By Rusty Draper
The following might qualify as hyperbole (much like most of my stories).
Growing up in Gravenhurst there always seemed to be a great deal of friction between my hometown, and Bracebridge just 10 miles to the north. I don’t know when or why these ill feelings germinated, but I’m sure it still applies today to a certain degree.
This animosity between the two towns showed its intense ugliness mostly in sports. In baseball and track and field you could always sense a dislike each town had for the other. In these two events, it was more like a silent cloud that hovered over the field, but in hockey it could be brutally physical. As soon as the referee dropped the puck, the gloves came off and the benches emptied. It could be a real donnybrook. Blood and stitches over your eye, seemed to be like a badge of honour.
Each town, of course, insisted they had the prettiest girls in all of Muskoka. If by chance the fellas from the opposing town showed up on a Friday night looking for our beautiful gals … let’s just say, “they were cruising for a bruising.”
This bad blood between towns and cities, doesn’t just apply in these two towns in Muskoka, but it’s also a photocopy in Orillia and Barrie.
After reading a few of my nonsensical “Chewing the Fat” scribbles, you have probably come to the accurate conclusion that at times, I embellish my stories (just a bit.) Why ruin a good story with factual stuff. This rivalry between our two towns fits into this category. In saying that, here’s a factual story.
Close to 30 years ago, my wife and I were with our daughter Jane at a university presentation in Toronto. It all happened on our way home. We were exhausted after a long day in the big city and couldn’t wait to get home and into a nice warm bed.
It was around Guthrie on highway eleven, where I noticed flashing lights. Well, it was in December, so I thought “how nice it is to see people in the spirit of Christmas.” On further thought it wasn’t often where one would see a Christmas Tree lit up on top a car. Soon I noticed that the tree made a noise, much like a siren. Santa ended up to be a policeman who was insistent that I was speeding and kindly gave me my first Christmas Card of the year, in the form of a ticket worth $170. A wise man once said, “never argue with a policeman.” Or as my old Dad would say, “never miss a good opportunity to keep your mouth shut.”
We departed that night by exchanging Christmas blessings to each other, and off we went home driving under the speed limit. As Chuck Berry once said, “don’t let the same dog bite you twice. (This by no means is a disparaging remark of the officer).
It was the next morning when the real shock hit me. In the middle of breakfast eating my Snap, Crackle and Pops, I examined my Christmas gift from the policeman. ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY DOLLARS! My teeth started to rattle, and my bottom lip was quivering. I read that ticket closely, very closely, and discovered something rather intriguing. There on the ticket were three little boxes. The first box if checked indicated a plea of guilty as charged. The second box was for a not guilty plea, and the third box was a plea of guilt, BUT, with an explanation. I immediately fell in love with box number three, but it also meant that I needed to go to the Barrie Courthouse and chat with the Justice of the Peace.
The Justice came across as a nice man, but quickly he got down to business and asked me to give my explanation for speeding. I was ready to give my account for being “heavy to the metal” the night I saw the Christmas lit police cruiser. I had rehearsed my spiel many times. I confessed to the Justice that I knew I was speeding, but never thought I was traveling as fast as the officer indicated in his Christmas Card ticket. I tried my best to bring on a tear or two, but my ducts were dry. Then I had to try being the remorseful one, throwing myself at the feet of the Justice. Then I looked him in the eye and said, “Sir I’m just a POOR preacher and need a break.” He said, “I know, I heard your sermon on Sunday.” Don’t believe this part friends. Remember earlier when I warned you about hyperbole? This is it!
Now back to the truthful story. The Justice of the Peace looked at me with a straight face and said, “I never give a break to someone from Gravenhurst.” My reply was, “Oh, you must be a Bracebridge boy.” We both started into laughing as he acknowledged that he was. Well, the dear Justice and I buried the hatchet that day as we shook hands and wished each other a Merry Christmas. The old rivalry had ended and the spirit of Christmas prevailed.
By the way. That Bracebridge boy erased $100. from my ticket. Those folks 10 miles to the north of Gravenhurst aren’t too bad after all.
Rusty Draper was born and raised in Gravenhurst. His first job in radio was at CKAR in Huntsville, and to end his radio career he was the first voice on Muskoka FM in Bracebridge. Rusty is also a pastor, author, and raconteur (the fancy way of saying storyteller).
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