Pender Harbour’s Frank White started writing the story of his life as a pioneer B.C. truck driver in 1972 when he was nearly 60. It took him more than four decades to finish his book and get it published, but at the age of 99, White has managed to do just that.
He will launch Milk Spills and One-Log Loads: Memories of a Pioneer Truck Driver ($32.95, Harbour Publishing) at the Pender Harbour School of Music this Sunday, Dec. 1, from 2 to 4 p.m. Refreshments will be served and there will be a book signing, with book sales provided by the Earth Fair Store.
Milk Spills and One-Log Loads started out as a chronicle of White’s career in transportation, beginning in the horse-and-buggy age and recording the growth of trucking in the B.C. freighting and logging industries, but it ended up as much more than that.
As Howard White (Frank White’s son and publisher) says in his introduction to the book, “There is an undeniable fascination in listening to a man talk about anything from the perspective of having observed it over the course of a whole century, be it the evolution of trucking, ladies’ fashions, sexual mores or a hundred other things he touches upon in these pages. But I suspect the main exhibit here is Frank White himself, an unassuming man who, in his plain-spoken way, reminds us that the most ordinary-seeming life, on close inspection, can be found to be full of unexpected riches.”
Just as absorbing as Frank’s accounts of obstreperous men wrestling big timber are his memories of becoming his family’s designated driver at age 12 because his father couldn’t break the habit of yanking up on the steering wheel and yelling “whoa, damn you, whoa”; of collisions with streetcars and tsunamis of spilled milk; of roads clogged with dust-bowl jalopies; of the hysteria that gripped the B.C. coast after Pearl Harbor; of starting married life with a family of 10 pigs; of a pet deer so dumb it would stand on a hot stove with its hooves smoking; of a toddler who mistook the deer’s droppings for raisins; of the vanished (thankfully) sport of hunting basking sharks; and of romantic interludes exploring idyllic islands and living off beach oysters.
Milk Spills and One-Log Loads has all the hair-raising road tales one could ask for, but in the end it is a moving story of personal growth, a book that stands beside The Curve of Time and Fishing with John as a vivid account of life as working people lived it on the West Coast during the rough-and-tumble years of the early 20th century.