GEORGE JOHNSTON, THE OLD ENCHANTER HIMSELF, crafts this gem of a keepsake. Six very short stories puzzle over the meaning of life from the amusing point of view of a beekeeper.
A whiff of skunk in the evening air.
Little as one is inclined to action the whiff demands it.
Out to the hives. The honeyflow has begun and the twilights are bright and long. Grass in front of the bottom boards has been pushed down and pulled aside.
He claws at it, Fred says. Out come the bees to investigate and he eats them. He can thin out a hive like nothing.
Reluctantly I fetch the cage trap and bait it with an egg.
Skunks have their part to play and I regret collisions with ours, for if the skunk takes the bait our both parts become fateful. Skunks have a fearsome weapon with which Fred has had encounters and I not. Supposing I catch a skunk, what then?....
George Johnston was born in Hamilton, Ontario on October 7, 1913. He graduated from the University of Toronto (Victoria College) in 1936 with a B.A. in Philosophy and English. He served for four and a half years with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, as a general reconnaissance pilot in West Africa and as an instructor in the United Kingdom and Canada. In 1944 he married Jeanne McRae and in 1945 he graduated M.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Toronto. He taught English and Old-Norse language and literature at Mount Allison University from 1947 to 1949 and then at Carleton University from 1950 to 1979, continuing on as Professor Emeritus.
To celebrate George's 85th birthday (October 7, 1998), Penumbra Press assembled the festschrift, The Old Enchanter (1999), in which over two dozen writers give testament to the quiet charisma and quick charm of the man—poet, translator, teacher, colleague, and friend.
A Party For a Poet, Winter 2000, Carleton U.