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Patrick A Granfors

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Short Stories
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  Salamander Thanksgiving
by Patrick A Granfors
Monday, January 31, 2011
Rated "G" by the Author.

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Recent poems by Patrick A Granfors
•  Queen of Broken Hearts
•  Somebody Blinked
•  Drink About It
•  Bend
•  Dominos
           >> View all 528

I got an email yesterday from a long lost co-worker, fellow college student at Spartieville, and friend. We worked together on the Alaska Pipeline in the mid 70ís. He thought it might be a good idea to post something in that regard. That was damn near 40 years ago but some things have emerged. So here goes: For R.C Henkel

Sometimes we worked the production line, sometimes in the bush on surveys. For those who donít know, a salamander is a portable heater resembling a skinny top hat that functions much like a burning barrel you might find on an urban street corner. One snowy Thanksgiving Day was spent at a kerosene fueled salamander in the bush eating our cans of Vienna sausages. It wasnít a sad thing just luck of the draw in the work rotation. Back at camp the food was really good.

I was also reminded of all things, porta-potties. Arctic porta-potties. At 40 below things can well, freeze. So the ever ingenious designers actually had propane burners installed to incinerate the waste after each use. We called them atomic turd toasters, and you really needed to be upwind.

Work mates in the midnight sun

Contact lost for years

Made me think of Bushy Bob’s

Reindeer pizza and beers


Roaring back to base camp

After closing down the bar

Middle of the night but it’s still light

Fifty miles was not too far


Back in time for dayshift

Hear the drill rigs grind

Using geotechnical options

When an ice wedge we would find


We’re stuck at this location

Now the wind has changed direction

I’m downwind from a toaster

This could cause an insurrection


Work mates under the northern lights

Forty five below

Seventy hour work weeks

Standing in crackling snow


Bunny boots and Parkas

Designed to keep out frigid air

Still the arctic cuts right through

Our thermal underwear


Skinny dipping in warm spring’s thaw

Along the rivers gentle grade

Baking salmon on the shore

On a cook fire we had made


Ice fog in the winter

Mosquitoes in the spring

Provided inspiration

For the engineers to sing


Young men without companionship

Sang these lyrics about this flaw

“Give us a chance to use the lance

And the permafrost will thaw”









Copyright 2011 Patrick Granfors



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Reviewed by Christine Tsen 2/2/2011
These are precious re-created memories, full of blind determination and courage! My nephew lives there and gets around by way of hilicopter each day.
Reviewed by Chip Bergeron 2/1/2011
Great poem OPatrick....I will admit I'm glad it was you and not me....

Chip Bergeron
Reviewed by Richard Henkel (Reader) 2/1/2011
I am truly honored by your dedication as are all our former coworkers with ARSC's fightin' Arctic Engineers. Your memory is as clear as those crystalline, moonlit Arctic nights. Your Salamander reference brought back one of my memory snapshots from fieldwork outside of Galbraith Lake camp. We observed the Salamander slowly melt its way through 2 feet of the frozen snowpack to reveal a tiny microcosm of the grass, moss, berries and tiny arctic flowers that had been literally frozen in time since the previous fall. Images like that stick with me while the tons of geoengineering details fade away. Thank you so much for your heartfelt poetry about our times together on the frontier so long ago. Your "Big Job" Buddy, RC
Reviewed by Ronald Hull 2/1/2011
I am green with envy. You were at the 'cutting edge' experiencing adventurer I would die for.

Thanks for the company solutions. In Wisconsin, we got constipated rather than visit the outhouse at 40 below. No toasters, just waited for the stinky spring thaw. While deer hunting, a dump could lure a curious buck while freezing the butt.

Reviewed by D Johnson 2/1/2011
Quite a visual, especially the turd toaster....

Reviewed by Annabel Sheila 2/1/2011
Fascinating journey, Patrick! And your delightful, ever-present humour made it lots of fun too....

Reviewed by Richard King 2/1/2011
Patrick, I always wondered what AT&T really stood for, thanks for the education. You've done your buddy proud. Dick
Reviewed by Mr. Ed 2/1/2011
kerosene fueled salamander in the bush eating our cans of Vienna sausages and atomic turd toasters!

You paint quite a vivid picture, my friend. Although I've camped in some rough and primitive and cold places, none of them were as frigid as you describe.

And I will surely remember Atomic Turd Toasters, as I await the Blizzard of 2011, today. They say we may get 2 feet of snow, brutal 50 mph arctic winds, and white-outs.
Reviewed by Peter Schlosser (Reader) 1/31/2011
did you ever know ken fromm by any chance? ex-head of atlantic richfield, worked up in alaska on the pipeline back then too. this is a great piece patrick, must have been quite an experience and astoundingly beautiful.
Reviewed by Ed Matlack 1/31/2011
Upwind of YOU is probably BETTER still...;-)e
Reviewed by Mark Lichterman 1/31/2011
Great story with a fantastic long backward look put to rhyme yet. Truly interesting, humorous and educational... in a way that most of us need not know.
Reviewed by Karen Vanderlaan 1/31/2011
i like this-a very real look at some history-thanks for sharing!
Reviewed by Paul Berube 1/31/2011
Very, very well done, Patrick.

(Holiday: Thanksgiving)
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