About the Author Jon Evans

Jon Evans

Jim Westergard was born in Ogden, Utah in 1939. He was educated at a variety of colleges and universities in California, Arizona and Utah where he completed his BFA and MFA at Utah State. Westergard moved to Red Deer in 1975 and taught at Red Deer College until his retirement in 1999. He became a Canadian citizen in 1980.

Jim Westergard has been creating prints from wood engravings since university days in the late 60s, but had never completed a book-length collection until the original limited letterpress edition of Mother Goose Eggs. The first engraving for this project was finished in 1999. Then, after a four-year struggle which included an unexpected hernia operation and reprinting the press-sheets a second time with helpful hints from Crispin Elsted of the Barbarian Press (Mission, BC), Mother Goose Eggs was finally bound and released in a deluxe edition of eighty copies in 2003.

Westergard continues to create wood engravings on his cantankerous old VanderCook SP-15 proof press which he has affectionately named the 'Spanish Fly'.

Books by this Author
Beasts of New York
Excerpt

'I think we should go,' Toro said.

'Not yet,' Patch repeated. He watched the dust clouds in the pit, the way they moved. He didn't want to be upwind of the rats. They too had sharp noses. He ran along the top of the fence, as far downwind as he could, and then he took a deep breath and ran straight down its side.

The lip of the pit was hard concrete, no good for downclimbing, but a wooden plank ran down into the shadows. Patch moved down this plank as quietly as he could; rats had sharp hearing, too. It was strange to walk on wood with such a perfectly straight surface. The pit was as deep as a medium-sized tree. About halfway down the plank he moved from sunlight into shadow, and his eyes began to adjust to his new surroundings.

The center of the pit was jumbled full of huge, geometric human things. Its bottom was crisscrossed by pipes and planks and girders. The floor and one wall of the pit were rocky earth rather than concrete. But it was in a corner between two concrete walls, towards the inside of the mountain, that he saw the unmistakable scuttling motion of a rat.

Patch crept closer, staying behind human things as much as possible. He reached a metal pipe that ran near the corner, and followed its length until the pipe ran into the concrete wall, just a half-dozen squirrel-lengths from the corner. He was still downwind, he thought, although it was difficult to read the wind down here. When he stood as high as he could he was just barely able to look over the pipe and see into the corner of the pit.

In that corner Patch saw something very strange. He saw a dozen large rats standing in a circle, all facing outwards, with all their tails knotted together in a big tangled lump in the middle of their circle. Standing on this lumpy knot of tails was Snout, the biggest rat of all. And next to this bizarre clump of rats, Patch saw, to his great surprise, another squirrel, small and with reddish fur.

'Patch son of Silver,' the strange squirrel said, and Patch stiffened. 'I've heard of him. He's of the Treetops. He talks to birds and goes off alone for days. I'm sure he doesn't know anything. He just came to the mountains for the food.'

'That's not good enough,' Snout said. 'We will give him to Karmerruk.'

'But --' the squirrel began.

'We will give him to Karmerruk.'

The name meant nothing to Patch, but it seemed to frighten the squirrel.

'You said you would show me Jumper,' the squirrel said hesitantly to Snout.

'Oh, yes, Jumper,' Snout said, and smiled, revealing jagged yellow teeth. Then, loudly, the rat commanded, 'Bring him!'

There was a dark hole in the corner of the pit, near where the rats and the other squirrel stood. Patch saw motion in that hole. He saw a squirrel's head emerge. He watched, shocked, as Jumper, lord of the Treetops tribe, crawled painfully out of that hole, his motions slow and spastic, and fell clumsily to the ground. Jumper was bleeding in many places, and he pulled himself along with his forelegs alone; both his hind legs hung motionless from his body. Several rats followed Jumper out of the hole.

'Lord Jumper won't be jumping any more,' Snout said, and laughed.

Jumper pulled himself up on his forelegs. Patch could see he was in great pain.

'Redeye,' Jumper said in a ragged voice, to the squirrel who stood among the rats. 'How can you have you done this?'

The other squirrel looked uneasy, and didn't answer. Patch was glad to have his name. It was Redeye he had smelled in Silver's drey.

'He did it for me,' Snout said. 'He has sworn to serve me, as I have sworn to serve the King Beneath. The king in whose name you and all your kind will die and be devoured.'

Snout stepped away from the knot of rat-tails on which he stood. The knot began to squirm like a nest of worms as the rats untied themselves from one another. As they were released the rats formed into a tight circle around Jumper. Snout joined the circle. So did Redeye. Patch knew what would happen next. He didn't want to watch. But it was too awful a thing to turn away from.

'No,' Jumper begged them. 'No, please. Not like this.'

'Yes,' Snout hissed. 'Exactly like this.'

And then they swarmed the crippled lord of the Treetops. Jumper howled three times before he fell silent beneath the frenzied mass of biting rats. Redeye seemed more rat than squirrel as he tore at Jumper's body with his sharp fangs. In scarcely more time than it takes to tell it there was nothing left of Jumper but scraps, bones, and a puddle of blood. Even then the rats began to gnaw on Jumper's bones and lick his blood. They would leave nothing of him at all.

Patch retreated silently to the wooden plank that led out of the pit. He felt colder than he had on the worst day of the winter. The squirrel Redeye had betrayed Jumper to rats, helped to kill him, helped to eat him. And Redeye's scent had been in Silver's drey. Patch climbed numbly into the sunlight, over the fence, back to the concrete, heedless of the passing humans and the death machines. They held scarcely any terror for him now; all he could think about was what he had seen in the pit below.

'What did you see?' Toro called out, from a tree. 'What was down there?'

Patch said, 'I have to go back to the Kingdom.'

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No Fixed Address

No Fixed Address

Six Continents, Sixteen Years, Sixty-Six Nations
edition:Paperback
More Info
Excerpt

October 2005: To Penetrate the Impenetrable
Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

I have been to the middle of nowhere, and it is not the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. It is, rather, where you go when your teenage taxi driver takes a wrong turn en route to said impenetrability and continues for half an hour unawares.

The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a national park in remote southwest Uganda, on the Congo border. It is best known for being home to half of the world's mountain gorillas (the other half are fifty kilometres south, in the Virunga range of volanoes that straddle the Uganda-Rwanda-Congo borders). Bwindi means 'dark.' The Dark Impenetrable Forest?it's like something out of a fantasy novel, isn't it? I mean, Mirkwood's got nothing on this place.

The bottle shop next door sold beer, Coke and water. There was a post office; a police station; a gas station with hand-cranked pumps; an immigration post (the town is right on the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo); a hotel/bar with a pool table; a few dry-goods-type stores, J. Nkrumah and Sons and such by name, with shadowed, indeterminate contents; and, in the town's one concession to the twenty-first century, an MTN mobile-phone airtime-voucher stall. There were two secondary schools, one Muslim and one Christian, and a bunch of one-room primary schools. There were fewer than a dozen vehicles. But for the vehicles, the MTN store and the banana-tree backdrop, we could have been at the Texas-Mexico border a hundred years ago.

The nearest town to Bwindi is called Butogota, and even more than most small African towns, it's like something out of the Wild West. A single wide street of blasted dirt runs between two rows of storefronts, concrete blocks with tin awnings. The store I entered sold big sacks of wheat and beans; bags of salt, sugar and tea; soap (in long unwrapped bars), candles, baking soda, matches, toilet paper, paraffin?and that was it. No chocolate, no sweets, no biscuits, no baby food, no Vaseline, no lotions or powders?none of the other usual array of colourful disposables found in most African shop-stalls.

I was first made aware of our misdirection when the top of my head smacked into the roof of our car. I'd splashed out on a private ('special hire') taxi to Bwindi, public transit being chancy-to-unavailable except on market day, and somehow contrived to fall asleep despite the humped, fissured, rocky dirt road that winds along ridgetops and steep hillsides, past glorious views of the Western Rift Valley, and the cloud-shrouded Ruwenzori and the Virunga volcanoes, along terraced fields and stands of eucalyptus forest, during the (theoretically) three-hour journey. But when I woke, the road was no longer dirt. It wasn't even, really, a road. Barely even the idea of a road: more of a wide grass walking trail, very uneven?hence the wake-up bump'segregating raw jungle from small semi-cultivated fields and banana plantations.

I gently suggested to Isaac-the-driver that this couldn't be right. (Thinking: I know they call it impenetrable and all, but this is ridiculous.) Isaac bridled but eventually, with universal male reluctance, agreed to stop and ask directions. Of who? I thought, but indeed, round the next bend, next to a small igloo-like structure made of mud and strips of bark, there they were: a woman and five children, dressed in colour-drained rags, staring at us amazed.

Information was exchanged. A clearing was found, a little ways on, in which to turn around. We drove past the (now more amused than amazed) family and rattled back up a road I wouldn't have taken a 4WD down, much less a battered Corolla. It was vertiginously steep, narrow, twisted, uneven and incredibly bumpy. As I offered silent prayers of thanks to Toyota engineers, two parallel strips of dirt emerged from the grass; then the grass meridian vanished; and finally, thirty minutes' drive and maybe twelve kilometres after turning around, we were back on the proper route to Bwindi.

To give Isaac credit, he did drive with ferocious skill. If only his navigational abilities were commensurate. Or his negotiating skills. I later learned that he'd severely undercharged me, which may explain his failure to turn up today for the agreed-upon return leg.

[... Continued in No Fixed Address]

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