Category Archives: Community

Okanagan Gleaners Feed Hungry People

The consulting firm, Value Chain International, recently reported IMG_1143that in Canada $31 Billion worth of food is wasted annually. In view of this, I’m impressed with what Okanagan Gleaners Society of Oliver is doing. The Gleaners have developed an ingenious but simple formula using unwanted food to feed hungry people around the globe.

In a 2 hour tour of the Gleaners plant, Society president Lex Haagen told Linda and me, “We’re almost 100 percent volunteer and donor driven. Except for the General Manager, we’re all volunteers.” Lex appreciates the help being given by people in the Similkameen Valley. He hopes many more will catch the vision and pitch in.

A former City of Abbotsford Fire Chief, Lex is lean and fit. He has certainly caught the vision. His enthusiasm and commitment are palpable. Observing the approximately 20 volunteers at work, we sensed an aura of determination and contentment. Intent on their assignments, they seemed largely oblivious to our presence.

We learned the Gleaners depend on donations of beans, egg

Lex Haagen holding a bag of dried soup mix.
Lex Haagen holding a bag of dried soup mix.

plant, onions, carrots, brussel sprouts , peas, potatoes, etc. They also welcome apples. The produce is chopped up, dried and stored in barrels. The apple chips are a treat particularly prized by children.

“By next April we’ll have about 900 full barrels,” Lex explained. “We will use an assembly line of people to scoop a measured amount of mix into a moving bucket. This will be transferred into plastic bags. Each bag will contain 15 to 20 ingredients and provide 100 servings of soup mix. Recipients will add their local spices. The apple chips are bagged

Jack Woods has been a volunteer since 2003.
Jack Woods has been a volunteer since 2003.

separately.”

Lex introduced us to Jack Woods, formerly in the trucking business. Now 81, he said, “I’ve been coming since 2003. Two weeks in spring and two in fall.” His face suggests strength of character, his voice exudes passion.

Sharon McClennan saw hungry children when she volunteered in the Philippines. She asked, “where else can I go to help produce 21,000 meals per day for people who are starving?”

As we passed the noisy dehydrators, we needed to listen carefully as

Sharon McClennan holding a handful of spinach
Sharon McClennan holding a handful of spinach

Lex continued. “The funds to run and maintain the equipment come almost entirely from individual donors. The vegetables and apples are supplied by farmers and others. If the quantity is fairly large, we will pick up. We also use frozen product, provided by Lucerne Foods in Abbotsford. Cobs in Penticton and Tim Horton’s in Oliver donate (day old) treats for coffee time.”

The soup mixes and apple chips are distributed through established, reputable organizations such as World Vision, Mennonite Central Committee, Missions Without Borders and several others. Hungry people in over 40 countries on 5 continents have received the mixes.

At least 8 Gleaners societies currently operate in Canada. “We make good use of food that would otherwise be wasted,” Lex told us. “Each year our plant produces at least 5 million servings. To accomplish this we depend on donations of produce and money. We also need people with specific skills such as carpentry, electrical, plumbing, mechanics, and accounting.”

A note from an appreciative African aid worker describes the Gleaners impact in one village. “After the people here had been eating the soup mix for a month, we noticed they were more alert and had energy to work.”

Toward the end of our tour, Lex observed, “it’s easy to write a cheque, but there is a deep satisfaction that comes from hands on experience. Volunteers know they are personally providing nutritious food to hungry people.”

Okanagan Gleaners began operations in 1996, the vision of a small group of Christians concerned about food being wasted while others starved. “We welcome anyone who wants to help,” Lex said. “We never turn anyone away.”

Volunteers arrive from all parts of B.C. and the prairie provinces, even Ontario. Twelve serviced RV sites are available, plus tenting in the orchard. Registration is important from April to October. “In summer we get quite a few families,” Lex said. “It’s a good way for children to learn about giving to those who have little.” According to the Gleaners website, “if you can clean and chop, you can help.” They work from 8:30 to noon.

Anyone wanting more information can call 250-498-8859 or go to www.okanagangleaners.com

Hedley Opens Its Doors For Business

The weather in Hedley this past Sunday was exactly what the yard sale vendors were hoping for. Bright sun, clear blue sky, warm air. It certainly enticed people out of their homes. A number arrived from other places, especially Keremeos.

The day began with a Pancake Breakfast at the Seniors’ Centre. This is invariably a popular event that takes place on the second Sunday of every month. For a mere $5.00 they serve 2 pancakes, 2 sausages

George Koene Flipping Pancakes
George Koene Flipping Pancakes

or slices of bacon, 2 eggs and coffee. As usual, George Koene was at the grill flipping pancakes. When Linda and I met him on our walk in the evening, he said, “I’m retiring from making the pancakes. All together, I’ve done it 7 years. It’s time for a younger person to take over”. He is in his early 80’s. I was told they had served 100 patrons. Most of the seniors on duty are well into the seventies, some in the eighties.

At noon Doug Bratt, co-owner of the Country Market, fired up his grill and served his famous burgers. The Hedley Grace Church put on a delicious potluck. It really isn’t entirely fair to subject our palettes and digestive systems to such an array of temptations on one day. However, we never object.

Mike's Exerise System
Mike’s Exerise System

Walking the streets of town was an opportunity to check out the yard sale wares and meet people. I was tempted by MikeJacobs’exercise system. Unfortunately we just don’t have the space for it. The only area that might be large enough is the 5 x 5 Hen House. I know “the girls” would be gracious and accommodating. Of course, they’d consider it a place to exercise their powers of fertilization. I contented myself with viewing it longingly.

Linda Bell & the doll collection
Linda Bell & the doll collection

When Linda and I arrived at Fred and Linda Bell’s yard sale, we were immediately entranced by their collection of dolls. They had been successful in bidding on the contents of a storage locker, and the dolls had been stashed in a trunk there. Most of them were priced at about $45, but they expected a couple of exquisite aboriginal beauties to fetch more.

Moving on from there, we found

Jill and handcrafted doll
Jill and handcrafted doll

a handcrafted doll hanging on the wall of a garage owned by Jill, a recent newcomer to Hedley.

At the Community Club we talked with T.J. Bratt, the other co-owner of the Country Market. It was now 2 pm, pretty much time for the yard sale to wind up. There were still a number of items on the tables, but T.J. said a lot of people had come in and they’d had a profitable day.

The Hedley Historical Museum had already opened for the

Jim Grey at the Hedley Historical Museum
Jim Grey at the Hedley Historical Museum

season on May 1st. Currently Jim Grey is on duty from Friday to Monday. He is essentially a volunteer but does receive an honorarium. Jim enjoys people and happily answers all questions. He also has pie and coffee or tea available in The Tea Room. This wasn’t a strong business day at the Museum, but its yard sale did turn a small profit. Jim is confident more tourists will begin coming in soon. Traffic on the highway through Hedley is definitely increasing.

It’s a delight to see Hedley awaking from its winter slumber. The lilacs are blooming. People are smiling, feeling upbeat. There is a sense of anticipation. It’s definitely spring time in Hedley.

Community Land Trust Needed Here?

Recently I received an e-mail that thoroughly mystified me. It was a copy of a grim diatribe against a concept being floated by a couple of community advocates in Hedley. As reported in this paper last week, Angelique Wood and Kim English are asking local residents to think about establishing a Community Land Trust here. The concept was first instituted in India and has been successfully implemented in a number of North American communities.

Without providing any documentation, the nay-sayer raises a number of complaints against Community Land Trusts and those associated with them. Since there is no reference to sources, we have to ask whether the complaints are based on facts or mere assumptions. The writer says, for example, “Most CLT proponents espouse anti-development and collectivist ideologies generally detrimental to any community.” This is a pretty sweeping, all-encompassing assertion.

If there is a case to be made against Community Land Trusts, it needs to be based on solid research, not on skimpy information gleaned from a negative on-line article.

I do believe a community can benefit from those who take the time to rigorously examine proposals like this. We need to know that the vision of the proponents is backed up by a thorough understanding of the needs of the community. Questions based on scrupulous research will require the proponents to explain why their idea has merit. If the questioners and proponents are willing to enter into a productive dialogue, the idea may become even more beneficial.

We’ll never make progress if we automatically throw out ideas just because they are unfamiliar. If a new concept will benefit the people in our community, why would we let a “knee jerk” response turn us against it? In spite of this nay-sayer’s rather bitter opposition, a Community Land Trust does appear to offer possibilities and, in my view, warrants careful consideration.

For English and Wood, their vision for a Community Land Trust appears to be a means to an end, not an end in itself. They speak of it in conjunction with a variety of services that would enable seniors to stay in this community. These services might include Meals on Wheels, the presence of a nurse on a part-time basis, more adequate transportation to medical facilities in Penticton, etc.

Margaret Skaar, is a longterm Hedley resident who IMG_1093contributes many volunteer hours to local groups. She would like to live here as long as possible. She says, “when moving here 25 years ago, we had a much better health care support service. This has been eroded over the years. If we want to age in Hedley, something has to be done to turn this around. To leave things as they are, we will be either a dying community or will be eaten up by a land grab with prices sky rocketing along with our taxes. We need to examine the potential of a Community Land Trust by assessing the needs of Hedley’s residents.”

A few negative agitators can put a stranglehold on an idea that could have positive potential for a community. With their bold attacks it is possible some citizens might be persuaded to agree with them. Often they speak with a note of authority. Faced with their onslaught, the proponents may become discouraged. The nay-sayer in this case concluded with the words, “We therefore suggest that Angelique Wood and Kim English care for ‘the poor’ somewhere else.”

Very likely some individuals with a negative mind-set toward improving a community honestly believe they are right. In some instances, if they are listened to respectfully, they become willing to work collaboratively with positive minded people.

When agitators are motivated by jealousy or vengefulness it is unlikely they will change their thinking. If they are not resisted, they have the potential to turn people against those who wish to improve conditions. There are times when it is not a good idea to “live and let live.” There are times when a community should not remain silent.

I don’t know enough about Community Land Trusts to recommend this as a good approach for Hedley. However, if we want constructive change that enables young families to buy homes here, and permits seniors to stay longer, we will need to listen to individuals who have positive ideas and the will to make them a reality.

Allisons of the Similkameen

The story of the Allisons of the Similkameen Valley has the flavour and deep fascination of a great saga. It began when John Fall Allison, at age 12, emigrated with his family from England to

John Fall Allison
John Fall Allison

the U.S. in 1837. As an adult he became infected with gold fever and was enticed to B.C. by news of gold on the Fraser River. Governor James Douglass, evidently impressed by John Fall, appointed him to investigate the Similkameen area.

As happened so often with European men, he took a young aboriginal woman as his wife. Nora Yakumtikum, according to a great granddaughter, came from a royal blood line going back 16 generations. She was 15 at the time.

It was Nora who initially stirred my interest in this story. She has gained considerable attention due to her pack train venture. Nancy Allison of Hedley, another great granddaughter, says she hauled groceries and mining supplies from Hope to Greenwood. Nancy thinks she had about 40 horses and employed people to help her. Rugged and mountainous, the trail required physical endurance and strength of character. Nancy suggests it was likely Nora who made John Fall aware of the Allison Pass route.

John Fall and Nora had 3 children, Lily, Albert (Bertie), and Charles (Enoch). She later bore another son, “Wichie”.

According to B.C. historian M.A. Ormsby, in the 1860’s Allison found placer gold, copper and coal on the Similkameen River. He claimed 160 acres at the junction of the Tulameen and Similkameen rivers.

Nora Allison (left) with her granddaughter
Nora Allison (left) with her granddaughter

The relationship between John Fall and Nora ended sometime after the birth of their third child. Information concerning Nora’s life after this is sketchy. We do know though that she has numerous descendants from one end of the Similkameen Valley to the other.

In 1868, at age 43, John Fall married Susan Moir who he had met in Hope. Their honeymoon, according to Ormsby, consisted of a horseback ride from Hope to the Similkameen Valley. It must have been a steep learning curve for the 23 year old Susan. She had received a good education in England, having studied French, Latin and Greek. They settled into a log home which John Fall had built. He bought a number of Durham cattle and in time his herd of 100 swelled to 1000. At times he also prospected and explored.

In this wilderness setting little medical help was available. Ormsby says “when Susan delivered her first child, only her husband and an Indian woman were present.”

Although accounts vary as to where Nora was during these years, we do know that her daughter Lily stayed with John Fall and Susan and helped with raising the children and household chores. In “A Pioneer Gentle Woman in British Columbia”, Susan speaks highly of the assistance provided by Lily. At times John Fall was away for many weeks on cattle drives to New Westminster. Without Lily, life for Susan would have been extremely difficult. In total Susan gave birth to 14 children.

In the severe winter of 1877-78, John Fall lost half his cattle due to the cold. Then, in the winter of 1880-81 a heavy snowfall collapsed the roof of their house. While John Fall was away on a cattle drive in April, 1882 their house burned down. The family temporarily moved into the cowboys’ shack. He rebuilt the house. In 1884 the Similkameen River flooded, destroying their home and 14 outbuildings. They converted a cattle barn into a home.

John Fall caught pneumonia in 1897 and died at age 72. M.A. Ormsby says his discoveries had laid the basis for the great gold mining boom of the 1890’s which resulted in mining towns like Hedley.

Susan Allison
Susan Allison

“A Pioneer Gentle Woman in British Columbia” provides an interesting account of the pioneering life as Susan and John Fall experienced it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mention Nora. She lived until 1939 and was likely interred at the Mission Chapel just east of Hedley.

Due to space limitations, this account is incomplete. Also, there isn’t total agreement on all details. My purpose is to help keep alive a fascinating piece of Similkameen history. Certainly both Nora and Susan, and also John Fall Allison, played a significant role in the settlement and development of our beautiful Similkameen Valley.

Gifting of Hedley Grace Church

For Graham Gore, pastor of the Hedley Grace Church, this past

Wednesday, April 22

Bud Best representing Cawston United Church with Peggy Terry and Graham Gore of Hedley Grace Church
Bud Best representing Cawston United Church with Peggy Terry and Graham Gore of Hedley Grace Church

was no ordinary day. He and church treasurer Peggy Terry signed legal papers by which the Cawston United Church “sold” the church building to the local congregation for $1.00. At this time the land still belongs to the Crown.

From its earliest days, during the gold mining boom in Hedley, church work here was a collaborative effort. Historian Harry Barnes wrote that “afternoon services were conducted in a tent in Hedley by Rev. E.E. Hardwick. He was employed by the mine.”

In 1902, the Methodists sent J.W. Hedley (not the Hedley the town is named for) and he held evening services, initially in the hotel and then in a tent. A year later, in 1903, a church building was constructed by Rev. Hedley on donated land. M.K. Rodgers, general manager of the Kelowna Exploration Company, gave considerable assistance to this project. They also built a home for the minister. Workers at the Stamp Mill supported the project financially, and also with labour. Rev. Hedley regularly visited the families at the town site on Nickel Plate mountain.

In 1903 Hedley’s first school was opened, located in the rear of the church. The church building also served as headquarters for the Twentieth Century Club and the Library.

The United Methodists joined with other denominations in 1925 to establish the United Church. A further coalescing happened in 1969 when various denominations drew together to become the Keremeos Ecumenical Parish.

It was not until 2001 that a septic system was installed and water

Hedley Grace Church
Hedley Grace Church

lines were brought into the church for the kitchen and bathroom. Local Extras in the Jack Nicholson movie, The Pledge, donated some of their earnings toward this project. The Mennonite Disaster Service and the Kamloops United Church joined up to refurbish the interior and exterior of the church.

In 2008 the congregation joined the “Congregational Christian Churches of Canada” and adopted the name, Hedley Grace Church. Now, as in earlier years, the church is deeply involved in the life of the community. Each year it holds a bottle drive, with considerable support from the community, to raise funds to send Hedley children to camp. At Christmas it cooperates with The Country Market to provide hampers to needy families and individuals. Most of the adherents are also involved in other organizations in town. It’s still a collaborative effort.

From Mt. Kilimanjaro to Hedley

Kim English of Hedley has visited Europe approximately 15 times.

Kim English
Kim English

She has done volunteer work in Tanzania and lived in a mud hut on Mt. Kilimanjaro. In Vancouver she successfully sold art at the Inuit Gallery. Six years ago she arrived in Hedley to visit a friend and stay “just for the summer.”

When I asked what had prompted her to make this little community her home she said, “I didn’t realize at that time my nephew Jordan would be coming to live with me. He was having significant behavioural challenges in his home and at school. I thought the slower pace and quiet of Hedley would have a calming effect. He’s the reason I stayed.”

During the time Jordan lived with Kim, we had opportunities to observe some of her interactions with him. Not having children of her own, it must have been a steep learning curve. What impressed us most was her total commitment to this youth who was bringing turmoil into her life. She spoke to him patiently but firmly. At times we were surprised at her understanding. Observing her in this relationship has led us to believe that her endeavours in the Similkameen community come from a basis of commitment to the people.

Kim came with little except some pretty decent furniture and a

Kim English, standing in her front yard.
Kim English, standing in her front yard.

willingness to do virtually anything to survive financially. She was single and after a failed relationship, had no interest in men. Also, in the city she had used public transit so she didn’t have a Driver’s Licence or a vehicle. She found a home to rent and began building a new life. She had ideas and a desire to make a positive difference. Initially she worked as a waitress at the Hitching Post Restaurant and also did pruning in a vineyard. A lot has changed since that early beginning.

One of the constants in Kim’s life since 1989 has been a friendship with Angelique Wood. As a student in Classical Studies at Langara College and then majoring in archaeology at SFU, she leaned on Angelique for help. “I had some dyslexia issues, particularly a problem with jumbling words,” she said. “Before I handed in papers, I asked Angelique to proof read them.”

In Hedley they have developed a collaborative partnership. While Angelique was an RDOS Director, they attracted a number of Similkameen community leaders to Hedley for “Community Conversations.” Their goal was to inspire creative approaches to community issues.

“One of the challenges for small, out of the way communities like Hedley,” she said, “is that seniors are moving to larger centres to get the services they need. They can’t manage on their own. That’s why we brought in a couple of speakers from Keremeos to explain Meals on Wheels. We don’t want to lose the wisdom and experience of seniors.”

She is also concerned that few families move to Hedley. “We need to make it possible for them to buy a home,” she believes. “One way of doing this would be to establish a Land Trust. We’ve had productive conversations with Michael Lewis, an expert in the field. The trust concept has been proven to be a viable approach in a number of places. We need people to live in the homes that are now empty. We need them to participate in the community. I believe they will come if there are attractive options. We’ll have to be creative to make this happen.”

Recently Kim has ventured into the realm of politics, supporting her friend Angelique who is the NDP candidate for the local riding. She is a member of the Election Planning Committee and a volunteer coordinator for the riding’s southern section.

I said earlier that a number of things have changed for Kim. She now has a Driver’s Licence and owns a shiny, nearly new 4×4 pickup. She has also bought a home and for a time had chickens in her back yard. Probably most exciting, she met Andy English when they were both members of the Hedley Fire Department. They are now happily married.

There is a further very positive development. When Jordan visited Kim and Andy recently, I spoke with him briefly. His growth in confidence and maturity is impressive, even delightful.

Kim’s commitment to fostering change in her family and her community is producing positive results. She has no plans to return to Mt. Kilimanjaro any time soon.

A Pastor And A Harley Rider

Clay (standing), Dwight and Graham
Clay (standing), Dwight and Graham

It’s a pretty certain indication spring has arrived when I see Dwight, my Harley riding neighbour, sitting outside in the sun having a beer with Graham. On warm days he often opens his garage door and can see Graham when he is outdoors, working on his yard almost across the street. The man standing in this photo is Clay, Dwight’s friend from Summerland.

Dwight and Graham represent two quite different cultures. Dwight worked in the Alberta oil patch many years. He rides a Harley and so do most of his friends. His biker buddies speak a “language” that Dwight knows is not suitable in conversations with Graham. He is quite able to make the switch.

Graham is pastor of Hedley’s only church. He once rode a Harley and had a significant alcohol issue. Unlike most former alcoholics though, he can have one beer and not desire more. He refers to himself as a “delivered” (as opposed to recovered) alcoholic. I’ve never heard even the sniff of a rumour that he still has a problem.

His past has shaped him perfectly to be a pastor in this community where interest in religion is minimal at best. He is able to relate and interact with his small congregation and with those who have no interest in the faith. Also with the beer drinkers. Some in town come to him for counselling. He is asked to perform Celebration of Life ceremonies, and sometimes weddings.

With his history, Graham seems to understand the biker/beer culture. In his mid-seventies he sometimes says, “I’d like to have one more ride on a Harley.”

Although the two men are radically different in their life style, they evidently have some values in common. Where they may differ, they are tolerant. Dwight apparently sees something in Graham that he likes and respects. He told me last year, “Graham is my best friend.”

This friendship between a Harley rider and a pastor is intriguing and somewhat unconventional. But then, Hedley is an intriguing and somewhat unconventional community.

Our Easter Weekend

Linda and I both grew up in a Mennonite church. As a kid I was

photo courtesy of totalhealth.com
photo courtesy of totalhealth.com

reluctant to attend a service on Good Friday but it was what our family did. Good Friday services seem to be somewhat rare now, but the little church in Hedley did have one this year. Derek Lilly, a professional electrician and former Fire Chief spoke. He challenged us with “something to think about” and kept it to a decent length, something I still appreciate.

On a purely intellectual level I consider it an improbability that the God who created the universe and humankind would send his Son to die for beings he deemed to be sinful. For me, accepting this has required a huge leap across an intellectual chasm. However, the improbability of it is also uncannily appealing, at least for me. It’s a “scheme” to which I could not sacrifice either my son or daughter. It’s such an incredible plan that after dealing with many doubts and misgivings over the years, I have come to accept that it actually happened.

Sunday morning we were at the Coast and decided to attend the Easter service at South Langley Church (Mennonite). The reason for this selection was that a former classmate, Joanne, attends there and we thought that with a little luck we might see her. It’s a large church so we knew it was a longshot. We were surprised to see her sitting in the row ahead of ours and just a little farther along. She recognized us immediately and waved.

After the service I asked if she had served with the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), something she mentioned in an e-mail last summer. She said she had cooked for the volunteers during the High River, Alberta flood and its aftermath. “I loved it,” she told us. We have only occasional contacts with former school friends, so this was special.

In the afternoon it was a family gathering on Linda’s side. The meals at these gatherings invariably have an unsettling effect on my resolve, and at times on my stomach. Our daughter Vivian had made her much loved dessert. Also Linda’s sister Leona had baked large apple pies. I sampled both desserts, with ice cream.

After the meal, the ladies decided to play Skippo as usual. They are an amazingly fanatical bunch and carry on for hours. Eventually it becomes tedious for us men. When Vivian and Troy decided to leave, I went with them.

While Linda was playing the game, I walked in a wooded area and

My walk on Easter weekend
My walk on Easter weekend

then across a wetlands and around a large man made duck pond. Fortunately, the path across the wetland had largely dried up. At times we’ve found it submerged under more than a foot of water. I’m very pleased the city is protecting this area from development. Had the camera with me and snapped a few shots.

I’m reluctant and somewhat embarrassed to admit that Monday evening I ate a slice of Costco apple pie, which I discovered in Vivian’s fridge . Pretty tasty, but not competition for Leona’s home made version. This was after a lunch gathering with my side of the family at sister Linda’s farm.

While we were at the Coast we stayed with Vivian, Troy and family, as usual. Both Brandon (15 and now almost 6 ft 5 in.) and Alexa are on basketball teams at school. Alexa began more recently but surprised and impressed me with her ability to sink 3 point shots. They used to ask me to play with them in their backyard, but I noticed with a bit of chagrin that this time there was no invitation. They have progressed too far beyond Grampa’s experience and ability. Possibly with a personal coach I’d be at least considered.

Art & Greenhouse (3)Tuesday morning it was time to get back to Hedley and attend to the chickens and the garden. I’ve constructed a greenhouse as an experiment to see if I can protect our kale, bok choy , cabbage, etc. from the predations of Cabbage Moths. Last year they reminded me of the grasshoppers in Egypt during Moses’ time. They just kept coming Chasing them down with a butterfly net had no discernible impact on their numbers. Time for a new strategy.

It was an enjoyable Easter weekend.

Children Walk In Our Footsteps

For a number of years I had several career criminals in my circle of friends. They enabled me to understand more fully that our attitude, thinking, words and example have the capacity to shape not only ourfootsteps_2608305 children, but also our grandchildren and beyond. One of these men was Roy. I met him at Matsqui Institution where he was doing time for a string of B&E’s and heroin possession.

“My Old Man was a petty crook, in and out of Oakalla,” he told me. “After my Mom died, he married again. The woman didn’t like me. She was always trying to get me booted out of the family.”

Roy’s massive arms, barrel chest and balding pate gave him the burly image of a Mafia hitman. Inside though, he felt he was an outcast from society. Although he could joke and be funny at times, he viewed the world as a sinister place where danger lurked. Deeply entrenched in the criminal culture and feeling abandoned by his derelict father, he trusted no one. At age 43, in desperation he applied to our organization for a citizen sponsor. As coordinator of the Matsqui program, I matched him with Walter, a patient, steady poultry farmer. Roy tested his commitment repeatedly, but Walter didn’t flinch or waver.

When Roy was paroled, he found Sonia, a woman as lonely and bereft as himself. Nine months later she bore Sammy, a blond, blue eyed, good natured kid.

Roy loved the child. He felt responsible for imparting to Sammy the destructive perceptions he’d picked up from his father. When kid-435140__180Sammy was 3, Roy placed him on a table and said, “Jump Sammy, Daddy will catch you.” He reached out his arms. Trusting his dad, Sammy stepped to the edge of the table and jumped. Roy stepped back, letting the boy land on the hard floor. Looking down at his weeping child he said, “Son, that’s to teach you never to trust anyone.”

At this time Roy was still shooting up with heroin. When he and Sonia threw in the towel on their relationship, the separation added further disturbance to Sammy’s already chaotic life. He began running away when he was four and the police were called several times. At age seven he was accused of starting a fire in the apartment where he and Roy were living. Fearing he’d lose the boy to a foster home, Roy told police he had set the fire himself. Aware of his extensive prison record, the police believed him. I spoke on his behalf in court but he was sentenced to a minimum security facility.

Roy was benefiting from the relationship with Walter and several others in the community. Upon release, wanting to be a better father, he dumped the heroin habit. Unfortunately, he hadn’t anticipated the void that resulted. He sought to fill it with alcohol. One evening he left Sammy in the car while he and a friend spent an hour in a bar. Unwisely, he drove after too many drinks. Fortunately Sammy wasn’t hurt when the car left the road and plunged into a deep ditch. Roy wasn’t so lucky. He spent the rest of his days in a wheelchair.

In his early teen years, Sammy was picked up several times for shoplifting and other petty crimes. Once again Roy feared Children’s Services would take the boy. One day he said to me, “Do you want Sammy? He’s getting into too much trouble. I’m not a good father. I want to give him to you.” Linda and I had 2 young children and we didn’t want to subject them to the mayhem of Sammy’s increasingly unruly life.

In time, Roy developed considerable trust in the people in our organization. The messages he received from us were positive, and he came to value that. People invited him into their homes for meals. Slowly, the suspicion ebbed.

Unfortunately, the negative seed he had planted in Sammy’s psyche had taken root and flourished. He followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Before he was 20, those footsteps led to prison.

I was a young dad at the time. Roy’s example helped me understand it is essential that parents sow good seed in their children’s lives which will produce honest, contributing citizens and a stable society.

Chopaka Rodeo Offers Excitement & Risks

When Nancy Allison, lead organizer for the Chopaka Rodeo, sat down with Linda and me at our kitchen table last week, her smile and

Chopaka Rodeo photo permission by Nancy Allison
Chopaka Rodeo
photo permission by Nancy Allison

sparkling eyes quickly convinced me she’s a zealot. “I’ve been at this for 50 years,” was her response to my first question. “I was 9 at the time of the first rodeo. My Dad, Barney Allison, was one of the organizers. It began on his ranch, and although he is gone now, it is still there. First everyone went to church. After church some people began doing calf roping for fun. From that small beginning it developed into a very successful rodeo.”

It has become a popular event on the amateur rodeo circuit and

Chopaka Rodeo, photo permission by Nancy Allison
Chopaka Rodeo, photo permission by Nancy Allison

attracts contestants and spectators from the Coast, Williams Lake, Washington State and elsewhere. Events include bullriding, bareback, saddlebronc, team roping, ladies, junior and Pee Wee barrels, and more. “Wild Cow Milking is a crowd pleaser,” Nancy said.

The Kids Calf Scramble requires contestants to chase and snatch ribbons from the ears of calves. According to Nancy, the rodeo is a good place for young contestants to practise their techniques. In addition to an added purse of at least $500, winners of major events will receive a coveted silver buckle crafted by Montana Silversmith.

“In the early years the cowboys went out and caught wild horses for the rodeo,” Nancy said. “Now all contest animals are supplied by contractors. Each time an animal (rough stock) supplied by a contractor exits the chute it costs $150.”

One of the contestants, Chad Eneaus, began riding saddle broncs at age 14, and bulls when he was 16. He won the Canadian High School Bronc Riding Championship. He is a member of the Western Indian Rodeo Association and won the Saddle Bronc Championship in 2010. He has won prize money in a number of rodeos and I felt fortunate in tracking him down. He told me, “in the beginning it was kind of a saving grace. It gave me an opportunity to challenge myself emotionally, mentally and spiritually.”

When I asked Chad about the dangers, he replied, “in one rodeo a bull threw me and then planted its rear hoofs on my chest. Both my lungs collapsed and my liver was lacerated.” He paused a moment and then said, “you have to know when to get a new hold, and when to let go. You don’t have a second to think. It has to be automatic. You have to figure out how to work with the animal. The ground is the best teacher. It hurts when you land.”

Hay rancher Linnea Cappos has been part of the rodeo since 1979. “I rodeoed hard for 40 years in the barrel event,” she told me in a phone conversation. “I competed in the Barrel Racing event. Now I just help the girls make it happen. I’m involved with the paperwork and I also prepare the ground for the Barrel Racing. It’s a timed event and the footing needs to be secure for the horses so they don’t get hurt. The rodeo has given me a lot of satisfaction,” she said. “Now I just want to give something back.”

Linnea loves the family atmosphere. “When I get there, I head first to where they make the Fried Bread. People sit on blankets or lawn chairs, There are no bleachers. Some sit on the tailgates of pickups. It’s pretty informal.” She has gotten her 4 year old grand daughter Sophie involved in Barrel Racing. She does it because I do it,” she said. “Like me, she loves horses.”

I asked Nancy about the level of danger for contestants. “The saddle events are probably more dangerous than the bareback ones,” she

Chopaka Rodeo, photo by permission of Nancy Allison
Chopaka Rodeo, photo by permission of Nancy Allison

replied. “A rider can get hooked on the saddle horn and be dragged along by the horse. One year a rider caught a hoof in his chest. I had to drive him and the first aid attendants to the clinic. On the way they shouted at me to stop because they had lost him. They pounded on his chest and he came back. After a few days in the hospital he was fine.”

“This year we’ll probably get at least 1000 spectators, if the weather’s good. I tell people to bring their coolers, bikinis, mackinaws and lawn chairs. The entrance fee is only $10.00 and free for kids 10 and under. On Sunday, April 5, 2015 the show begins at 10 am.”

After listening to Chad and Nancy, I’m quite content to let others do the bronco and bull riding at the Chopaka Rodeo. The fried bread sounds pretty good though.