Ray Crook 1918 – 2021

Ray enjoying a birthday dessert.

Sadly, Ray wasn’t able to recover from a fall in his apartment and passed away peacefully at Columbia House on December 1st.

During my last visit with Ray at the hospital he was in good spirits and knew the score. He talked fondly of the housekeeper that found him, his nephew now living in Switzerland and the times he and my father spent cutting trail in Kootenay National Park.

Ray was an accomplished historian and someone I enjoyed talking to about long ago times. His memory was fantastic. He clarified many valley events for me and taught me plenty of things I didn’t know.

Ray was well known in the community, driving his scooter downtown each day, stopping to talk with anyone, laughing usually ensued.

Life is a gift. Ray gave back with his always cheerful nature and natural decency.

When I look up, from my garden, towards downtown, Ray will always be riding his scooter along the paved path. Like the way it should be.

Rest well Ray.

On Top

Mines, farms and clearcuts take away from the blue sky above the Purcells.

Monday after being off for three days. The truck fired up no problem since I put in a new battery. The windows needed scraping. I jumped in. The radio started. Peter Frampton, Do You Feel Like We Do. Monday felt better all of sudden. It was the fourteen minute version that just about gets me to work, even with a stop for coffee. I was rolling in when it ended, expecting some talk, instead the radio doubled down, Creedence, Fortunate Son. I had to stay in the truck till it finished risking being late. By the time I walked in for my shift I was jacked. Monday was beat before it started.

A mature Ram takes a sniff for something to rut with. Luckily he didn’t consider me anything but a nuisance.

Old Ray

Mom always said, never get on a train that isn’t moving.

Dropped off at the good neighbours to make sure he was still hanging on.

Ray tripped and fell, spent hours beside the toilet before pulling himself to his bed where he couldn’t get up. The cleaning lady noticed his curtains weren’t open in the morning and checked and found him there. They stuck him in the hospital where he adjusted.

If you live to be 103 you probably have to make some adjustments along the way.

The other good neighbour is still harbouring weed plants with buds the size of Christmas ornaments. We talked about how we are sleeping, our children not trusting the government, their reluctance of the vax, the news, bringing guns to a protest and the west coast sinking, also the usual things, if we have enough firewood, the lack of snow, finally a skim of ice on the big lake and a bunch of other stuff that only made us laugh.

I hold out hope for him. He is charming. I told him he should open a bed and breakfast. It would be authentic. He could give a lesson on how to stew tomatoes. I could put up a sign, GARDEN TOURS, being right across the street. Spin off business.

By the time they get sick of our antics and decide to warehouse our sorry souls I hope old Ray’s still in there to teach us how to adjust.

Sorry It’s Policy

Busy for any long weekend. The tourists and second home owners from Alberta are out in force.

I set out early this morning to get a few pictures of the valley. It’s rainy and the colours are saturated.

My trip on the highway was eventful with Albertan after Albertan passing me on slick roads, regardless of me traveling 5 over the speed limit, trying to get home, no doubt, before the weather grew worse.

Plenty sirens of emergency vehicles heading into the pass. I learned later multiple accidents had closed the highway.

The highway turned my mood and I thought about all the places the tourists refuse to look either from being blind, or not wanting to acknowledge what is part of the natural local, like staff houses in the worst parts of town, or the end of grey streets overlooking dark second homes on the east side.

Invermere has become gentrified, right down to $4 cups of coffee, art galleries selling shit wallhangings, a moose made from rusty car parts and the District brass trying extra hard to provide tourists more places to take Instagram photos, completley forgetting about the small town that attracted tourists in the first place, caring little for the people who work and live in the town.

It is sad really how short sighted our District Council and the business folk and realtors are.

Perhaps not so short sighted if your only goal is to line your pockets with money. Unfortunately these are the folks that make policy. In their eyes the bigger the line up through Sinclair Canyon the better. Tourists smashing into each other is music to their ears.

Grey day all around.

Venus and a Waxing Moon

Damn it’s dark early!

It’s dark by five. It’s slow as a motherfucker. Except for the sirens that are out clearing the roads. If they have the beacon light on its just snow.

Plenty of both coming our way. People like me worry about the woodpile and meat in the freezer. I’m not a modern man following the higher-ups flying private jets into Glasgow, talking about reducing carbon, for all I know the carbon they want to reduce could be me. That 1%, who our own Prime Minister is a member of, has to be watched, not for some conspiracy or evil doings they could be conjuring, but for how clueless they are.

Businesspeople, tourists (including politicians and environmentalists, the rich kind as if there were any others) or the new Santa Claus delivering Amazon packages!

It’s tough to believe in anything I hear during lunch or on the phone. Venus appeared on the ridge tonight after a few days of cloud. A waxing crescent moon to the left and above. I had to think about it, but they were right on time and in position.

People say times are going to get tough. No more fuel. I’m going to miss my old Ford, that gas guzzling pig. I’ll narrow my circle. I’ll miss the ridges. I’ll pull the siding from the side of my house, burning it at a pace that matches my march into old age.

ridge walking instead of train spotting

Ashley, Kevin and Ashley.

Had the privilege to go hiking with Ashley from Manitoba and Kevin and Ashley from Scotland. They let me take them into the backcountry for a hike. Hiking is just about done for the season with snow coming on, but it’s the only day we could all get off from the resort.

It was -14°c in the shade when we started out. Kevin and Ashley from Scotland said that is a cold day back home. Ashley from Manitoba, on the other hand, didn’t bat an eye.

We had about a foot of snow to start that stuck festively to the boughs of the trees. We climbed quickly on a broken trail, catching a glimpse of a moose where the path opened into a meadow. Unlucky for us it didn’t stick around.

The rise kept us warm. We marvelled at the rock cliffs catching the sun and cheered each other on to reach the warmth. Finally after a bit of a slog we reached the edge of the timber. The sun didn’t disappoint.

We stopped for a few pictures and admired the view and discussed our plans to go to a small lake in a basin to the west, or head up higher. The lake seemed out of the question. Breaking trail in the snow while losing elevation seemed counterintuitive. On the other hand, the ridge, with the wind hardening or blowing the snow off the rocks, seemed not so bad, although steep.

Heading to the ridge.

We slogged for awhile in the deep snow until we were finally out of the trees and walking became much easier. I encouraged my young companions to lead the way as I knew I was holding them up.

Assiniboine from the ridge.

We rustled a flock of Snow Buntings, not yet entirely white. They flew overhead giving us a thrill with their small chirps. Ashley said, she thought at first they were falling leaves but realized there was no trees.

A quick snack and some photos up top and we were on our way back down. If it were me alone I would have backtracked on the same way we came. But they are young, and apt to take the road less travelled, so why go back over familiar territory.

Kevin looking for photo opportunities.

Instead we dropped off the ridge into a steep draw directly above where we parked the truck. It was knee deep snow on the shady side that would have been better tackled with skis. We hopped, skipped, slid and waded our way back to the truck, boots full of snow, happy for the sunny day.

Very fine day.

Late October

Get me to the sun!

Hurt my back this morning lacing up my boots. The good thing about getting old is you never have to say, ‘I’m out of shape,’ instead you just say, ‘I’m old.’

In the mountains the sun goes down and comes up a thousand times depending on where you are standing.

Willow and I headed behind Swansea to walk it off. We pushed to the upper reaches and stopped before the ridge. Willow was happy. The snow was fine on her feet. It was about -10°c and didn’t ball up. The sun felt good when we broke into it. The waning moon held steady in the blue sky.

Willow in her natural habitat, loving life.

This will be one of the last trips into the high country. Snow will start flying in earnest. The cold will take hold. Sure there are snowmobiles and ATV’s that can deliver me to where I want to go, but I’ve never liked the smell of gasoline and exhaust. . . nor do I like the noise, plus they all break down. I know that’s part of the fun if you like that, but it’s not for me. Willow concurs. When I can’t get there under my own power I’ll narrow my circle.

Waning crescent.

November can be the shits, low cloud, snow, wet and freezing temps. It’s the month the weather can’t make up it’s mind to shit or get off the pot. However, without fail, by the end of the month the lakes are frozen and the mountains are filled with snow.

Next years garlic.

Down in the valley bottom I finally got the garlic in. It’s late so I planted it a little deeper to keep it away from the cold. Not sure if this is a sound strategy. We will see come spring. The one thing I know about gardening; regardless of neglect life seems to flourish.

Planting a garden is saying a silent prayer.

Can’t Beet Em

Detroit Dark Red

The garden has really hung on during this warm September. The few frosts we’ve experienced have done little damage.

Yesterday, Lisa made six one litre jars of pickled beets. What a treat! She make them with lots of cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice. The spices are kept in a cheesecloth bag and boiled with the brine then discarded. These pickles are truly delicious! I am going to have trouble keeping my hands off them for the month or so they take to absorb the flavours.

The Palliser

White water.

We set out to find driftwood 35 years later. It is a good spot the Palliser rushes towards a series of falls before joining the Kootenay in the valley below. The wood from its tributaries banks are pummelled and smoothed in high water, left on the stones once the river goes down, like gold in the sluice.

We found love in this spot among the large boulders, on top and behind. Because of that our kids saw the same rocks.

looking for patterns.

The river always takes me, down, the flow, the rush. When I was a youngster it all seemed so natural. The quartz and blue water whispered in my ear, cascading into canyons that if caught in the current would mean death, since we are not, after all, driftwood, our skin only a thin layer of bark.

Now we are older, we poke around, picking up rocks, turning over polished wood, watching the current. It’s the same place my Father opened a can of peaches with his pocket knife in the rain. Where my Mother said the light was good. Where we were cautioned and in turn cautioned our children about the power of the river.

Mid September Rain

Pine Siskin

Grey and rain, frost the last couple mornings. It’s feeling like fall. September can’t be beat.

Most of the tomatoes are in. Sitting in flats waiting to ripen in the dark in the basement.

Split wood for the fire. Saw a herd of Pine Siskins. I told Lisa it was too early, but she was damned and determined to warm the old place up. Since we have a lot of wood and grandkids sleeping over I agreed before being overruled.

Back in the ‘old days’ we went as long as we could without heat. My sisters and brother can attest. Oil, coal and electricity has always been expensive. Frost on the walls and old coats used for covers. You could watch your breath until dipping your head under the covers to warm up.

Wind and big defined clouds should be celebrated. When the clouds burst open we should all run outside and feel the water on our faces, soaking us to the skin. My grandkids agree.

Durban Poison