Excavator artist gone

Posted on June 17, 2008
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            Although it happened back in March, I just learned that Miramichi has lost one of its stars.

            Armand Comeau was a Bobby Orr of excavator operators. He died of cancer at the age of 55.

            He worked for Ed Hitchman at Hitchman Construction Ltd. I first became aware of his skill when he moved a 20 foot by 30 foot shed with no floor from one corner of my property to another positioning it precisely on a concrete pad. At one stage, he was operating his machine with one hand and directing the operator of another machine with his other hand to tuck the shed into a corner.

            Later, Eddy took on the job of moving a two-car garage with no floor to my neighbours’ property across the street.

            “They’ll never get that in there,” I thought as the float arrived with its flimsy load. Before the end of the day, it was in place and aligned perfectly with the new house.

            I also had a front-row seat for the removal of the old Cunard-Loggie, building from Water Street across the river. Armand was the equipment operator on that job too. He got it down without punching holes in the buildings on either side. Having a half interest in one of them at the time, I especially appreciated his delicacy.

            Most recently, concerned about erosion, I had Eddy rock my shoreline. Armand swept and tamped over 300 feet in a little more than half a day. I couldn’t believe how he could sweep large rocks into a smooth and even path across the edge of the property, pat them a couple of times with the back of the shovel and move so swiftly on.

            I hope Armand knew how much I admired his skill and speed. I certainly told Eddy and his right hand man, Melvyn Innes often enough. I used to say I was sure he could thread a needle with his excavator. I thought you could sell tickets to watch him work.

            I didn’t know him personally but I am told he was full of life and a joy around the office. He and his wife had five grown children. He worked at Hitchman Construction Ltd. for 23 years.

            He was one of those guys whose passing doesn’t make the provincial news pages but who is as much a star as the athletes, politicians and community leaders who do.

            Salt of the earth is, I guess, the term we apply.

Weed war

          A pernicious plant is trying to take over my shoreline. Thanks to the internet, I was able to identify it and find a plan of attack.

            It grows fast, spreads quickly and has a hollow stem like bamboo. In fact, a couple of its nicknames are Japanese bamboo and Mexican bamboo.

            Its proper name is Japanese Knotweed.


            It can grow to 10 feet high and choke out the shoreline grasses, wild roses and Irises I like so much. It spreads underground, sending out roots.

            Apparently applying Roundup or 2-4-D when it is flowering and sending nutrients to the root system is a beginning. Covering the patch with a tarpaulin also helps.

            As is so often the case with war, this battle apparently can not be won in one year. I will have to be vigilant and aggressive for several years.

            The purpose of this is to shorten, perhaps, your war if it turns up on your property. It was on mine for at least two years before I realized what a problem it was going to be.

Copying outrage

            The recording industry has been successful in conning the Canadian government into implementing tough new copying and sharing bans with hefty fines.

            In my opinion, the new law turns an industry problem into a taxpayer problem. The industry cannot create a digital product we cannot copy.

            How did that get to be our problem and expense rather than theirs?

            When I owned newspapers, should I have expected the police to come around and arrest you if you passed your copy of the paper on to someone else or photocopied an article from it?

            There are, and have been for years, laws to prevent you copying and selling someone else’s intellectual creations. That is fair. The person who invents the space elevator or writes a song is entitled to own the patent or copyright. You should not be able simply to take the results of their work and use it for your profit.

            However, if I sing in my backyard and you can hear me, should I have the right to make the courts collect a royalty from you? If you use a hearing aid to listen, does that make a difference?

            Of course not.

            If I want to be paid for you to listen to me sing, it is up to me to figure out a way to get you to do that.

            If I cannot, that should not become the taxpayers’ problem.

            The same applies to satellite signals. If you put a signal in space and I can decode it, why should the government penalize me, and, more to the point, you?

            If there is any logic in this, merchants should be able to leave their products unattended, day and night, on tables on the street and insist that anyone who picks them up pay for them or be hauled into court.

            Any merchant will tell you that he or she cannot get even the assistance of the police in charging someone who pays with a bad cheque which is obviously fraudulent.

            How is it that a huge industry can make its failure our responsibility?



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