Bong, Bonk, Boink

Bong!
Bonk, Boing

The place on Lake Koocanusa where I now live and work is filled with those noises every morning and evening. There are over two dozen houseboats stored close together in the yard waiting for the return of summer’s high water levels on the lake. The sounds comes from the daily heating and cooling of the pontoons on these boats. As the air inside them expands and contracts, the sides of the huge aluminum containers flex according to the changing pressure. It’s a bit unnerving at first but after a couple of weeks I don’t even hear the daily percussive concert anymore. But I also do not hear sirens, traffic or any other urban din. At night there is complete silence except for the odd calling flock of migrating birds. It is bliss.

Needless to say when the occasional client arrives and cranks up their stereo I feel an instant fury. I don’t understand why folks come here to escape the impositions of their urban home environments and then impose themselves on their fellows. I understand I’ll have to endure this din all the summer long so I may as well learn to dance. Haar! Presently I awaken to the calls of redwing blackbirds, meadowlarks, the chatter of magpies and Stellar jays. Passing flocks of cranes and geese call day and night. Herds of deer graze within a few feet of my camper. My biggest joy has been to see a real mountain bluebird. Those fleeting moments of iridescent blue are indelible, what a fantastic sight. No, I did not have a camera handy.

Surprise! April 11th, returning from Alberta I found a nice place to spend the night beside the railway at Crowsnest Pass. This photo begs a moose to step into it.
It has been a long time since I’ve been near a railway. We don’t have a working one on Vancouver Island. They are fast and quiet, no more clickety-clack with all-welded rails. This is a westbound grain train.

A tribute in Sparwood to the miners who have died supporting their families and making the mine owners wealthy.

The weather here is amazingly fickle. It can be warm and calm then raining with a blasting wind and back to the former state of spring all within a half-hour. Deceived by a balmy spring day I headed off to buy groceries in Fernie wearing shorts and sandals but arrived there to find myself in a sleet storm. My fluorescent white legs were brighter than the snow on the mountains and I felt like a complete idiot. I lay awake at night wondering how this old fool ended up here so very far from the sea.

A fireless locomotive. filled with compressed air or steam this was used to haul lo ore carts out of the ground. It was crude but a huge improvement over using donkeys or women and children.
This mini behemoth sits beside the highway in Elko.
The Waldo Church. Turning off the highway at Elko the road to Koocanusa takes one by the place names of Baynes Lake and Waldo. This, I think, is the proper size for a church.

I find the work pleasantly challenging and varied. I may be bent over a boat motor one hour, then doing carpentry work for a while and then perhaps consulting about a fibreglass project all in the same day. I awake in the morning to see if there is any frost then sit with the gentle burble of the coffee percolating and wonder what the hell I’m doing here. Is this the end of the line for me or is it a window to new beginnings? That, of course, is entirely up to me. I’ve just bought a new mobile phone which is an amazing camera as well as a task master of several other abilities. We use our phones as a communication system around the eight acres where we work. To more easily charge the “device” I’ve also purchased a charger which works simply by sitting my cell phone on top of it. No plugs or brackets. It’s magic! I asked the clerk in the phone store if they sold a charger big enough for me to sit on. Struth! I need one.

‘Morning Bambi. Sitting inside my camper waiting for the coffee to percolate. She is feeding on the succulent new grass sprouting up among the carpet of pine needles.
Gold Bay morning, Lake Koocanusa

This anonymous quote was sent to me by a friend. Thank you to everyone for the tidbits you send me. They help.

The single biggest thing I learned was from an indigenous elder of Cherokee descent, Stan Rushworth, who reminded me of the difference between a Western settler mindset of “I have rights” and an indigenous mindset of “I have obligations.” Instead of thinking that I am born with rights, I choose to think that I am born with obligations to serve past, present, and future generations, and the planet herself.”

Who Has Seen The Wind?

Awesome!
Always there is wind. I’ve counted 50 windmills in this photo.

W. O. Mitchel’s classic novel of the above title was forced on generations of Canadian students as a rite of passage. Contemplating the days ahead living in my small tiny camper I recalled a character from that novel named Saint Sammy. He lived alone in a discarded piano crate out on the bald prairie. I managed to find a copy of the book in excellent condition which had come from an old Cowichan school library dated 1947. I paid five dollars. What a treasure! I soon realized that what is regarded by most as a dreary piece of reading is in fact a brilliant novel that should be reread by any adult who appreciates a good book and a wonderful story. Here are some windy images from the Old Man River area. I will go back there.

An intrinsic part of prairie experience is the sky and the ever-changing, often hurtling clouds.
I imagined dinners inside that bay wind, the table perhaps lit by coal oil lanterns. There is a spirit in these beautifully crafted derelict homes. What adds a brilliant touch to this  old home is the small, simple decorative brace added beneath the gable. It was frivolous yet elegant.
It takes little imagination to see smoke streaming from the chimney. There is a tang of that smoke and baking bread, perhaps roasting venison. Laundry streams from a clothesline, billowing and flapping. Children’s laughter tinkles in the breeze and maybe there is the whiney of a horse.
The driveway
If you don’t like the weather, wait half an hour
Windmills above a backwater of the Old Man River reservoir
I have seen the wind. I have flown in it, I have sailed with it and into it, I have leaned into its blasts and cowered from it, realizing how tiny a man is against a force of the spinning planet. Then I dropped my glasses.
The wind. Apparently it can drive people crazy. I’m already there and I love the wind.
They’re everywhere.
“He just sits there pointing that one-eyes thing at us. Let’s give him the slip”…Blur manouvre 49
“Bet that made him jiggle something.”
Thazzit! Pincher Creek. The gateway to some spectacular mountain parks like Waterton and in the middle of breath-taking vistas, the community itself is a miserable, soulless place. The folks are lovely though.
The other side of the tracks. Pincher Siding. A classic prairie grain elevator, few are left.
There is a smell to these elevators. Stale diesel, railway creosote, bird droppings, all mingle on the near-constant wind.
The old freight shed
Can you see the moths circling around that light late at night? How about snow blasting past? There are stories in those weathered boards.
Nobody home.
I loved this graffiti on the end of the shed.
Yo!
Westward ho.
If the hectic pace in Pincher Creek overwhelms you, there may be an apartment to rent a few miles to the west in Cowley. They sit next to the CPR tracks and the open land beyond. Ever hunt deer from your apartment?
No pretensions here.
The gravel streets are graded twice a year and the RVs are almost paid for. This is a 1970ish Dodge. Nope, no air bags.
No air bags in this one either. I wondered how man times this 1931 Ford freight truck had been to that old freight shed in Pincher Siding through the decades. It looks ready for a few more runs. Original paint.
Against The Wind. I can hear Bob Seger singing it. There are miles of these contraptions. They fascinate me but I know they are a huge environmental oxymoron. We will look back in chagrin at our expansive efforts to be politically correct.
These clearly dearly beloved old dead trees seem to mark the entrance to the Crowsnest Pass. Behind lays the big, rolling wide open. Suddenly mountains tower above you and the world becomes a bit claustrophobic.

“I would walk to the end of the street and over the prairie with the clickety grasshoppers bunging in arcs ahead of me, and I could hear the hum and twang of wind in the great prairie harp of telephone wires. Standing there with the total thrust of prairie sun on my vulnerable head, I guess I learned — at a very young age — that I was mortal.”

W. O. Mitchell

The Corner Of Seemore And Didless

The Corner of Seemore and Didless

Exploring the Indian Graves Road, just north of Chain Lakes. It was beautiful despite the mud and fresh spring snow.
Beaver spring. The fat furry rodents are thriving and prolific in the foothills.
Alone. Security in obscurity. Imagine a winter night alone with a tiny wood stove and a flickering lantern. Coyote’s howl as the wind moans around your tiny abode. But, first came the tiny home…
…Then came the little red barn.
A view to die for
In the lee under a cold front

After my boat inspections were complete and truck repairs were finished I sallied forth hoping to take a day or too just for being and taking some photos. I love the foothill country of Alberta and actually concede to a growing affection for the wide open flat country and the big blue sky overhead. I also hold a delight for old buildings and there are still a few of those standing. Eventually I found a place to park for the night where I could see for miles in all directions. I hunkered down to watch the ever-changing light and the sun setting through an approaching storm. The next day I poked about in the Old Man River area. The weather flipped between snow squalls and exquisite warm sunny spells. It was an exquisite day. Here are some of my photos.

It’s about a lifestyle
Apparently a local tradition that goes for miles.
Set for the night at the corner of Seemore And Didless
In the morning
Bitter cold a breathtaking light
At that corner the winding moaned in the poles and wires
Storm’s end
An hour later
A split decision
To my great delight I found the Cowley Sailplane Airfield. Once again I was a child at a grass airstrip, and the memories came flooding back.
Says it all
Many sailplane altitude records have been set from this field.
The launching winch. It is parked at the upwind end of the active runway and the line is hooked to a sailplane at the opposite end. On a signal the aircraft is winched forward at high speed. By the time the the sailplane releases the line it can be at 2000′ when it passes above the winch.
A rare find, it still works…and I know how to work it.
The water was sulphurous.
Great faded pen art.
The old horse shed. Note the gnawed board on the stable gate.
Hay the modern way.
The ubiquitous symbol of modern Alberta. Up and down, round and round, sucking raw crude out of the ground.
Earth, wind, sky, horses.

What a thousand acres of Silphiums looked like when they tickled the bellies of the buffalo is a question never again to be answered, and perhaps not even asked.”
― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There

Razorbacks And Pit Bulls

Razorbacks and Pitbulls

Country roads and April dust

The mission, which I chose to accept, was to drive to central Alberta and inspect some boats for a potential buyer. I have never before driven through the Crowsnest Pass. It was beautiful and dramatic. The mountains capped with an entire winter’s load of glistening snow towered dramatically. Wildlife bounded all around and driving required open eyes. I emerged to turn north onto highway 22 which leads toward Calgary and all points beyond. I braced myself for the dull prairie drive ahead. I was heading for a town near Red Deer well into the belly of the province. It is a long way and I thought I’d be driving on and on, consumed with white line fever. But I did stop, repeatedly. There are winning photographs everywhere. Eventually you concede that you’ll have to leave most of them behind. This drive must be among the most beautiful in Canada, with the Rockies in the background, peaks peeking up behind the foothills and the rich ranch land in this rolling country. For me, it is the quintessential Canadian cowboy West. Perhaps all those rolling vistas remind me of being out on the open ocean. In any case I was driving in country new to me and I loved it.

Into the mystic brown prairie spring

I finally arrived just before dark at a motel near where the boat was supposed to be and settled in for a night. The long forgotten sounds of a nearby railway kept my weary head awake for a while but those rumblings and hootings are the anthem of the prairies. I drifted off with snatches of ancient cowboy songs about trains drifting through my brain.

A crow’s nest
Which way to the 7-11?

A morning rendezvous lead me up rolling dusty gravel roads to where the boat sat. Water is a far more precious commodity than the copious supplies of oil and gas in this province. I was amazed at how dry everything was for early April. But then, they’re having a drought and I’m a coastal boy. All the dry brown and sepia tones unsettled me but there is a stark beauty everywhere. At the end of a long country road there sat the boat, high and dry, looking incongruous and sad. The young man brokering this amazing find from Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan had it towed to his uncle’s Alberta farm. He had apparently traded it for some Harley Davidson motorcycles and then hauled the old classic the hundreds of miles on a beautiful trailer which had no working brakes and jury rigged tail lights. I commended his temerity and he said that he reckoned folks would be “So amazed at seeing Noah’s ark rolling across the prairies that they’d never notice the trailer.” Uhuh!

The mission: 1999 Trojan 37′ mahogany-hulled former beauty queen. Her lines are still evident but rebuilding her to her former glory would be an expensive career.

The farm itself was a rambling collection of old trucks, farm machinery, a jumble of shipping containers, and a few mobile homes jammed together. The inhabitants I met were a few young men in steel-toe boots and baseball hats who were surrounded by a swirling mob of large pitbulls. Despite those boy’s angst I was easily able to befriend their four-legged pals and soon learned that their “Pig farm” raised giant razorback hogs which were then sold to various groups who liked to release them and then hunt them down. Sport? They are infamously vicious critters, (both the hunters and the hogs.) The boar was easily three hundred pounds and stood staring me down with his tiny pig eyes and clacking his six inch tusks. I asked if I could photograph them and after glances among themselves, the young fellows reluctantly agreed. I was told that they do not go inside the fence with these infamous creatures without a stout stick and someone standing by outside with a rifle. I began to remember the movie ‘Deliverance’ and remembered the part about being asked to squeal. Much to everyone’s relief, including mine, I left. I mused that maybe this could pass for a movie set of a meth lab. The place did not have a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Fat ladies with tiny feet.
They called her Cuddles. I wonder if there are any pig whisperers? Razorback hogs are not known to be good house pets.
A room with a view. This elevator apparently stores barley.

After a sojourn to Calgary to inspect some more boats that day I found myself in Cochrane, about thirty miles to the West. It had been a very long day. The slogan on the community’s welcome sign says “The West as it is now.” That is very sad. Endless rows of enormous shit-brindle brown houses are jammed together in a way that is reminiscent of old industrial English row housing. Eeech! Each house id large and verey comfortable but Geez Louse! There’s a whole prairie out there. There are many long beautiful hiking trails, moose are often seen in local parks, the mountain views are spectacular, but I repeat, eeech! I remember this place as a quaint little old cow town of less than five thousand folks. Now God knows how many people have swelled its borders and continue to infect it like a virus. A bedroom community for sprawling Calgary, the downtown of Cochrane has been made-over with a faux western theme now that lends a Disneyland effect to what was once a real cow town. Now everything is about impressions. Malls with all the box stores, car dealers, industrial parks and pretentious clone-box suburbs spread like cancer across rich farming country.

Big houses on the prairie. Even the lake is man-made.
Yes really!
The gas plant says it all. It was  farm land not so long ago.
This is how I remember Cochrane
A morning view from a dining room. A great way to sit with a morning coffee. Even this sailor found it incredible.
Got it?
Calgary in the distance. It is growing beyond anyone’s belief.

It was splendid to visit with some very dear friends who live in one of those boxes. They, at least, have a spectacular view from their corner lot. The light and the clouds change incessantly. That panorama is mesmerizing but they want to move. Folks in their area have an aggressively friendly manner. They peer into windows as they walk by and wave at you inside. They lean over the fence and gormlessly speculate on what my friends are doing in their own yard. Everyone means well I’m sure, but it’s hard to live with after a while especially if you treasure your privacy.

After a wonderful visit it was time to move on. My truck was reloaded, final hugs and promises were made. The starter on my truck decided to expire right there in their driveway. My finances are tight and it was certainly not what was needed but instead of being parked in a distant backwoods mud puddle, or a razorback hog farm, there I was on a dry concrete slab, among friends, in town. Their very gracious help allowed me to make repairs right there in the driveway. By that time late in the day they were stuck with me for another night. You’ve got to wonder how the god’s minds work. I’m not complaining. Thank you so much Ann and Randy.

The next morning I sallied forth with a few days to point my cameras at whatever I liked. And so I have. Eventually that day I parked on a level patch within the void between an intersection between two gravel country roads. These roads are smoother than many paved ones in BC and the locals hurtle along them at amazing speeds. They’d slow right down to ponder the spectacle that I must have presented. “Git the shotgun Doreen, there’s a stranger squattin’ down on the corner of Seemore and Didless! Dang tourist I reckon. Need to run him off afore more turn up. Goldang it anyhow.” I slept in the camper feeling as if I were in a boat, the wind buffeted and moaned all night. In The morning greeted me with a skiff of snow and dramatically changing light. It was wonderful.

A room with a view. Note the windmills in the distance.
Morning!
A sailor is called in Longview Alberta

I ambled along the back roads in a sort-of homeward direction contentedly taking photos and chasing windmills. This is a notoriously windy area and there are spinning windmills in all directions for many miles. Don Quixote rides on!

The purple towel hung by the front gate whenever her husband was away on another trip. A small store converted to a tiny downtown home.

Throughout the day, several snow squalls blew out of the north. In one place I hiked a kilometer from the truck to video a row of whirling windmills. I returned to the truck as another vicious squall struck and realized that I’d dropped my glasses, somewhere. I hiked back, bent into the wind and worried they’d be covered in the pelleting snow. Exactly as far back as I had first gone, I found them winking at me.

After one final stop in Pincher Creek I drove westward looking for a good place to park for the night. I’m writing this near noon of the next day parked beside the CPR mainline in Crowsnest Pass. It has snowed several inches overnight and more flurries continue. I’m in no hurry.

The tin yurt. a herd of white tail deer watched from from the distance beyond the aspens.

I’ve edited my heap of photos and videos and sit writing while wondering what to do with the remains of the day. Perhaps I should drive back up the hill to the highway before it snows more. Did I mention that it is April eleventh?

I have far too many photos for one blog so the next few will be a series of photo essays. I will be able to fill my evenings posting them while I settle into my new fate at Lake Kookanusa. Happy trails indeed.

The way we were
CLOSE THE GATE!

Instead of my usual ending with a quote here is a link to the time-worn sound of Wilf Carter singing ‘Springtime In The Rockies.’ It’s corny, but Wilf was a father of Canadian country music and his songs are the sound of a life much simpler. I, for one, miss it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpPIDiUt2ec

Greenwood

Greenwood

Rotting decorative corners make a home for birds. Just a bit of fading former glory.

My recent peregrination along the most southerly highway in British Columbia offered many delights. I am fascinated with old farms, mines and towns along the back roads I love to travel. Bittersweet feelings fill my head at times about the tremendous industry which goes into building dreams that eventually fall into decay and ruin. I marvel at how all that effort is so easily abandoned. But then that has always happened with civilization and someday our endeavours will merely be another mound to be explored by future archaeologists.

Mainstreet Greenwood, Saturday afternoon. Park anywhere.
Greenwood skyline
More skyline
It still works
What’s a Linely?
A busy moment. Gringo parked in front of liquor store under the old Sears sign. Sears: the
Amazon of the past.
A social opportunity
On a main street store door
The devil is in the details
City Hall and communal internet
Across the street
Good old growth wood
A faded dignity
The original, still-functioning fire hall appears to be a fire hazard itself
Lazier than flies on a warm tin door
Poor planning “Safety First”
There’s a newer hose truck inside… I hope
Old Spokey

This blog is a simple photo essay on the town of Greenwood. Once a bustling wealthy mining center with a smelter it is now a quiet, remote community struggling to stay alive. Photos of Greenwood are usually of its smelter and huge hideous slag piles. I chose to share a few minutes on a Saturday afternoon strolling around the main blocks of its downtown, where people lived. It typifies a lot of small North American communities stubbornly clinging to a time which was very different and is rightfully cherished. Have a look, maybe find an ice cream and get a tattoo. Then drive on.

An old store on main street was filled with ancient electric stoves, toasters and appliances. an odd and interesting collection.
Hot dog!
Flip toasters row on row
Original boxes
Signs of the times
Breakfast of Champions
Meat Draw
Look up.
You’ve always wanted a sailing ship tattooed on your…!

No child on earth was ever meant to be ordinary, and you can still see it in them, and they know it, too, but then the times get to them, and they wear out their brains learning what folks expect, and spend their strength trying to rise over those same folks.”

…Annie Dillard ‘The Living’

A Dog Named Stoppit

Home waters, a last glimpse for a while.

I was loading up my old camper when a neighbor three doors down began yelling at her dog. It’s a lovely German Shepard which never gets a walk and barks incessantly from the confines of its back yard. The owner is a woman who has a loud penetrating smokers voice, full of gravel and venom. “Stoppit, STOPPIT!” It has occurred to me that she might be shouting at her husband. This barking/shouting routine has become neighborhood white noise through the years. It may even be missed when it ends, rather like a cancelled train.

Front row seat. “When you’re being run out of town, get to the front of the crowd and make it look like a parade.” The ferry fare was a small fortune to me.
Imagine what the other guy paid for a ticket. His RV went on for another six feet and…he was towing a vehicle. And…he was from Covid Ontario.

Perhaps my presence may be missed when it ends as it does this morning. I’m leaving on my next adventure today. Ladysmith will have to struggle on without me. Yeah right! The clear sky brightens slowly with a dull pink then turns to a subtle gold. A heavy dew covers everything and this is near the moment when it may suddenly freeze. I fell into a deep sleep in front of the television last night. I awoke in the middle of a documentary about the work of Sebastiao Salgado, the renowned photojournalist. I was in a peculiar state, neither asleep nor fully awake and unable to move as a parade of stunning black and white images moved in front of me. Each shot was more dramatic and surreal, a thousand views of hell and the unspeakable cruelty and suffering of the human race. Those images are still racing in my brain this morning. I try to distract myself while I finish packing. Somewhere up the back alley more dogs bark. The dew freezes and all the roofs are suddenly white.

I drive the line. My preferred route around the lower mainland megalumpalous is along Zero Avenue. It is the forty ninth parallel and the Canada/Us border.  That’s Amurica in the ditch. Note the vertical line in the fresh snow above the road on the ridge in the distance, it goes on like for the next few thousand miles. The need for speed bumps is obvious and a reminder of Mexico.
TOPE!

A first night sleeping in the camper just east of the town of Hope is followed by a drive through the mountains and over the passes into the interior. I miss the ocean dearly, both the smell and the idea of it. Enough said. The light of the rising sun draws me on into breathtaking vistas, over passes and into dark winding valleys. There are spectacular scenes of an entire winter’s snow lining ice-crusted clear streams but snow holds no fascination for me. I’ve had more than enough in my life time. Emerging into the high open country of the Similkameen I miss a stunning shot of eagles and ravens milling around the carcass of a road-killed elk. I double back but they are gone. In a few more miles there is a puff of dust high up on a rocky slide and a herd of Big Horn rams melee about like school boys at recess. It’s a glorious day and I amble onward, the truck with its full camper and overloaded trailer a sight from a ponderous odyssey.

Boys will be boys. If they had not been kicking up dust I would never have noticed them. Big Horn Sheep.
What you get when you combine redneck sensibilities with a n old German car
Osooyos, a view from a lookout on Anarchist Hill
Ever want to be a bug on someone’s wall? This is a friend’s house in Penticton.
A splendid gift. There’s a lot of love in those jars. I must return the empties.
Just a little imagination can be a lot of fun.
Days gone by. Pirated from an old photos of former glories in Rock Creek. The dogs all wore moccasins on their front feet, except for the lost one.
Memories for me. I learned to cook on a woodstove much like this.
A hint of spring comes in the interior.
Over the keening of the wind I can hear the faint tinkle of children’s laughter.
This is in a gorgeous valley which lays beneath Anarchist Mountain. This old homestead has been a favourite on BC calendars for decades.
The old line shack. Imagine winter nights alone.

After visiting with a friend in the South Okanogan for over a day I head eastward up the steep passes and down into the next valley beyond. I’m either burning up the truck’s motor with my heavy load or trying not to cook the brakes while racing down toward the next tight bend. There is deep crusted snow near each summit and sad little towns in each valley. I drive until past another ruin of a community named Yahk where I found a good place to park for the night. I sleep well.

Where the pipeline crosses the railway along the Moyie River
A noisy welcome.
Summer Kerplunk
A wonderful place to camp. A delicious leftover curry and an elk’s jawbone for a poker. There are beasties everywhere…until hunting season.
SLAM! A few miles before Cranbrook I see this. Of all the vehicles I’ve owned I loved my old Toyota FJ. This guy has a yard full for sale.
Be still my beating heart!
Lake Koocanusa, “that’s easy for you to say!” I had to cross the bridge to get to the my jobsite. It’s simply know by the employees as “Sunshine.”

On day four I arrive at my destination, Lake Koocanusa. If I can’t be by or on the ocean this is country I can love. Open grassy land with open forest of ponderosa or bull pine, tamarack also known as larch, and small fir. I find myself longing for a horse. Although I have not ridden for decades this is a broad wide valley leading southward which draws one’s heart onward. This lake is man made, the reservoir is behind Libby Dam on the Kootenay River in Montana, one hundred forty kilometers to the south. Incongruously the river then arches northward back into Canada where it joins the Columbia River near Castlegar. My first glimpse of it is a sailor’s nightmare. There are shallow sandbars everywhere and from my high vantage point I see only safe passage for tiny boats. Of course spring runoff has yet to begin when the lake’s surface will rise almost forty feet. In a seaman’s perspective these waters have only one annual tide with high water late in the summer and low slack right about now. The dam releases water as required to generate electricity and to offer some flood control, good things I know, but my heart aches for what this beautiful broad valley was like when it was untouched.

First impression
“We’re here because we’re not all there.” No I wasn’t stuck…just stretching my legs after a very long drive.
A small circus train or, clown in transit.

Judging by the copious amount of elk and deer droppings it would have been a treasure to first nations people and the early settlers. It was indeed a valley worth fighting for although there should have been plenty for everyone. But need and greed are very different notions. The miners have torn at the bowels of this rich country, the loggers have raped the timber clear to mountain tree lines in places, the ranchers have fenced nearly everywhere. Politicians and industrialists flooded and destroyed the rich river bottom. Yet this valley still holds a rare beauty and I in turn will exploit some of that grandeur while I am here.

The balmy winds of afternoon were pushed away by a wall of lowering grey cloud bearing down the valley from the Northwest. It brought a piercing cold and soon I sheltered in the camper. It was buffeted by pelting horizontal rain on one side and a while later the onslaught came on the opposite side. “Springtime in the Rockies” I abandoned my notion of sitting by the campfire to admire the sunset over my new kingdom.

Often, I find, it is the morning after arrival at a destination which reveals a first true impression of the place. Perhaps one absorbs some sort of local cosmic energy or maybe a night’s sleep allows one to fully open their eyes to their new environment. “Holy shit, I never noticed that yesterday!” This morning dawned clear and cold. The sky was wide and blue, the northwest wind was a gentle knife. The dried cow pies in this meadow all bore a glint of sparkling frost. I soon retreated back into the warmth of my little man box. I feel fine. If the plan uncoils as anticipated I start a new job here for the next half-year. So here I am. Sixty-nine years old and starting over once again. Fools and newcomers line up on the left, old farts on the right and all of the above in the middle. Haar!

After the squall

Moved on. All that dreaming, hard work, hardship and then it gets left behind. ” The plans of mice and men.”
Hoof it! The Koocanusa speed controllers. They’re everywhere, skittish, fat, sassy.
Some wear shoes.
Some don’t. That’s a deer track, the whitetails are huge
It’s hard to walk without stepping in these, the woods are like a barnyard.
There’s all sorts of wildlife

A week after leaving Vancouver Island I find myself on a bleak, cold morning in the center of Alberta. I’m going to survey a boat this morning and yes, I feel a very long way from the ocean. I’m now behind by two or three blogs, there is no shortage of material. The blog goes on.

Big enough? Parallel park this puppy on a hill in town. Allegedly the world’s biggest truck… at the time.
Clamber…up there! When you get to the top the first thing you notice is a whole lot more mountains. So you go back into the valley and start climbing again.

Keyboard Warrior

Last day of the tulips. There is nothing more beautiful than a bunch of faded flowers.

There is a British actor on YouTube who calls himself Johnathon Pie. Most folks are convinced that he is a genuine reporter who has had enough of the smarmy syrup we have come to expect from our media. He delivers scathing abuses of politicians in general and I love his acid, ranting satire. He also attacks journalists at times and “keyboard warrior” is a term he employed which I thought was wonderfully descriptive. Am I one myself? Dunno? I’m just trying to do my bit to persuade some folks to ask questions and get off their dufus to go see a bit more of their world; and someone else’s as well.

Command center of the keyboard warrior. This is the setting up process of a wonderful new tiny printer, excellent for my summer ahead living in my tiny camper.
Thank you Jill.
The paperboy still comes by. Downtown Ladysmith
Say no more.
The leaning fence.       Take that as you will.
The widow’s window continued to look out on the harbour long after she was last seen.
Image irresistible.   It’s a lovey wee town.   Next hanging at noon.
The crime had to do with obscenity. I assume this is supposed to be funny. In the quest for attention it is an ultimate statement of low self-esteem. Does mom let him/her park in front of the house?

You will see some changes with this blog (number 335) and there will be a few more modifications to come. The blog has now been renamed DRIFTWORD.

The url seafirechronicles.com will still get you there and now so will driftword.ca. I reckoned that the old handle is misleading as the boat it was named after is two years behind me. There is no point in grieving about the loss of my beloved home, temple and magic carpet. I will miss her dearly forever but I also repeatedly write that you cannot steer a steady course by looking back at your wake. It is time to look ahead to the days I have left. Life has no rewind buttons and there is no point in musing about that which cannot be changed.

Wild and free
Currantly showing
The inner beauty of age
Rain Coming

There will undoubtedly be another serious boat in my future, life for me just does not seem whole without a life afloat. However, I have discovered there is adventure out of sight, sound and smell of the sea and in fact I found a new passion deep in the desert. Oddly, wonderfully I am filled with the same sense of wholeness which I know when out of sight of land. Perhaps a happy compromise will be in a place like Baja where life is lived on an edge between ocean and desert.

I was delighted to discover this center light in a local Tapas Bar. Simple and very cool.

Another dramatic change is about to be my location. I am entertaining the idea of a summer’s employment at a place called Lake Koocanusa. It sounds like the title of a bad movie with someone like John Candyis a real location located in the East Kootenays and the border between British Columbia and Montana. There is a long man-made reservoir on the Kootenay River which extends northward 150 kilometres from the Libby Dam in the US. There is a need there for an old seadog with a wide skillset and so I go. Apparently the job begins with a visit to a pig farm in Central Alberta where sit some old wooden boats to survey. Adventure or ordeal, it’s always up to us to control our attitude. The gods have put me in front of an open window and ready or not, it’s boots and saddles. The adventure continues. Yeehaw, kerplunk.

Woody Lives. A new flock of bark owls is appearing with spring.
Rock art aux natural

Meanwhile here at home an old friend and his dear wife dropped by on their boat. Jimmy and I have been been buddies for thirty-nine years. We’ve laughed and cried together, shared some huge tragedies and triumphs, pissed each other off at times nearly to the death and are still friends after all these years. Jimmy is a talented singer and songwriter among many other things and we have just completed our first music video. Of course I see all the flaws, but initial reviews are very favourable. Thus encouraged we will hone our skills in future productions. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7wGZcXO0hg

An old sailor finds a job holding up a wall at the corner of Seemore and Didless in Ladysmith, “Where everyone is over the hill.”

 

And so I’m off to the mainland before I’m quarantined on Vancouver Island as the numbers of Covid varient infections seem to be on an accelerating “Uptick.” Oh the words we’d never heard a year ago.

Happy Hour at the Eagles Club. Tie your horses out back.
Sadly I must leave my beloved pal Jack behind on my next adventure. He is just too old to travel. How can a crusty old man come to love any dog so very much?
The Blues
Stay Busy

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
Andre Gide

Signs

A sign of spring. What beauty in just one little crocus!

There seems to be signs for every occasion and every level of stupidity. Here’s one I saw recently which I liked. “I don’t like being old so it doesn’t take much to piss me off.” On a T shirt I read “the older I get the less life sentence means to me.” A caption on a short video I just watched says, “Everybody wants to be the captain until it’s time to do captain stuff.” That’s certainly been my experience. And then there are really dumb-assed road signs which say things like “Be Prepared To Stop.” Are there really folks out there who aren’t? There probably are!

Name this object and win two, shipping not included. It is a gadget I conjured up to allow the changing of a through-hull valve on a friend’s boat. I chickened out at the last moment when too many “What ifs” began to shout.
Nauty books for loan.
In a farmer’s boneyard.. Maybe this old delivery van had a second life as a hippy home on wheels. She’s a ‘Moho no mo!’
Morris in the woods
Remember this? The Dead Dog’s Memorial Christmas Tree? After the season passed the photos and decorations were removed. Now some bastard has cut off all the lower limbs!
Offering to the Squirrel God.
Jack passes Strangler Rock
United we stand

The recent Virtual Fisher Poets Gathering went extremely well. I’m amazed at the talent which coordinated all the performers from around the planet and threaded them together like pearls on a string. Kudos to all and let’s hope we don’t have to do it again. Here’s the link to my little gig, I am on right at the 1:18 hour mark.

Following is a little piece I wrote in tribute to the wonder of it all.

Fisher Poets 2021

I sit mesmerized in front of my computer screen

absorbing all I can of the lights and depths of musicians and poets,

my peers, my muses, my confessors and affirmers, my fellows

from around the long curves of the planet

who are possessed by the common bond of sea-bound masochism

and the thrust and sway and plunge of living water beneath our keels.

This strange gathering was all made possible by the discovery of the electron

and the spreading wake of technology

and now we take for granted our instant ability to see the universe

through the pinprick camera lense of our computer screen.

Try to explain this to someone fifty years ago,

We would have been considered as mad as a hootchie.

I watch as a senior fisherman named Gary reads to the world

from the confines of a spare room and uttered wisdoms

you only gain from the peace and terror long-lived at sea.

Through the open door of that room

I can see a lady, presumably his wife, in another room,

sitting in front of a window

through which I see lights of other buildings in the night.

She is busy with her own endeavors

painting a picture perhaps or maybe knitting

I feel very much an intruder in that home

and I marvel at the different worlds

so far apart

even though we touch mutually oblivious to our passing.

This particular poet lives in old Port Hadlock

A place I know well

I have anchored there on more than one long winter night

sheltering from a brisk Sou-easter

in front of the wooden boat school and a fine quaint restaurant

and who can resist a place with names like ‘The Old Alcohol Plant?’

I feel a familiar ache as I imagine the gentle rumble of

anchor chain on bottom, the flicker of my oil lamps.

I hear the echoes of my own addiction to the sea

duplicated in the words and tunes of my fellows

I am in the affirming company of fellow mariners

who I’m sure all long to reach out and

draw each other into firm embrace

but we sit safe in our homes

like goldfish in a bowl

only an arm’s length away.

This old wooden liveaboard boat burned to the waterline a week ago in Dogpatch Bight. A woman died. Jack and I had met her, she seemed nice. Today is the only one you have.
Kids!

Well, like the little pig stuttered, “Tha, tha, that’s all folks.” There are some big (to me) changes coming which will upgrade this blog to make it more suitable for plans ahead.

You’ll be the first to know.

All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.”
― Will Rogers

Bottoms Up

HOPE

Recently during our annual snow event I found myself outside making busy with a shovel. Something did not seem right, (apart from the incessant desert longings in my brain.) Snow was zinging horizontally past my ears yet I could hear an incongruous sound. I finally realized what it was when the snow eased for a minute. High in the top of a neighbour’s tree I could see five mourning doves. To me there is no sweeter, soothing sound than the call of these birds. The quintessential song of the desert was alive and in person. That they managed to arrive in a mild blizzard seemed like some celestial message which I haven’t worked out yet other than being a song of hope. “Hang in there, there’s better things to come.”

The Edge of Spring
La Tuque
Keep a cool head
After the Blizzard

This is the time of year when I traditionally go join the Fisher Poets Gathering in Astoria, OR. It is uplifting to find spring has arrived just those few hundred miles further south and to mingle with old friends who are fine artists, musicians and story tellers. Looking forward to that event each year helps me get through the winter. This year, due to Covid, a fabulous effort has been put together, by many good people, to hold a virtual FPG online. My gig is a very short five minute performance on Thursday night at 8pm precisely. Somehow they are presenting upwards of a hundred performers in three nights. It is a massive piece of clockwork and I am very proud to be any part of it.

Truck side     Welcome to Astoria

Here’s the schedule and the links.

Thursday, Feb 25th 6pm – 9:30pm: https://youtu.be/6zUidoJQ_hM

Friday, Feb 26th, 6pm – 9:30pm https://youtu.be/JtLqx8mpUz8

Saturday, Feb 27th, 6pm – 9:30pm https://youtu.be/bxWVWtVMElk

These are great people from various aspects of the fishing industry around the world. They are witty and humorous. Many are tremendously talented and their blue collar perspective is refreshing to say the least.

You can get a great overview of the Fisher Poets group and a review of poetry reading (Yep mine too) by going to our website www.fisherpoets.org Then go to “In the Tote.”

I have a video produced for this year’s FPG which you can see via this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Q6ik-vumIc&t=75s

Yep, moments of former glory

So, enough said. One of the wonderful things about Astoria is its many brew pubs. Once you’ve had a pint of something like ‘Bitter Bitch’ you’re doomed to go back for more. So I’ll raise a jar to you all for now. Bottoms up. Then two jars for next year.

Bitter Bitch
A sense of family. The view out from the Wet Dog Cafe onto the amazing Columbia River
One of our venues
It’s a beautiful town
Looking out over Astoria to the infamous Columbia Bar and the open ocean
FPG Shirt, the Alaska artist Ray Troll is part of the group
Here’s to the days when poor people lived by the sea and ate fish.

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau

Bang

This?

They’ve freakin’ blown it. The Republicans will not win an election for generations. That’s my humble uniformed bog trotter’s opinion. I’ve promised to restrict my political rhetoric but this is so pathetic it demands comment. If the Republicans truly wanted to restore trust and belief in their party all they needed to do was to make a stand and declare that they do not support or condone the abhorrent attitudes expressed by Mr. Trump. “He was our mistake.” This way they have virtually guaranteed a Democrat win next election and probably the next as well. Some Republican senators did vote in support of the impeachment. It is encouraging that these politicians chose to put their country ahead of their party. They will probably be punished for their historic stand. A quirk of politicians, in particular, is that they seem unable to admit mistakes. If only they could confess their human frailty they would be demonstrating a strength which would take them much further than any lie or denial.

Or this?

As far as I am concerned one party is no better or worse and ongoing political chess games have nothing to do with reuniting the country and putting it back on the rails of peace, prosperity and “In God We Trust.” The “united states” may well dissolve in anarchy and the Second Civil War will be upon us. Yeah, I know we are Canadian but if you don’t see yourself as a North American, you will be rudely awakened when the troubles erupt in full blossom. We’re part of the fiasco.

Yesterday I watched a video clip sent to me by a friend. It was a cell phone recording taken while some goon sat on his ass and watched as a police officer was assaulted by a madman with a large stick. Ultimately the cop shot his assailant twelve times, point blank, before the nutter finally fell down and died, twitching and jerking just like some of the deer I have taken. What appalled me more than the actual graphic detail was the shallowness of the man recording the event. The videographer cheered the policeman and expressed pleasure as a fellow human gasped his last breath not ten feet away. The event was entertainment to him. This pathetic soulless son-of-a-bitch is not alone. There are millions like him…on both sides of the border. Here’s the link if you have stomach enough for a dose of harsh reality. That the perpetrator/victim may have chosen ‘Suicide by Cop’ does not devalue human life.

I’ve confirmed that this is a real event which occurred on Feb. 6th. It is ironic that this is an area where several fatal shootings of black people by police have occurred. Here a black man encourages a policeman to shoot a white perpetrator. I can’t help wondering what might have happened if he’d gone to help the cop.

https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/video-crazed-man-attacking-deputy-soaks-up-12-rounds-before-hes-stopped/

After I wrote the above I wrestled with myself while I showered, vacuumed, ate breakfast, walked the dog and shovelled a heap of snow. Dark tabloidism is not my genre. I prefer to provide hope and cheer, introspection and humour with my blogs. The darkness here doesn’t do much to make the world a better place, but sometimes a little slap therapy is in order. I desperately need to find another boat.

By the way, Happy Valentine’s Day. It has something to do with love I’m told.

A wild flower for Valentines. Bee happy.
And a rose for the day.

Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”
― Yehuda Bauer