by Shaun Stewart
My friends and I were setting up camp on Hornby Island, a happy little spot between Vancouver Island and mainland B.C. We were taking a weekend to relax after our graduation from film school and squatting on the property of some old friends of Richard, my fellow graduate. We had music playing to set the mood.
From out of the bushes below, a dog appeared unlike any that I had seen before. It had a head and body exactly like a golden retriever, but its legs were extremely short. It was followed by an equally strange man. He was a diminutive old guy with long hair, a scraggly beard, some sort of pro-marijuana t-shirt, and a vest with a metal pot-leaf pinned to it. This was Hogan.
Hogan-the self-proclaimed high priest of pot-was the first full-time Hornby Island resident I had met. He was exactly the sort of person I expected to meet in this little West Coast cannabis haven. But his arrival was unexpected and he still managed to surprise me every time I saw him.
Richard went down to explain our relationship to the owners of the land, and apologize for the music. Hogan, at first surprised at finding a bunch of city-slicker kids camping so close to his home, now smiled.
"Gee, I thought it was the neighbors up here making all that noise, but you guys are welcome to play your music all you want," he said.
"Just make sure you don't piss them off with it," he added, indicating the house on the other side of our secluded dirt road.
Barely a moment passed before he pulled out a little pipe and asked, "Anybody want to smoke some hash?"
So far, I really liked this guy. Everyone was introduced as they received Hogan's welcoming gift to us. He passed his pipe around, bragging about his homemade hash that he was sharing with us. He joked that he would never smoke weed again-until he ran out of hash.
He told us that he had just discovered he might be related to Marilyn Monroe, being as her mother's maiden name was Hogan, or something like this. He told us how he had ridden his horse from Winnipeg fifteen years earlier, and had been living here ever since. He also made jokes about the marijuana party, the "latest right-wing gimmick." The man seemed never to run out of things to say.
Once satisfied that he had given us the proper Hornby Island welcome, he disappeared back into the bushes, though not without inviting us to follow to see his artwork.
We didn't go to see Hogan's artwork that day, but I figured we would before we left the island. In the meantime, we continued to enjoy our little campsite. We cooked dinner over a little fire that night. My friend Donovan tried to cook a hamburger on a stick. The rest of us stuck with the much simpler hot dogs or veggie dogs. And of course they were followed by marshmallows. I felt like I was ten years old again.
Donovan, my tentmate for the week-end, retired to his sleeping bag much earlier than I did that night. When I finally went up to join him, I found him sleeping right in the middle of his miniature tent, leaving me very little room to get onto my air mattress. I tried to get him to move.
"Hey, man, could you skootch over just a little?"
He just grunted and shifted about, though not really in any direction; he just sort of spread himself out. So I had to squeeze into my own little corner for the night. This made sleep kind of difficult. What made my attempts at slumber even harder was when Donovan blurted out, in the middle of the night, "Yes, we'll keep them separate please!"
It's tough sharing a tent with a sleep talker.
* * * * *
Hogan reappeared the following morning. He rode up to our campsite on his horse-the same one he had ridden from Winnipeg, in fact-and invited us to a baseball game that was to take place that afternoon. He also brought a newspaper article about the closure of the Gastown Actor's Studio in Vancouver, knowing that many of us were aspiring actors. I thought he was certainly a capital fellow.
Our group decided to go to that baseball game that afternoon. We got all dressed up in our sun-protection clothes. My friend Sara had this lovely little bonnet and a tiny pink purse with a "Hello Kitty" logo on it. They looked kind of cute on her. They looked fucking adorable on me.
We didn't see Hogan at the game. I did see his dog though. The dog was trying to demonstrate his affection for a female dog with regular sized legs. He wasn't doing so well. With each of his well-timed leaps, the female would slip away, leaving the midget male to do little more but sniff around her nether region. I last saw Hogan's dog chasing the object of his affection across a parking lot.
The next day was our last on the island. Donovan and I, the first two people awake in our camp, decided to take a trip out to Helliwell Park, one of the island's main natural attractions.
This is what happens at Helliwell Park: You arrive at the parking lot, at the foot of the trail. If you're lucky, you've brought your "Big Boy" portable bong with you, and you smoke a fat bowl before embarking on your trek. You then put on your headphones and listen to your favourite album of all time. There is a ten minute walk through a forested area. After this you emerge onto a grassy area overlooking the sea. As you walk towards the sea, you begin to see that you are actually high above it, on top of massive bluffs. You get as close as you can to the edge of the cliffs, sit down, and smoke another bowl with your friend. You finish the circular walk around the park, glad to have been up at this time of the morning to experience this beauty. Then you head back to camp, hoping to receive another visit from your favourite island resident.
Hogan came to pay another visit to our campsite that morning. He said we were probably low on "supplies" and we should come down to his house and make use of his water pipe. Of course we took him up on his offer.
We descended through the bushes to Hogan's house, as he told us how a RCMP officer had just visited him. He had been hoping she was there to deliver his medicinal marijuana license, but she was in fact delivering a subpoena. Hogan had to testify against someone who had threatened to kill him. I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to kill this person, but before I had time to ask, we had arrived at Hogan's home, and my train of thought was interrupted by Hogan's laughter. As we arrived at his home, he took his pot plants off of his deck, saying he'd better hide them in case his law-enforcing friend decided to return.
Hogan's home was a tiny shack and its plywood walls were covered with his artwork. Hogan's artwork was countless collages of newspaper and magazine clippings. He also had full newspaper articles on the wall, all of them about himself, and his quest to see marijuana made legal in our country.
His water pipe was the sort of thing that teenagers make when they need something simple that can be easily hidden from their parents. It consisted of a vase with a tube and a bowl sticking out the top. Hogan filled it up with his hash and passed it around, then began to tell us all about the newspaper articles on the wall.
It seemed he had been getting in trouble with the police for years. He had been convicted several times, and to him each conviction was another chance to raise awareness about our ridiculous cannabis laws. He told us how he had been named the "Newsmaker of the Year" once in Winnipeg. He also showed us an award he had won for his poetry: a tiny blue translucent monument that looked impossibly out of place in his minimalist home.
After assuring, once again, that we were taken care of by the homemade goodness he had provided, he bid us farewell as we headed out to start our journey home. He told us to be sure to come back and see him again, smiling all the time. I told him I would be sure to do so, and hoped I would get another chance to do so. Plus, I'd like to see that little dog again.
It was neat.
Shaun Stewart is our brother, in and out of arms.