Magic Of The Model A

Gordon & Sam with the 1930 Model A in winter.
Gordon & Sam with the 1930 Model A in winter.

When I was told Gordon Glen of Keremeos owns a very pretty, restored Model A half ton pickup truck, I was intrigued. Possibly my fascination stems from early experience. I was about age 5 when my parents decided to move from rural Manitoba, not far from Steinbach, to Abbotsford, B.C. Dad bought a Model A, which he was confident could weather this arduous trip via Stevens Pass in the U.S. There were 6 of us in the car, my parents, sister Vi, plus 2 paying passengers. Amazingly, we encountered no mechanical difficulties. For a couple of years Dad drove the Model A every 2 weeks to his job at a logging camp near Hope. Having this experience in my history, I phoned Gordon and invited him and his wife for a visit.

 

Sam Glen
Sam Glen

When they arrived, he introduced us to Sam. Sensing our puzzlement she explained, “My name is Joan but my Dad tagged me with the name “Sam” when I was a kid. It has stuck and I’m happy with it.”

Sitting around the table in our sun room, Gordon said, “We’ve both been married before, we both have a set of twins, and we both lost our spouses through illness. About 5 years ago, a mutual friend introduced us at the Keremeos Legion. We were married a year ago.”

Sam, a slim blonde, has her own experience with vehicles. At one time she owned a T Bird and still has a rag top VW convertible. Equally interesting, she drove semi trailer transport trucks all over Canada and the U.S. for 15 years. Having a Class 1 driver’s licence, she was qualified to drive the fire truck at the Williams Lake volunteer fire department. “Often the men were away at their jobs during the day, so I drove,” she said.

Gordon Glen
Gordon Glen

Our conversation turned to the subject of Model A’s. Gordon’s experience with the iconic cars goes back to his early years. “Our neighbour had a Model A,” he recalled. “One summer my two older brothers worked for him. At the end of the harvest he gave them the old car for payment. We used it to haul potatoes and bring the cows in from the field.”

Eventually the brothers tired of the Model A, parked it in a slough, and departed the farm. “When I was 17,” Gordon said, “I asked for the car and they gave it to me.”

Having heard there are still a significant number of the much loved Model A’s tucked away in garages across this continent, and even around the globe, I asked Gordon what is so special about the car. “They’re almost completely constructed of steel,” he said, “Dodge and Chevrolet used wood and they didn’t last as well. While other companies lowered standards to keep prices down, Ford continually raised the bar and still kept the cost of the car affordable to any working man. They have a simple design and are easy to maintain. Some farmers actually turned their Model A’s into tractors for farm work. Even today all the parts, including tires, are available.”

Then he added, “I’ve been surprised by how well the Model A runs. It’s intended to go up to 45 mph, but is actually capable of higher speeds.”

The Model A was in production from 1927 to 1931. “The first couple of years they were quite small,” he said. “I’ve heard that Henry Ford wanted them small so that couples could not comfortably have sex in them.”

In time, Gordon sold his Model A with the understanding the owner would restore it. Some years later he again wanted to buy one, but owners were not selling. He bought a 1941 half ton Dodge. “It was my answer to not finding a Model A,” he said. “When we moved from Moose Jaw to B.C., driving it was like driving a Sherman tank.”

The 1930 Model A in summer.
The 1930 Model A in summer.

Acting on a tip from his brother Al in Vancouver, he finally located a Model A for sale, a 1930 pickup. “I bought it on the spot,” he said. He also joined the Lions Gate Model A Club and is still a member. “I’ve done a lot of upgrading on the truck. Members share knowledge and tools with other members.”

I don’t golf, do sports, garden, or gamble,” Gordon said at the end. “For me the Model A is a good hobby.” Sam nodded and smiled. She’s just as hooked.

Keremeos Ukrainian Orthodox Christmas Celebration

This band entertained the crowd with a pleasant blend of tunes.
This band entertained the crowd with a pleasant blend of tunes.

A lively crowd of about 70 attended the Ukrainian Orthodox Christmas celebration hosted by the Keremeos, BC Senior Centre this past Sunday. The function featured a dance with live music followed by a Ukrainian potluck.

We’ve been doing this for about 17 or 18 years,” Kadia Schwetje, wife of the Centre’s President said. “There are quite a few Ukrainian people in Keremeos and the surrounding area. They come from places like Omak, Penticton, Princeton and Osoyoos. Snowbirds from other provinces also show up.”

A mellow, surprisingly pleasant blend of tunes was provided by the Centre’s house band, plus several extras. “The core band has been together for about 20 years,” Kadia said. “They play for our weekly dances.” It was evident that people were there to have a good time, and the dance floor filled up quickly. One white haired man was heard to say jokingly, “I’m looking for a woman to dance with me. Any woman will do.” Moments later he was on the dance floor with a trim, good looking woman.

By 4:30 the rich aroma of Ukrainian cooking turned the crowd’s attention to food. There were traditional dishes like cabbage rolls, perogies, and Ukrainian sausage with sauerkraut. Kadia, who is not Ukrainian, volunteered that there were a number of items whose names she could not pronounce.

According to Kadia, the Senior Centre has about 250 members. “We have exercise sessions, card games, floor curling, crafts and bingo. There are also other activities, plus services that we provide to the community. Everyone is welcome,” she said. “It costs only $20. a year to become a member.”

This crowd knows how to have a good time.

Looking For Grandfather

Richard Lindemere, a Self-Portrait (courtesy of Bill Day)
Richard Lindemere, a Self-Portrait (courtesy of Bill Day)

This year being Canada’s 150th birthday, I was pleased to receive “Looking for Grandfather”, an account of an epic motorcycle adventure in 2010 by two B.C. Seniors, Bill Day and cousin Michael Pease. Written by my good friend Bill Day of Hedley (part time), it’s a real life story of their 6 day, 3000 kilometer ride to learn about their mutual grandfather, painter Richard Lindemere. Almost in passing, Bill manages to skillfully weave in fascinating snippets of an earlier time in western Canada.

Bill notes that Grandfather Lindemere had been raised in a privileged environment in London and studied painting in Paris, where he had an apartment on the Champs Elysee. Also, “he spoke beautiful French.” This lavish lifestyle came to a tumultuous end when the family fortune was lost in the great London stock market crash of 1898.

Lindemere returned to England, acquired a very fleet Greyhound and began to gamble in dog racing. The Greyhound brought him some monetary success. Confident of the dog’s speed, he rashly placed a huge bet, for which he had no financial backing, in a particular race. All went well until the animal leapt over a fence to chase the rabbit the promoters used to motivate the dogs.

Unable to pay the gambling debt, at age 24 he fled to Canada. “Like a lot of young middle class Englishmen at that time,” Bill says, “he had dreams of becoming a cowboy, work for which life experiences had not prepared him.”

It was 1904 and only 19 years after the second Riel Rebellion. “Poundmaker, the great political and military leader of the native peoples was still in very recent memory. Gabriel Dumont, Louis Riel’s lieutenant and brilliant military leader of the Metis, was living quietly at his original homestead at Batoche.”

In spite of the sophistication of his life to this time, Richard Lindemere evidently possessed the pluckiness required to adapt to the more rugged western Canada setting. He did become a cowboy and worked as a drover, participating in 3 major cattle drives from 1905 to 1907.

It was a time,” Bill observes, “when the North West Mounted Police were a huge presence on the prairies, and were generally well regarded by the Aboriginal people.” Lindemere developed life long friendships with Mounties and they appeared in many of his paintings. Three great Chiefs, Poundmaker, Fine Day and Crowfoot captured his admiration and respect, as did Gabriel Dumont. According to Bill, “Grandfather systematically painted the Native and Metis leaders of the time, including Fine Day, who lived until the 1930’s and was Grand Chief of the Saskatchewan Cree.”

Painting by Richard Lindemere of Chief Fine Day -1926 (courtesy of Bill Day)
Painting by Richard Lindemere of Chief Fine Day -1926 (courtesy of Bill Day)

Lindemere established a homestead with his brother, “Uncle Bertie”. According to the family it failed, likely because he devoted his time to painting and his brother spent his time whittling.

At this point Bill’s narrative picks up the motorcycle trip. “The final 30 kilometers to Batoche was along the South Saskatchewan River, a step back in time. Family subsistence farms appeared, many with French names, obviously descendants of the original Metis settlers. They were laid out in strip fashion, characteristic of riverine settlements in Quebec.”

Obviously captivated by the political, social and military dynamics of those years, Bill now slips into a disquieting aspect of Canada’s relationship with indigenous people. “Despite superior generalship and brilliant tactics,” he says, “the Metis and Native forces were ultimately overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and fire power (Gatling guns and cannon) of the Canadian troops.”

After days of hard riding Bill and Michael arrived at their ultimate destination, the Saskatchewan Legislature. Here a number of Lindemere’s paintings are hung in the Prince Edward Room. The Security Officer told them the room was booked all day for a cabinet meeting. “We explained our desire to see Grandfather’s paintings and he looked at these 2 old guys in dusty leathers, then told us to wait. Shortly we were informed that the Premier had granted us10 minutes during their lunch break.”

Mesmerized by this segment of family history, they viewed Richard Lindemere’s 1928 painting of the Speaker of the House, commissioned by the Saskatchewan government. There were also 8 paintings of the North West Mounted Police. (Some of Lindemere’s paintings and sketches will be featured on my blogsite this month.)

Bill, age 77 at the time of the trip, says “Six whirlwind days, about 3000 kilometers, flawless machine performance, and we found Grandfather.” Richard Lindemere left a rich legacy for family and Canada!

The Flavour Of Our Community

I asked Lynn Wells for permission to post the following letter, because it says something about  the flavour of our little community of Hedley.

Hedley Christmas Dinner 2016
Hedley Christmas Dinner 2016

Dear Hedley Seniors’ Centre friends and members:

It was an outstanding Christmas Day dinner at the Hedley Seniors’ Centre. We were expecting around 75 people. We seated 90. Fortunately, we cooked six turkeys with stuffing, two hams, 30 pounds of potatoes, as well as sweet potatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts, carrots, peas, and dinner rolls, accompanied by buckets of gravy and cranberry sauce. The dinner ended with some delectable desserts including pumpkin pies, black forest cake, cookies, Christmas cake, and much more. Everyone had more than enough to eat, and we sent five dinners to residents who were unable to attend the dinner.

The biggest note of appreciation goes to all those who donated money, food and, especially their time. Santa has his elves, the Seniors’ Centre has its wonderful volunteers. A special thank you goes to Beryl Wallace, Peggy Terry, Ruth Woodin, Nancy Draper, Margaret Skaar and her son Fred, Robin Ford, Cherie Ruprecht, Joy Pillipow & her grand-daughter Sophie, Lynne Mackay, Patt Melville, Cindy Regier, Michelle Jacobs, Marie Jacobs, Russ Stoney, Dave Peers, and Gary Ross. They shopped for supplies, set up and decorated tables, prepared food, cooked, delivered food, served food, and helped to clean up afterwards.

The Hitching Post and the Nickel Plate Restaurants also contributed. I apologize if I have missed anyone. especially those who brought food to the dinner or who worked silently in the background. Thank you to all those people, too. This Christmas dinner is an annual event at the Hedley Seniors’ Centre. It is a way to bring the community together on a day of celebration and giving. Thank you, everyone.

And now, on behalf of the Board of Directors and members of the Hedley Seniors’ Centre,

We wish you a healthy and happy 2017!

Lynn Wells

President

Thoughts About New Years Resolutions

New Years Resolutions
New Years Resolutions

Like a lot of sensible citizens of the Similkameen Valley, I long ago ceased tormenting myself with New Years resolutions that really didn’t stir my imagination or my will to persevere. Looking back over my lifetime, I see that generally when significant inner change has come, it has not been the result of a New Years resolution. Although it required time, eventually I grasped the silliness of resolving to not eat chocolates or donuts.

In retrospect, I understand now that significant change for me has at times been born of necessity, as when I visited the Toastmasters club in the offices of Langley Township. Walking into that room I was much like a fearful, whimpering cur, tail tucked tightly between its trembling legs. Although I was conscious of what I was doing, it was nevertheless a reckless plunging into territory considerably outside my comfort zone.

I had long considered myself inept in front of a crowd of any size. Exposing my lack of training and inexperience before this group of pretty accomplished public speakers brought on a disquieting weakness in my knees. Gathering up my scant courage and paying the membership fee that day, I embarked on an arduous journey that has taught me some lessons about how to introduce positive change into my life.

The impetus for joining Toastmasters was a fervent desire to participate more effectively in the issues bedeviling our community. I was willing to take this initial step into unknown and dangerous terrain because I believed it was important. Not eating chocolates or donuts might be desirable but seemingly not important enough to make a firm, irrevocable decision.

Possibly bringing about change requires an element of adventure and even danger. Certainly for me becoming a Toastmaster, while not physically hazardous, did introduce a serious threat to my ego. Evaluators of my speeches began making me aware of habits that were distracting for the audience. One said, “Art played the accordian today,” a reference to my repetitive hand gestures. Another observed that “Art did a lot of pacing.” To become a more effective communicator I would have to listen to what these members were telling me. And I needed to apply their suggestions for improvement.

The Toastmasters program provides plenty of encouragement, but after 6 months I felt demoralized, my sensitive ego battered by a growing awareness of my seemingly myriad deficiencies. Much of the battering was coming, not from evaluations by fellow members, but from my own overly critical self-evaluations.

After much soul searching I began to understand that my negative thoughts were dragging me down. I asked myself a question that changed my focus. Was I willing to accept ignominious defeat, or would I dig deep and make a more serious commitment to my purpose in doing this?

I began altering my focus, reminding myself of my desire to make a constructive contribution to my community. This made it easier for me to hear the encouraging comments of evaluators, and to be aware of the progress I was making. In time I was able to turn the experience into an adventure. I set a goal of writing and delivering one speech each month, in addition to serving regularly in other roles. I attended meetings faithfully and made a firm decision to always follow through on my commitments to the club. Some of my distracting habits, like erratic, repetitive hand gestures began falling away.

In time it became easier, even enjoyable. I began speaking outside the club, a couple of times addressing the mayor and council of Abbotsford on environmental issues.

In my years as a Toastmaster, I saw some members grow phenomenally. Others though, became discouraged and drifted away. One member with good potential joined because she dreamed of becoming a professional public speaker. When she didn’t place well in her first speech contest she left, apparently forgetting her reason for joining.

The Toastmasters experience has helped me understand that to attain positive growth, it’s important to have a powerful reason. Affirming the purpose regularly is useful. In my case this provided the resolve to commit more deeply in the midst of perceived failure. Maybe the time will yet come when I’ll decide to dump the chocolates and donuts habit, but not this year. New Years Resolutions can be productive if they have the power to stir our imagination and our will to persevere.

Looking Back At The Blog & Column Of 2016

Elder John Terbasket, holding his great granddaughter.
Elder John Terbasket, holding his great granddaughter.

This week I looked back along the challenging, always exhilarating path this blog has been for me in 2016. Because it is carried as a column in the Similkameen Spotlight and the Keremeos Review, I have invariably been conscious of the looming deadline. At times I’ve begun the week in a state of near bewilderment as to what I would write. Wanting to give the reader something of substance, I have at times looked up and put in a special request for wisdom.

Many of the columns have been based on conversations Linda and I have had with individuals, usually people living in the Similkameen Valley. I prefer to think in terms of conversations, rather than interviews, because they have been intimate. We have wanted to delve into values, ideas and concerns. Often I have asked “what has surprised you along the way?”

Having Linda with me has been a bonus and a delight. Sometimes she comes away with insights that eluded me. We work together on editing and she can be radical. On one occasion she suggested moving the last paragraph to the beginning of the column. At one time, editor/ publisher of the Similkameen Spotlight, Andrea DeMeer, asked if she could borrow her. I declined to share this secret to my success.

Initially when I began asking individuals to engage in a conversation for publication purposes, I didn’t expect a high rate of consent. Frequently these people didn’t know me. Why would they trust someone to write about them in a newspaper? I’m still astonished and gratified that very few have turned down my request. If someone says, “I’ll think about it,” I’ve learned it probably won’t happen. If I know the individual well and really want their story, I may (gently) harass them for a short time, although so far with little success.

Often the accounts are inspiring and really deserve a wider audience. John Merriman of Keremeos, at age 97, was still driving people to medical and other appointments. Rhianfa Riel shared her formula for combating depression. Harvey Donohue and Derek Lilly talked about their Metis heritage. On a chilly morning last winter our neighbour Barry Hildebrandt invited Linda and me to come and bid farewell to his much loved dog, Silk. If we had not had a conversation with John Terbasket of the LSIB two weeks before he passed on, some intriguing aspects of his life might never have been recorded. Often the stories reveal something of significance about the character, values, priorities and memories of the person.

Possibly many people are willing to engage with Linda and me because, as Richard Paul Evans says in ‘The Walk’, “in each of us there is something that, for better or for worse, wants the world to know we existed.” Certainly most of us hope our children and grandchildren will at times think of us once we’re gone.

Sometimes I ask myself, “Why do I write the column?” It does consume time I’d like to devote to other activities. Why, in fact, does anyone write? A thoughtful response came recently from a Syrian writer in a radio interview. “The point of writing,” he said, “is not to change the world. It is to keep truth alive.”

One truth I have sought to keep alive is that a single individual can make a difference. Anita Reddick, founder of The Body Shop said, “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.” If an issue we’re concerned about requires the power of numbers, we can join with others on SumOfUs or Change.org.

There are times when I experience an overwhelming reluctance to ask one more person to talk about their life, or when I just don’t want to write one more column. On such occasions I remind myself of the words of David Usher in ‘Let the Elephants Run’. He said, “the ability to dedicate yourself to the work part of creativity is what will differentiate you from most of your peers.”

I’ve been honoured to have people tell me their life stories in 2016. Also to have the opportunity to address some disquieting issues in our nation. I’m sure that in 2017 one major challenge will again be to squeeze some of the significant elements of a life history, or a societal issue, into a column of approximately 730 words.

Linda and I wish each reader an abundance of health and positive adventures in the new year.

Christmas A Long Time Ago

Manger Scene (Pinterest)
Manger Scene (Pinterest)

Walking by the elaborate colourful Christmas displays in Rona’s Penticton store last week, I became aware of how differently the season was celebrated by my family when I was a kid. Until I was 5, we lived in a remote, sparsely populated village in rural Manitoba. My maternal grandparents, Abram and Susana Funk lived at the centre. Scattered around them on small acreages were their 14 offspring and numerous grandchildren.

The actual village, Barkfield, consisted of only about half a dozen houses. The road through the community was little more than a dirt trail, wide enough for one vehicle. The Funks travelled mostly on horseback or by horse drawn buggy or sleigh.

Having access to no more than a rudimentary education, the Funks lived uncomplicated lives. Most owned a small flock of chickens, a few cows, several pigs, and one or two horses. They relied on gardens for much of their food. The men, out of necessity, became expert hunters and spent many frigid winter days on horseback, hoping to shoot a deer or moose to feed their families. They were skilled with axes and saws and worked in the bush, making cordwood to sell. The women cooked, baked, tended their garden and raised large families. Without exception their hair was as black as any Mohawk or Cree, and because they worked outdoors so much, their skin was deeply tanned.

Although they possessed little, Grandpa and Grandma Funk gave the children an example of unreserved hospitality, especially in winter when it was most needed. Frequently a traveling peddler knocked on their door, hoping for a bed and a meal, plus hay and water for their horse. These were always gladly supplied.

The lives of the Funks, like many rural Manitobans in the 1930’s and 40’s, were uncluttered by an abundance of income or possessions. There wasn’t much to give. I was about age 3 when I first became aware of Christmas. Mom’s brother and family stayed in our home the night of December 24. Because there were few beds, my cousin Eddy and I slept on the floor. In the morning we were astonished and delighted to discover beside each of us a small metal truck with wheels of pressed paper. Compared to what our grandchildren will receive on the night of the 24th this year it was meager, but it did not occur to us that we were deprived.

Later Mom secretly placed home made cookies, decorated with icing and sparkles, on the snow around our home. We whooped happily each time we found one. Mom, like her siblings, loved snow, family and Christmas. Already as a young boy I sensed her awe and excitement for the season.

For Mom and her siblings, there seemed to be a mystique around Christmas, a magic usually only experienced by children. As a child I caught this for a time but when we moved from Barkfield and the Funk clan to B.C., it began to recede. Now, after many years I’ve become aware of a void in my inner being during this season.

Reflecting back on those early years, I wonder if the Funk family’s excitement and joy at Christmas was possible because they were not exposed to the prosperity and sophistication prevailing in our time. Did this allow for a willingness to embrace the miraculous account of a Messiah born in a stable in Bethlehem, surrounded by sheep and other livestock? For them it was not a great stretch to believe that angels appeared to shepherds tending their flocks in the fields and proclaiming this child was the son of God.

This was all part of my Mennonite upbringing and I recall Christmas Eve scenes depicting Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus in the stable. The Magi presenting gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. There were always angels proclaiming, “glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to all men.”

It seems an unlikely narrative. However, the stylized box store reindeer and unrealistic silver Christmas trees have no power to inspire a sense of wonder in me. Knowing something about the excitement and awe experienced by my forebears, the Funk family, I’m inclined toward the supernatural manger scene account.

A Telephone Call At Christmas

Actor Marc Lawrence as a gangster, a role model for Shefield (photo Wikipedia)
Actor Marc Lawrence as a gangster, a role model for Shefield (photo Wikipedia)

I was doing research into inmate culture at Matsqui Institution for a fourth year Sociology course at SFU. On this day Shefield and I were sitting on stiff backed wooden chairs in a cramped interview room. About 35, with an unsmiling face that was prematurely lined, he seemed a man who would never enter into a conversation with a prison guard or counsellor. After observing me a few minutes, he seemed to decide I could be trusted. Much like a penitent sinner who feels compelled to tell all in a confessional, he began talking about memories from his dark past.

Speaking out the side of his mouth with the wary mannerisms of a gangster in a movie he said, “You’re my first visit here. I’m doing a lot of time. Shot a cop in the leg in an armed robbery.” He paused and I sensed he was assessing my reaction to this revelation. I waited. “Last time I saw my parents was in the Stony Mountain Penn in Manitoba, 6 years ago. They gave us 45 minutes. The folks had come from Ontario.” His watchful eyes glanced about uneasily, as though suspecting a hidden microphone.

My life changed big time playing poker with some guys I met in a bar one night,” he said. “Got behind real bad. When my money was gone, I threw my house on the table. I knew it was a mistake, but I wasn’t going to walk out a loser. Luck wasn’t with me. Those guys cleaned me out.”

He ran a hand through his thinning black hair, then in scarcely a whisper said, “I had to go home and tell my old lady and 2 young boys we were moving. She told me she’d had enough of my crazy life. She and the boys would move out on their own and I could go to hell or anywhere I wanted.”

He shifted uneasily in his chair. “I was a fool,” he said, his voice tinged with bitterness. “Wanted to get everything back in a hurry. That’s how the armed robbery happened. A witness picked me out in a line up. The judge wasn’t joking when he said he was giving me a lot of time to think about my life. Never saw the old lady or the kids again.” We talked further and when our allotted hour was up, a guard pushed open the door, jangled his keys and told Shefield to move out.

When I completed my interviews with inmates and staff 2 weeks later, the conversation with Shefield lingered in my mind. After handing in my final assignment, I began visiting him. In time a measure of trust developed between us and when he became eligible for citizen escorted absences, I brought him home several times.

A few weeks before Christmas, Linda and I asked Shefield if he wanted to go with us to a program in a local church on the 24th, then stay in our home over night. He was apprehensive about being in a crowd of strangers, but decided it would be preferable to staying inside the prison walls.

At the church on Christmas Eve, he became anxious so I took him downstairs where a few others were hanging out. Shefield quickly got into a discussion with Willie, a man I’d known many years. When he realized Willie was a Calgary City police officer, he became agitated and argumentative. After a few minutes I explained to Willie that Shefield was an inmate at Matsqui. Willie was as hardened against criminals as Shefield was against authority. He never spoke to me again.

Shefield slept on our couch that night and the next morning I said, “Shefield, I’m sure it would be very special for your parents to hear from you. Our Christmas present to you is a telephone call to them.”

We were able to obtain a number from Directory Assistance and as he was dialing, I left the room. From the adjacent room I could hear his voice but not understand the words. When the conversation ended I returned to the kitchen. Shefield was unashamedly dabbing at his eyes with a hankie. He seemed surprised. In a shaky voice he said, “I guess that proves I’m human after all.”

For each of us, Christmas can be a time when we reach out, reconnect, and recommit to relationships that were once precious to us.

Look Thy Last On All Things Lovely

This summer I thought of Walter de la Mare’s line, “look thy last on all things lovely every hour.” It had become indelibly imprinted on my memory when I was still in school decades ago. Although I don’t recall thinking about it consciously at that time, it probably was a reminder that the colour and beauty in people and all life have a finite shelf life.

 

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One glorious day as Linda and I were walking across the tailings that remain from the gold mining era, de la Mare’s words quietly alerted me to the spectacular splendour surrounding us. I decided to record some of the awesome scenes impacting our senses every day, in a variety of situations. The following are a few excerpts from my growing collection of personal encounters with beauty and colour.

I noticed Phaedra’s golden hair and pretty face at the potluck to raise funds for the Tillotson family after their home burned. She was at a table with her children. I didn’t know her and was hesitant to ask if I could take her picture. Feeling she would bring a touch of colour and interest, I approached her with the question. She looked at me rather quizzically. “Why?” she asked, obviously perplexed at this request from a stranger.

I’m looking for a pretty face for my blog,” I answered.

Phaedra, a lovely young lady.
Phaedra, a lovely young lady.

Her dubious expression suggested she doubted I was serious in selecting her for this role. After a moment of hesitation and consideration, she graciously agreed. Anywhere else I might have been quickly rebuffed, but this is Hedley. And she is pretty.

Beauty on Lynn Wells' yard.
Beauty on Lynn Wells’ yard.

Lynn Wells had a luxurious assortment of sunflower plants this summer. While enjoying a cup of tea with her partner Bill Day, I asked permission to get a few photos. It occurred to me I should have Bill in the midst of that brilliance. He’s a colourful character himself and has an adventurous past.

Bill Day adds his own charm to the beauty.
Bill Day adds his own charm to the beauty.

Linda and I hike up Hospital Hill or along 20 Mile Creek virtually every day. This entails crossing the bridge over the creek. Almost without exception, we stand quietly on the bridge for a few moments, enthralled by the changes that occur in water levels, colours of the trees, the towering mountains around us, the smell of clean air, etc. Each side of the bridge offers its distinctive, attention holding ambiance.

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This former tailings pond is about a 20 minute walk from town. In summer the growth takes on a shimmering golden hue. In autumn the gold colouring gives way to a rich brown. Surrounded by the green mountains, this majestic scene is always an inspiration. Sometimes we stand quietly, in contemplative awe and silence, overwhelmed by a sense of total insignificance.

Now, in late autumn with winter already whitening the mountain peaks, I’m becoming aware once again that this season, like the others, invites us to “look thy last on all things lovely every hour.”

Freedom For Christine Lamont & David Spencer

Christine Lamont & David Spencer
Christine Lamont & David Spencer

In the early 1990’s I was digging a trench in the back yard of our Aldergrove home. I had my radio tuned to Peter Gzowski`s “Morning Side” program. When he said, “my next guests will be Keith and Marilyn Lamont of Langley,” I lay down my shovel and listened. I knew that Christine Lamont and her fiancee David Spencer were serving lengthy sentences in a maximum security penitentiary in Sao Paulo, Brazil. They had been implicated in the kidnapping of Brazilian supermarket magnate, Abilio Diniz.

I felt no compassion for the young couple, but the pathos in the Lamonts’ voices that morning somewhat softened my thinking. I knew Linda and I would be devastated if it was our daughter.

Looking over my shoulder today and reflecting on my increasingly many years, I’m reminded of author Rick Warren’s words “predictability is the great enemy of adventure.” I was never good at predictability. Possibly my attention span is too limited. I have repeatedly been diverted onto unfamiliar side excursions, sometimes to Linda’s consternation. On this day I would again lapse into the uncertain realm of unpredictability.

After the radio interview I called the Lamont home, planning to say I’d write our MP. A friend of the family was taking calls. She invited us to a meeting at Christ Church Cathedral that Thursday. Our decision to attend would divert our lives onto what poet Robert Frost might have deemed “the path less taken.”

In a basement meeting room of the cathedral we sat in the back row, wanting to remain anonymous. When the MC offered an opportunity for comment though, I got up and made a suggestion. At the end of the meeting, the grey haired man sitting in front of us turned around. Smiling broadly he said, “My name is Eric. I`m chairman of Canadians for Justice for Christine Lamont and David Spencer. Ì’d like to invite you to our next committee meeting.” Having been deeply impacted by Keith and Marilyn Lamont’s account and their gracious, unassuming natures, we accepted. It would prove to be a further step into unfamiliar terrain.

Learning I was a member of a Toastmasters club, the Lamonts asked me to be their media liaison. I quickly realized how aggressively reporters were pursuing this international story. Calls from major media like the Vancouver Sun, the Globe and Mail, MacLean’s Magazine, Global TV and others, began flowing to me.

For the Canadian media kidnapping was a crime easy to report on harshly. One morning the phone awakened me at 6:30. I agreed to do an interview with a radio talk show in Toronto. Wanting to stir up controversy and arouse emotions, the two hosts attempted to frustrate me and push me into uncomfortable corners. Standing outside on the patio, I smiled, determined not to give them the satisfaction.

Some of our family and friends were mystified by our decision to work for the release of 2 kidnappers. At times we were also troubled. We did know though that people in some Latin American nations were living in extremely difficult, often dangerous circumstances. On an SFU class research project in El Salvador several years earlier, Christine had seen the bodies of homeless youths strewn along the sides of streets, shot by the police. We also learned that Salvadoran army units at times entered villages and threw babies in the air and shot at them for target practise. Christine and David had joined the Brazilian kidnapping plot to raise funds to change conditions in El Salvador.

In 1998, after 9 years in the dangerous Sao Paulo penitentiary, they were turned over to Canadian prison authorities. That November, having served one third of their sentence, they were given mandatory parole. The Lamonts arranged a social evening for our committee to meet Christine and David just before Christmas. I didn’t look forward to this, thinking they would be hardened criminals. Amazingly, Linda and I found them to be soft spoken, uncomplaining and just wanting to again live as average citizens. They turned down all requests for media interviews, including an offer of $25,000.

By stepping onto this unpredictable “path less taken,” Linda and I gained unique experience and understanding. We also became friends with Keith and Marilyn Lamont, two of the most gracious, unpretentious people we know. Now married, Christine Lamont and David Spencer are law abiding, productive members of their community.

A small town perspective on people, community, politics and environment.