Hedley Arborist Gets High, Naturally

This past Saturday and Sunday morning, while many local citizens

Travis Barck, comfortable in high places.
Travis Barck, comfortable in high places.

were sleeping in or having breakfast, Travis Barck was already clambering about in a tree high above the ground. Hedley’s premiere arborist, he had been contracted to tidy up the massive trees alongside and behind the Hedley Historical Museum. It was a major job but as usual, he appeared confident as a bald eagle perched on a high mountain outcropping.

“This is a Box Elder,” he said,

Travis Barck plying his trade in the Manitoba Maple
Travis Barck plying his trade in the Manitoba Maple

“sometimes it’s also called a Manitoba Maple. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever worked on. At least 3 feet in diameter.” The main impetus for having the trees pruned was a neighbour’s complaint that branches of a tree on one side of the property were touching his roof and leaves were making a mess on his driveway.

“It really was time to give all the trees a pruning,” Travis said. “The winter storms broke branches and some were hanging up in the trees. It was dangerous.”

“They probably have not been pruned in many years,” he explained. “In the past the Box Elder has been topped. This can cause decay. It wasn’t real bad on this tree, but some has set in.” The other large tree behind the Museum is a Norway Maple.

Travis is a U.S. citizen with permanent resident status in Canada. He is applying to be a dual citizen.

Although only 36, he comes with an impressive array of experience and training. He began his horticultural career in 2000, working at the illustrious Las Vegas Springs Preserve, then obtained a BA from Cornell University in 2004. In 2006 he worked at the Morris Arboretum, one of the most renowned tree museums in the world. He moved to BC in 2007. Until he came to Hedley about 3 years ago, he worked for Bartlett Tree Experts. In his day job he is a Utility Operator with Public Works in Princeton. Due to the winter storms, he has plenty of work to do there.

Locally he’s been seen silhouetted high against the sky, 80-90 feet above ground, trimming Douglas Firs. His artistry with a chain saw is helping tidy up and beautify the town.

Vigilant Citizens Elect Better Leaders

Voting for Better Leaders Edmonton Journal photo
Voting for Better Leaders
Edmonton Journal photo


In a recent letter to the Editor, Mary Masiel of Princeton expressed her belief that Stephen Harper has done more damage to Canada than any other Prime Minister. Sentiments such as this are not uncommon, whether referring to the current Prime Minister or others before him. I consider her statement a reason to acquaint ourselves with the present leadership candidates. Only by being vigilant and informed will we be likely to elect leaders we trust and respect.

With the federal election on the horizon, many candidates are already in the political marketplace, shopping for votes. The parties are engaging pollsters to determine what issues are important to Canadians. They are beginning to tell us what they hope we want to hear.

Possibly one reason we are so often displeased with politicians is that we don’t pay sufficient attention to what they are saying and doing long before we enter the voting booth. And we aren’t asking enough tough questions and demanding substantive replies. If we have an inadequate understanding of a candidate‘s character, how can we even guess at what that individual will do if elected?

When we complacently vote according to party brand, we are essentially telling politicians, “we are not deeply interested in the affairs of our nation. You have our permission to do whatever you think is best.”

For me deciding who to vote for begins with the underlying principle that I will not give my heart to any political party. Then I look at the leaders. In this regard I like Peter C Newman’s words in Home Country, “I stopped believing in magical leaders.” Like the rest of us, political leaders are flawed, and we should not decide who we will support on the basis of party brand, charisma, or extravagant promises.

With this understanding, I hope to find particular qualities in a party leader. Wisdom and sound judgment seem a good place to start. Without these, a leader can cause serious damage, especially to those having little political clout. RB Bennett, Prime Minister in the early years of the Great Depression (1930-35) seemingly lacked these qualities.

Bennett approved the construction of work camps for young men

R.B. Bennett (thecanadianencyclopedia,ca)
R.B. Bennett

unable to find employment. The administration of these camps was generally appalling, the pay abominable. The men embarked on a trek to Ottawa to make the government aware of their serious grievances. Instead of giving them an audience, Bennett ordered the RCMP to halt the march in Regina. The crackdown was harsh, with some bloodshed. With wisdom and sound judgment, the discouraged young men could have been given a hearing and their legitimate grievances dealt with fairly. Fortunately Bennett lasted only one term.

I also hope a leader will deeply and genuinely care about and respect the citizens of the country. As a student at SFU, I was caught up in the Trudeaumania that swept through Canada in 1968 when Pierre Trudeau first ran for the position of Prime Minister. Like many Canadians, I thought he would bring a creative approach and positive solutions to complex issues. Instead, when his popularity waned, from the comfort of his plush railroad coach he gave the finger to 3 disheartened placard carrying citizens. He also raised gas and other taxes after promising during the election campaign he would not. Newman’s opinion is that “Trudeau didn’t understand Canadians and their concerns. What is worse, he didn’t appear to care.”

Another quality I look for is integrity. When Jean Chretien made his promises public in the famous Liberal Red Book, I thought he intended to fulfill them. Apparently their sole purpose was to garner votes.

Fortunately Canada has had leaders who exemplified good

Sir Wilfried Laurier
Sir Wilfried Laurier

character and values. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Liberal Prime Minister from 1896 to 1911, is still considered by many to have been a true Canadian statesman. JS Woodsworth, the main founder and first leader of what later became the NDP has been called the “conscience of Parliament.“ Robert Stanfield, leader of the Progressive Conservative Opposition from 1967 to 1976 continues to be regarded as an honourable politician by political writers.

If we want good governance in Canada, it is essential that we elect individuals of good character. To accomplish this we will have to be diligent, proactive and vigilant.

Manning Park Has Another Prettiest Girl

Toward the end of 2014 I wrote about Laura, “the Prettiest Girl in Manning Park.” A couple of days ago Linda and I stopped there to pick up coffees to go, and discovered that for the past year Laura has had an equally pretty work partner. Manning Park often surprises and delights us with its grandeur, beauty and fresh air. Meeting Janis was another Manning Park surprise.

When we walked into the store, which Laura manages, we sensed quickly she was even more upbeat than usual. She embraced us warmly – the first time ever.

We had not seen Laura since posting the column about her. The hugs seemed to suggest the story had been a positive experience. I mentioned that the blog had received a vast increase in visits for a few days after that post. “You must have a lot of fans,” I said. She smiled.

“The Lodge manager become aware of the post.” she explained. “He publicized it around here”. She seemed happy about the recognition.

Then she told us about Janis, a young German gal who has worked at Manning for a year. As she spoke, I began to wonder if Laura had something in mind. “Janis learned about the Lodge at the Jobs Fair in Vancouver,” she said. “Adolfo, one of the young men who works here, was at the fair. He thought she was wonderful and urged us to hire her.” She glanced at her watch. “Janis is due to come into the store in 5 minutes.” It seemed she hoped we’d wait. “Her time in Canada will be up in 4 days, but she wants to come back and live here. She says Canadians are more friendly.” Laura’s voice exuded warmth and excitement as she spoke of her work partner and friend.

While she went to serve a customer, we examined a display of warm

Janis at Manning Park
Janis at Manning Park

gloves knitted by women in Nepal. When Janis entered the store area, she and Laura spoke quietly for just a moment. Then she approached us smiling. Extending her hand she said, “hi, I’m Janis.” Her lovely face was attractively framed by auburn brown hair. It was the smile that captivated us and won us over immediately.

We asked Janis a few questions and she answered without hesitating, apparently completely trusting Laura‘s assessment of us. Her command of English was virtually flawless and her smile radiated joy. It was as though she knew about us and had anticipated our arrival and our questions. I wondered if Laura had primed her for this moment, hoping she too would be written about and have a positive experience to take back to Germany.

“When I learned about Manning Park Lodge,” Janis told us, “I wanted to work here. I met Adolfo at the Fair but I don’t remember him. There were too many distractions. He is the one who told Laura they should hire me. When I met him here, I fell in love right away, and he did too.” She smiled.

“Adolfo is from Mexico,” she continued. “In a few days I have to return to Germany. My time in Canada is up. In May I will go to Mexico.” The smile on her pretty face was that of a young woman who loves and is loved. “Adolfo and I are both interested in tourism,” she said. “I plan to go to university in Germany to get trained for it.”

Knowing we needed to let her attend to her duties at the cash register, I said “will you let me take a picture ?” I reached into the pocket of my jacket for the camera.

“Yes,” she said. Again I felt she had expected I would make this request. By now I was definitely wondering if we were following

Janis & Laura
Janis & Laura

Laura’s mental script for this occasion. After snapping several shots of her by the Manning Park Lodge fireplace, I requested a photo of Janis and Laura behind the counter. Laura put an arm around Janis. Her joy at seeing her friend get this attention warmed our hearts. Their love and caring for each other was like that of two sisters who have shared a significant life experience and have grown close.

A Friend Helped Him Change



I think of January as the unofficial season of good intentions. Like a lot of people, I’ve made numerous New Years Resolutions to change some aspect of my life. By February they have always been pretty much forgotten.

Having worked with inmates in most Lower Mainland prisons, I know that for men and women coming out of prison, change is even more difficult. Many have lost family connections. Often they have few employment skills. They may know only other ex-cons and have no positive vision for themselves. There is little hope for a better future.

Upon release some return immediately to their previous haunts. Prison regulations have stripped them of the ability to plan and organize their lives. It was only with the assistance of a mentor that my friend Peter was able to throw off the far reaching shackles of prison life.

As a boy, Peter told me, he sometimes helped himself to items in stores. If caught, his father made him pay, then gave him a whipping.

“As I got older,” he said, “I started drinking and hanging out with a rough crowd.”

He credits his father with ensuring he knew how to work. “I always had a job,” he said, “and I always had money. When I was 20 I bought a brand new convertible. I traded that for a pickup and drove from Ontario to B.C.”

In BC he attended a noisy drinking party. “I had money so I brought booze. I didn’t realize some of the girls were under age. The police came and I was arrested.”

That earned him time in Oakalla for contributing to juvenile delinquency. Here he became acquainted with hard core criminals. Upon release he began doing B & E’s with a partner. That netted him 2 years in the B.C. Penitentiary.

He applied to M2/W2 (Man to Man, Woman to Woman) for a citizen sponsor and was matched with Henry, a no nonsense poultry farmer who attended a conservative Mennonite church. Henry visited Peter regularly and they engaged in some intense discussions, especially concerning his culture, simple life style and faith. Peter came to respect Henry for his inner strength, solid character, and total integrity. He had never been close to a strong, compassionate individual before. Pragmatic and astute, Henry evidently saw the potential in this head strong young man.

Over 14 months, a bond developed and through Henry’s influence, Peter came to have a more positive understanding of life. It was by no means a complete change though and when he was given early parole, his intention was to return to Vancouver. “I had nothing and nowhere to go,” he said.

Henry picked Peter up at the prison, with the understanding he would drop him off in Vancouver. Realizing Peter would almost certainly return to his criminal life, he suggested, “why don’t you come and see my farm?” Having no better plan, Peter agreed.

“Henry introduced me to his wife and children. They welcomed me. I felt at ease and accepted.” He stayed a few days and when the contractor building a barn for Henry needed a worker, he hired Peter. “You can live with us,” Henry offered.

The family’s simple lifestyle was unfamiliar to Peter at first. He didn’t resent their ways though. “Henry always gave thanks to God before meals. I liked that.”

“At first going to church with them was scary because it was so unfamiliar,” he remembers. “ But people were friendly. They already knew about me from Henry. I felt accepted.”

Before long he married Sylvia, a young woman from the church. He learned several trades and always had work. They bought a small acreage and raised their 4 children there. Peter is now semi- retired.

His words when we spoke recently helped me understand more fully what had made the transformation possible. “Henry was a good influence,” he said. “ I give him and the people of the church credit for helping me learn to have stability in my life. And I give God the credit for giving me a family, friends, the jobs I’ve had, and our little farm. Everything. I could not have done this on my own.” Change comes more easily when we have a friend who encourages us to go in a good direction.

RBC Donates to Hedley Cenotaph Fund

Peggy Terry retired from the RBC on June 30, 1999. Last

Peggy Terry (left) handing cheque to Museum Treasurer, Margaret Skaar
Peggy Terry (left) handing cheque to Museum Treasurer, Margaret Skaar

week the bank sent her a $500 cheque for the Hedley Cenotaph Renewal Project.

The money came out of a fund current and former employees can apply to on behalf of a charitable organization in their community. Those making such a request must be actively volunteering in their community.

Peggy began working for RBC several years after completing grade 10. She started as a teller at the Main and 25th branch in Vancouver. From there she transferred to several other cities, including Richmond and Duncan. After receiving training in finance and administration at UBC, in 1975 she was assigned to the Visa Centre in Vancouver. Here she gained a breadth of experience in such departments as Collections, Security, Customer Service Audits and Bankruptcies. In time she was elevated to the position of Supervisor of Authorization.

Prior to her retirement, Peggy and her husband Bill, now deceased, searched widely throughout the Okanagan Valley, looking for a home in an area where it was quiet and he could fish. They bought a home just outside Hedley and moved in the day after she retired.

Peggy came to Hedley with much needed organizing capability, a will to get things done, and plenty of energy. She also had experience in volunteering, having begun as a member of the Legion Teen Auxiliary at age 15. Later she organized a Big Brothers bowling fund raiser each year . As a member of the Variety Club, she persuaded the organization to advertise the availability of Visa and MasterCard for donation purposes. This boosted the group’s income.

It was Mitzie Helmstead, now living in Princeton, who persuaded me to join the Museum Society,” she said. “Then the president, Harry Alton, also now in Princeton, talked me into becoming a Director.”

She joined the OAPO and when the local group decided to break away from the parent organization and become the Hedley Seniors’ Centre, she did the considerable paperwork to make this happen. Presently she is serving as Treasurer. She is also a board member and Treasurer at the Hedley Grace Church.

“I worked with  a lot of good people at RBC.  Now in my volunteer roles, I am again meeting many wonderful people,” she said. “I enjoy having these people around me.”


Happy Valentines Jim & Pat!

Advertising moguls wouldn’t likely select Jim and Pat Melville of Hedley as their Valentines Day poster couple. After the bumps and

Jim & Pat, still in love!
Jim & Pat, still in love!

bruises that come with almost 45 years of marriage and raising 2 children, the Melvilles don’t have the sleek, unrealistic fashion magazine figures. They don’t exude the “over the top” glamour advertisers thrive on. For me their life partnership provides convincing evidence that stability and faithfulness in a relationship is more rewarding than the Larry King model of multiple failed marriages. I was interested in meeting with them because they are so thoroughly untouched by the hype and values of the advertising gurus.

They grew up in a time when money was scarce. Recalling the day in 1960 when he went to a car lot, Jim said, “I told the salesman I liked the1949 Pontiac they had, but I could pay only three hundred dollars. He said he’d talk to the manager. A few minutes later he came back. The manager had approved my offer.” The first time he went to put in gas, he couldn’t find the gas cap. After hunting for some time, he found it behind one of the tail lights.

For Jim, meeting Pat must have been “love at first sight.” He still remembers the day and the precise time. “I was working at what is now the Weyerhauser Mill in Princeton,” he said. “Some friends came to give me and a co-worker a ride home. They brought Pat along. It was 6 pm on October 24th, 1969.” For him the timing was fortuitous. His father had been deceased for 13 years, and he had lost his mother 3 weeks ago. Pat was a ray of sunshine. The following weekend he took her to a movie in Oroville.

They had similar interests and values, and their relationship flourished rapidly. It may surprise younger readers that Jim asked Pat’s parents for “her hand in marriage.” At that time there was greater respect for societal values and institutions, including marriage. Her father liked him and jokingly said, “if you want her, take her.”

“We asked Reverend Derek Salter to marry us,” Jim said. “He took marriage pretty seriously. We had to go to his home and tell him about ourselves and why we wanted to get married. I don’t remember what we told him.”

Apparently the Reverend was satisfied with their responses. He performed the ceremony in Hedley’s United Church (now Hedley Grace Church) on March 28, 1970.

Pat and Jim share a lengthy history in Hedley. Her family arrived in 1951 and her father operated the tram that moved ore, supplies and people between the Nickel Plate mine, high on the mountain, and the town. “I attended school here,“ she said. “So did our children and grandchildren.”

Jim arrived somewhat later than Pat. He is one quarter native and related to the well known Allison family. “My mom was half aboriginal,” he said. “My dad was Irish.”
Initially they rented. When they applied to rent a house owned by the Credit Union, the manager said, “Why rent? You should buy it. There is a grant available.” They accepted his advice and it is their home to this day.

“There were large families living in small houses then,” Pat said. “People didn’t have much money to do things. We attended community events. There were dances at the Moose Hall and a big Robbie Burns celebration each year. Also Boxing Day and New Years dances. Groups of ladies met for coffee in their homes. Expectations weren’t as high as now.”

It has taken love, a sense of humour and commitment to get to where they are now. “If we didn’t agree about something,” Pat said, “we talked about it. We always worked through the problems.”

When our coffee cups were empty and they were ready to leave, it occurred to me that throughout our conversation, their voices had been gentle and respectful toward each other. At a time when 30 day Hollywood unions no longer surprise us, the Melville’s life long partnership is inspiring and well worth observing. Happy Valentines Jim and Pat!


Lonely Hearts & The Cleopatras in Winter

Last winter Lonely Hearts and the two Cleopatras insisted on going

Hen House in Winter
Hen House in Winter

outdoors even when the mercury dipped to -20. I don’t recall any days that frigid this winter, but we have been blessed with an abundance of snow. The snow has lingered, due to mostly sub-zero temperatures. With a 100 watt bulb in their little home, it’s quite cozy in there. Maybe it’s age related, or it could be wisdom, but they’ve been in a self imposed quarantine all of December and January.

In winter I close the “chicken door” for the night to keep out the cold air. After their first few days of not venturing out this past December, I ceased opening the door in the morning. One ramification of them confining themselves to their quarters is that I need to scrape up their droppings more frequently. It’s not an onerous task but they are curious about any activity and I need to take care not to trample on them in the constricted space.

The girls’ understanding of our agreement seems to be that in exchange for their eggs, it is my responsibility to provide meals and lodging and also do the house work. Lately I’ve chided them, somewhat good naturedly, for their growing complacency in regard to laying. “One egg per day from the three of you just doesn’t cut it,” I have told them several times. “Surely you can give up a little pecking time and lay at least one more.” They seem to listen respectfully at the time, heads turned up, then speedily forget. However, they are quick to remind me, with discontented clucking, if I am derelict in carrying out any of my responsibilities to them.

After the first two weeks in seclusion, I wondered if they were having second thoughts about their negative opinion of the snow and cold. I shovelled a walking path for them and then opened their door. They hesitantly stepped out onto their covered patio, an area sheltered by a glass storm door leaning against the outer wall. When they saw the foot deep snow, they ignored the path I had made and resolutely scurried back inside. Having ascertained their wishes, I closed the door and again secured it against the cold and predators.

The mercury has now crept up somewhat and I again shovelled a

Art with Miss Lonely Hearts and the Cleopatras
Art with Miss Lonely Hearts and the Cleopatras

walking area earlier this week and opened their door. Lonely Hearts stepped out hesitantly, as usual leading the way. The Cleopatras followed. After much testing and considerable consultation among themselves, the girls came to a collective decision to again spend the daytime hours outdoors. Their production of droppings will now decrease in the hen house but once the snow goes and the ground thaws, I’ll need to deal with that issue outside. Being a poultry rancher requires labour, patience and a sense of humour.