monitoring equipment was accessed through a hatch in the roof.  As this task was usually a quick job, and cursory to our normal duties, we always carried it out in uniform, often times still wearing our revolver on our hip.  From time to time, when the weather was nice, I would stroll around on top of the building to get a top-down view of the town before changing the filter in the roof-top equipment.  There was another two story building beside ours, the top floor of which housed a dentist’s office.  I could clearly see the dental technicians cleaning their patient’s teeth from my vantage point and occasionally I would see one of them glance up at me and smile or wave.

One day I took some time off of work to have my own teeth cleaned at that same dentist’s office and did not bother to change out of my uniform.  The dental hygienist, a friendly and talkative African-American woman, was telling me about recently moving to our small town from New York City of all places.  It was basically a one-sided conversation as my mouth was otherwise occupied with fingers and dental equipment.   After telling her tale of moving to Canada to get away from crime in the big city, she took a long look at the patches on the sleeves of my uniform shirt and a puzzled look came over her face.  She asked me what a Conservation Officer was and I gave her the quick explanation – “we are basically police officers who chase after people who hunt and fish illegally”.   She immediately let out a big sigh of relief.

She then proceeded to explain her unusual reaction.  It seems she had seen my co-worker and myself up on the roof next door on many occasions and had assumed, because the building was a bank and we were in uniform, that we were security guards.  At first she had been impressed with how well guarded the bank was.  She said that she’d never seen any bank that well protected back in the US, even in New York City which is chock-full of criminals, unlike our small northern Canadian town.

She stated that before moving up here she had always heard about how nice and polite we Canadians were, but had recently been thinking that perhaps we were a bit too lenient on our criminals.  She noted that a few days earlier she had looked down toward the front of the bank and had seen me escorting a man, whom she thought was an armed robber, out to his car.  I then turned his gun back over to him, shook his hand, and sent him on his way.  And to top it off, he wasn’t even handcuffed at any point!!  In the city he would have been on his way to jail!

I certainly understood her relief in finding out that my work was not connected to the operation of the bank in any way and I assured her that bank robbers are treated the same in Canada as anywhere else.