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Introduction by Howard White and Excerpt

A part from the odd rusting anchor on display in Vancouver and the lantern from the old Trial Island lighthouse in Victoria's Bastion Square, British Columbia is oddly devoid of maritime monuments for a province with one of the world's great coastlines. British Columbians can't be accused of wearing their marine heritage on their sleeves, but just the same, it's there interleaving the pages of our lives.

When Claus Botel brought his family from Germany to northern Vancouver Island in 1913, their homesteading tale turned into a story of sea adventure when their small boat shipwrecked them on Cape Cook. Botel's granddaughter Ruth Botel tells the whole story starting on page 46. Even a story of a determined tax collector pursuing an artless dodger turns into a boating story when it takes place on the coast and the scofflaw is a coastal gyppo. The taxman can only track him down by chartering Hal Hammond's gas boat out of Pender Harbour, as Hammond's son Dick recounts in "Svendson and the Taxman" (Page 19.)

With so much of our commerce dangling or floating over water, it should not perhaps be so surprising that BC would emerge as a leader in certain technologies like the self-dumping log barge, whose origins David Conn traces in "Booting the Big Ones Home" Nor, given the typical west coast disregard for authority, should it be surprising that in 1963, when three hungry Vancouver scuba divers were told their idea of building the first commercial salvage sub was beyond the capability of all but the world's largest hi-tech manufacturing corporations, they went ahead and tried to do it on a shoestring. What is a little surprising, as Tom Henry describes in "Pisces Ascending" (page 7) is that Al Trice, Don Sorte and Mack Thomson should succeed so brilliantly, establishing BC as a world leader in submersible technology.

One way to get the saltwater boiling in west coasters' blood is to threaten the coast's much beloved lighthouses, as several automation-minded politicians have found to their sorrow. So it shouldn't be surprising that the one event of World War Two still being hotly debated on the west coast is the alleged Japanese shelling of Estevan Point lighthouse. In his book Keepers of the Light (Harbour Publishing 1985), lighthouse historian Don Graham contended that the shelling was a hoax perpetrated by the Canadian government to rally support for conscription. In this issue, Lasqueti Island writer Douglas Hamilton returns fire.

Few people carry around with them a stronger sense of the role the sea plays in our lives than commercial fishermen. Hank McBride went to work in the fishing fleet in 1937 when he was fourteen and still does relief duty as skipper on some of the coast's larger draggers and packers. He loves to tell stories, and the stories he tells bear witness to a free and unfettered sea-going lifestyle that has now all but vanished from the coast, as Michael Skog recounts on page 68.

Here on the BC coast, nobody thinks to make a big noise about the sea and its influence on our lives. But when we stop to think, its all around us.


Father was working on his boat at the dock in Pender
Harbour. This wasn't at all unusual. The owner of an old wooden boat can, if he wishes, spend most of his spare time at this, and Father was fussy about maintenance. The year, probably 1919. Perhaps 1920.

The Cassiar had docked and was loading freight and passengers. Immersed in his repair job, Father paid little attention, until there came the hard sound of leather soles, on wood. He looked around to see a stranger approach and stop. A cadaverous man, middleaged, neatly dressed in dark suit and darker tie, a raincoat folded over his left arm. He wore severelooking rimless glasses and peered through them at the young man rather as if he were examining a bug that was new to him.

"Are you Mr. Hal Hammond?" he asked, in a soft smooth voice.

Father said thoughtfully, "It could be two men you're looking for. One of them's known as Hal; then there's a Mr. Hammond. . ."

The man regarded him with an icy stare.

"You were pointed out to me as being Mr. Hal Hammond. Now, what kind of foolishness are you up to? Are you, or are you not, he?"

"You look like a government official to me" said Father coolly. "A lawyer friend of mine told me never to admit anything to government officials. But just supposing I was this Hal Hammond, what would you be wanting him for?"

"Lawyers!" sniffed the other contemptuously. "A useful tool but they need watching. As to why I am here, I need transportation and I was told that you could supply it."

"I think" said Father cautiously, "that could be arranged. just where do you want to go?"

"There is a man called Svendson, who operates, I believe, a logging camp somewhere in the vicinity. I wish to see him on government business. Do you know his whereabouts?"

"I know Svendson. He has a camp up in the inlet. I can take you . . . Take about two hours to get there, though."

Time seemed no worry to the stranger. He agreed readily to the fee, and before long, they were heading up the channel toward Jervis Inlet.

When some time had passed in silence, Father tried a few conversational gambits. They generated only the minimum response. But then the other produced one of his own.

"This Svendson, does he have a profitable business?"

Father considered this, and answered that he really couldn't say.

After a few more tries, the man tried another tack. "A nice boat you have here. Does it bring you much income?"

Some instinct of self-defence stirred in Father's mind, as he hedged, "Oh, I make just enough to pay for fuel and repairs"

The stranger looked dubious. "Then it would not appear to be worthwhile to do it, if that's the case?"

"No," agreed Father blandly," probably not worthwhile. But it's a living"

There was a long silence as the man turned this over in his mind a few times. His long face assumed the expression of one who has found something in his soup, but hasn't quite decided to call the waiter. He sat there silently, and Father made no more attempts to communicate, so the rest of the trip was made in silence.

At last, Svendson's A-frame came into view, and Father steered in toward it. An A-frame consists of a couple of long trees, usually on a float. They are tied together at the top, but spread wide at the bottom to give stability. Cross braces make it look more or less like an A, and support wires - guy lines - hold it upright. A heavy wire goes from a machine on the float, through a pulley on the peak of the A, and up the sidehill into the woods. Many of the steeper parts of the coast were logged in this way. A-frames can be quite efficient. Svendson's was not one of these.

There was no sign of activity as they eased into the float alongside Svendson's old boat, but as he was tying up, Father saw the man they were looking for appear out of the shed that held the machine. He came across the logs to greet them, wiping his hands on his clothes as he came. Of average build, he was balding, but made up for that with an unusually thick moustache. He wore the usual caulk boots and heavy pants with wide braces, but no shirt, only the grey Stanfield underwear worn by most loggers. This was almost as much hole as cloth, and out of the holes on his chest stuck tufts of hair of the same light brown as that on his lip and scalp. There was black grease smeared on his head and face, and two broad strips of it on his chest where he wiped his hands.

"Hello, Hal." He put out blackened hands. "Guess what I've been doing. Machine's down again." Looking at the man in the expensive suit, he said, "Who's your friend? I'm afraid I'm not hiring at the moment.' His eyes twinkled as he almost grinned.

Father, out of his passenger's line of sight, rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders eloquently, as the man made his way carefully across the deck of Svendson's boat and onto the big logs of the A-frame float.

Safely there, he said with some dignity, I assume you are Mr. Svendson? I am not applying for employment, sir. My name is Turner." He held out his hand, but on seeing the state of Svendson's, withdrew it protectively to his pocket. "I represent the government of Canada. To be more specific, the income tax department."

(Income tax had been imposed in 1917 as a wartime measure, with the assurance that it was only temporary. It is said that people actually believed this!)

Svendson withdrew the proffered hand.

"Income tax? What do you mean, income tax?"

"You should know, Mr. Svendson, as a businessman, that you, and all people earning over a certain amount of income, are required to pay a tax on it, as of 1917."

"Ay be not busynessman, ay be logger. Ay make no money, ay pay no tax." Svendson had suddenly acquired an accent. As Father well knew, this was a device that allowed Svendson to misunderstand whenever he chose, and thus give him time to think. He had honed it to a fine point on persistent creditors.
The tax man said patiently, "That may be so, Mr. Svendson, but you must file the papers to prove it. There are no papers filed by you since the tax was imposed. None at all"
Svendson shook his head. "Ay file saws. Ay not file paper. Vat do you mean, file paper?" He squinted his eyes and pursed his lips, which made him look like a caricature Swede.

"Mr. Svendson, I must remind you that this is a serious matter. I am here to audit your books, and to determine how much money you owe the government. Now, show me your office, and we can begin"

"Office?" countered the Swede. "Vot do you tink I am, a doctor? Dere is no office, no books - unless you vant my girlie magazine - and I owe the government notting! Vat has de government done for me, that I should give dem money? Vill you tell me dat, Mr. government man?"

"Why, there is the army to maintain, for one thing. A war is very expensive you know."

"De var is over. For vy do ve need an army? Und dey said de tax vas only till de var vas over."

"Well" said the other firmly, "Im afraid it's going to last a bit longer. The government needs money to help the country become prosperous. And there's the Police, the mail service, the roads..."

'I saw a policeman vunce," mused Svendson, "at a dance. He was drunk. I haf no car, and for de mail, I buy stamps. Und, if de government takes people's money, how can dey be prosperous?"

"But you may want to buy a car, and then there will be roads to drive on."

"Den I vill pay de gas tax, vot is for to build de roads."

By this time, the accountant, having forgotten his original purpose, was now determined to justify his employers. He said earnestly, "Mr. Svendson, you must realize that running a country costs a great deal of money. There are construction works; the parliament buildings, for example. There are a great many government employees who must be paid. People must pay taxes, Mr. Svendson."

But Svendson was having none of it. "By Yeesus, you are right about costing money! Vat do dey need big rock houses for to sit in anyhow. And dere's a lot too many
people vorking for de government should have an honest job, instead of going around bothering oder people vot are trying to earn a living."

This rather low blow had its effect. His opponent flushed, and went on the attack.

"People must pay taxes," he insisted hotly. "You can't just take from the country, Mr. Svendson, you must also give something to it." But Svendson was more than ready for this one.

"I pay stumpage tax on every tree, Mr. Turner, and yust about everyting I buy, the government's got a finger in it somehow. And as for de country, vy vere vould it be witout people like me? De towing boats get vork, de carpenters vot use de vood get vork. Und nailmakers, und hardvare, und everybody. Und vot do I get?" He put a finger in one of
the holes in his Stanfields, and out another. "Dese here are my best pair. De other is a bit vorn. And now, ven I make a bit of money to keep, you say dey are going to take some of it away!"

The tax man, taken aback perhaps as much by the decrepit state of Svendson's underwear as by its owner's rebuttal, actually appeared to be sympathetic. "But you should realize, Mr. Svendson, that you are not very likely to have to pay a large amount of tax. In fact, I would estimate that it is not at all likely to exceed ten percent of your net income. You surely must admit that one dollar out of ten is not very much to give for the running of your country."

It was the wrong thing to say," laughed Father. "Up until now, the talk had been sort of theoretical. Not real, but now it was down to earth; it was real dollars that were coming out of Svendson's pocket. Out of every ten dollars, he was going to lose one, if the tax man was right!"

Svendson blinked with shock. He lost every trace of accent as he said in disbelief, "Ten percent! Ten dollars out of every hundred! Do you mean to stand there and tell me that out of every thousand dollars that I make, they are going to take away one hundred?" As the sums mentioned grew larger, Svendson's voice grew louder, more incredulous.

"Well, not exactly," said the gaunt man in his precise way. "The rate rises with the amount earned -" Then, seeing Svendson's face, he added hastily, "but there is a tax-free minimum, you know."

But Svendson was considering something, and didn't appear to have heard the last bit. "Do you mean to say that some big shot banker that makes a million dollars will have to pay more than a hundred thousand dollars of it to the government?"

The accountant actually smiled at such naivete, an expression that ill suited his long cadaverous face. "Oh, well, Mr. Svendson. We must be realistic about these things. The wealthy have resources that are not available to people like us"

Svendson nodded thoughtfully. "Yes," he murmured. "I thought so. And what will happen, Mr. tax man, if I don't pay these taxes?"

The other man looked shocked at such a heretical notion. "Why, they will seize your goods, all you own. They will take your machine there, and your logs. You could even go to jail!"

Svendson nodded again, and appeared to come to some decision. "Wait there' he said, with the air of one who has been relieved of a burden. I'll be right with you. I just have to call my two men."

He turned and went over to the shed, from which a piercing whistle sounded. A shout from up on the hill replied. There was a slight delay, then he reappeared, carrying a battered suitcase. He was now wearing a shirt. "I'll just be a minute. I have to tell the men what's going on, then I'll be ready to go"

"Go, Mr. Svendson? Where are you going?"

"Why, to jail, of course" He waved his hand comprehensively. "She's all yours. Tell the government they can have it, every bit of it. It's not worth a thing. The engine won't run, the lines are shot and the timber's rotten; I've got no money, so I guess it's jail." He seemed quite cheerful about the prospect, rather like someone heading out on a picnic.

"Now, wait a moment, Mr. Svendson. I'm sure you are being too hasty. This isn't at all necessary, you know."

But Svendson had made his mind up.

"I want to go to jail," he insisted. "I need a rest." He held out his hands. "I work my fingers till my hair falls out, and what for? So's someone can take the little bit of money I put by."

"But, ten percent, maybe less, it's not so much to get all excited about."

"Only ten percent, you say. But just look here, Mr. tax man. After a working man has paid for all he needs, about all he has left over is ten percent of what he makes, so what you are asking for is really one hundred percent, and I am not going to pay it!" Svendson's mood had changed. He was now waving his arms and shouting, causing the other to look nervously behind him, making sure of the path back to the boat.

"Take me to jail!" shouted Svendson, red-faced. "I insist you take me to jail. Three meals a day and no worries. A roof that don't leak and no damn engines to break down. I want to go to jail!"

By this time the accountant had made his way across the cluttered deck of Svendson's boat to the comparative safety of Father's. He said, low-voiced but urgently, "Hurry, let's get out of here, the man's gone crazy. You don't know what he might do. Hurry up, he may come after us!"

Svendson was now on the deck of his boat, still shouting that he wanted to go to jail, that the government could have everything.

"Wait for me," he pleaded, as Father shoved off. But he seemed oddly slow in covering the short distance to Father's boat. Then Father shoved the clutch in, and they glided swiftly away as the boat gathered speed. The tax man's back was turned, and he stared resolutely down the inlet to where lay civilization. Father looked back. Svendson was standing on the deck of his boat, waving happily. There was a big grin under the bushy moustache."

Dick Hammond is the author of Tales From Hidden Basin (Harbour Publishing, 1996). "Svendson and the Tax Man" was excerpted from Dick Hammond's second collection of tales, Haunted Waters (1999).