Monthly Archives: March 2021

“It is positively astounding what warmth and vitality that good fat food imparts!” 

— J. C. Critchell Bullock, on the Thelon River, 24 August 1925, in Letters From The Barren Lands, ed. Carsten Iwers, pub. 2019.  

 The Low-Fat Blues

and uh-one, uh-two, uh-one two three four…

Woke up in camp dis’ mornin’

It was twenty five below,

I shuffled to the kitchen tent

To brew a cup o’ Joe.

Got a long cold day a’ comin’

And I’m gonna need some grub

Some serious keel-o-calories,

(…Aye, there’s the rub.)

‘Cause I’m gazin’ at my choices 

Not likin’ what I see

Is there nothin’ in this frickin’ camp

That packs some energy?

The big milk jug is Skim, emblazoned

“Zero Point Zero Percent!”

In big bold capital letters

Like some weird new compliment.

The yogurt in its plastic tub

Is bright and upbeat too,

But that irksome goose-egg Zero,

Man, this just won’t do.


Gimme fat, gimme grease,

I want nothin’ marked with “Oh.”

Pile it on, spread it thick,

Oh baby, feel the glow.

I’m searchin’ for some fat,

Thick grease is what I crave

To stoke my fires and make some heat

And fuel the workin’ Dave.

Lite Margarine, Lite Cheese, Skim Milk,

Good lord what have they done?

Will they take the fat from butter,

Render bacon “zero” fun?

The human brain is huge, I’ve read, 

And sixty percent fat,

You people need to shake your heads,

And give a thought to that.

(Muttered: While you can still think.)

I step outside, the tundra’s bleak,

The wind is whippin’ strong,

I’m feelin’ pretty desperate 

This day’s clearly startin’ wrong.

But as they say out on the sea,

“Any port in a storm,”

I’m eye-in’ that Canola oil

‘Cause that’ll keep me warm.


I pour three swigs into a pan

Fry up some store-bought bread,

It’s gluten-free, but still there’s hope 

That this will keep me fed.

It sizzles and turns dark and brown,

While that yummy oil soaks in,

I pile on some o’ that strange Lite cheese,

Now I might have a chance to win.

But really it’s a desperate move 

Just desperate, but I’ll try,

I’ll maybe make it through the day, 

And on toward home I’ll fly.

And there, at home, is fat to eat,

Rich trout and butter and bear, 

I’ll try to take it easy,

Once I make it there.

But here in camp, oh man,

It does just make me wonder,

No fat, no cream, no bacon, 

And full winter on de tundra!


Fade to… white. 

Bring up sound of blizzard wind, a distant howling wolf….

So.  (Notice how almost every narrative and interview nowadays, even on the radio, starts with “so?” Drives me nuts.)

So we were flying along this afternoon on about mile 400 for the day, staring out our respective sides of the plane, looking 500 feet down at a trackless expanse of snowy taiga forest northeast of Whati, Northwest Territories.  Dean, my longtime biologist passenger and partner in many a long day of wildlife-survey flying over the past 26 years, said over the intercom, “Dave, you know frogs are not reptiles.”

“Yeah, I know that. Frogs are amphibians.”

“Well, in your blog last week you wrote that they were reptiles.”

“What? I did?”

Yep, I did. Sorry people, frogs are amphibians. I wrote that the amazing cryogenic-wizard wood frogs, Rana sylvatica, were the world’s northernmost reptiles, and of course they are not reptiles, they are amphibians.

Which of course begs the question, what is the world’s northernmost reptile? Quick search-engine visit… drum roll. And the winner is… The viviparous lizard of Europe and Asia.  But how about on this side of the pond?  In North America the red-sided garter snake might be a candidate, living in the very southern reaches of the NWT, near Fort Smith, 200 miles straight south of the Hoarfrost River.  Encyclopedia Britannica, on the other hand, opines that no reptiles occur north of 60 degrees north latitude, in North America.  I know that is wrong, since I have talked to people (again on long boring wildlife-survey transect flights; it’s amazing what topics can come up) who have seen our north-of-sixty garter snakes.

So anyway.  There you have it. Correction published. As we finished up for the day and taxied in from the Whati airport’s snow-packed airstrip, Dean said, “Well guys, not very many moose today, pretty surprising really.  Oh and Dave — moose are mammals.

Bonus frog poem, which was a lot funnier after two or three beers back in college days, delivered by my copain Robert Savignac in a thick Quebecois patois, a la William Henry Drummond, wit’ de ac-cent on de wrong syl-la-ble:

What a won’erful bird de frog are

When he sit, he stan’ almos’

When he stan’, he fly almos’

He ain’t got no sense hardlee

He ain’t got no tail hardlee ee-der

When he sit, he sit on what he ain’ got,