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  • brent

Canadian Convincer

During our months-long trek around North America back in 1988, both Cameron and I had instruments that gave us comfort.

I brought my guitar.

I plucked its delicate strings at rest stops along various highways.

I cranked out chords in the homes where we stayed - sometimes in the garages of those homes, out of courtesy to our patient hosts.

I serenaded motorists at Rogers Pass in British Columbia after a rockslide forced vehicles to wait; I strummed and hummed as big, yellow dirt-movers pushed boulders off the highway.

I bellowed homegrown melodies into the Grand Canyon. I shudder to think that my 20-year-old voice could still be echoing around in there somewhere, terrifying hikers.

Cameron had an instrument which, if ever played, would have produced a much different tune.

This was his trusty Canadian Convincer - that baseball bat there on his shoulder:

Wedged between the driver's seat and door of that Honda Civic, the Canadian Convincer lay inert but easily-to-grab should the sudden need to wield it arise during our journey.

In mid-December, we almost lost it forever.

Running short of cash, yet knowing we had to be back in Manitoba for Christmas, we needed to partake of the less-expensive gasoline of our mighty neighbor to the south.

At the Windsor-Detroit crossing, the border guard didn't like the cuts of our jibs.

Sure, the little green car we were driving had words and pictures and phone numbers painted all over it, along with a "Lookin' For Love" bumper sticker that probably didn't help.

Sure, we were a couple of rambunctious young Canadian males.

Sure, we did not have had much money left.

So the border agent denied us entry in the great United States.

Surprised - for we had been in the U.S. for many months already and had only "popped out" to see my Mom in Toronto - we asked for his reason. The guard shrugged and said, "Sorry boys - somebody crapped in my Corn Flakes this morning."

He was the authority. He didn't have to provide a reason.

We hurried to another crossing - Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia - to try again.

We confessed, when asked, that yes indeed we had tried to cross in Windsor earlier that day.

They said they would confiscate the car if we ever tried that again. Looking back, it was sure nice of them not to confiscate the car and everything in it right there and then.

So we made our way north to Sault Saint Marie, Ontario hoping to cross into its sister city: Sault Saint Marie, Michigan.

Immediately upon arrival, we told the agent our story: what we were doing and why we were doing it. He told us to park the car, get out, walk inside and sit down in their waiting area.

They were going to thoroughly search our belongings.

What were they looking for? Contraband? Illegal narcotics? Weapons??


Our faithful friend, the Canadian Convincer, would surely be discovered within!

We sat on a plastic settee in the dingy waiting area, nervous knees firing like high-octane pistons.

They sure took their sweet time.

At last, they summoned us outside. That little green Honda Civic looked empty and confused and even violated, poor thing, as we walked toward it.

The guards had extracted all of our stuff and spread it out on the ground - rather predictably, I might add. The chief border guard stood over our belongings like a home plate umpire preparing to call a close play-at-the-plate.

And there it was - the Canadian Convincer - leaning across the neck my hard-shell guitar case, as if on display.

Our hearts pounded.

Well, mine did anyway.

Then he announced we were free to go and said, "Welcome to the United States!"

I tried not to exhale too loudly. Not that we were doing anything wrong, of course, but those guards sure had a way of making you feel like you were.

Well, that's probably some deep-seated distrust of authority of mine speaking - who knows?

Anyway, we took our time putting everything back, then sped off in search of cheap gas, smoother highways, and more of our Capernwray cohorts.

The Canadian Convincer was back where it should be: tucked into its comfortable place between seat and door; heralded but unheeded; necessary but unneeded.

As it turns out, the only objects that smooth length of wood ever smashed were baseballs.

The Canadian Convince, thankfully, never once had to play its brutal melody.

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