about, but the dog was wisely laying low. Bad news generally takes
a bit of time to reach the intended in such places, and this was
one of those times. “There’s a problem here,”
the customs agent finally intoned. Pete and I sat still, and waited
for him to finish his statement. After flipping through our documentation
yet another time, he said, “You have two of the same copies
of one certificate. “See? This one says Raudi. And so does
The customs agent then asked us to pull over
to the side area, aka purgatory, or that no person land between
Canada and the U.S, that is the place where all those who have messed
up their paperwork are sent. What went unsaid was that we either
needed to produce the right documentation or return whence we came.
No metaphor here, just evidence to support my assertion. The sun
wasn’t shining and it wasn’t cloudy. No man’s
land is just a Godforsaken wilderness. I sat and took in what didn’t
exist. I knew one thing for sure, and this was that this wasn’t
where I intended to spend the rest of my life.
Pete and I went through our metal gray file
box, file by file, me pulling them out, riffling through them, and
then tossing them to him. Got no extra copy – hmmph –
I stopped long enough to chide the poor guy for not checking the
envelope when the federal veterinarian returned it to him five days
before. He’d given it to me at home, and I’d slipped
the manila envelope in the box. At that time, a lot was going on.
Neither of us wrote “Check health certificate papers”
on the list.
Pete went into the building to straighten
out the matter. This, I thought, is hardship. But it isn’t
the kind of hardship that physically hurts. This was the kind of
hardship that hurts mentally. If say, we had to return to Tok, we’d
be majorly inconvenienced. I tried not to think about this and instead
focused on the outer landscape. There was a burn barrel to my right,
and straight ahead, an open trailer with all kinds of personal junk
in it, like a blue foam pad and a funky looking sofa. To the side
of trailer was a fellow, 20-ish, smoking a cigarette, and trying
to look industrious. Three guns had been set up against the side
of his trailer. Oh, I thought, this was the area for ALL who lack
the requisite paperwork. But you’d think someone crossing
an international border with weapons would have their act together.
The horses were growing increasingly more
restless. A sign to my left read “Restrict animals to vehicles.”
It then crossed my mind that I might take Raudi out of the trailer
and head on down the road – after all, her health certificate
papers were in order.
Pete returned and said that he’d left
a message for Dr. Wellington, telling him to fax us Siggi’s
“Could take some time,” Pete said.
“How much time?” I asked.
“I have no idea.”
“Well, let’s give him a few hours,
then if we don’t get a hold of him, head back to Tok.”
I watched, jaw set, as he began rummaging
around for a computer stick, his thought being that perhaps he’d
downloaded it onto the device. If say, Pete had a copy, we could
have the customs agents print it up. No dice. It was not on the
one he had on hand. Pete, bored, went over and inspected the contents
of the burn barrel. He then announced that it contained four cans
of diet soda. So, I thought, this is what people in Purgatory drink.
Pete, undaunted, disappeared for a bit, and
then returned with yet another stick. This one, as it turned out,
had Siggi’s form on it. This time, we both went into the building.
No, we were told, a computer copy of this document wouldn’t
cut it. And they couldn’t print up what we had on hand because
our stick might have viruses on it. Oh well. It was at this point
in time that fortunately, the faxes from the veterinarian came through.
It seemed to me that the counter clerk took great delight in showing
us that they were three-quarters blank.
Pete returned and called Dr. Wellington, who
this time sent the paperwork to the customs agent via email Our
stay in no man’s land came to an end with the customs agents
having the right forms in hand. Pete, of course, asked if we could
have extra copies of Siggi’s paperwork, to which he was told
“yes, but remember, this ain’t no Kinkos.”
Quickly, we hopped in the truck and left,
for fear that the customs agents might find yet another reason to
keep us in Purgatory. Later that evening I asked Pete what the high
point of his day was and he said “Leaving Beaver Creek,”
to which I said, “ditto.”
II: The Kindness of Strangers
We entered the local café at Burwash Landing and asked
the waiter/clerk/counterperson/cook if he knew of any places
nearby where we might camp. The tall, dark fellow momentarily
stood deep in thought and then said that we could stay at
Jonathan’s place was on the shores
of Kluane Lake. It consisted of a series of outbuildings,
one of which used to be a motel. We drove down the driveway,
got out of the truck, walked around a bit, and then decided
that a flat spot adjacent to the shoreline would suit our
purposes. After assembling the electric fence, we unloaded
the horses, which, as they ate, remained oblivious to the
ce-covered lake and distant
mountains. Jonathan appeared as we were finishing setting
up camp. What had become apparent to me at the restaurant,
was that he speaks in slow, measured well thought out sentences,
was again borne out in our late-evening discussion. We learned
that he has a degree in Culinary Arts from the Montana State
University in Bozeman, and that he is no stranger to the restaurant
business, having owned and run restaurants in Whitehorse.
He said he was thinking about quitting his current job–the
menu being limiting. In the meantime, he’d purchased
the property that we were all standing on, and was mulling
over what to do with it.
We all said goodnight and exchanged
addresses. We gave the horses a few more flakes of hay before
going to bed.