Hot

When cars had character. I can’t tell them apart anymore.

With technical difficulties behind I’ll try posting another short blog and hope for the best. This is a tribute to all the motorheads out there. These are folks whose passions lay with vehicles and where their particular tastes may take them. I make my living twisting wrenches and care only about travelling safely from A to B. Other people see vehicles as an art form and turn the mundane into the beautiful. Enough said. These photos were taken within an hour on a very hot Saturday afternoon in the parking lot of the Jaffray Pub. So hot in fact that my mobile phone/camera refused to work, displaying a message about being overheated and refusing to take more photos. Really!

Personality
A two door
This is more my flavour
I doubt that many new trucks this year will make it to this age.
It’s hard to believe this truck is sixty-some years old. The green International was old at that time.
Another International from the early fifties
Beautifully restored things like this add-on toolbox look like they belong.
This was every schoolboy’s dream. A few of them, geezers now, managed to fulfill that passion.
Butt-ugly, boring family transport from the sixties. The appeal of this beast is that it is entirely original, even the faded paint.
The interior is in amazing condition, the seatbelts were an optional feature.
Whatever floats your boat. It doesn’t suit my tastes but the work on it is amazing.
Even the radio antennae sport a hot rod cartoon character. Ratfink stands on a skull.
Just paint some flames on the sides.

I’m writing in the cool of dawn before another work day. The air is smoky and dust-filled. It is choking me. Water bombers orbited above us yesterday tending to a blaze a few miles south. It was probably ignited during the previous night’s thunderstorms. There is a weary hush outside. A robin and then a raven call mournfully. The only other sound is the white noise of my neighbour’s incessant air conditioner. There’s another long day ahead.

Nature’s purple flames growing in hot, bone dry dust
Beside the path

Sometimes you just have to jump in a mud puddle because it’s there. Never get so old that you forget about having fun.”

Tom Giaquinto (Be A Good Human)

Test Test Test

For some reason not all of my subscribers received the photographs posted with the last blog. I’ve checked it out with Word Press, everything is apparently fine. I cannot explain what gremlin in cyber space decided to interfere with my humble efforts.

Thank goodness we no longer have to wear face masks although the heat and dust remain oppressive. There was one photo I missed posting last blog so here it is and please, please let me know if it does not appear. Stay cool.

Cool cows! On the roadside near Roosville on the Montana border I found these critters easing through the day’s heat by standing as you see them. It appeared that a rancher had left an irrigation valve cracked open for the pleasure of his herd.

Pink People

Pink People

Rumble Mountain.
While on a visit to Fernie last week, for my second covid vaccination, I watched this cumulonimbus cloud quadruple this size in less than a half-hour. A huge anvil was forming on its top as I left town.
Even these high peaks looked hot.

After a reluctant spring, summer descended like a squadron of dive bombers. We were obliterated. Even my young co-workers staggered about panting. Those working on the docks easily burned from the sun’s reflection on the mirror-calm lake surface as if they were in a micro wave. We were being nuked. Temperatures hovered around and above forty degrees Celsius. I found myself sitting in the emergency ward of the hospital in Cranbrook for seven hours when I thought I was exhibiting a few stroke-like symptoms. I waited that long because ambulances were arriving almost bumper to bumper with heart attack victims due to the heat. I was told, after a series of tests, that I was working too hard in the heat. I knew that. But there’s no fool like an old fool.

Yes Really! Inside the camper at ten pm.
Kinda says it all
Fernie street art
The mark of a civilized town, a public loo.

Tonight I’m sitting outside of my camper in a sultry wind blowing off the lake. Temperatures have plummeted down to the mid thirties. It feels chilly. The tree tops roar like surf and dust blows past in swirls. I’m loving it. There is always a patina of dust on everything and I remind myself that life in the desert is just like this. Repairs to the camper have stalled, I’ve been too exhausted to do much with my evenings except wait for the temperature to cool enough for sleep and consume every sort of fluid available. And so the summer passes at the moment, one weary day after another. Visitors I was looking forward to seeing are cancelling for various reasons and frankly I am feeling quite low about life in general. This too shall pass.

One of my many projects, our floating cantina
A morning coffee on the roof watching an inbound houseboat
‘Amazing Grace’ draws close. It looks like a floating wedding cake to me. While nowhere near my idea of a boat they are a highlight of many folk’s lives.
Here we go again
End of the day, my sweat-crusted shirt

One of my bemusements here are the folks who come to enjoy the new water park. It opened on July 1st. My employer purchased an inflatable world from a Chinese (of course) manufacturer which was then held up in customs for almost two months. There was much puzzling and re-anchoring and inflating but it finally came together. Skeptical at first I am now amazed. From toddlers in diapers through amazingly obese human apparitions to geriatrics barely capable of walking on solid ground, these folks clamber, crawl, slither and roll along these inflatable floating obstacle courses. They squeal and scream and squeak in a cacophony of unbridled joy. Most are not confident swimmers so they are provided with life jackets. It is delightful to watch as even elderly folks become children again. The old adage about the best amusements being simple things proves itself true.

Where adults can shamelessly be children again
Wheee kerplunk

I can also see that a thriving future business will be tattoo removal. Good grief! Don’t folks realize that those beautifully crafted flowers, dragons, tigers and graphic fantasies will evolve as time goes by. When their skin sags, wattles and wrinkles those tattoos will slowly evolve into abstract patterns and more closely resemble street maps of places like Moscow. Then there are the thong-string bikinis which do nothing erotic or tantalizing fopr the wearer or the observer. Pockety alabaster mounds (both genders) balumping down the dock only confirm statistics about rising Canadian obesity. Clearly this old fart, who is in no way a prude, is missing something about contemporary physical appeals. “Shake it up baby.” What’s white and red and squeals when it gets near water? A Canadian.

The fleet in the morning. By mid-morning the dock bustles like a train station as swarms of new charter folks arrive with all their food, booze and other baggage. Then there are the maintenance folks desperately preparing the vessel for the next trip.
The boat won’t go anymore! Landlubbers feel safest close to the shore…where the rocks are!
I have never before seen such a neatly trimmed propeller hub. The speed at impact must have been tremendous.
A much prettier set of three blades, completely intact. These flowers grow in baking hot, bone-dry, powdery alluvial dust. They are incredibly beautiful.
Growing
Growing
Bloom
Bee happy

By the end of the day some of these creatures have turned a vicious fluorescent pink. They plod up a very steep hill to a dusty yard where their cars are parked with blast furnace temperatures inside. They drive for at least an hour to get anywhere back out toward their world yet next day there are more folks squealing and pink. Word of mouth is an ultimate marketing tool and clearly folks are very happy. Meanwhile the fleet of rental houseboats comes and goes as ever more folks enjoy a unique vacation. I am amazed at how my employers saw this opportunity and have made it work so well. All things are possible.

Another job on the docks done, next one now! Still smiling!
photo by Krista Fast

Enjoy life. There’s plenty of time to be dead.” – Hans Christian Andersen

Life Without Wheels

The Sunshine Houseboat fleet and tenants are all now afloat. The yard is almost empty. Note the little sloop in the distance.

A sight to warm a sailor’s heart.

On the exact day of my sixteenth birthday I took my driver’s exam. I failed. No one ever made it through their first attempt. As soon as possible I took the test again and passed. A friend of a friend loaned me their car, a shining three-year old 1965 cream-coloured Plymouth Belvedere. I remember it clearly. It was beautiful. I already had a car of my own, a 1957 Vauxhall Victor. It was a piece of crap the day it was built and it was a worn and rusted-out old junker when I bought it. I recall that the fenders were rusted through along the sides of the engine hood. The gaps had been filled with steel wool then slathered over with body filler. The whole car was patched like that but it was my first car and I doctored it with deep pride toward the day when I could drive it legally.

The day my driver’s license arrived, in the mail, I loaded the car with my friends and we went for a tour. We had only one bottle of beer between us so we had to pretend to be drunk. That night I wiped out ninety feet of chain link fence and destroyed the car. It was probably the best thing that happened to me. I never forgot the price of a moment’s stupidity. I paid for fence repairs which cost more than the ninety dollar price of the car. I then managed to find another Vauxhall for twenty-five dollars. I already had spare parts. Eventually I had owned a long line of tired old British cars. Most required pumping the brakes vigorously for every stop and often I carried a bucket of used motor oil in the trunk to top up the weary old motors. I worked in a service station so old oil and used tires were always available. To this day, the scent of an oil-burning engine instantly produces waves of nostalgia. But I haven’t had any serious accidents despite a life time driving long distances for business. That has a much to do with good luck as anything else but maybe I learned something that first night on the road.

New Fredville. The truck and camper are undergoing repairs and upgrades. For the summer this is my home and possibly the winter too…but much further south. The golf cart is how i haul my tools around.

My first American car was a Buick. It had power brakes. Set belts were still an option and I firmly planted more than one friend against the dashboard with my old habit of pumping the brake pedal. It was also the first vehicle I owned without a hole rusted through the floor. I traded that vehicle off for a 1952 Studebaker pickup truck which had been partially customized with a monster engine and big wheels. I regret ever parting with it and here I am, fifty years later, still buying rusty old trucks. My latest acquisition is a 1995 Ford F-350 diesel crew cab pickup. The thing has the size and smell of a small locomotive. It carries an old Bigfoot fiberglass camper which is the whole point of this endeavour. The vehicle requires a government safety inspection before it can be registered and so the camper needed to be removed. It is a very tight fit and once again there was a dilemma which required some help.

Morning. The bottle opener is a gift from a friend long ago. I treasure it. The cutting board is from Mexico. I cannot imagine life without either one of them.
Camper morning. It was that big window which turned me on to the camper. I will soon look out of it and see cacti and the Sea of Cortez. Some days I can see that already. The door with the mirror hides a bathroom with a shower and sink. A new decadence for me.

The jacks which lift the camper up for removal and installation need to have the bases rebuilt. The bases were clearly not intended for repeated use. Once again I have another old camper to refit with several projects ahead. The truck is mechanically sound but looks rough which, with the old camper, is perfect for travelling the back roads of the Southwest and Mexico. New trucks and campers are very nice but can easily cost up to two hundred thousand Canadian dollars and all that shininess screams come and rip me off. My rig will fit in with the folks I like to meet. If the camper proves sound enough I’d like to reinstall it on a new 4×4 industrial truck and deck. For the moment, I’m plenty happy to call this my summer home. I’m living in a very inviting piece of the world and I’ll want to do more than spend the whole summer tinkering after days at work tinkering. The lake is rising, the townies are arriving and personal free time is precious.

The fleet. You can buy gas, treats, snacks and souvenirs on the docks. The crew is assembling a brand-new water park which will open soon and small powerboats are available for hire. My job is to help keep it all running.
Accounts receivable. As the lake continues to rise the revenue tide has to follow.
And then another day begins
Dust Bells. Some sort of bluebell I think. It is magic how they thrive in hard-packed, bone-dry dust.
A Dustillium. I’ve no idea what this flower is called and can’t find it in any guide. I’d love to learn about it. It is exquisitely gorgeous and also grows in the dry dust.

I’ve been working every day of the week and summer has arrived. It can be bloody hot here especially when there is no breath of wind. Working in the heat and vacationing in it are two different experiences. The temperature inside the camper is still in the mid-thirties at eight pm. I’ve installed some wonderful little fans and this country does cool off nicely once the sun goes down.

“To all things there is a season.” These bushes are loaded with yellow blooms which are clearly passing already.
Catch then while you can.
“Googles” the space dog
This lovely puppy has eyes sensitive to sunlight. He doesn’t seem to mind them.
The Hardware Hound. On a recent trip to Cranbrook I found this beauty standing his watch on top of the back counter in a hardware store. He’s a greeter and a security system. A lovely mellow fellow who made my day.

A few days further along and finally the old Ford truck is registered into my name and all the convoluted paper work is behind. After two weeks I have wheels again. Whohaa! Now I have to sort out all the new old truck repair issues which are not overwhelming. Hopefully in a few more days work will settle down to a steady dull roar and there will be some regular leisure days to explore in the surrounding woods and out on the lake. Local temperatures are forecast to rise into the mid-thirties every day. I’ll have to learn to deal with sweat in my eyes with a background of happy holidayers and their squealing children. It always pisses me off to endure folks on vacation while I am at work but that is reality. I remind myself that the average Mexican, in example of many countries, does not even have the luxury of imagining a vacation. We are blessed in our corner of the world beyond our comprehension. We even have the option of living in a tent and sleeping on the ground all year round. Not all in our country have that choice. Without our ability to make choices, not much is fun.

Best of all, they’re all paid for. I’m no motor head but this line of rides from the 50’s and 60’s was impossible to ignore.
Temperatures are forecast to climb into the 40’s soon but there’s a pub with lots of these frosties only a half-hour away.

I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.” -Bill Bryson

The Day The Butter Melted

The beak. Or we’ll call him Ruffles. As ubiquitous as crows and ravens are, I love the rascals. This was taken with my new mobile phone from 100 yards way. Amazing!

It is one of those mornings when I am nursing a last coffee and dawdling away the last few minutes before the day’s work begins. I’ve got four projects on the go right now and I have no enthusiasm for anything. It’s just one of those days. I do understand how blessed I am to be here. I certainly miss the ocean but this country is a bit of paradise. Despite the reluctant spring weather I can think of many other places I’d rather not be. I don’t ever watch the news out here so I miss all the graphic information about the miseries around the world. An ad on YouTube extolled the wonders of a “Better butter spreader.” Really? Then there was one about how to shave and deodorize your “Man Meat.” Geez Louise! Of course I could settle for a five thousand dollar surveillance drone for only $125. Yep, I’ll just stay content in my cocoon of ignorance. Yet I can’t seem to leap into this day singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” I know in my heart that it has to do with getting older and I left my bunny slippers at home.

This beautiful tiny old barn had me vowing to get some photos the first time I saw it. I missed the blossoms on the old fruit trees but at last I was there when the light was right.
It’s the real thing with stalls and a hayloft. It kept critters in, and out.
Let me in! Probably a bear trying to get to the apples in the tree tops.
“De arse is outta her!” A good old Eastcoast expression fits this grand old barn.

Meanwhile the lake is rising (21” yesterday) and everyone is working frantically toward the day when the houseboats are all launched and paying charter customers begin to arrive. Some are here already. One woman declared her entitlement to the washing machine because she “pays” to be here and I could “go over there”. Uhuh. Oh the answers that I choked back! Today’s temperatures are forecast to rise into the mid-thirties again and so late spring is upon us. The sun is merciless and when there is no wind even the young folk complain. As well as the dust we now have billows of thick yellow pine pollen to endure. I keep the vents on the camper closed but still there seems to be drifts of the insidious powder everywhere. When I returned after work today the butter had begun to turn to ghee. The temperature inside was in the mid thirties. A sailing friend once advised me to sail due south until the butter melted and turn left. Hmmm. Have I arrived?

Amigos at lunch.
Like bumps on a log. This is a short distance from here. Their eggs will soon be hatching. More photos to come.

I get away into the backwoods whenever I can. Spring is now in full bloom here. It is reluctant and subtle, quite unlike the boisterous explosion of colour which occurs on the coast many months earlier. The call of birds and open verdant meadows filled with fragile flowers offer a profound gentle beauty in what is a second spring for me this year. No complaints. The deer have suddenly disappeared although I see fresh tracks in the morning dust. I expect to soon see them with tiny spotted fawns close by their sides. One camera with a gawdumpous big lens sits waiting.

A new set of antlers
Last year’s fawn and mom. It’ll soon be time to move off on her own.
The country here is thick with wildlife. It is a delight to see and this once avid hunter now  has only ambitions to shot with a camera.
The ditch dammers. Along the highway in a broad ditch, beavers have taken to building dams every 100 metres or so. Their industry and ingenuity is always a wonder.

I’m without a vehicle at the moment. My old truck and camper sold to some very nice ladies and I’m now preparing my new old truck for the road ahead. It has to be inspected before it can be licensed so I have to build bits in order to extract it from beneath my new old camper. There are no dull moments in this peaceful country. Fatigue is a constant for this old fart but it’s all good. I’ll be tanned and acclimatized for a winter in Mexico. Mucho Gusto!

My new old Bigfoot and my home. More to come next blog. “Don’tcha buy no ugly truck!
“I think it needs a bit of a tune up.” It started first pull despite this filter and a tank of stale gas. I have become an ‘Organic Mechanic.’
I posted this photo a few blogs back and called it ‘Given Up’
Here it is now.
Spring in the woods
Natural old growth forest Kootenay style.
“You old fossil!” Old bones still standing.
Kerplunk, kerstump. When the big lake rises this hollow in the field fills to make a small lake. The stumps are from when the forest grew in this natural basin.
Above the stump lake subtle beauties appear all too briefly.
Thar be stories in those stones.
As the lake rises, grass on the flats greens up and cattle come down off their range to gorge themselves.
The lake also rises. The docks are awash and afloat. Soon they’ll be jammed with houseboats, raucous folks with their squealing children. There will be the howl of jet skis and powerboats. For now the peace is to be stored away. The yellow scum by the docks is pine pollen.
Magic. A Koocanusa campsite. The bright spot is a lovely oil painting someone has screwed to the tree.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” –

The Fredshed

Oh the captions:
-Wild thing!
– Old Buck
– Horny?
– Nice hat
– Deer me.

It has been over a month since I arrived and unloaded my tools. Already! I set up camp and named it Fredville, then moved another one hundred metres to a better site. That involved nearly losing my old camper. It had to be raised to move the truck back underneath. Extended to the top of their travel, the four spindly jacks began to bend as one leg gave way, probably because of the powdery silt everything sits on here. For a few minutes the wobbling apparition looked a bit like an odd dog trying to pee with one hind leg in the air. Fortunately all’s well that ends. With some quick and adroit help the camper survived unscathed. I was amazed that the corners had not torn out of the camper under the extreme abuse. A thorough inspection reveal only minor repairs were required. She’s one tough old box!

My move was also into a new (to me) old camper and truck, much bigger and with more conveniences, like a bathroom. Yep it’s fixity fix all over again. However, I can see this camper on a newer truck eventually and the old Ford diesel truck presently under it has some life in her yet. She’s also the perfect vehicle for Mexico, nothing sexy about it to scream “Shiny Uppity Gringo.” So life progresses and I don’t have to go outside to change my mind anymore. Of course I already need a little more space but a regular workaday life would have been nearly impossible in the smaller unit which is now for sale. Wonderfully there have been many happy moments crammed (I guess that’s a pun) into the short time I’ve had it.

Wanna buy a truck and camper?
She’s a fine old ride.

Spring has finally arrived here. We haven’t had a frost for two weeks. The alder trees burst into leaf and then one day the Tamarack, otherwise known as Larch, have suddenly burst into a full rich chlorophyll green. No longer black in their winter nudity the next transformation will come in autumn when the needles will turn a wonderful golden colour. That is a time of year when the sky is a special deep blue, an incredible contrast above the larch needles and capped with the shivery sound of bugling bull elk. But now it is spring becoming summer here among the mountains. It’s best to pay attention because it all goes very quickly.

Tamarack came back.
What a shade of green!
The trees are green again and the road is flooded but still passable. I saw a lovely cinnamon bear a little further along.

While working I lifted far too much weight in a moment of foolishness and blew out my old back. I could barely walk. Through a friend I was referred to a local man who describes himself as an Osteopathic Practitioner. I will only say that he fixed my back through an interesting process completely new to me and suggested ideas that other doctors have previously and abruptly dismissed. I am very cynical about many practitioners of various disciplines, especially Western medicine, but heartily recommend this man to anyone. He is tucked away in a quiet rural setting, is neither arrogant or ostentatious. He is known as a healer. People come from far and wide to see him. I’d be happy to give more information to anyone who is interested.

The Fredshed. I built the porch and steps which double as an outdoor work bench. The rocking chair wasn’t salvageable. Can’t find a corncob pipe nor a banjo.
The Fredshed hammer.
Just bring it back!
Everything here gets used to the last gasp.
I’ve got my working fingers back and yes they’re painful. It’s even hard to type at times. No cream or treatment seems to work.

Life goes on here as we optimistically advance toward what is fully booked as a very busy season. We’ll see how the Covid Culture and policing evolves in the next few weeks. We may yet be unemployed for the summer. The workers and the business owner’s family all get along quiet well with mutual respect and tolerance. It is grand to feel this positive camaraderie, especially after some of the dark situations I’ve known previously. After renovating and organizing a small work shed it has been named the “Fredshed”. Folks are happy to be able to find hardware and tools. And meanwhile I’m enjoying a second spring this year after coming from the coast. I’m looking forward to discovering more local magic within a short radius. I’ll keep you in the picture.

The spring flowers here seem shy and well hidden. This little beauty was about 3/8″ wide.
More tiny blossoms.
Wot? Me shy? Wild sunflowers are random and nearly everywhere.
Each grocery run allows me to indulge in a meal out. Next door to the old firehall pub is the police station. There was some impromptu live entertainment as a dramatic “domestique” unfolded on the street complete with mother-in-law and two burly constables. The food and service were fine.
A Kootenay moment at a roadside stop on the way to town.
The new front desk.
I built the desk from rough lumber, or “barnwood.” It was a worthwhile challenge.
And here it is at work. Roxy the dog keeping an eye on things.
They visit regularly and although completely wild will tolerate a close interaction with people.
They’ll soon be birthing their fawns. Check this one’s Walkman/ tracking gadget.
Koocanusa lonesome. This lovely little houseboat sits alone waiting for the water level to rise. One of our staff lives here.
Here’s a better look at Malcom’s houseboat. Although she’s not salty, she’s well kept and a lovely wee floating home. The water continues to rise.
A Koocanusa wind damnit. The powdery silt is a gritty fact of life.
May 20th. The wind is bitterly cold as snow squalls march down the far side of the valley.
When the lake reaches it upper levels it will lap at the top of these banks.

It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Trails to Two cities

(Sod’em and go for more)

Austere and foreboding this abandoned smelter sits at Wardner on the banks of the Kootenay River. Like many towns it met its demise when a new highway was built two kilometers upstream.

For the summer seasons this year I’m living and working for Sunshine Houseboat Rentals and Marina. It’s located on the West side of Lake Koocanusa at Gold Bay. We are located only a few kilometres north of the border with Montana. Although I desperately miss the ocean it is beautiful here. One of the things I enjoy is its remoteness. The two nearest communities where you can buy groceries and the things you need are Fernie and Cranbrook. They are each about an hour away on paved roads, longer if you choose to admire the scenery and also watch out for the copious herds of deer and elk.

If you meander northeasterly from here you come to Fernie. An hour and a few minutes to the west is Cranbrook. Both are nice friendly places with their own personalities. Cranbrook is the larger town with plenty of box stores and industrial suppliers. It has an airport regularly served with flights from both Vancouver and Calgary. (well, it used to in pre-covid times) The railway, mining, logging, ranching and tourism appear to be the mainstays of the local economy. The lakes and ski hills draw people year-round.

Here is a photo essay of the two communities (I don’t know whether to call them small cities or large towns) I used to worry about what I’d find to photograph but I doubt now there’ll seldom be a cold camera.

The Elk River just downstream of Fernie from the west. It’s stunning country even in early spring.
Catholics! A grand edifice built in a small town. It seems a bit vain with glistening mountains towering all around.
The church and then the law. Across the street from the mini-cathedral an imposing courthouse.
Passenger rail service has gone the way of the Dodo bird. This old station has been converted to shops and a museum of sorts. It would have once been the center of the community.
In Cranbrook the former train station from Elko has been moved and reinstalled as part of a large rail museum.
Enough said
Not today
I remember when these locomotives replaced steam power; a lifetime ago. It makes me feel old.
Old like this. It reminded me of a favourite childhood book ‘The Little Engine That Could’   “I think I can, I think I can.”
I’ll be back, it’s quite a museum.
Just look for the old watering tower
Closed. Definitely! Manana. Not today.
The Tin Elephant
I had to cross the highway and check this out.
The rest of the story
Trust me to head into the back alleys of downtown to find the pulse of a place.
I found this sitting in an older neighbourhood filled with beautiful little old homes
The Sammy
Clearly a residential hotel
The drama of life, an emergency vehicle tends an alley crisis.
A cosmopolitan brunch on the street at the Mt. Baker Hotel. At first glance, Cranbrook appeared to be little more than a monster strip mall, but it has depth, culture and lots of friendly, helpful people.
“Eat here and get greased” I couldn’t resist the unintentional humour of this sign.
Across the street, town deer have a fully organic lunch. They appear to be completely oblivious to the traffic whizzing past.
Back to Wardner again. This photo shows the old bridge in use shortly before a new one was put into service. The information is displayed on the location of the remaining footings about where the Texaco sign once stood.
Posted beside the photo is this excellent map of the Kootenay/Columbia Rivers and dam system. It is an amazing balancing act, conserving water for winter use yet addressing the needs of various fish stocks and sometimes using calculations for flow rates of millions of cubic feet of water per second.
There’s no math required to see what a beautiful place it is living on the banks of the Kootenay River
A peek upstream from the footings of the old bridge. More fresh snow is on the mountains beyond the roll of low cloud. 
Back to the old smelter for a few final shots. This corner with the chain left me with a sense of a former prison.
The walls have stories
What wonderful childhood memories must come from this place.
The Wardner’s wife?
A Kootenay window

 

Discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

… Marcel Proust

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