We met Billy Proctor and his co-writer, Yvonne Maximchuk, at the Campbell River Museum yesterday. It was their latest book launch, Tide Rips and Back Eddies – Billy Proctor’s Tales of Blackfish Sound.
Yvonne is close to our age. Billy is in the dwindling generation ahead. He’s in his early to mid eighties. Still fishing. Still hunting. Still doing what Billy has always done – living in the great outdoors, off the grid and with the sea. Billy is the real deal — west coast to the bone. Grew up and lived his entire life catching salmon, hunting deer, growing veggies and picking berries. His mind is sharp, his body is strong and he has a great sense of humour just tickling at the surface of everything he says.
We should all be so healthy.
Yvonne is NOT his wife. It’s Yvonne and Albert who are married (read the book). Yvonne WAS his wife who passed away a few years back. Two different Yvonnes. YM is Billy’s friend and past-time deckhand when he fished more regularly. It was YM who prompted Billy to start writing with their first book, Full Moon and Flood Tides, and that was not easy at the time — Billy could read but he could not write, neither literally nor figuratively. His signature is still chicken scratch. But he persevered and he is now a full-on author as well as a west coast icon, museum curator, and growing legend.
I like Billy Proctor.
And I like Yvonne Maximchuk.
The reasons that spring to mind are that they are ‘authentic’ and ‘real’. Then, maybe, amusing and honest with shades of kindness and a clear and strong passion for life. You could do worse than have those two in your immediate community, methinks.
But what a deal! OMG! They came down for the book launch from the Broughton Archipelago. Long boat ride. Long car ride. Long book launch (four hours what with the preparation, presentation and the obligatory book signing). Then, when it was done, they packed up the old dog-and-pony bookstore and headed off to Sidney to do a repeat performance. It was a lesson in book promotion that did not appeal to either Sal nor I.
(Which, I guess, is obvious since we haven’t done any except rely on word of mouth.)
“GAWD!!! Small room, dozens of people (fifty plus) and an hour or so of reading excerpts from one’s book? I can’t do that, Sally. I wouldn’t last thirty minutes.”
“Neither would I and not in the least because I can’t stand listening to your stories for the hundredth time unless there are weeks of breaks between them. Even then, it is tough. Thirty straight minutes or more and I’d have fifty witnesses testifying against me on homicide charges! Actually, there’s a good chance they’d all be charged as accessories, too.”
“Is that how book launches work? And, if so, why do ’em? Can’t be for the book sales. Even if all fifty of us bought books that still does not add up as a financial incentive when you consider that the expenses for the launch had to be more than what the sale proceeds were.”
“Maybe they do it for the fun?”
“Well, the first few times would be fun but what about the fifth time in three days? Wouldn’t that feel a bit stale if not, at least, exhausting?”
“Well, I’m glad they did it. It was great meeting Yvonne and Billy remembered our book club’s visit this summer. I feel as if I have a connection. Plus Billy liked your book. Said it was funny and you had the right take on bureaucrats, to his way of thinking.”
“The best part for me was getting his opinion on the environment. A guy who has lived, breathed and literally been fully immersed in the west coast for over eighty years has a truth and a perspective that has to be more accurate than the mumbo- jumbo and gibberish of politically slanted Department of Fisheries reports. He didn’t have much time for the DFO, that’s for sure.”
“No. But the main message seemed to be that the west coast is always changing and he has seen it all. Billy has expectations of cycles but an equal expectation of cycles interrupted. ‘You never know’, seemed to be the lesson.”
“Well, that is sure true for us too, sweetie. We don’t know squat. And likely never will. Life is a crap shoot and it seems to be that way for everyone — even Billy and Yvonne. And, if it isn’t a crap shoot, it would be boring. So, I guess the Chinese have it right: “May you live in interesting times”.