The Small Things: Thievin’ in the North Cascades

The employer/employee relationship is an interesting dynamic. It is constantly changing and radically different from one boss to another. Percy was to be my boss at the North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin for the summer of 2014 in Eastern Washington. My relationship with Percy was dynamic to say the least. Often wearing a button down shirt, blue jeans and flat soled canvas slippers, Percy would strut about the North Cascades Lodge with an expensive cigar protruding from his bushy white beard. He was eccentricism defined. I started out working as a dishwasher and was promoted to maintenance within a month. I spent my days roaming the grounds, cutting grass, performing simple repairs and emptying garbage cans under the looming mountains of the North Cascades.
As the calendar rolled into July, the valley became a furnace with the bellows of the atmosphere blasting wind down the mountains and across Lake Chelan. Percy could often be found in these times encouraging the water sprinklers, his pride and joy (which I would later steal and hide for a small act of vengeance), with soft words of inspiration “keep her lookin’ good” “don’t go that way, go this way.. yep, yep, ok there we go”. I came to simultaneously like and dislike Percy. I somehow appreciated the things that annoyed me about him. We had a fairly tight knit group of coworkers that summer and without too many exceptions, life flowed by quite smoothly in our small corner of the world.

Around August, I was looking at my paycheck and noticed there was a discrepancy in my pay that would have set me back around $700 had I not noticed it. When I mentioned the issue, my request was firmly denied and I was told that I would not be receiving compensation for the retropay, that all the other employees were making the same as I was and I shouldn’t concern myself with the issue. I was also told that my discrepancy was totally normal, that all was well and that I should probably get back to work.

I realize I seem rather dull at times, but I would like to consider myself better than an absolute dunce. Something tells me that the head chef isn’t making $9.32 an hour. I knew that he was lying to me, and in my opinion that’s unacceptable. Naturally, this did not sit well with me and I no longer appreciated those idiosyncrasies between us. Eventually, I got my pay by circumnavigating Percy and going up the chain of command, but the principle of the matter stuck with me. At the end of the season I had let some of that grudge go but a rather abundant supply of ill will hung around in my gut.
Thus, a plan was formed for my day of departure. And I do love it when a plan comes together under dubious circumstances and bitterly fueled intentions. I had noticed Percy kept his fine cigars in a humidor outside the manager’s office. With the help of a dastardly accomplice, a fellow named Mr. Buzzo, we took Percy’s cigars from his humidor and placed them in a location known only to the two of us. I printed out the picture above and taped it inside Percy’s now empty humidor with the following message:

” My dearest Percy, I thank you for the opportunity to work for this fine establishment under your noble leadership. I also thank you for the fine cigars (especially the cubans!). May the memory of my smile keep your soul warm in the coldest Alaskan winter. All the best to you my dear friend. Thanks again for the smoke.
Sincerestly, Earl.”

And with that, I picked up my backpack and made my way up the one road in town to get to a trailhead. Within an hour I had dirt under the soles of my shoes, on the PCT headed for Canada.

‘Til Next Time,


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