Hector Demell

As we go through life there are amazing people who touch us, touch our minds and our attitudes about life and living.  They are teachers.  They are mentors.  They mold us into who we are and often don't even know it.

I have been lucky to have a number of such people in my life such as the man pictured here.  His name was Hector Romulus Demell.  He was a French Canadian whose mother loved the classics.  Her children had very remarkable names!  I wasn't even a teenager when I met Hector.  He was one of those quiet, unassuming people who know how to do everything just because . . . how hard could it be?  Hector's family lived in a cabin in the Canadian bush.  One day, one of the children had severe pains in her side.  Hector's mother got on the radio telephone and called the doctor who was about a day away.  She laid her daughter out on the kitchen table, and by the light of a kerosene lantern and long distance guidance from the doctor, extracted her appendix with a kitchen knife.

He could paddle a canoe without dripping on the surface of the water because that would disturb the fish.  And while he was paddling he rolled and lit a cigarette without losing a beat.  He didn't like to eat the trout that he help us catch, but he could cook them over a camp fire so that they would melt in your mouth.  He could cook some of the tastiest French pancakes or 'Crepe Suzette' filled with jam and dusted with powered sugar.  He could cut down a tree with an axe and drop it on a dime.  One night he heard scratching on the roof of his cabin, and went out to find a bear sitting there.  Bear meat can be tasty, he told me.  I don't know why he just didn't talk the bear down! 

My grandfather built a house in the woods by the side of the lake.  You could only get to it by walking or by boat.  When the house was built, he decided that he needed a basement underneath it for a cold cellar to store stuff since there was no electricity.  He and Hector got some dynamite and blew the rock out from underneath the house without disturbing anything or killing themselves in the process.

I always thought of Hector as one of those people inherently knew the meaning of life and the essence of the natural order.  He didn't talk about it or brag about it.  He just lived it.  The way it should be lived.