The Hudson’s Bay Company owned most of our Canadian geography (called Rupertsland) for several hundred years until it was ‘sold’ to the new Dominion of Canada after Confederation. Their main business was trading with the indigenous population. They traded European technology for beaver fur, hugely valued in Europe in those days.  Metal cookware, axes and shovels, knives and traps, and later firearms transformed the feast-and-famine hunter-gatherer local culture into one of relative prosperity, and started a process of modernization.

The Company kept detailed and voluminous records of local events along with their business records, and for a number of decades starting in the 20’s they produced a magazine called “The Beaver” with material drawn from those records. As the Company moved further from its fur trading roots, it sponsored creation of “Canada’s History Society”, which took over production of The Beaver.  Over time, it became more loosely tied to the Company archives and more broadly based, but still very interesting to we history nuts.  Its name was changed to “Canada’s History”, apparently the staff thought “Beaver” might be confused with CB radio slang.

The Aug/Sept issue includes a review of a book, “The Female Emigrants Guide”, by Catherine Parr Traill, published in 1854. It is meant to be helpful to European women emigrating to a Canadian homestead.  One of the excerpts caught my attention; she mentions a feeling of complete security and absence of fear on the homestead.  A quote, “a country where the inhabitants are essentially honest, because they are enabled, by the exertion of their own hands, to obtain in abundance the necessities of life”

This caused me to think about our own experiences here in the Wabigoon Valley. I remember back in the 80’s, our neighbour sold his (rural) house to some folks moving down from Winnipeg.  When the deal was done, the new owners asked him for the door keys.  “Door keys!” he exclaimed “We don’t have any keys; nobody locks their doors around here.”

And that was normal in the rural areas. The house I grew up in had no locks on the doors, and neither did most pre-1950 houses.  We (Fishers) only started locking our doors at night after an unfriendly visitor incident, also mid-80’s.

My point is that going back a few decades we trusted people, just as Ms. Traill observed a hundred years before. Even the occasional ‘knight of the road’ was helped along his way, without our expecting violence or robbery.  Doors were never locked; after all, if anyone comes along, no doubt they are having trouble and could freeze to death.  Even trappers shacks were left open, and usually with a small stock of groceries in case a lost soul in trouble came along.

That was the rural Canadian way, we worked together taming mother nature and living off her resources and our own hard work, we supported and encouraged each other, we did not rob or abuse. Of course that way of life is disappearing as we become more and more ‘urban’, but I like to think neighbourliness is still part of our Canadian psyche.

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A page from Willie Brant’s diary — Joe was sitting at his kitchen table, chortling to himself when I walked in.  “What could be so funny this time of the day?” I asked.

“it’s a long story”, he answered, and it was. Joe’s nephew gave him his old (2013) computer, and he has been playing with it.  Seems he has been finding all kinds of websites and blogs to amuse himself on his early morning, second-cup-of-coffee computer time.  He had just read a blog where a guy was making a case that the whole UFO thing was a fabrication by the extreme government-firsters, the folks who are pushing us so hard toward a single world government.  A fabrication so the people would accept the big lie when the government-firsters falsely announce that Space Aliens have invaded.  We would have to accept a World Government immediately so that the (fake) massive alien invasion can be repelled.  Without worrying about things like personal freedom or local culture and so on.  He said he almost fell off his chair laughing, and was still tickled.

“So, what’s so funny about that?” from me, “Anything is possible”

“You miss my point”, says Joe, “That would require a super-smart group hidden in our leadership, manipulating the news and planting all kinds of false UFO reports ever since Roswell in 1947. All in a plausible, coordinated fashion.  These are the guys who think allowing the boreal forest to burn will somehow reduce carbon dioxide in the air;  can’t decide if cholesterol is good for you or bad for you, or whether the planet is going to cook or we are facing a new Ice Age.  As if there could be such deep thinkers among them!”

“OK, I get it, these are the nitwits who publicly announced that an alien craft had crashed at Roswell, and two days later came up with the lamest excuse yet, saying well, heh heh, we made a mistake, actually it was a weather balloon that crashed, sorry about that!”

Joe put in “That is so lame, you could think it was the start of a conspiracy like the blogger says! It could be just a ploy which ordinary folks would see as a cover-up, so something must have landed there after all!  A sneaky ploy to make UFO believers out of skeptics.  But no, I don’t believe the government-firsters are that smart, and anyway I don’t think they dominated thought in the US in 1947!”

Then I came up with, “So maybe it is a more complicated conspiracy than that! Maybe the blogger is a Space Alien plant, preaching ‘UFO’s are fake’ so when the Aliens do invade we won’t believe the news reports until it is too late and we have new Alien masters!”

Joe thinks for a minute, and then says if there really are Aliens flying around watching us, they probably don’t need any help from a nincompoop blogger. I suppose he is right.  Sometimes our conversations get downright weird.

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The view from my kitchen window is across the skateboard park and soccer fields, with highway 17 forming the skyline. This skyline features the pretty little pine grove next to Pizza Hut, but more importantly, it features the Husky flag; so impressive even a half a mile away.  Well, except it disappeared about a year ago, getting pretty shabby, some guys came and tried to replace it in a windstorm, next morning the flag was gone!  For a whole year!

Anyway, a new flag appeared a few weeks ago, and what a joy to see it there, a sign of stability and peace in what seems to be troubled times. It is so easy for us old guys to get depressed as we look at world news, Iran and Israel with rockets ready to roll, held back only by the Russians behind Iran and the US behind Israel.  Financial crashes of all kinds being predicted. China dominating everywhere.  Dictatorships rising everywhere. Trends already past their prime pushing past the point of ridiculous, passing even my favourite example  —  when we got so prudish a hundred and fifty years ago we were putting skirts on our pianos as it was obscene for the piano to be showing its legs!  And the interesting part is that those pushing these ‘modern’ trends so often do not even see the silliness!

But forget about these negatives, this is the time of year for celebration of the positives. We have passed the shortest day of the year, days now getting longer.  Our local lakes are frozen over now, so we will have a lot less cloud and a lot more sunshine, and that will lift our mood – reports are that ice fishermen are doing very well!

Aside from religious festivals, we should celebrate our fortunate position compared with most of the world, no natural catastrophes like earthquakes, massive fires, floods, plagues. Our self-sufficient little community looking after itself and its people.  A bright future as we see all kinds of business’s advertising for help.  A brisk real estate market.  New investment.  Senior’s buildings under construction.  Endless possibilities.

And we should celebrate that new flag out on the highway. Almost like a proclamation that yes, Dryden is here, loud and proud.  Canada and especially our part of it has so much going for it, so much country and so many natural resources for so few people compared with the rest of the world, we are indeed blessed.  And the sun will shine tomorrow!  Happy 2019!

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The following essay is from a year ago, praising the Ontario government of the day for recognizing much of the problem with housing. Of course they missed the main problem, which is Ontario is bent on directing all new development to the golden horseshoe, but still it was a hopeful sign.

Of course nothing was done beyond the basic promise, which was to hold a ‘roundtable’ (means fun meeting at a resort at taxpayers expense) with the golden horseshoe stakeholders.

A Year has passed, we have a new government, let’s hope they review the minutes of that ‘roundtable’, and actually do something. Even better, lets hope they recognize that maybe restricting all urban growth to the best farmland in Ontario, is a bad idea, and open the door to spreading the wealth and letting the rest of Ontario thrive. Grey County has come up with some ideas, lets progress with that for a start. Here is the year-old essay


From Fraser Forum, jan 3/18   Author:   Josef Filipowicz

The Ontario government has acted on a key tenet of its housing plan—holding a roundtable with municipalities and the homebuilding sector to streamline housing development approvals. This is good news for Ontarians, whose housing options are limited by a sluggish housing supply in the province’s most desirable cities.

Homebuilders are likely to tell the Wynne government precisely what they’ve consistently told us in our annual homebuilders’ survey: that they must overcome barriers before they can provide the new homes Ontarians need in a timely fashion.

First, the average time it takes for developers to obtain building permits—from the moment they first approach city hall to the moment shovels break ground for new homes—takes more than a year. Across the Greater Golden Horseshoe (where house prices are hottest in the province) it takes an average of 18 months to obtain a building permit, nearly two years in communities to Toronto’s east and north (Clarington, Georgina), and 14 months to its west (Burlington).

Second, these timelines are prolonged by the need to rezone property, a procedure allowing bungalows to become duplexes, townhomes or apartments. Rezoning is required for almost two-thirds of homebuilding across the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and can add between one month (like in King Township) and 11 months (in Hamilton, for example) to the building permit-approval process.

Third, during the permitting process, homebuilders incur “soft costs” associated with regulatory compliance (such as legal documents or blueprints) and fees triggered by rezoning (such as those permitted under Section 37 of the Planning Act). On average these costs and fees amount to almost $50,000 per unit across the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

It’s good to see the Wynne government showing an interest in boosting the housing supply by streamlining the development approval process—an important step towards a more affordable Greater Golden Horseshoe. As the province, municipalities and homebuilders pursue their roundtable, they should not lose sight of how long it takes and how much it costs to obtain building permits.

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Holiday season, small parties all over, get together with old friends and family you rarely see any more, maybe cocktails and canapes, or beer and chips depending on what social class you think you belong in.

Jack says “Saw something amazing on the corner over there a few days ago, this blue car comes roaring down the street behind us, hits a frozen puddle and starts to fishtail, flips over a couple of times and ends up in the ditch. Guy climbs out – “ interrupted by Jill’s harshest interrupter voice “it was a green car!”  Jack finishes “Guy climbs out, unhurt, just amazing!  And it was a blue car, why do you always have to argue?”  From Jill “Because you always get it wrong.  Green Car.”  And so they attack each other, even getting back to rehash a dispute from say 1984, while the rest of the crowd thinks the story is about the guy escaping unhurt, who cares what colour the car was?

Host comes around “try one of these canapes, (aka cracker with some mysterious stuff on it), it’s my new recipe”, and conversation drifts back to the usual mutter mutter, giggle giggle of such events. But the party was spoiled for everybody.

It’s not just jack and Jill; we all interrupt to try to top the story to some degree, it seems we have a built-in urge to show we are smarter or more plugged in to the latest gossip than the next guy. Believe it or not some folks even accuse the Contrarian of being a smarty-pants.  We do not listen well, we just wait for a chance to interrupt and top the story underway.

So maybe this holiday season we can improve our parties by each making a resolution to NOT interrupt anybody ever, and to NOT try to top the story being told, in other words, be nice!

Or maybe that won’t work, maybe we will end up with big silences, or with that boring old second cousin or whatever dominating the conversation and spoiling the party anyway. Maybe we better just be ourselves, those folks all know what kind of jerk each of us is anyway and they forgive us for it or they wouldn’t be there.

And if you and your spouse get into blue car / green car arguments, maybe you need to take a vacation just to get over it. Say a two week cruise just the two of you, next January, and before you go you each take a vow to only do and say what you think will make your spouse happy.  If you both follow that vow, you will both be happy!

OK, on second thought, maybe a social klutz like me is not qualified to give anybody advice on anything personal. Let’s just say, Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year!  And try not to get into any ‘green car’ discussions this holiday season!

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PART ONE — A page from Willie Brant’s diary — Met an old friend at Tim’s the other day, in the course of a conversation he was telling me he had his DNA checked, seems you can pay $50 or something and they will take a sample of you and figure out all your roots.  Struck me as a scam, I bet if I submitted two samples, one under the name ‘McSnuff’ and one under the name ‘Zoomski’ I would get two different results, but I kept that thought to myself.  Then he surprised me, he said that all this DNA work is showing that we have Neanderthal DNA mixed with ours.  Can’t remember if it was all Europeans have 3% Neanderthal, or 3% of Europeans are mostly Neanderthal, I can think of a few guys might fit that last group.

Anyway up to now science has been saying there were near-human critters they called ‘Neanderthal’ populating parts of Europe until recent times, they could tell they weren’t really human because their head-bones and jawbones were different than ours. So this seems like a huge confession of incompetence, they have been wrong all these years.  But it sure hasn’t been number one item on TV news, not important enough I guess.

Had to stop on the way home and lay this bit on Joe. He said he has read some stuff about this in some of the technical crap he wades through, never a word less than 3 syllables.  Said there was quite a Neanderthal population in central/western Europe until quite recent times.  Had a twinkle in his eye which told me my leg was about to be pulled when he said a lot of people in that part of the world have a heavy beard and a lot of black, curly hair all over their body, “Sort of like you, Willy, maybe they are descended from the Neanderthal, maybe you are one of them”.

“Stuff that”, from me.

“Anyway”, from Joe, “mother nature has her way of keeping the species separate. If we cross two critters which are close, but not the same species, their offspring will be sterile.  So cross a horse and a donkey, you get a hinnie or a mule, and they are sterile. So horse and donkey are different species.  Same with a horse and a zebra.  So if we find Neanderthal DNA in people, clearly we are the same species, just look a bit different.”

I piped in “We go too much by appearance anyway. Look at dogs, they are all the same species, you can cross any breed with any other breed.  But some are tiny cutesy little critters, and some great big ugly guys, long tails, short tails, long noses, short noses, and of course there are real dogs like my border collie.  But dogs don’t seem to pay any attention to what other dogs look like, they all relate to each other as fellow citizens of Dogdom.  Too bad we people couldn’t be more like our dogs, they don’t pay attention to the appearance or breed of another dog, and we shouldn’t pay attention to the appearance or race of another person, we are all fellow citizens of the earth!”

Joe ended the discussion with “Willy, that is pretty profound, maybe we should make you Prime Minister or something.” Don’t know whether that was a compliment or an insult.



Some readers might recall my story about our adventures with a Sasquatch back in 1987. As a result of the notoriety that gave us, dozens (hundreds?) of people came to look at our quarter mile of tracks and tell me their Sasquatch stories.  Some gave me or lent me books and there is a lot of serious and not so serious literature out there.  As a result I actually met Professor Bindernagel, Cryptobiologist, now deceased.  I have a copy of his book, “North America’s Great Ape – The Sasquatch”.  It is the best reference I have found as it is not evangelical at all, most books are trying to sell or unsell the idea; this one just recites the facts.

Anyway, one book which I can’t find now, maybe lent to me and returned, contained a fascinating tale which sort of relates to the Neanderthal idea from last week. The following is from memory from 30 years ago, so might not be exactly right in all details.

About a hundred and fifty years ago, a (British?) Scholar became aware of a folk tale strongly held in a small village in the Ural Mountains of Russia. He went there to investigate, and reported on what the local people told him.

Remember we were very much in the feudal system in those days, where Nobility owned all and most of the people were Serfs – agricultural workers who were tied to the land and beholden to the Noble, but not Slaves as they could not be bought and sold. Mostly this worked better than you might think – I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with a much older cousin of my dad, she said her mother remembered her life as a happy time growing up as a child of serfs in a remote village in eastern Bohemia.   This got messed up by the war of 1870, and the family emigrated to the US while she was still a child, but she retained that happy impression.

But if you got an evil Noble, your life as a Serf could be bad. One choice was to run away into the wilderness, and establish a life there as an ‘Outlaw’, think Robin Hood and his Merry Men.   Of course the Establishment did their best to round up these outlaws, but there were substantial outlaw villages in remote areas all over Europe, some survived for many years.  I expect the Ural mountain village was one of these.

The tale given the Scholar by the Ural villagers was from perhaps a hundred years before he got there, but still very vivid in the collective memory of the village. It seems an abandoned, starving child-giant was found near death by the villagers, who brought her home and raised her as one of their own.  She grew to be a very large, very strong, shall we say very plain woman who was not very good at language.  But she was able to earn her place in the community with her strength and patience in doing manual work; they provided her with her own house and she lived out her life with them.  She even raised a couple of sons, presumably fathered by wayward village men. The boys were a bit better at communication, also big strong patient workers, and also lived out their lives as villagers.

So what is the point of this tale? The sons were sterile!  So the big girl was near human, but a different species, sort of like a donkey versus a horse!  She was a different animal, not just a freakish human.

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Here is a shameless commercial about a book, ‘the Third Way’, I self-published some 25 years ago.



Message from author Mel Fisher

I have always been ahead of my time; I suppose it is partly because I have always read so widely. I was into ‘selective harvesting’ of our forest back in the 50’s, before the word ‘environmentalist’ was invented.  I was being made fun of, riding my bicycle to work long before the word ‘participaction’ was invented.  I was doing natural agriculture before the word ‘organic’ was invented. And so on.

I did a lot of serious political study some 25 years ago as a candidate for the Reform Party. I convinced myself I could write a better explanation of the trends in our society, and I wrote and self-published THE THIRD WAY.  In those days publishing had to involve a large number of copies to get the unit price down to something reasonable.

Big Mistake.

Sadly, the book was, like me, too far ahead of its time; badly received, folks could not understand where it was coming from.

But new friends who read it now, twenty-five years later, find it very interesting and thought-provoking – our political scene has caught up to me. Perhaps you will find it worth your time too.

The good news is those surplus copies from 25 years ago are now a bargain at ‘Novel Idea’s’, Dryden’s bookstore.


Mel Fisher

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