Harry Explains Evolution To A Skeptic

Evolution of Man
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When I met Harry in the Penticton library 3 years ago, I couldn’t avoid noticing that he possessed some of the physical attributes of a Sumo wrestler. In time I would conclude he didn’t have the aggressive thinking required for that sport. He was actually a wonderfully gentle soul. At one time a science lecturer in a small Saskatchewan college, when his third wife walked out for the final time, he had needed a diversion. After migrating to Penticton and settling into a cheap one bedroom apartment, he took up the study of evolution, something he had long wanted to do.

When Harry realized I lacked enthusiasm for his new pursuit, he quickly deemed it his responsibility to enlighten me. In spite of his zeal for the subject, he was patient. I liked Harry and decided to let him teach me, and also do my own research. On my infrequent trips to Penticton, we met for coffee at the Shades On Main restaurant. He was always waiting for me at the most remote table. This allowed us to eat the 4 Tim Hortons donuts he invariably brought in a brown paper bag.

Harry began without the usual pleasantries the first time we met. I could tell he had been totally immersed in the subject, probably rarely straying from his tiny apartment except for trips to the library. Eager to share his new found knowledge, he said, “Evolution happened over many millions of years. Natural selection is a key aspect of Darwin’s concept. It takes place slowly, by accumulating slight, successive, favourable variations. Darwin said no sudden modifications are possible.” I sensed he had memorized this for my benefit. Pausing to add more sugar and milk to his already enriched coffee, he continued, “In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins says natural selection is the only workable alternative to chance that has ever been suggested.”

That week I checked into this and learned about the “Cambrian Explosion” which scientists believe happened approximately 600 million years ago. During this event major groups of animals, called phyla, appeared suddenly in the fossil record. Darwin knew the fossil record failed to support his Tree of Life concept which predicts a long history of gradual divergences from a common ancestor, with the differences slowly increasing.

I felt considerable puzzlement at this. When Harry came to Hedley a few weeks later, over lunch in the sun room of our home, I asked him if evolutionary scientists have a credible response. Waving a hand as though it wasn’t a reason for concern, he said, “Darwin hoped that future fossil discoveries would explain this. To this time that hasn’t happened but the research is continuing. If I learn anything more I’ll let you know.”

At our next meeting Harry showed up with his brown bag as usual. I sensed his excitement immediately. He had come across the 2001 U.S. Public Broadcasting System’s 7 part series, Evolution. “At the end of the program,” he announced with evangelistic conviction, “they said all known scientific evidence supports evolution. They also said virtually every reputable scientist in the world believes this is true.” He leaned toward me, smiling with anticipation and waiting for my response, certain I couldn’t disagree with so many scientific heavy weights on his side. I felt the heat of his massive body.

I knew he was trying to be helpful and I didn’t want to seem ungrateful. “That’s pretty impressive Harry,” I said. “I’ll definitely continue with my research.”

That week I unearthed a 2 page advertisement in the The Weekly Standard, published on October 1, 2001. One hundred scientists, many of them highly regarded professors with doctorates from prestigious universities like Cambridge, Stanford, Yale and Rutgers, had issued a response to the PBS program. Entitled A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism, it said in part, “We are skeptical of the claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

Over the next year, Harry several times countered my reservations about evolution by asking, “If there is a Designer, what is his or her origin?” Certainly both Evolution and Intelligent Design pose significant questions for which neither science or religion have satisfactory answers. Several months ago Harry fell in love again and returned to Saskatchewan. In spite of his sincere efforts, concerning evolution, I remain a skeptic.

Nickel Plate Reunion In Hedley

Former residents of Nickel Plate townsite.

This past weekend Hedley was the scene of a pretty unique reunion. Participants came from various points in the province. With the exception of one individual, as children they had all lived at the Nickel Plate townsite, high on the mountain overlooking Hedley. Their parents worked for the Kelowna Exploration Company, the entity which operated the highly lucrative Nickel Plate Mine.

The mine ceased operations in 1955, so these people are now seniors. Although they’ve had several reunions previously, some had not connected since the mining days. Bob Richards of Penticton, whose father was a foreman at the mine, largely organized the event. Now age 74, he has worked in mines himself and has also earned his living as a wrestler. Like the others, he spoke fondly of his childhood years living in the Nickel Plate community.

Bob Richards

I was one when my parents moved up,” he said. “We left when I was 12. Those were good years. The mine provided a bowling alley and a skating rink. It helped us create a ski run, and much more. I attended school up there until grade 6.”

Patsy (Williams) Ehlbeck

Patsy Ehlbeck (nee Williams), spoke of her father (known by miners as Dibbs) who was mine superintendent during the family’s years at the town site. Her parents had given the Museum a painting of the family home on the mountain. This was of particular interest to Patsy.

Garnet Graham

Garnet Graham, now living in Prince George, said “There were about 40 families up there, plus singles. My dad worked in the mine and is mentioned in Mines of the Eagle Country. It was a great place to be a kid. We had lots of freedom. Sometimes we rode our bikes to Nickel Plate Lake. I have awesome memories of that time.”

Ore was sent down the tram line in skips (ore cars) to the Stamp Mill on the periphery of Hedley. The skips were controlled by the Hoist Man at Central Station part way up the line. “There was one house at Central, and this is where our family lived,” said Carl Lofroth, now of Terrace. For this reason he didn’t have as much interaction with the children of the Nickel Plate community. Even so, there are plenty of great memories. “We had Disney movies,” he said, “and there were Chinese dinners. We went camping together and had picnics.” He doesn’t recall any quarreling. When he was 6, his family moved down into Hedley where he attended school.

Jim Munro

Jim Munro lived at Nickel Plate from age 9 to 14. His dad was the camp administrator. “Kids had the run of the town,” he recalled, “but we couldn’t get too far out of line. Everyone knew who your parents were. It was like having 40 moms and 40 dads.”

Carl Lafroth

During the open mike session, there were a number of references to riding the skip down to Hedley. “People would ride the skip down and do their shopping,” Carl Lafroth explained. “On the way down, we sat on the ore. This allowed us to have a great view of the valley. On the return trip up the mountain, the skip would be empty. We’d be lower and couldn’t see much.”

Don Armstrong provided 2 cakes. This one had a photo of the stamp mill. The other showed the trestle bridge crossing the Similkameen river.

After many laughs, the reunion group was joined by locals for an outdoor roast beef dinner hosted by Don Armstrong and assisted by Judy Turner, Sharon Sund and others, all of Hedley. In the evening the Black Birds provided music for a street dance.

Collaborating For Better Health Care

Nienke Klaver & Ed Staples

Thirty six acres straddling the Tulameen River several miles from Princeton seems an unlikely, overly serene retirement setting for a couple that has traveled, worked and lived in diverse places around the globe. For Ed Staples and Nienke Klaver though, it’s just right. Their wide ranging experiences had prepared them to take a leadership role in striving for better health care in the Similkameen valley.

Sitting in our sun room with a cup of steaming coffee in hand, Ed said, “our time in other countries made us more compassionate. In Chile we watched a young boy playing with an old, deflated soccer ball. I bought a new ball. When I handed it to him, his expression of gratitude and wonderment was life changing. What we experienced helps us understand how fortunate we are in Canada.”

Nienke nodded and said, “One day in Lhasa, Tibet we were walking in a circle, participating in a ceremony. An elderly woman grasped my hand and walked beside me. We didn’t understand each other but we smiled a lot. The needs and wants of people are very similar.”

Nienke came to Canada in 1981 to visit her sister and pursue a masters degree at the University of Victoria. Ed had recently returned from 3 years of teaching in Saudi Arabia. They met one evening when Nienke and her friend Gwen ran out of gas a block from Ed’s home. Gwen knew him so she asked if he had gas. He did and gave it to them. A few days later Ed accompanied them to a Doug and the Slugs concert. He and Nienke sat side by side and it was the beginning of a romance that blossomed into marriage and a life long adventurous partnership.

They traveled extensively and have memories that still influence their thinking and values. “Some roads in Paraguay were so bad I didn’t take the Toyota out of first gear,” Ed said. Tibet provided aunique experience. Two Buddhist monks invited them to their monastery. Here they were granted a rare private audience with the Rinpoche, a highly revered religious leader who had trained with the Dalai Lama. In Japan, where they lived 10 years, Ed taught music at the American School in Japan and Nienke taught violin. She has played with symphony orchestras in Amsterdam, Victoria and Edmonton.

Upon returning from Japan they bought the acreage outside Princeton. “Traveling and living in other countries gave us a greater appreciation for what we have in Canada,” Ed said. “It helped us understand more fully that people need to accept responsibility for the well being of their community. It doesn’t just happen.” He recalled his father’s words, “if you want things to change, you need to get involved and help bring about the change.”

We became aware of a gradual erosion of health care in our community,” Nienke remembers. “We had only one doctor on call. Then there was an announcement that the Emergency Ward in our hospital would be closed 4 nights each week.”

When Nienke began circulating a petition on behalf of health care in the area, Ed was initially reluctant. Seeing people were concerned and were signing the petition, he too became active. “At first people didn’t believe anything would change. Nienke isn’t afraid to try things though,” he observed. “She persevered in spite of the pessimism.” The petition collected 3,600 names and public officials took notice.

Ed and Nienke are grateful for the support and help they received from others. Brad Hope (Area H Regional Director at that time) and his wife June were knowledgeable and helpful. “Also,” Ed said, “we received good advice from Walter Despot, former mayor of Keremeos. He gave us a tour of the South Similkameen Health Centre and advised us to work constructively with Interior Health. There we met Susan Brown. Without her, nothing would have happened. Dr Monro of Princeton has provided great ideas. She’s a firecracker! We became collaborative, not confrontational.”

They developed Support our Health Care (SOHC), a local grassroots organization dedicated to the improvement of Princeton’s model of healthcare. It has joined the B.C. Health Coalition. SOHC has begun working with similar organizations in other rural communities.

We now have visiting specialists, and Princeton and Keremeos have Community Paramedicine programs,” Nienke said at the end. Ed added, “we can’t claim the credit, but our group has developed fertile ground for improvements in health care.”

Good Bye To Dwight And Spook

Dwight & Spook and the loaded 1928 Chrysler coupe.

Moving out of a home inevitably entails considerable planning and work. Our neighbour Dwight (Whitey) has been moving out for at least 2 weeks. It’s taking that long because not only does he have a house full of the usual belongings, his double car garage has been crowded with quite an array of “toys”.

At one time there was a sporty little convertible in there. He must have sold it to make space for other items. I haven’t seen it for some time. A 1928 Chrysler coupe needing a lot of work took its place. In time, he and his friend Leroy turned it into a dazzlingly pretty hot rod, with a chopped roof. A real peppy little job with a 1979 Chev 350 motor. He also has a regular “family” type car, plus a heavy duty pickup. Not that he has a family living with him.

1928 Chrysler, photo taken June, 2015.

Several years ago he bought a motor home, about 27 feet long. It’s been gone for about 2 weeks, so I think he found a place to park it until he settles in somewhere.

Other than the hot rod coupe, it’s the Harley that has attracted most attention in our quiet little community. Some people in town think he must be a Hell’s Angel. I’ve never seen any indication of that. They certainly haven’t stopped by to chat.

There used to be parties in the back yard on his side of the hedge that separates our properties. Dwight is pretty generous with his beer and at times the music, talk and laughing made it necessary to close our bedroom windows at night. I think Kim, our neighbour across the street may have paid him a visit to discuss that. In the past year there have been fewer people and the noise level has been negligible. I suppose its his biker image, his congeniality, and his willingness to share the beer that have drawn a seemingly continuous stream of people to him.

Recently he casually informed me he has a girlfriend in Alberta. He said she was coming out shortly to spend a week with him and he’d introduce me. Shelly did indeed show up and I found her to be an attractive lady with a lively personality. She’s likeable and easy to converse with.

I understand now why he changed his mind about where he’d settle. Initially he thought it might be Salmon Arm. Now it’s definitely a small community not far from Edmonton. He told me the land around there is swampy and infested with mosquitoes. I asked why he’d leave Hedley for a place with an abundance of creatures eager to torment him. “It’s for the love of a woman,” he said. I’m going to miss Dwight and his faithful companion, Spook.

Chief Holmes of the Upper Similkameen Indian Band

Chief Rick Holmes at the entrance to the Snaza’ist Centre

Rick Holmes, Chief of the Upper Similkameen Indian Band, doesn’t attempt to impress people with the position. In preparation for an on-stage interview at the Hedley Canada Day celebration, I asked how I should introduce him. “You can introduce me as Chief,” he said, “then call me Rick. It’s only a title.”

In a subsequent conversation with him in our home, Linda and I sensed his thinking extends comfortably well beyond Reserve boundaries. There is an evident openness to interactions with the Similkameen community and the world beyond.

He attributes much of his shaping to being placed in a foster home in Alberta at the beginning of grade 4. “I think my mom agreed to it because she thought I’d have a chance at a better education,” he told us. “I see it as a positive. During that time I lived in the homes of 2 different families. I still stay in touch. This June I went to Alberta to visit them.”

He says observing his foster parents shaped his values. “When I ran for Chief last year,” he said, “I told the band I bring fairness and honesty.”

Rick first sought the position of Chief in 1990, but lost to Slim Allison. Elections take place on a 2 year cycle and in 1992 he won. He says Slim Allison gave him a piece of wise advice. “Some people will holler and scream at you, but don’t do the same.”

The band, which now has about 210 members, doesn’t provide a salary, he said, but he does receive an honorarium. He works at the Copper Mountain Mine, operating a crusher. Three of his five children also work there. “My daughter Rosie drives a haul truck,” he said. “The tires are huge. They cost about $30,000 each.” He is obviously pleased that his children are gainfully employed.

Jobs and band prosperity are high on my list of priorities. It’s a big thing for me that our people should not have to depend on the band for a job. Quite a few band members work at the mine.” Doing a quick mental count he said there are 14 to 18 including spouses. “We have several small contracts with the mine. I’d like to see this increased, but we don’t use the band to bully anyone to get work. We listen and try to get a foot in the door.”

We have a logging operation in the Princeton area,” he said. “It has a crew of 7 men. In the past it was one of the biggest in the southern interior. We have our own equipment, a feller/buncher, 2 skidders, a cat and loader and processors.”

Wanting to clear up a common misconception, he said “we get the same deductions from our cheques as others. We pay income tax. Also, our homes are not given to us. We have to buy them.”

Chief Rick Holmes beside a display in the Snaza’ist Centre

He told us the band office receives daily inquiries concerning the popular mine tours. “There is work needing to be done up there. We’re still looking at the idea of a gondola, but that’s for the future.” The band is also considering re-starting the Princeton Pow Wow. When I asked if band members attend the Ashnola Pow Wow, he said, “I believe they all do.”

Rick understands that as a leader he needs to give attention to his health. He walks along the highway morning and evening (“when I can”), a total of almost 8 miles. He also plays slow pitch ball. “We have a family team. I used to play short stop but now one of my sons is better, so I’ve moved to third base. I’m still a pretty decent ball player.” He has three sons. Two are mirror image identical twins and both are power hitters.

When he’s invited to functions outside the band, he attends if his schedule permits. When possible, he attends district School Board meetings. Teachers at times ask him to come and read to students. He enjoys doing this.

Rick understands the importance of a relationship with the larger Similkameen community. “We can work together on some issues and help each other.” He cited the example of Hedley’s Fire Department fighting the grass fire on reserve land recently. “We very much appreciate the efforts of the fire fighters, band members and everyone who came to help.”

It seems there are possibilities for increased cooperation and positive interactions between the band and its neighbours.

Hedley Citizens Clean Cenotaph

(clockwise) Bill Day on ladder, Peggy Terry, Andy English, Linda Martens, Margaret Skaar

Carrying buckets of water, soft brushes and toothbrushes, six enthusiastic Hedley citizens showed up at 9 am this past Sunday to thoroughly clean the Hedley cenotaph. Restored recently, with the help of fundraising and a matching grant from the federal government, the cenotaph will be rededicated at 1:00 pm on August 26th. The impetus for the refurbishing came from local researchers Jennifer Douglass and Andy English. From early issues of the Princeton Star and the Hedley Gazette, and conversations with descendants of service men named on the cenotaph, Douglass and English gleaned considerable information that might have been lost without their efforts. Their research brought to light 2 new names that needed to be added. According to English, the cenotaph may have been the first in Canada. Its location marks a point where 17 local recruits assembled in August 1915, prior to departing for Penticton where they enlisted. They were given a rousing send off with a marching band, a large banner and much applause and cheering.

Bill Day observing Jennifer Douglass meticulously cleaning with a toothbrush.
Peggy Terry, Terry Sawiuk & Andy English coming up with a plan to repair the cement floor. (The repair has since been successfully completed by Terry Sawiuk & Bill Day).