Previous chapter [‘The cabin,” December 28]: Bernard and his wife bought a small parcel of waterfront rocks and trees of their very own in Desolation Sound. They didn’t know anything about building, but that didn’t stop them from constructing their own cabin, perched on the rocks like a spider, its back against the forest where the wild things roamed. And Bernard loved exploring in the woods, until he was attacked.
Bernard the German emerged from the woods screaming. He ran past his wife, down their rock staircase, tearing at his clothes.
Buck naked, Bernard the German plunged into the ocean. His wife rushed down to the shore to find Bernard thrashing around in the water. When he emerged naked, he bellowed, “Are they still on me?”
The woods behind Bernard the German’s cabin in Desolation Sound had plenty of large threats, like bears and wolves and cougars, but it was a much smaller foe that had besieged the big German.
Lots and lots of ticks. They were all over him. Behind his ears, in his armpits, on his chest, and yes, even on his Bavarian sausage. The saltwater hadn’t done anything to deter the bloodsuckers; they were burrowing even further. Bernard the German was panicking. “Please! Get them off of me!” he screamed.
His wife told Bernard to stay there while she ran up to get the tweezers.
Meanwhile, across the bay, one of Bernard’s Desolation Sound neighbours, who liked to know all of the comings and goings, was standing on her deck, scanning the bay with her binoculars. She focused on the rocks in front of Bernard the German’s cabin. There she spied Bernard the German, huge and naked, lying on his back with his legs kicking straight up in the air.
“What the hell is our new neighbour doing over there?” the nosy neighbour asked her husband. He had recently met Bernard at the dock. He took a look and said, “He’s European.”
Eventually, all the ticks were removed, and Bernard was sure to wear much more than shorts and flip-flops when he went into the woods.
It didn’t take long for Bernard the German to become another of the many larger-than-life characters beyond the road in Desolation Sound. He took early retirement from his career at the Wheat Pool and soon Bernard was spending as much time as he could at the cabin.
Life for Bernard Krieger took another unexpected turn when he and his wife took on guardianship of Bernard’s infant granddaughter Bernadine, whose name was a combination of Bernard and his first wife Caroline.
Also joining the family was a faithful, large, rambunctious dog, named Dude, a purebred German shorthaired pointer that loved the water. The Krieger family became quite the scene at the Okeover government wharf: the huge German and his wife, bouncing baby Bernadine, and a bouncier dog name Dude, all piling into the boat.
I hadn’t see Bernard the German since he had dropped off the submerged keg of Bavarian pilsner after our first confrontation at the wharf in chapter two. A few months after that incident, my dad and I were crossing Okeover Inlet in our boat, headed towards our cabin.
When we entered Malaspina Inlet, Dad straightened up and pointed ahead of us.
“Look at that!” shouted Dad. “There in the water, what is that?”
We saw something up ahead that was big and black and moving slowly through the water. I shouted back at Dad over the outboard: “Is that an orca?”
“Hold it,” interjected Dad. “There are two things in the water!”
Seals? Sea lions? Porpoises?
We couldn’t figure it out until we motored closer and slowed down. And then, to our shock, we realized that the big black creature was in fact none other than Bernard the German in a wetsuit, doing the backstroke, out in the middle of the inlet. Just ahead of him, doing the doggie paddle, was his faithful dog Dude. Had his boat sank?
“Bernard!” barked my dad. “What are you doing out here?”
“What does it look like, man?” answered Bernard, calmly treading water. “Me and Dude are goin’ for a swim, eh?”
Neighbours were spotting Berard the German and his dog swimming great lengths all over the inlet. He’d swim from cabin to cabin, visiting with Dude, then they’d swim all the way back to his cabin, often surprising kayakers and yachters along the way when they realized that, yes, that was a human and a dog, out in the middle of the bay.
Bernard the German and I became somewhat unlikely friends; he was the tough, blue-collar giant and I was the softie from the city. But I came to realize that Bernard the German’s bark was a lot worse than his bite. That deep, dark, menacing glare over his trademark thick black moustache was a defence mechanism of sorts.
At the best of times, Bernard the German was a man filled with a deep passion for his surroundings with a pretty good sense of humour. When he was in a bad mood, you’d be well advised to steer clear until the storm clouds blew over.
On a blustery spring afternoon, Bernard the German was enjoying some Bavarian home brew with some friends on his deck when one them grabbed Bernard’s binoculars and trained them onto another neighbour’s cabin across the bay, owned by a friendly fellow named Ricardo.
Bernard’s friend asked him about a light brown plume of smoke that could be seen rising from the direction of Ricardo’s cabin. Bernard took up the binoculars and adjusted them into focus. It appeared that the smoke was coming from Ricardo’s deck. Then Bernard saw the flames.
Bernard the German raced down his rock staircase, hopped onto his boat and tore across the bay to Ricardo’s cabin on Moss Point. By the time he arrived, other neighbours were on the scene.
Ricardo’s deck was engulfed in flames, but Ricardo was nowhere to be seen. Leaving the other two neighbours to try and douse the flames with a garden hose and buckets of ocean water, Bernard the German stumbled over the rocky terrain to the back of the cabin where he turned off the large propane tank that was fuelling some of Ricardo’s appliances.
Then Bernard the German remembered there were two other propane tanks underneath the cabin that could explode. The fire had already swallowed up the front of the structure and the heat was intense. Bernard hesitated. Then he jumped under the burning cabin.
Find out what happened next in the next chapter of Bernard the German: The tragic tale of the giant of Desolation Sound.
Grant Lawrence is an award-winning author and a CBC personality who considers Powell River and Desolation Sound his second home. “Bernard The German” originally aired in 2018 as a weekly radio serial on North by Northwest, CBC Radio One in BC. Anyone with stories or photos they would like to share of Bernard "The German" Krieger, can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.