befreeyourself - The Wheel

The Wheel
The Wheel  (Terry Christenson, Shawn Maguire 2016)

In the summer of 1964 I found myself in the passenger seat of a 442 Oldsmobile desperately trying not to piss my pants as my girlfriends 18 year old brother Davy raced a freight train to highway 559 crossing just north of Nobel. I had answered affirmatively to the question: You want to see what she'll do? In those days the cars were made of steel and they had big motors. As a young man you could buy a '53 Ford Sedan like my first car for $150, and for five bucks take your drivers test, spend another $15 for public liability insurance and be legally on the road at sixteen. Some of us had been driving old trucks on back roads from the age of twelve. I considered myself a good driver and at best a nervous passenger. Davy was a gifted driver. I once saw him carve figure eights in a new snow on a parking lot with his dads' Volkswagen van. Anyway, when we came over the hill driving north on what is now called Nobel Road, we picked up the unmistakeable taillights of the caboose picking up speed ahead of us. Considering we only had about 2k to the crossing it seemed to me that Davy sure took his time pulling alongside the engines which were now doing about 60k and accelerating fast. With about half a kilometre to spare Davy slides it into third and burns rubber. I feel my weight pressing back into the seat as fourth gear engages and suddenly we're doing 130k. The last 300 meters or so before the left turn onto 559, the road veered slightly to the right, away from the rail, and I remembered feeling that we were loosing ground. Suddenly we were sliding into the turn as Davy downshifted to second and burned more rubber across the little bridge and when the tires grabbed the black top we literally flew up the hill and cleared the train by maybe 30 meters. I know it seems like a lot but the train was now doing 80k. Half way up the hill I would have slammed on the brakes. Davy never hesitated. You can't hide your heart in that situation and his heart was huge. Born in September 1946, he got killed Nov 12, 1969 in an early snow with a friend going back to work in the city after deer hunting. A truck driver heading north in the passing lane took them and one other vehicle out and kept going. Every time I get to that hill south of Coldwater I think of Davy.. It could have been any of us. This ones for him. Cheers. t

Produced by Shawn Maguire. Vocals, bass and guitars - Shawn Maguire. Drums - Mackenzie Longpre

befreeyourself - Spirited Horses

Spirited Horses

In July 1992 I found myself peering through an infrared scope intently looking for any object, be it a steel container or an ice burg that might be floating in our pathway. It was one of those nights in the middle of the North Atlantic when there was too much wind for the steering vain so we were down to hand steering and one hour watches. The procedure was simple. Once atop a wave you would lean over the side and quickly study the water between you and the top of the next wave, then duck back in for the ride. The Alberg 30 my two friends and I had left Marblehead, Mass. in two weeks earlier, heading for the Azores, was a very stable vessel with a hull speed of seven knots. This night the knot meter was shaking violently off the scale as we became a five ton surf board sailing down these waves for a hundred feet or more to the bottom of the trough. Once you're seven hundred miles or so off shore you notice the air change and you can actually see the pollution in the sunsets hanging over the continent. Birds like seagulls and terns disappear and soon fish, even flying fish, are the only life you see. When the sailing was good and we approached hull speed some fish would swim large circles off the bow, racing us on every revolution. However, one species of bird stayed with us all the way. It was about the size of a chickadee and a dark grey in colour. During the day we'd see them flying in formation close enough to the moving surface to feed on plankton and if it was stormy they would fluff up and covey together, appearing to float on the surface tension. Imagine a flight pattern like a barn swallow crossed with a butterfly. Anyway, while on my last watch that night, when I retreated to the safety of the cockpit to check the compass heading and ride to the next crest, one of these little birds was sitting beside me. I did a double take as it shook water from wet feathers and then, wings out slightly, just sat there staring straight ahead. I was totally charmed by this beautiful creature to the point of almost missing the top of the next wave. When I finally ducked back in I half expected to see that it had flew off, but actually I was honoured by its presence beside me for several more waves. Eventually when I turned back it was gone. Of all the memories I have of that month at sea, what still remains vivid over the years is the company of that bird being. Myself, a full time climber at the time, had been struggling that third week to get any kind of workout going and was doing a lot of yoga on the bow deck during nice days. You might say my spirited horses were having trouble adapting to a somewhat limited environment and those delicate, yet resilient little guys were flourishing in such a hostile one.

Cheers. t

Spirited Horses was written and performed by Terry Christenson and Chris Hess who is also an experienced sailor. Produced and recorded by Chris Hess.

befreeyourself - No Axe To Grind

No Axe To Grind (Terry Christenson, Steve MacDowall 2014)

In the late summer of 2013 I found myself alone in a fairly wrecked portaledge hanging off the edge of a first of a kind ice breaker oil platform in the Russian Arctic. It was about 11pm and earlier that day the all girl punk rock band Pussy Riot had been given a two year sentence for slandering Putin and church. At 4am that morning our two teams of three climbers, plus drivers and photojournalists had left the Arctic Sunrise in three ribs (rubber inflatable boats)and headed into the exclusion zone, past the coast guard and finally after months of studying photos and speculating there we were at the base of the rig. An hour or so later before security could react we had two ropes up and both teams were out of reach and rigging for the long haul. We were lucky the element of surprise had worked for us because it took the workers another couple hours to get the fire hoses working and by then all six of us were huddled inside the ledges in our dry suits waiting for the inevitable. Twelve hours later we were cutting holes in the floor to try and get the water out as the extra weight was bending the ledge and everyone was starting to get hypothermic from the cold and the inability to move much.

Eventually my partner Basil and I became concerned about Kumi who was South African and even though he was the Executive Directer of Greenpeace International and all tenacity he had very little experience on rope and was starting to turn blue. Somehow the coms people on the Sunrise had talked the rigs captain into shutting the water off so we could evacuate Kumi. As the big rib carrying him disappeared in the direction of the Sunrise apparently the captain got pissed off that someone had escaped and ordered the water on two fold and twenty minutes later when it was Basils turn to repel down to a waiting rib he disappeared in a wall of white salt water.

It now seemed like a very long wait for me while I pondered whether or not I should stay. After all I was Canadian and although I was cold I still wasn't hypothermic. Ego being what it is I found myself entertaining the thought of seeing how long I could hold out but then it dawned on me that I'd be betraying my partners. We had all agreed that we'd retreat together and in all honesty a half an hour later when the rib pulled in under me I was feeling pretty beat up. After seeing Basil trying to exit slowly into the white squall I decided to pull slack and jump in hopes of gaining a little more distance from the impact zone. The ends of the fire hoses were just ten, maybe fifteen feet above me and I knew it would hurt. But what I didn't expect was when the water hit me it started me spinning counter clockwise which was totally disorientating and it took me a few seconds to get my shit together while they had their way with me. Seconds later my feet touched down. My brothers in arms cut the rope above me and now I'm flat on my back looking up at eight or so guys on the walkway who had been having fun abusing us. Three of them were giving me the finger and for some reason it struck me funny.

Although I was totally exhausted I remember smiling and waving to them at which point the guys that weren't giving me the finger waved back. Then the guys giving me the finger glared at the guys waving and they immediately dropped their hands as if caught in the act of being a human being. In retrospect I can honestly say that I had no axe to grind. Cheers. t

My friend Arron Lycett not only produced 'No Axe To Grind' and 'Cliche' but played all the instruments and sang backup. I sang the lead vocals and wrote 'Cliche'.