I Heard the Owl Call My Name

by Margaret Craven

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What kind of relationship does Mark have with Calamity Bill in I Heard the Owl Call My Name?

Mark and Calamity Bill have a friendship built on trust and mutual respect. Mark cares for Calamity in his final moments and honors Calamity's memory after he has passed away.

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Calamity Bill is an old-hand logger who lives outside of Kingcome Village on a float in the river. When Jim first tells Mark about Calamity he warns,

"If we go too fast the wake of our boat will knock out the nails of his float, and he’ll come out shaking his fist and swearing."

However, over time Mark comes to know Calamity and always checks to see if Calamity is home when passing by his float. When Calamity is home, Mark stops to visit. During these visits the two men often play cribbage and eat dinner together.

One day, Mark passes Calamity’s float and does not see smoke coming from the man’s chimney, so he stops to check on him. Mark finds Calamity injured and laying on his cot. While checking on the snow, the old man fell off a cliff and landed on the riverbed. He pulled himself into the shack and spent four days waiting for help. Though Calamity insists that he will be fine as long as Mark puts food within reach, Mark can tell his injuries are severe and that he needs to go to the hospital. The old man refuses to go to the hospital, and Mark realizes it is too late for help.

Mark sits with Calamity as he dies and promises to spread his ashes at a place in Knight’s Inlet where he used to cut trees. Calamity gives him a map with an X marking the spot and insists,

“Don’t say no fine words about me; we’ll both know they’re lies. Do it in the spring, on some fine day.”

In the spring, Mark takes Calamity’s ashes to Knight’s Inlet and says a prayer for the man before sprinkling his ashes in the water. Mark thinks,

“Calamity, my friend, you have had a funeral finer than a king’s and this is the way it ought to be.”

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