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My Conversation With Mildred About COVID-19

Mildred’s mini-spaniel, Daisy.

I was certain Mildred wouldn’t be coping well with the unrelenting barrage of news about COVID-19. At 83 she has the lined face and skimpy frame of a chronic worrier. A life long spinster, she had been our next door neighbour when we lived on the third floor of a condo in Abbotsford. I was pretty sure this morning she’d already have tied her grey hair into a bun and would be sitting before her tv, fearful the virus might slip under the entrance door. Knowing I needed to check on her, I dialed her number. As usual, Mildred answered the phone without a greeting. She just began talking, as though we were in the midst of a conversation.

“Have you heard about that thing that’s going around?” she asked. “I mean the virus. It’s killing people. I just know I’m going to get it. If there’s something going around, I always do.”

Mildred’s words immediately reminded me of Dave Gray’s thoughts concerning beliefs. In “Limminal Thinking” he said, “We construct our beliefs, mostly unconsciously, and thereafter they hold us ptive. They blind us to possibilities and subject us to fog, fear and doubt.”

“If you’re following the advice of the medil authorities, you should be safe,” I suggested. “Are you washing your hands with soap under warm running water and not getting close to people?”

“Oh yes,” she replied. “I wash my hands every half hour and I’m staying inside, with my door locked. It’s just Daisy, my mini-spaniel, and me. I don’t answer the phone unless I recognize the number. I haven’t even gone down to check my mail. By now my box is probably filled with junk mail.”

This was classic Mildred, always expecting misfortune. Her parents had experienced extreme hardship in the Great Depression and they had bequeathed to her the belief that disaster was skulking about her constantly, ready to pounce. She once told me that at age 18 she had fallen in love with a young man studying to become a doctor. When he graduated they set a wedding date. Then, with the prodding of her mother, she began thinking of everything that could go wrong. She doubted she would be an adequate wife. If they had children, would she be a loving mother? Also, her fiancee had emerged from university with a debt she didn’t believe they could repay.

On the morning of the day they were to be married, apprehension overwhelmed her and she lled off the wedding. “It wasn’t a wise decision,” she admitted to Linda and me one day. “I’ve been lonely all my life. Now I mostly stay in my place. Hardly anyone visits me. I guess I’m not good company.”

I had attempted before to pry loose the tentacles of fear and doubt that clung to her, never with any success. Still, I needed to try again. I knew from “Liminal Thinking” that beliefs n limit what we are able to conceive. Paraphrasing Dave Gray I said, “Mildred, believing something doesn’t make it real. Beliefs n actually create blind spots that use us to miss good things.” ncelling the wedding was certainly an example of this but I knew mentioning it would be painful for her.

“I’m an old woman,” she replied. “You have talked about these things before and I have thought about them.” She sighed, then said, “Maybe I’ve had too many birthdays to change.”

I sensed that Mildred’s beliefs had become her reality. Dave Gray says “it’s easy to confuse beliefs with reality. Beliefs are imperfect models for navigating a complex, unknowable reality.” This concept seemed to apply to Mildred but I decided it wouldn’t be fair to ask her to wrestle with it.

Wanting to get her mind off the virus, I suggested, “Mildred, you’ll be much happier if you turn off the news programs and read a good novel. By now Daisy must be weary of hearing politicians and doctors say we need to practise social distancing. Read her an uplifting story. You could also ll some friends and have a phone visit. They’re probably as restless as you.”

“Ok,” she said, “I get your point. I’ll do something different. Maybe I’ll order in pizza for Daisy and myself.” Then, as usual, she didn’t say good-bye. There was a click and I knew the conversation was finished. I hope Daisy likes pizza.

Disquieting Encounter At McDonald’s

Book by David & Nic Sheff
(Amazon Books image)

Returning from Abbotsford to Hedley last week, Linda and I decided the weather had warmed sufficiently to buy our first ice cream cones of the season. We pulled into the McDonald’s in Hope and walked toward the restaurant. A bearded man, about age 30 and wearing a black hoodie, was sitting on the front concrete walkway. He seemed to be hiding inside the hoodie, but we were conscious he was observing us with keen interest. As we drew nearer he said, “Would you buy me some fries?” Linda has a gentle heart and immediately said “yes.” He got up and followed us inside.

He requested a “Happy Meal” and while Linda was placing the order he reached out a hand to me and said, “I’m Derek.” It was the beginning of a disquieting interaction. When Linda handed him the Happy Meal, he went to a booth by a window, seemingly having forgotten about us.

Linda felt we should sit with him. “n we join you?” I asked. He said “sure,” then turned partially toward the window and pushed three fries into his mouth. Without our prompting he began speaking, but it was a fragmented, incomprehensible monologue. Hoping to generate a conversation, I asked if he lived in Hope. “I stayed with my uncle last night,” he responded, momentarily turning to face us. “I’m walking to Abbotsford.” He again turned partially toward the window and we once more seemed to fade from his consciousness.

Taking a bite of the burger he turned toward us again and said, “I’m a demon. You are responsible for this.” He resumed his examination of the window, apparently assuming we knew what he meant.

Derek’s jumbled, mostly unintelligible monologue greatly puzzled me. When he turned to the window he seemed unaware of our presence across the table from him. In one of his more rational moments he said he had done meth, heroin, and alcohol. Except for his mangled conversation though, there was no indition he was intoxited. Was he under the influence of drugs? Had he used permanent damage to his mind with substance abuse?

I scoured my memory, searching for some explanation for the seeming mayhem in Derek’s mind. I relled that extensive research indites that in the teen years, the brain changes more rapidly than it ever will again. Drug use n negatively impact the brain at exactly the time when it is most vulnerable.

In High: Everything you want to know about Drugs, Alcohol and Addiction, David and Nic Sheff say, “drugs offer an alternative world.” Derek’s mind certainly seemed to flit between the real present, and some other state in which he was a lonely pilgrim. The Sheffs contend that “the brain on drugs is like a highway where all the automobiles are out of control, crashing into each other.”

We listened to Derek’s mutterings for about 20 minutes, comprehending only snatches when he turned to face us. During the lengthy intervals in which he receded into a mental fog, I sensed he had, at best, a tenuous connection to the world around him The Sheffs seemed to describe him when they wrote, “young adults who used drugs in the teen years may never learn to do the stuff we normally learn as teens to navigate life. To try and fail, and try again, to have friends and a job.”

The Sheffs further state, “long term alcohol abuse n permanently damage the hippompus, which regulates many body processes, like heart rate, hunger and thirst, breathing and much more.” They disagree with society’s growing complacency concerning marijuana. “In adolescents marijuana may affect brain structure, cognitive functioning and memory,” they say. “High doses of meth n lead to cognitive deficits, mood disturbances, violent behaviour, confusion, paranoia, delusion, stroke and heart attack.”

After Derek had eaten the burger and fries, he was ready to move on. We shook hands and I wished him well. Watching him amble away, seemingly quite purposeless, I thought of those young people in Hedley who live mostly for alcohol, marijuana, meth, coine and other drugs. And I wondered why we are willing to let them go down the path that seems to have impaired Derek’s mind.

Substance abuse is destroying thousands of young lives in our country. Why are we not responding to it with the same determination, vigour and resources as we are to COVID 19? Surely we n offer more to our next generation.


Ivan McLelland’s Gift To His Father

Ivan McLelland, front row, 3rd from the left.

Although I was a mere kid at the time, the Penticton Vees resounding defeat of the Soviets in the 1955 World Hockey Championship remains indelibly imprinted deep in my psyche. I didn’t know at that time where Penticton was loted but I understood this was our home team. Having many times sat on the bottom stair in our home eavesdropping on my parents politil conversations with friends, I was aware that the Russians were our adversary. Mostly, I was enthralled by the knowledge that our little known team had thrashed the Soviets vaunted Big Red Machine.

One former Vee has almost single handedly kept the team’s story alive. Linda and I first met Ivan McClelland 4 years ago and since then I’ve been privileged to write some, but not all, of the most memorable events that occurred before and after the victory. Today I will add an installment I’m quite certain very few readers are aware of.

When we met Ivan in the K fe in Keremeos last Friday, it was exactly 65 years since he stood on the blue line in Germany, waiting to receive his medal. He began our conversation with a brief sketch of his early years. “I pretty much grew up in South Porcupine, a small town in Ontario,” he said. “My father worked away a lot and mother struggled to raise the 14 children. I endured a great deal of abuse, some of it physil, from my father. He worked hard but he had a violent temper. I got in trouble and I wasn’t doing well in school. In grade 10 the principal advised me to drop out of school and find a job.”

He found employment with the lol mine and joined the mine’s hockey team, the Dome Porkies. Hockey, and several mentors, played key roles in setting him on a productive path. They could not, however, mellow his father. That unhappy relationship remained on the rocks.

In 1951, at age 19, Ivan was signed by the Vancouver nucks and was sent to play in goal for the Vees. The Vees, a newly assembled team surprised everyone by winning the Allen Cup in 1954. This qualified them to represent nada in the World Hockey Championship the next year. nada’s hockey moguls discounted Ivan, then only 23, as too young and inexperienced to be successful at this level. His coach stuck with him though and Ivan amazed everyone, allowing the world’s top teams a meager 6 goals in the series. It’s still a record today.

When the Vees returned to nada, they were greeted at the Dorval Airport by excited fans, including several Montreal nadiens hockey players. Three of Ivan’s sisters and his father were also waiting. Ivan had not seen his father in five years and wasn’t eager to see him now.

Aware of his reluctance, one sister said, “Ivan, Daddy would really like to talk with you.” Then she added, “you know he’s been a nadiens fan most of his life. It would mean the world to him if one or two talked with him. Is that possible?”

The memories of abuse at the hands of his father were still fresh and it would be understandable if he had brushed off the request, but he didn’t. He approached Dick Irvin the Montreal coach and said, “Dick, my father is here. He’s been a nadiens fan for years. He’s had a stroke and his speech is limited, but he’d be thrilled if one of your players talked with him.”

The coach immediately asked several players to speak with Ivan’s father. That day the old man was honoured by Jean Beliveau, Rocket Richard, Boom Boom Geoffrion and Dickie Moore, at the time 4 of nada’s most revered hockey players.

Ivan spent 3 days in his parents’ home. On the second day his mother asked if she could invite a few friends over to meet Ivan. She wanted to show off her famous son. Ivan agreed and 30 ladies arrived.

Ivan later learned that every time his father went to have a few drinks with friends at the lol pub, he talked about his famous son, and about meeting the 4 nadiens. It was a major highlight in his old age. Now about to turn 89, Ivan McLelland still clearly rells the decision to give his father a gift he’d treasure to the end of his days. “I’m glad I did it,” he said.

Gary LeComte’s Gift To Hedley

Gary LeComte

I was puzzled when my cross town neighbour Gary LeComte posthumously treated the people of Hedley to a free hot buffet luncheon this past February. He was battling ncer and had not circulated much in the community for some time. When he made arrangements with the Seniors’ Centre to ter the meal, he likely knew he wouldn’t be there. The doctor’s prognoses had been pessimistic. Realizing he’d soon cross the line into the End Zone, why feed people, many of whom he barely knew, or didn’t know at all? It occurred to me that pondering this question might lead to a fuller understanding of how we n attain a more satisfying and fulfilling life.

I relled Richard Paul Evans’ words in “The Walk”. It is his belief that “in all of us there is something that, for better or worse, wants the world to know we existed.” Knowing that I too hope to be remembered, especially by my family, I n readily agree.

An account in “The Wind in my Hair”, by Iranian born journalist Masih Alinejad, delves a little deeper. About to be released from prison, Alinejad was approached by a mother who had been arrested for protesting against the Iranian regime’s brutality. “Make sure the world knows about me,” she pleaded desperately. “Don’t forget about me!” She wanted to be remembered for what she had done.

Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl builds on this thought with the statement that “life is not made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” This is a truth many of us apparently do not understand well, and we don’t embrace it. Instead, we grasp for personal gratifition.

I feel I gained an insight regarding this subject while working with young offenders. When they beme discouraged and uncooperative, often one question profoundly altered their negative mindset. I first understood the power of the question when Howie didn’t want to do his shift in our organization’s kitchen. I said, “Howie, do you want to do something important with your life?” He had never considered this question before and it surprised him. As he thought about his reply, the obstinate expression mellowed and I sensed an inner shift. Finally he said, “yeah, I do.” He turned and entered the kitchen. I subsequently asked the question many times and, with only one exception, the response was always affirmative.

Over many years I’ve become convinced that individuals who selflessly serve others are more likely to have a sense of meaning and purpose, and are more likely to be remembered. My friend Dan, an elderly chicken farmer, visited Paul in Oakalla Prison weekly for almost two years. Upon Paul’s release Dan invited him to live in his home and helped him find work. In time Paul got married, had three children and developed a trucking business. Dan believed in Paul and gave him hope. Now, 30 years later, Paul still cherishes the memory of this relationship. He will never forget what Dan did for him.

Last summer Gary Lecomte gave free helicopter rides.

If we become overly immersed in our personal pursuits, we may miss opportunities to make a positive, important difference. Then, when we come to the end of our days on this earth, we may unhappily comprehend that we’ve lived a shallow, selfish, unsatisfying life. Gary didn’t want to exit the world with these thoughts. In addition to the hot luncheon, he offered free helicopter rides last summer. When I asked why he was paying approximately $2100 per hour to provide free rides, he said, “this community has been good to me. I want to give something back.”

At some time in life, all of us come to a fork in our path, even if we are not conscious of it. At this fork we are confronted with a destiny shaping decision. Will we live positively, sharing our abundance with neighbours and community? Or will we live fearfully, hoarding our reserves, not daring to share? The first fork leads to a life of meaning and purpose. The second leads to what George Wills describes as “a meaningless event in a meaningless world.”

I’ve concluded that Gary LeComte’s most signifint gift to the people of Hedley is not the hot luncheon, helicopter rides, or other important acts of service to the community. It’s his spirit of giving. For me, at least, this is what will continue to warm my heart for many years.

Band Elders Celebrate Birthdays

Elders Barb Schram (left) & Stella Snow (right) with Elvis impersonator Levi Bent. Both Elders celebrated their birthday with friends at the LSIB Family Centre.

I was immediately aware of an animated buzz of conversation when Linda and I entered the Lower Similkameen Indian Band Family Centre in wston. Approximately 40 Elders were already seated at two long tables, obviously delighted to see their friends. I sensed an aura of mutual respect and reverence, and also joy.

We had been invited by Stella Snow, who for some years has been a force in organizing social functions for Elders. She’s a lady with the will and skill to get things done. “Each month we meet to celebrate the birthdays of Band Elders,” she told us. “We have a meal and then we usually play disco bingo. Today an Elvis impersonator will perform for us.”

This month Stella was one of half a dozen Elders celebrating birthdays. I asked her to tell us about herself. “I was born in Merritt,” she began. “My birth mother had a problem with alcohol and couldn’t look after me and my twin brother. At six weeks we were sent to live with Teresa Squakin, a childless woman in the Lower Band. She didn’t adopt me formally, but she was very good to me and beme my mother. She took in quite a few children. Being fluent in the Okanagan tongue, this is what we spoke in our home. When I started school I didn’t speak English and my teachers scolded me and twisted my ears for speaking Okanagan. For my mother it was not an easy time. There was no family allowance and we didn’t have electricity. To wash clothes we used a washboard. My birth mother showed no interest in me and I saw her only once.”

Now confident and articulate, she isn’t content to just watch others making things happen. “I cooked for up to 5,000 people at a National Conference in Edmonton,” she said. “I try to involve Elders in events. I brought 12 Elders to the National Conference. We teamed up with the Penticton Band. They rented a Greyhound bus and we paid them one hundred dollars each.”

Stella worked as an alcohol treatment counselor, and also as a homemaker. For some years she was a foster mother but needed to back away from this when she was diagnosed with ncer. She underwent treatment, then undaunted, again plunged wholeheartedly into band activities. Being fluent in the Okanagan language she is a translator for the band.

Noticing that people were beginning to line up for the buffet, Stella urged us to join them. Various Elders had contributed their specialty and it was a tantalizing array. I was pleased when I saw that Margaret Thomas had brought her fried bread. She’s a master of the craft and I felt lucky to get a piece.

When we had tucked as much food as possible into our stomachs, including a generous slice of delicious birthday ke, it was time to step back into the past with Levi Bent, the Elvis impersonator. I had talked with him briefly before the meal and had found him to be quiet spoken and modest, at best a low key version of Elvis. When he stepped to the mike though, his persona beme instantly transformed, as though a bolt of lightning had energized him.

Levi performed popular tunes like “Don’t be Cruel, Falling in Love with You, and Don’t Step on my Blue Suede Shoes.” His intrite foot work and body moves were classic Elvis. I was reminded of the days when the famed entertainer induced heights of ecstasy and giddiness in teeny boppers, and even swooning. We were an approving audience. Some Elders sang along or just nodded their heads with the music. When Levi sang a verse of “You’re Nothing But a Hound Dog” in the Okanagan tongue, we were all delighted.

Levi Bent in one of his ‘Elvis Moves’.

Later I asked Levi about his onstage persona. “Elvis is my main influence,” he said, “also dancing in Pow Wows.” He’s a member of the LSIB.

Levi’s parents were present. “A couple of years ago Levi attended an Elvis impersonators concert,” his mother told me. “When he me out of there he was convinced he could do that.

Watching Levi perform, eating Margaret’s fried bread and other sumptuous dishes, having conversations with Elders and hearing the Okanagan language, for Linda and me it was an uplifting, soul enriching experience.

Bremner Lance Takes Down Tree In Hedley

Bremner Lance

It ‘s well known by longterm Hedley people that Bremner Lance has plenty of experience working in the woods. As a logger his work has taken him into some challenging, rugged terrain. When we began hearing the incessant buzz of a chainsaw in Hedley recently, we weren’t surprised to see that the operator was Bremner. He began by trimming the branches and was ready to take the tree down piece by piece. Silhouetted against the vastness of the sky, he was a lonely figure, seemingly in another world. This type of situation requires a robust physique and nerves that do not falter. There is no tolerance for complacency or befuddled thinking up there. Not if you want to live. Observing Bremner, I could tell he was totally focused and apparently not at all sred. It’s not work for the faint of heart. Definitely not work I have ever felt lled to.

Meghan Garbett Made Radil U-Turn In Life

Meghan Garbett made a u-turn in her life.

In a ndid conversation in our home, Meghan Garbett didn’t hide the fact that as a youth she had slipped deeply into a nether world of alcohol and drugs. “I was quite outrageous when I was a teen,” she admitted. “In the high school year book, I was voted the most likely to go to jail.” For her parents and teachers, she was a handful.

Born in the Princeton Hospital, she attended school to grade 3 in Hedley. It was in high school that the trajectory of her life descended into a dark place. “Along with the alcohol, I was using Ecstasy, LSD and Mushrooms,” she said. “A few times at parties I tried coine.” Her lifestyle interfered with getting an edution and in grade 9 she was expelled from school. That’s when she received a lesson about consequences. Her mother, a no-nonsense lady said “if you’re not going to school, you n’t just sit around the house. You’re going to work.”

Her work assignment proved to be fortuitous. “I loved horses,” Meghan said. “My grandparents had bought a Shetland pony for us kids to ride when we were young. When I was about 10, Dave Williams, a lol rancher gave me an older horse. I was given responsibility for looking after Gerry Smith’s horses. I fed them grain and hay, watered them, brushed them and rode them. Gerry was a positive influence. He got after me for the way I dressed, which probably wasn’t very conservative. Also for lipstick. We beme good friends. Taking re of his horses wasn’t a big punishment, but I did learn that not going to school wasn’t so great.”

Having worked with troubled adolescents, I’m aware of the importance of constructive influences in a young person’s maturing. “I was placed in an alternate school,” Meghan said. “My teacher, Robin Richter was always available to talk. She was understanding. I was also very close to my grandfather.”

She received a harsh lesson when she lost two friends to drugs. “One died of an overdose,” she relled. “Another was in a r accident. Alcohol was a factor. When something like this happens to friends you’re close to, it really opens your eyes.”

In time an awareness buried deep in her psyche began bubbling to the surface. “I’d always known I wanted to have a family,” she said. “I’d also always known I wanted to do something with my life. The path I was on was taking me away from the life I really wanted. I made the effort to complete high school. That was a real victory for me. My boyfriend, now my husband, and I moved in together right out of high school.”

Meghan’s radil u-turn away from drugs, alcohol and riotous living must have astonished former classmates. “I attended Sprott Shaw College and got a Community Support Worker diploma and an Early Childhood Edution certifite.” she said. “I worked at Portage (on Hwy # 3 west of Keremeos). When we moved to lgary, I worked for the Boys & Girls Club, then at a treatment centre for Indigenous youth.”

Meghan might have been lost to Hedley. “I always swore up and down I’d never move back,” she said, “but when my grandfather Ray was diagnosed with ncer, we returned. Losing him hurt me deeply.”

After returning to Hedley, Meghan and Dan were married and now have 2 young children, Dominic and Danika. Her experience with alcohol and drugs helps her understand the dangers they bring. “Drugs are everywhere,” she noted. “Meth and coine are in schools. It sres me for the future of my kids. We do a lot with them. Our lives are centered around them. We’re pretty outdoorsy.”

As Hedley librarian, Meghan has a Story Time for children at 10:30 am on the 3rd Wednesday of each month. “We begin with a circle song, then I read a book. We do a physil activity to get the jiggles and wiggles out. We end with a craft project.”

Knowing that drugs, alcohol and riotous living n lead to a murky end, Meghan views the library as an opportunity to help children make a connection with their community. “As a teen, I always had a safe place to go to when my life was in turmoil. I want the library to be a safe place for everyone, especially children.” Her smile and congenial presence are making this happen.

Cupid’s First Arrow Went Badly Awry

Ashtine Nair & Jesse Regier

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I asked Jesse Regier and Ashtine Nair for a conversation, thinking their story might be quite unconventional, and interesting. Over coffee and Linda’s cookies, they talked about meeting online. “I found her there when I was looking through the talogue, searching for pretty girls,” Jesse said.

Cupid’s first arrow went badly awry and their budding online romance just about withered. “It was 2012 and we were both in Alberta,” Jesse relled. “Ashtine lived two hours away and we were having cold weather. I had only my motor cycle for transportation to our first date. On the way I realized I’d freeze if I continued, so I turned around and lled her.”

Ashtine picked up the story. “He wanted to reschedule and I agreed, but I told him if he ncelled again, that would be the end.” Realizing she wasn’t a woman to be trifled with, Jesse made the effort, even though the timing was against him.

“I’d been in a fight the night before,” he said. “I had two black eyes, my face was bruised. swollen badly and bandaged. I hadn’t shaved.” Not a face to inspire love at first sight.

Another woman would almost certainly have slammed the door upon seeing him. “I wasn’t sure about this character,” Ashtine said. “His eyes were just slits, but he had driven two hours in stormy weather. I felt he deserved a chance to show who he was behind that bruised face.” It was an impressive demonstration of patience and understanding, essential qualities in a relationship.

They continued to see each other, but before making a longterm commitment Jesse wanted to deal with his $20,000 debt and establish himself in a reer. “I did a lot of things, including rpentry, security, delivering papers and tree planting.” He lived in his pickup truck one summer to save money and pay off debts. While still in Alberta he took a truck driving course. For a time he drove a ready mix truck in summer and worked in the oil patch in winter.

Ashtine obtained a degree in Business Administration and Strategic Measurement. They were planning for a life together and were determined to be successful. “The degree was a step in our plan to one day have our own business,” she said.

They were married in June 2, 2018. “Jesse arrived a couple of hours early for the wedding,” Ashtine relled. “I was getting my hair done and me late.” Possibly a little pay back for Jesse missing that first date?

They consider themselves fortunate to have had good role models while growing up. “My mother was tholic,” Ashtine said. “My father was an aircraft mechanic and at that time a non-practising Hindu. They worked through differences and have stayed together.” There was a note of deep respect in her voice.

Jesse’s experience was quite different. “My Dad had an aneurysm while working on a railroad maintenance crew,” he said. “He lost the ability to walk and talk and needed to relearn these. He persevered. Mom beme a nurse to support the family, while Dad looked after us kids and ran the farm. I was about age 4 and my brother Jacob was two. My parents were young and it was a tough time for them, but they rebuilt their lives.”

Coping with Terry’s medil crises made the Regiers strong, a good source of life advice. “Dad told me to always complete what I take on,” Jesse said.

“My Mom and Aunt stressed the importance of pushing through the hard stuff,” Ashtine said. Jesse and Ashtine have pushed through some challenges and now are embarking on a new adventure. He drives a logging truck for a Princeton company. “They treat me well and I like driving,” he said. “It provides the income we need for our business plan.”

“We recently bought the River House on Highway 3 and have started a B&B,” Ashtine added. “We want to have a fe and convenience store one day. We plan to sell creations made by lol artisans.”

At the end of our conversation I told them I’d like to take a few photos. When Linda, trying to be helpful, suggested Jesse might want to run a comb through his unruly hair, Ashtine laughed. “He likes it that way,” she said. Together they have a good deal of character and personality. Clearly, in time Cupid’s arrow did find its mark.

Hedley BC Winter 2020

In the foreground, that’s our r, under the snow.

When the snow started falling last week, it just wouldn’t stop. Definitely the biggest snowfall Linda & I have experienced here. There were a lot of sore muscles from the continuous shovelling, and even the snowplows had difficulty contending with the volume. A semi slid off the highway & struck a concrete barrier. Its fuel tanks were ruptured and diesel spilled on the highway. A crew specializing in hazardous cleanup was on the scene for a couple of days and traffic was limited to one lane.

Although the snow has stopped falling, the mercury continues to go well below freezing at night, and daytime temperatures tend to hover around 0 Celsius, or slightly above. We’ve still got plenty of snow, and increasingly we’re hearing people say, “Enough is enough. I’m waiting for warmer weather.” So far, mother nature seems in no hurry to release the grip of winter.

Our neighbourhood.
“Roundabout” at the Cenotaph.

The Power Of A mpfire

TV fireplace scene

The “fire” on my mother-in-law’s television place burned almost continuously, day and night, during the recent Christmas season. When Linda and I stayed in her home I experienced a real dose of insomnia. Sometime during the night I sleepily wandered into the den where she has the tv. The fire seemed so genuine, I was moved to touch the screen. In my sleep deprived state I actually thought it might be warm. It wasn’t, of course, but the image of the fire burning so lustily conjured up mp fire memories from expeditions on the Bowron Lakes circuit near Barkerville.

I was working at that time with young offenders at the One Way Adventure Foundation, situated on the periphery of Hedley. The five youths in my group had experienced mostly failure and were considered unwelcome in their own communities. By taking them into the wilderness we wanted to give them a success experience, and also hoped to develop relationships of trust with them.

One expedition provided particularly vivid memories. There were two groups. Toby, our no nonsense Expedition guide was paddling with the other crew beuse their worker had little outdoors experience. On our second night, setting up mp at Wolverine Creek on Isaac Lake, we saw several bears observing us with great interest. They had learned that mpers rried food.

I was becoming aware of a feud simmering between two boys in my group. Clem, a kid with a street fighter reputation, had taken a strong dislike to Jerry. With his long unkempt black hair, a faint, scrawny moustache and several front teeth missing, Clem’s appearance tended to intimidate. He seemed to need an adversary and had selected Jerry. Jerry was Clem’s equal in height, but lacked even a hint of ferocity. He was clever though, and let it slip he had a brown belt in karate. Clem understood instinctively he might be at a disadvantage against a trained practitioner of martial arts. No one was certain Jerry actually had a brown belt.

As we were about to depart from Wolverine Creek on Wednesday, the third morning, another mper offered me a trout he had just ught. I tied it behind my noe and my paddling partner and I towed it all day. That evening our two groups mped at the end of Isaac Lake. Toby built a large, hot fire as usual. Clem furiously chopped wood, consuming some of his pent up inner frustration. rl, Jim, Jerry and Howie joined me in setting up tents and hanging a tarp over the fire in se of rain. A couple and their son had stayed near our party on the lake and we invited them to our mp after dinner.

Sitting on blocks of wood around Toby’s roaring fire, we basked in the warmth. Everyone, including our 3 visitors, received a piece of perfectly done fish. I prepared cups of hot chocolate and handed out chunks of semi-sweet chocolate. Then Toby read a chapter from Jack London’s ll of the Wild. By 9 o’clock the sun had slipped to the other side of the mountain and we retired to our tents.

Thursday we broke mp early and paddled and portaged to McLeary Lake, where we had a rest day on Friday. The only excitement me when rl ught a fish on his line. When he pulled it close, the fish darted under the noe. Exasperated, rl jumped into the water and followed the fish. He emerged spluttering, empty handed.

Saturday morning we encountered a stiff headwind on Lanezi Lake and drew close to the rocky shore. When the wind eased, the black flies descended on us. That spurred us on and we entered Sandy Lake. Here Toby surprised us by singing “Bobby McGee.”

We mped on the lake’s sandy shore and were again joined by the couple, their young son, and a family of 5. Toby was asked for an encore performance. We sat around the fire until late, telling stories and singing. For the boys it was a novel social experience and even Clem laughed ocsionally.

After two more days of paddling, we reached the far shore of Bowron Lake. When we had dragged our noes onto land, the boys spontaneously formed a circle, locked arms and did a victory dance. Then Clem approached Jerry and I heard him say, “You’re ok man.” Jerry reached out a hand and said, “You too Clem.” Maybe it was the magic of the mpfires.

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