The Bottoms

There used to be family who lived in the valley bottom beside the salmon beds. Mosquitoes, swamp, their house flooded every year in high water. They also had the train tracks running right beside their house.

The CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) came to them, said they wanted to twin the track and they would give them above market value for their place.

The property owner said, no. The CPR countered with a better offer and he still said, no.

Negotiations went on for awhile without the home owner budging. The CPR finally built the twin rail on the other side of his house. The opposite side was out of the question due to the flow of the Columbia River. He and his family lived there for the rest of their time, trains running on either side of them.

Some locals thought they were nuts, others thought good for them for standing their ground.

***

Lisa and I headed north on the highway today. It was peaceful after Radium. Not much traffic. We stopped in Edgewater, Brisco and Spillimacheen. We stopped and bought some smoked meat and Gorgonzola cheese to have for lunch. Absolutely delicious. We picked up a few plants at a roadside nursery even though the garden is full. It was a nice outing.

Lisa asked me on the way back if I still liked where we live.

We live in town and things are changing by the minute. When developers started putting up condos they looked out of place. Now our place, without an 8′ fence, on a big lot with a garden looks out of place.

***

A few years ago the Mayor stopped by my place to tell me our place, as the town grows, will be the next to be zoned commercial.

He was a snivelling little bastard who’s claim to fame was captaining the local Jr B hockey team to a championship.

His point was, sell now and get out of Dodge. He also didn’t like me very much and took satisfaction in telling me the score.

Once he gave up small town politics, he counted his money, cashed in favours and got the hell out of town.

***

Perhaps we are like the family that lived by the tracks. Refusing to leave, stubborn, while the place takes on a different life, changing. Sometimes I feel like the trains are running on either side. But where do you go?

Ridge Walk

Plenty of snow still to melt on the ridge and fill the creeks.

A touch of rain this evening and it sure felt good. The ground in the valley bottom is getting parched. Each day brings at least some wind that dries the earth further. I reminisce to earlier days and I can’t remember it being this dry in spring. It is true the area is much more built up and water is scarce due to usage, which makes watering the yard prohibitive for all but the wealthy, District of Invermere, and School District N0.6 (Rocky Mountain) who use more than needed. For them it is easier to over water than manage the resource.

***

Fuel is above $2 a litre and going higher. Tourism hasn’t slowed one bit. More motor boats are planned fro Lake Windermere. A new RV park is being built on the outskirts. Our public officials say we are lucky to host our wealthy tourist clientele that come in droves from Alberta.

Meanwhile I hope I will continue to be able to afford to drive the 17Km to work and back each day for the opportunity to earn shit wages. I shouldn’t complain, Lisa and I have it better than many. The Valley hasn’t always been the tourist trap it has become. When the kids were young we did better. Many young couples will never have the opportunity Lisa and I had to buy a house and raise a family.

***

The world seems to be going apeshit crazy, environmental disaster, war, shootings and people mistreating each other with impunity.

I listen to many of my young co-workers, their view of the future is very dim, and why shouldn’t it be with all that is going on. What does inspire me is how well they treat each other.

Maybe that’s the best we can do in such a world – be as kind as we can to people we encounter.

It is a work in progress for me. The older I get the less time I have for right wing bigots and racists, people that tear up the environment, swindlers including many politicians and business folks, lining their pockets at the expense of people they proclaim to serve; neighbours and future generations.

These types have always existed, they have been successful, even revered by history, it just seems the stakes are higher now and it should be clear that punching down on your fellow man and the earth that sustains us for profit has become a terrible outdated practice. Perhaps someday it will finally fall out of favour for good.

***

Even this little bit of rain helps and refreshes. The garden shows thin green rows of carrots, peas, kale and turnips just planted last week.

Bah

The snow has been falling all day. Shovelled the paths a couple times to break it up. At minus 10 celsius its light, a pleasure to move.

Tomorrow I’ll be on a plow, digging out tourists in small cars.

Santa rolled by this evening, I went outside and wished him a Merry Christmas. This Santa has a booming voice kind of like our mayor. He mustered a quiet ‘Merry Christmas,’ back. If he was off his sleigh I might give him a kick in the nuts if it didn’t forever put me on the naughty list. And when I say nuts I mean the uncracked ones, Brazil, Walnuts and Pee Cans. It’s Christmas after all.

The good neighbour always makes me laugh.

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.

Bumblebees, dipshits and the real deal

It is interesting to see different animals and bugs appear and disappear. Bee species are one that have changed over the year. The most prevalent bee now is the one commercialy used to produce honey. I can never remember seeing these bees when I was a youngster. They gather pollen all over their legs and body and fly away slowly back to the nest with their bounty.

The pictures here are of a bee I’ve never seen before. The first thing I noticed was it’s size. It is the size of about a quarter. It seems to defy physics with it’s small wings allowing flight. The second thing you notice is it’s long beak that it sticks inside the flower to suck out the nectar, kind of like a hummingbird. A matter of fact, the other day, a hummingbird was doing the same in the gooseberry bushes, along side one of these giant, and there wasn’t much of a size difference

The bee would load up and fly away, After a short time it would be back. It didn’t seem aggressive. Perhaps it is a queen getting a jump on a hive.

***

A long weekend is slamming us in the face. Regardless I’m looking forward to a few days off.

The Albertans are streaming into the Valley, defying the no travel order, trying to avoid the Covid restrictions in their own province, imposed because of Alberta’s high case numbers.

Even Alberta’s Premier, Jason Kenny, says Alberta has a compliance problem.

Damn, I hate politicians.

With that said, traffic seems to be down with rec vehicles sporting Alberta plates. Very unusual heading into a long weekend.

***

Invermere Mayor, Al Miller, has even asked tourists to stay home this weekend so we may have a good summer. This is surprising. The Mayor’s mantra, up to now, has been for the ‘respectful’ Alberta tourists to defy travel restrictions and come to the Covid free, open for business, Columbia Valley. He has been acting less like a mayor and more like an old addled Welcome Wagon lady.

Surely, he can see the end is in sight and he doesn’t want to be judged by history as a complete moron.

Still give Mayor Miller his due, this time he did the right thing. It might even cost him a couple bucks in his hardware store.

***

My good neighbour Larry went planting in the bush today and found the first Calypso Orchids. Bastard!

Real estate

A male Western Meadowlark, does it’s best, giving the sky shit while trying to get laid.

Lisa had a late start this morning. We spotted a few Meadowlarks and Ospreys, while heading into the bush. Less snow than the other day. Willow and I walked down the mountain getting muddy.

***

Real estate is going crazy in the valley with many listing selling the same day they hit the market.The property I grew up on has just been listed again.

I come from a long line of men that buy high and sell low. There truth is I’ve always felt the same regardless of my bank account. With that said, Lisa and and I have been lucky enough to have never seen our kids go hungry.

I have tried to instil in my children that money can give you freedom and nice things. I’ve done this mostly by posing as a negative example. Believe me a negative example is just as powerful as a positive one.

My brother and sisters sold our family property and house after my parents passed away many years ago. We sold it for a price recommended by the realtor. It sold the day before it hit the market. The realtor made more money on the deal than any of us did.

It was bought by a couple small time local developers. Lisa and I knew them well. Our kids even went to school together. We knew them for what they were. I would run into them here and there and they would say how they were going to turn into a Bed & Breakfast with nature paths around the property. In short a bunch of bullshit. Which was fine with me. The only thing that bothered me was that they thought I was stupid enough to buy their shit.

After sitting on the property they sold the property for a cool $200,000 + profit. Not a bad take and who can blame them.

The second Alberta developer had grand plans, buying the 3 adjacent properties and proposing a large 10 story resort.

The Mayor and town council of the day was all too happy to rezone the property salivating over the taxable business they promised. Of course it was, as well, bullshit.

They kicked the renters out of old family home and left it unlocked and vacant. Its turned into a crack house. Police were called often. Nobody complained to the Developer because the promises they made were still in play.

It was heart wrenching to watch the home we grew up in being abused in such a way. I called the developer myself and told them to board the place up. I had a newspaper at the time and wrote editorials about corporate responsibility, that did not endure me to our advertisers that were waiting on the developer to deliver on the 10 story hotel that would put Invermere on the map.

I remember going down to the house late at night and walking through it. It was like I was a ghost. The inside was graffitied, garbage everywhere, crack heads had started a fire in the fireplace and burnt part of the mantle, a cedar plank from a washed out bridge in the Palliser my father and I found and spent days sanding by hand.

There were bodies in every corner passed out among garbage and feces. It crossed my mind, just briefly, to bash their skulls in. It would have been easy, but the truth was I was angrier at the developer for letting this happen.

I do have a regret. I gave it a great deal of thought, over the year the house was used as a crack house, I considered getting the derelicts out and burning the place down. Again it would have been easy. The only reason I didn’t was I knew the fireman and first responders would have to charge in to try and save the people who were using it.

Eventually, after many phone calls, I shamed the developers into tearing the house down. These people and our own Mayor and Council were some of the worst people I have ever had to deal with. Absolutely blinded by their own ambition and the pipe dreams sold to them.

***

Regardless, of that history. Our house was a place of love, flawed at times, but nothing, looking over the sun coming up over the lake, or walking into the surrounding bush couldn’t cure.

***

The property, thanks to the previous developer is zoned for just about anything, condos, commercial, multi or single dwelling even a 10 story hotel. The realtor I talked to said they expect it to sell to a wealthy Albertan looking for a lake view. There is no shortage of those guys. Guaranteed, like usual in the valley, they will care less about the history that came before.

***

The property is offered for 1.2 million. It’s not for me. I buy high and sell low.

Early May

RCE_5093Don’t make such a rhubarb about the current goings on!

Covid19 precautions are starting to ease in Canada. We are seeing more tourists. Shops are starting to reopen. About two thirds of the vehicles on the highway and around town, on the weekend, are from neighbouring province Alberta, ignoring warnings not to travel outside of your home province.

The ambulance has been out several times today, a sure sign the roads are getting busier with tourists.

It should be reminded, we are as susceptible to this disease now as we were two months ago.  The only thing changed is we have learned to social distance and bought time to possibly better ready our health care system. Numbers show most are still vulnerable to contract the sickness. This will remain so until a vaccine is developed. It will be interesting how we go forward.

RCE_5096A handsome Flicker.

Five years from now, we will know better how we managed this illness, did we overreact, was there things we could have done better? Right now we move forward with the information we have.

Strange times. One good thing in our small community; it’s amazing to see people forgetting about money and tourists, choosing instead to support each other.

the place we call home

A couple of big announcements in the local news this week.

***

First, the proposed Jumbo Resort is dead. It has been on the books for over thirty years, at times pulling the community apart, setting business people against each other. 

It was a harebrained scheme from the get go. With bullshit from both sides of millionaires being flung, liberally, at each other. 

I think most regular folks got out of the way along time ago, leaving the fighting to the elitists in Wildsight and Patagonia, and the villainous, Jumbo Glacier Resort and dumbfounded Jumbo Municipality.

However, something good may have come out of it. The area will now be a designated protected area to be overseen by the Ktunaxa First Nation.

Time will tell how this will play out.

The only way this issue was going to resolve itself was by money. Reason, common sense, goodwill, or even a deep desire for preservation or development was not enough.

It took the government paying off both sides. The anti Jumbo folks secured over $16 million and Jumbo Glacier Resort was paid an undisclosed amount for the tenure to the publicly owned property.  

***

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The second announcement was The District of Invermere down zoning the Octagon Property behind the Invermere Arena. 

Part of the property was where I grew up. It overlooks Lake Windermere. At one time the property was worth next to nothing, because it was on a sidehill and had a train running by almost constantly.

Later the coal trains started running less frequent, with the Albertans buying up most of the other available lake front, the property became more valuable.

After my parents passed away our family quickly sold the land to a couple of wheelers who sat on it for a year and sold it to Octagon for a couple hundred thousand profit.

After Octagon bought it they left it derelict, while lobbying mayor and council for rezoning to build a nine story hotel. 

It was during this period that my parents house became a crack den. Police were called regularly. Octagon refused to board the place up. My parents would have rolled over if they would have seen what became of their house.

One of the hardest things I never did was burning the place down. I would have got everyone out. That wouldn’t have been a problem. I worried about a volunteer firefighter getting hurt.

Instead, I pestered the brass at Octagon, a bunch of snakes, into tearing it down, which they finally did.

Meanwhile the District of Invermere, against the will of most citizens, caved to the wishes of Octagon and granted their rezoning demands. 

Last week, the District down zoned the property so the owner, creditor of the previous owner, can sell it off by the piece. In the end, regardless of their grand plans, that’s the only way they can make their money back.  

***

There won’t be a nine story hotel beside the tracks, beside the lake. Jumbo will remain undeveloped. I should be happy, but it takes a bunch of nasty business to come to the right decision. This time money was on the side of preservation, next time. . . who knows.