Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Smashed Pickle Jar

Pickle Jar
The cupboard door is open so I jump in. 

My new keeper raises her voice at me, waves her hand and says, “Shoo, shoo”. I scramble around on the shelf and my back foot knocks over a pickle jar. It lands on the floor behind me as I leap for safety. The smell is atrocious.

I listen from the bottom of the stairs as the man talks to the woman. Their sounds turn to laughter.

“We’ll record the broken pickle jar and add it to the list,” the lady says.

“Gee, we’ve already started a list?” the man says.

I appreciate their honesty. Earlier, the woman was emptying the dishwasher and she dropped a glass mug. It’s handle broke off. She picked up a pen and wrote something on a piece of paper on top of the microwave. I watched the whole  episode from the low shelf beside the oven. She and I have something in common it seems.

I hear her footfalls and tuck myself into the basket near the washing machine. I’m comforted by the scent of my former master. I rub myself over the soft surface. I miss her.

I watch inconspicuously as the lady hauls the floor washing pail up the stairs. Later, I saunter over the clean floor were the pickles used to lay and make my way to my scratch tower by the window. I’ll look outside for a while.

I had an accident and that’s why I only have one eye.

My male owner set up a ladder against a wall in the basement. It looked fantastic so I leapt onto it from the staircase handrail. It all happened so fast. The ladder started falling back and I clung on too long I guess. I couldn’t scramble away and it hit me on the head.

I don’t remember what happened after that except that when I arrived home that night and looked at my reflection in the window, I only had one good eye. It’s still as blue as the Alberta sky and I’m thinking about wearing an eye patch.

Oh! I hear the rattle of my favourite treat bag. Talk to you later.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Big Valley - Big Hopes

Big Valley grain elevator & Red River cart
“There’s a small house just across the street and down a bit,” the woman says. “It just went on the market.”

Frank and I look at each other and we seem to lock into the same idea. Hmmm. Let’s go have a look.

We are excited about the prospect of purchasing a place in this animated town of Big Valley. It offers a wealth of volunteer and possibly employment opportunities. At this posting time, there is a call for part-time bus drivers, a part-time town Administrative Assistant, and various opportunities to entertain the visitors who arrive by train each weekend during the summer months.

We learn a great deal of the history of the town from the Mayor, the librarian, and the shopkeepers at the local café.

Red River cart
“The grain elevator is not painted an official Alberta Historical Society colour but it is one of the last preserved examples of a traditional wooden grain elevator. We’re satisfied with its colour,” the Mayor says. “Also, to answer your question about the Red River cart, it’s not authentic. We do use it in our Metis Days parade, though.”

“The building we’re in was purposely built in this rustic theme to bolster the history of the town and more specifically to show off the Jimmy Jock story,” the shopkeeper says. We learn that it was once a Chinese café.

Jimmy Jock boardwalk beside brick bank building
This morning, Frank hikes up the hill to St. Edmund’s Church. It’s fully restored, operational and under the care of the Big Valley Historial Society – another volunteer opportunity.

Blue church on the hill
This afternoon, together on the street, we are greeted by ‘Eddy’, a local fellow who offers us a tour of the Big Valley Railway Depot. The artifacts and displays are intriguing. The visitors are greeted by the locals and given a tour of the town and a meal. Yes, another opportunity to volunteer dressed in period costume.

Big Valley Railway Station
We are met later by a realestate agent from Stettler, who shows us the small house. We are interested in it and offer a bid. We haven’t heard from the lady since.

Big Valley is a community filled with enthusiasm and hope. Travel north on Highway 56 from Drumheller or south from Camrose, and enjoy the ambiance.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Three Hills - Three Rescues

Three Hills Golden Jubilee plaque
Frank draws his pocket knife and starts scratching at the Golden Jubilee memorial across from the provincial building in the town of Three Hills.

“What’s the matter?” I say.

“Someone’s stuffed mud into the recessed lettering. I’m digging it out,” he replies.

We stand back and admire the beautiful, clean marble plaque.

“If I was bold enough, I’d clear the bushes hiding it,” he adds.

We click a few pictures and carry on with our exploration of the area.

The community members are rescuing their history by displaying elaborate murals on the sides of some of the buildings. Their history includes coal mining and over one dozen churches, while currently they manage themselves with agriculture and oil and gas production.  Two churches remain in operation.

Coal mining mural

Agriculture mural
We find ourselves trapesing down back alleys. They also display the goings on in small towns and elsewhere. Your back yard tells a lot about you; what you tend to collect, what you are holding back on getting rid of, and your hobbies.

Three Hills back alley
Another rescue lay ahead.

The Armitage’s namesake, at one time, fastened to the back of a metal bench, now lays tattered and hanging by a metal clasp. Frank walks to Big White and returns with his tool kit. In short order, he fastens the unique plaque back in place.

The Armstrong's sign
Frank honours the sign
We see ourselves as part of the community, no matter our destination. Hamlets, villages, towns, cities, counties and countries. We feel it is our responsibility to take care of the surroundings.

“Many people are good at talking about what they are doing, but in fact do little. Others do a lot but don’t talk about it; they are the ones who make a community live.” ~ Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Trochu's Outreach is Attractive

Trochu Senior Centre
The Senior Drop-in Centre catches our attention as we pull into the community of Trochu, Alberta.

We stop the bus along Poplar Avenue and walk over. The posting on their bulletin board tells of a pancake breakfast the next morning to commemorate Seniors’ Week. Frank and I smile at the notice and then at each other. It would be exciting to have someone else cook a meal for us.

We stroll around the town seeking out interesting attractions. We come across a wonderful selection of murals depicting the progressive community, in the past and now. Monsieur Armand Trochu sitting proud on his steed is painted on the side of a building. A depiction of the General Store in 1907 also attracts attention. To our great pleasure, we would meet the mural artist, Eldon Walls, the next morning at breakfast.

Monsieur Armand Trochu

General Store 1907
After a full-filling feast of flapjacks, sausages, coffee, and brilliant conversations with the local seniors and their friends, we are directed to The Arboretum and Gardens. The variety of trees, flowering bushes and fragrant plants calm us to nearly a melting point. What better than to ramble through a living museum of horticultural wonder. The crunch of the red shale does not interfere with the constant whistle and shrill of birds.

Trochu Arboretum & Gardens

Susan admiring the trees and gardens
Our walk that evening takes us to the swimming pool and afterward to the Peking Café. Wen and her husband Michael share their story of coming to Canada and settling in Trochu to open up their own restaurant.

“Eighteen years we’ve been here,” Wen says. “We are happy in this town and we now have another Chinese lady living just behind our place. We are friends.”

This morning, we discover that our solar panels are not operating properly. What incredible luck that Wade is the owner and operator of a newly opened store called Conscious Choice – solar panel specialist. This kind man offers to help install a new unit if Frank drives to Red Deer to pick it up. Our 10-year warranty on the flexible model is being used in only two years of operation. After the delivery, Frank and Wade climb to the top of the bus, remove the inoperable panel and glue down the new one. What a wonderful piece of charm already set up for us by the attractive folks of this entrepreneurial town.

proverb ~ Beauty cannot be judged objectively, for what one person finds beautiful or admirable may not appeal to another.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Milo Has a Library

Welcome to Milo, Alberta
Oh, not just any library, the Bibliotheque in Milo, Alberta is a showpiece for other reading rooms.

Step over the threshold and you are surrounded by books on shelves in every direction. The vaulted ceilings give the place a feeling of grandeur. All the necessary investigation and pleasure categories are here. At the far end of the room is a fireplace and gathered around are a series of comfortable chairs. It gives you the impression you are visiting with the friendly giant.

Comfy reading atmosphere
Susan working on Big White stories
Milo grain elevator
This gentle village is located east on secondary road 542, northeast of Vulcan. 

From a distance, you will see its grain elevator. These historical Canadian landmarks are nearly extinct as the railway tracks are either moved or completely abolished. 

Main Street has a few shops including the Snake Valley Drop-in and the Village Office. The Community Centre is a Quonset hut, a very popular metal structure throughout Alberta and beyond.

Milo Main Street
We shared a large, flavour-filled helping of Chinese food at the local restaurant. They too are very popular in small towns. Take your time, when you are wandering, and stop in a small village so that you may enjoy the folks and the energy they provide for your journey.

Milo Has a Library

Milo is a village where the library is king,
All the folks and children visit the thing,
Books on cowboys, Indians, and crafts,
Records on charts, guides, and maps,
Stop in the spring, summer or fall,
Because the winter of this region can be the worst of all.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Meet the Champs of Champion

Champion Pioneer Over 50 Club
The senior citizens at the Champion Pioneer Senior Club qualify as champs of this noteworthy town. 

No matter your age, go ahead and pull up to this centre and walk in. On this day, we are welcomed by Miss Dorothy and her friend Dorothy.

When we enter the facility, these two fine ladies stand up to welcome Frank and me. We gladly accept their extended hand for a friendly shake. It feels amazingly familiar.

In very short order, we are asked if we prefer tea or coffee.

I reach for the cups.

“No, no, dear. You sit. You’re a guest. We’ll get it,” Dorothy1 says.

Soon, more folks wander into the facility – one as friendly and familiar as the other. There is a tray of muffins and cookies on the large round table where we are seated. We're asked to take two “they're small”. At the end of our stay, our donation is recognised and accepted.

At 11:30 p.m., the cluster of folks begin tidying up the large room and Frank and I chip in – all the while chatting and laughing.

Champion Funny Face
Champion's Pioneer Garden
Champion Folks
We walk around the town soaking up the positive energy and some very eclectic items along Main Street. The Pioneer Patio is a display of plants and an antique washing machine. The silhouettes of two town folk sitting in chairs add to the charm.

A local artist has created a series of murals. Take your time and you’ll see the theme of birds throughout the downtown area.

Champion murals by local artist
A most spectacular display of metal sheet work shows off at the Champion Legacy Corner

Metal sculpture of 1913 school
Champion Legacy Corner
That artist has left the town, but the locals take great care of this display. The day we were there, volunteers were planting flowers. The winning vigour of this town was touchable.

Champion is a village in southern Alberta, Canada within Vulcan County. It is located on Highway 23, approximately 74 kilometres north of Lethbridge and 147 kilometres south of Calgary, Alberta

Blessed Is The Spot

Monday, June 6, 2016

Baron Feels Regal

Barons, Alberta is located on rural road 520 approximately 38 kilometres east of Claresholm.

Barons Alberta welcome sign
You can feel the Mennonite presence when you first approach the welcome sign

The giveaway, if the girls are in the yard nearby, is the distinct attire worn by the folks of this unique religion. The simplicity of the town reflects their modest lifestyle. The community is clean and tidy.

Impressive tree-lined Main Street
Main Street has a dramatic tree-lined boulevard and gives the town a distinct feel. On either side, you will encounter shops and vehicles parked at that popular prairie angle.

Unoccupied shop
View of shops on Main Street
What caught our attention was a newspaper dispenser showing a sign, ‘Little Free Library’. When you open it, you are presented with a variety of books and magazines. Help yourself.

Barons Little Free Library
We sauntered around the town and admired the well-kept yards of the town folk. Later, Frank drove Big White to a campground at the end of a paved roadway. We tucked ourselves in for the evening and listened to leaves rustle in the slight breeze. By ten, that night, the area was pitch black.

Big White at Barons Campgrounds
The next morning, we walked around exploring more of the hamlet. Our timing, however, was not convenient for a visit to the museum.

Barons History Centre
The Barons Consolidated School is a Mennonite alternative school. 

Barons Consolidated School

Famous Fact: The 1978 Superman movie was shot in Barons.

Blessed Is The Spot

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Stavely Wants You

Stand on guard for thee
On Friday, May 27, 2016, Frank and I sauntered down the main street of a famous Alberta town. Stavely is located north of Claresholm on Highway 2 and has settled into its 1950s era.

Famous Fact: Mr. Truman Capote chose this prime location for his movie ‘In Cold Blood’.

Stavely’s 500 or so residents want you to move to the community. You might want to consider its many conveniences, including its ‘Banana Belt’ feel.

Stavely Hotel
The folks in the hotel told us that the town was named for Alexander Stavely Hill, Managing Director of the Oxley Ranching Company which was formed in  1882. The interior of this establishment seems only slightly modified from its foundation.

The town office also operates as the local bank. The teller acts like a local guide and the more in-depth questions get the attention of the young man in the adjoining office. Together, they are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their town.
Stavely Town Office

At the top of Main Street stands a large sentinel. The working grain elevator seems to be positioned guard over the territory.
Western theme throughout the town

Many of the buildings are original and great care is taken to renovate them while others are false fronts. It presents an eclectic blend of western and 50s era.

Stavely is a rodeo town. It plays host to a number of events starting with its first indoor rodeo held in 1929. This 3-day annual professional event is held in May. 

Thors Roofing Company facade
You inhale the scent of cattle, horse and leather the moment you step onto the street. 

Frank enjoys the park gazebo
The dust is swept into your lungs and clings to your face. The sounds of mooing cows and neighing steeds can be heard among the chatter of the ground hogs and excited chirping of the local birds. 

Andy's Saddlery
Ah, Stavely. Small town - big ideas.