By Mel McConaghy
There are times in your life when you don’t know whether to laugh, or cry, because you’re not really sure whether it’s a sad or comical happening. This seemed to be what happened in the life of the ‘Rainbow Swede’.
Now, I don’t recall the Rainbow Swede’s real name, and I don’t think anyone ever told me, because to everyone who ever met him, he was simply, ‘the Rainbow Swede’. He came by his nickname because of a big bow in his back, that was either the result of trying to maneuver his massive height through little door frames for decades (even with the bow in his back he was around six foot six), or some tragic birth defect. The deformity would have been sad for most people, but Rainbow, with his great sense of humor, just laughed it off.
Rainbow worked in different sawmills, in and around Prince George, in the late forties and early fifties, after immigrating here from his native Sweden. My first personal encounter with Rainbow happened in the winter of 1952, when I was just sixteen. I ended up in the Prince George Hospital, in the bed next to him, after my appendix ruptured and had to be removed. Rainbow was there suffering from frozen feet, which caused the removal of his toes. It might have been considered a tragedy to many, but the way he managed to get them frozen, and how he told it, was funny.
The boss at the mill where he worked at that time had asked him to stay in camp over Christmas holidays, to keep the fires in the bunkhouses and kitchen going. ‘Rainbow’ agreed, but only if they left him with a couple of bottles of whisky. He said that after a few days in camp by himself, he started to get lonely, and decided to have a drink of whisky. One led to another, and after filling his belly with rot gut whiskey, he got in his bunk for a little snooze. When he woke from his stupor, the fire had gone out, and he was cold. So, he took another pull from his bottle, pulled the covers up around his neck, and slipped back into alcohol induced sleep.
Well, the bunkhouse blankets were a little short for Rainbow, so the farther he pulled them over his shoulders, the less covered his feet, and as a result, he froze his feet. I can’t recall how, or who rescued him, but I ended up in the bed next to him while he adjusted to his ‘shortened’ feet. Now, you take a man of his forward leaning posture, and cut off about four inches of his size fourteen feet, and you know he’s going to have a problem standing. Through it all, he never stopped laughing. His sense of humor conquered tragedy, and after he mastered his balance problem, he went back to work.
My Life Through a Broken Windshield by Mel McConaghy
Mel McConaghy is a retired trucker and author from Prince George, British Columbia. Mel’s tales are his views of life “through a broken windshield”. They are entertaining and humorous in a folksy style.
Visit Mel’s website at www.melmcconaghy.com