Venturing into the Wild West

A little forewarning from a local to visitors from the east.

Peter Warland

My sister and her husband are threatening to visit me here in the East Kootenay for only the third time in over 50 years, so I felt it would be my duty to give the duo some warning of what they might expect to encounter here.

Dear Pamela:

We are delighted (and intrigued) that you and Clifford intend to visit me here in Cranbrook. The whole populace will be delighted to meet you and many of them wonder how genetics work. Would it be possible that two people, such as you and I, could be at all alike?

When ‘Jimmy’ and I came here back in 1958, Cranbrook was a tiny town that called itself a city crouched in a hollow between the Rocky Mountains and the Purcell Range. Now, after 54 years, it’s a bit bigger but with grandiose ideas. The sewage system is much improved and we do have traffic lights to impede our travels.

As to the question you asked about clothing. In spite of eastern opinion of us, civilized clothing (not buck-skins) will be necessary. In fact, wrap up warmly. It will be June — ‘road repair’ season — when you arrive and winter still a month away. It will probably not be as wet as you are accustomed in Toronto because those so-called depressions from the Pacific dump rain non-stop on Vancouver but then, finding several large mountain ranges in the way, say to themselves, “Let’s go drench Ontario. They deserve it.”

That, I am afraid, is the attitude of locals too. Most of our problems emanate from Ottawa or somewhere else ‘Back East’, so I shall be forced to point out to you and Clifford that many locals are very fond of guns and hunting. They are inclined to be fairly peaceful in June, when you plan to visit, but some do have a penchant for shooting at people from anywhere further east than Fernie (see map) and that, I discovered by consulting another map in an atlas, includes Toronto, where you happen to live. But don’t worry. I have a plan. I shall announce that you are from England; with your accent, I know I’ll get away with it.

If you intend to do any shopping during your sojourn here, I have to point out that we have no ‘Ikea’ nor a ‘Bay’ but, by the time you’ve made your way over the Rockies, we should have a ‘Target’ for you to aim at. That must surely thrill you.

By June when you get here, theoretically, it will be blossom time, if severe frosts haven’t killed everything. All kinds of things like wild cherry and dandelions will be showing off, brightening up the landscape. Plants being nurtured by the citizens, however, will have been frozen for the third or fourth time or eaten by the deer.

The thousands of deer, fed up to the teeth with being shot at out in the rapidly diminishing ‘bush’, have moved into town and set up colonies here. They will not be squeezed into ghettos; they are much too proud for that. However, some people have put themselves into ghettos for safety sake.

As I already stated, June is in that brief time of year that we call jokingly call ‘road repair’ although, quite frequently, city and provincial road crews are on vacation during this time, so there is a good chance that, when you cross the Rockies from Calgary, you will be held up by such things as avalanches or huge great holes in the road. Do not venture down into any of these holes as the unfortunate internees may have been there for days and might possibly attack you. American tourists can be ferocious.

I hope you’ll give me warning of your impending arrival; I’ve been getting rid of stuff but the house still looks like a land-fill. If I can just persuade my overly-zealous neighbours to stop harassing me about the state of my yard, I shall try to clean up a bedroom for you. Oh, and I must remember to find my razor and new dentures.

Your loving brother, Peter