THE EMPIRE AND THE ALIENS

THE CONTRARIAN

PART 1 The Center of the Empire is a magnificent city of stone buildings, on the shore of an inland lake – no, not Ontario, this is not another Contrarian rant against Toronto.  The lake is in the middle of a desert and was created by using elaborate, sophisticated miles-long stone aqueducts to bring melt-water from glaciers in the surrounding mountains.  A large, shallow lake, in a stable, comfortable sub-tropical climate.

The society supports itself by agriculture carried out on giant beds made of reeds, floating in the lake. The reeds or bulrushes grow in hundreds of acres in the shallow lake, and are used to form and maintain  those beds, gardens if you will, new reeds added to the bottom and night soil and animal manures composted into the top, with housing for the farmers right on the beds, and boats to transport the food produced to the shining city on the shore.

The social structure is based on family; if you are born into a family of reed-harvesters, you will be a reed harvester; if into a noble family, you will be a nobleman, if a family of boatmen you will be a boatman, if night-soil attendants, you get the picture. They are beautiful people, no facial or upper body hair, nice uniform features, and athletic bodies.  They bath every day and wear clothing appropriate to such a climate, embellished to show their rank of course.  Highest level of embellishment is a veil made of hummingbird feathers skillfully sewn together into a sheet which glows in the sun with the iridescence of the hummingbird and floats like magic in the very mild breezes which pervade, the larger the sheet or veil, the higher the rank.  Hugely expensive, think of the time and work in raising or catching tiny hummingbirds, and in sewing the feathers together.

It is a sophisticated society, with a well-developed language including a written language and a main library in the central city, with an all-encompassing religion and an elaborate social and governance structure. Main form of art other than wall paintings is sculpture, usually in solid gold which is mined in the provinces and being easily worked allows very intricate and sophisticated pieces to be created.

The Empire is divided into many provinces, each with a noble family at the top, each producing what it is best at, and each paying tribute to the Emperor in the central city. The Emperor’s imperial army is tasked with protecting the city and the provinces from invaders or barbarians or revolutionaries.

Other than gold, no metals are used; their source for cutting edges is obsidian, a form of natural glass mined in one of the provinces. If chipped properly, it is sharper than any metal; in fact the very best modern surgical tools are still edged with obsidian. Their main weapon for warfare is a heavy wooden sword edged with obsidian chips, it can easily take a man’s head off with a single swipe, but is seldom used, their warfare is pretty sophisticated, more a show of strength than actual mass murder.

Of course there is unrest among people, there always is, and rebellions can generally be put down by a show of force of the Emperors army equipped with those magnificent weapons. An exception happened several generations ago, when the royal family of one of the provinces was able to avoid the main force of the Emperor’s Army and invade the city, kill the royal family and install their leader as the new Emperor.  Unfortunately they came to power too recently to be thoroughly accepted and popular, allowing the events in part 2 to happen.

 

PART 2 Consternation in the city!  There were reports from one of the seashore provinces of arrival of a fleet of magnificent alien craft!   Some had landed, and creatures had descended from the craft!  Incredibly ugly creatures all covered with hair and grime and smelling something awful, heavily garbed in spite of the tropical climate in what appeared to be animal furs and hairs woven into fabric, and speaking an inelegant kind of alien language, full of grunts and snorts.  When confronted by the citizens the Aliens unleashed some kind of super weapon which totally demolished the main building on the town square in one loud explosion of noise and dust.  That intimidated the town into accepting the Aliens as its new leadership.

More consternation! New reports say the Aliens and the provincial townspeople had managed to work out a compromise on language and were actually able to communicate with each other.  The entire province had made a pact with the Aliens against the Empire and was advancing on the city!  Other disgruntled provincials were joining the cavalcade!  Horrors!

Even worse, a new ailment was sweeping through the land, people were getting sick and dying by the thousands, and the doctors were powerless to do anything about it! And the Emperor was being blamed!

The ragtag band of Provincials assembled at the edge of the city, and the Emperor’s army was occupied in keeping an eye on them. The Aliens were welcomed into the Emperors inner sanctum as befits visiting royalty, however, they proved themselves to be entirely uncivilized, killing a number of the Emperors courtiers and taking the Emperor himself prisoner, and working from there in their uncivilized aggressive fashion were able to take control of the entire Empire.  A few hundred savage aliens taking over a nation of millions of educated, civilized souls!

They ravaged the land, as only an uncivilized mob can do, destroying the aqueducts so the lake would disappear and eventually with it the city, except those magnificent stone buildings. They mindlessly destroyed priceless works of art including the massively expensive hummingbird feather veils.  They burned the libraries, they seemed to be obsessed with destroying any evidence of the existing culture, and desecrated all the religious sites and condemned anyone following the traditional rituals.  Incredibly, they relentlessly hunted down any gold carvings and melted them down, destroying works of art that took thousands of skilled and talented hours to make.  They took the gold back to their alien craft, which by now you will have recognized as Spanish Galleons.  And so Cortes’ and his mob of Spaniards and Moors destroyed Mexico, one of the more advanced and civilized empires in the world at the time.

You probably haven’t seen this story written in quite this way before, but this is as accurate as any of the conventional historical accounts. The prejudice was that the only civilized form of government was the Roman Empire model which prevailed in the Middle East and Europe for several thousand years.  Any form of belief other that Christianity was to be treated with utter contempt and destroyed as quickly as possible.  The victor gets to write the history, and so history recorded the Spanish as heroes, and the Mexicans as primitive tribesmen, when arguably it was the other way around.

 

PART 3 I visited my friend (perhaps acquaintance?) Ruben Cantin some decades ago when he was Chief of the Wabigoon Band and I was trying to be a politician.  He started on the “noble children of the forest, caring for the environment, you white guys took it all away, etc.” rant; — we both had a good laugh when he saw me realize he was pulling my leg.

I apologized if he saw my being there as inappropriate, and he brushed that aside. He said the guy he really hated to see was the educated city type, dressed in a buckskin jacket or other inappropriate gear adapted from a Lone Ranger movie, gushing about wild rice and bannock.  The oh, so paternal fellow, here to help the noble children survive in a modern world. The oh, so politically correct guy, determined to let Ruben and the world know that he is oh, so ‘tolerant’.

Of course what the city guy was really showing was raw prejudice, he saw Ruben and his people as different, perhaps not fully human, certainly less than equal. Like the Spanish and European attitude toward Mexico 500 years ago.

Tolerant means ‘you stink, but I can ignore that’, when what is really needed is not Tolerance, but Acceptance as another human being. An equally valuable, equally interesting human being, a Canadian, not some kind of ‘other’ or different or pet.  Equal, in that we all have talents and abilities, we all have disabilities and frailties, but in the overall measure, we are all equally valuable citizens.

We have a problem, in that the city guy’s ‘Tolerance, you stink but I can hold my nose’ attitude is fashionable among our educated elite. It is at the root of the Indian Act, which arguably is the source of all our aboriginal people’s problems.  It pervades what some would call Progress or Progressive thinking.  It permeates the overpowering paternalistic system we have put in place, which makes it very difficult for Canadian aboriginal people to live modern lives, to live useful lives, to matter.  Ordinary aboriginal people, the superstars of course do well.

It has been said that you can carry live crabs in an open pail and none can escape because if one tries to climb out, the others will reach up and pull him down, a nice metaphor for the situation native people find themselves in when they try to step outside the mold, a nice explanation for the social disorder and unrest so common on our reserves.

Get that city guy and his prejudices out of here, and allow everybody to be free to live useful, productive lives.

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CHINESE PEACHES

 

THE CONTRARIAN

PART ONE – CLOVERBELT —  I am happy to see the name “Cloverbelt” being resurrected and used widely in rural Dryden.  We now have the Cloverbelt Country Farmers Market, the Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op, the Cloverbelt Abattoir Co-op, the Cloverbelt Beekeeper’s Association.  The grand-daddy was the Cloverbelt Seed Growers Co-op, now closed, but which played a big role in our early history from its start in 1915.  So the name has genuine historical roots and is not some made-up slogan.

For background, we need to go back to when our soil was deposited, some 12 000 years ago, after the last ice age. As the great miles-thick ice sheet advanced it scooped up all the soil, and as it retreated the soil came out of the ice sheet, sorted by the melting ice and water.  Soil is classified as sand, the coarsest fraction, silt, like very fine sand, and clay, which is a mixture of very finely ground minerals.  Generally a mixture of equal parts of all three is considered ideal for farm or garden, but of these the clay is most important as it interacts with life to provide the minerals plants need.  Sand and silt are basically sterile and just provide a structure for plants to grow in; the life is all in the clay and the organic content.  All ‘clay’ is not chemically the same – different minerals predominate in different clay deposits.  As the glacier retreated, temporary lakes formed, and deposits of clay-rich soils were laid down at the bottom of these muddy lakes in what were dubbed ‘clay belts’, at least in Ontario. These ‘clay belts’ became farmland.  The Dryden-centered ‘Wabigoon Valley’ Clay Belt was deposited at a different stage of the glacier retreat than other ‘clay belts’, so its soil is unique.  Being covered since the ice age with pine forest renewed many times by forest fires makes it even more unique.

Agriculture goes in fads just like almost everything, and Red Clover and Alsike (Swedish) clover were a huge fad for a hundred years or more before WW2. Our pioneers quickly found that clover does really well in our unique soil, and they were very successful at growing it for seed; my theory is that not only our soil is right, but our frequent cool summer nights and heavy dews help set seed.  With the help of the Seed-growers Co-op, clover seed became the basis of a prosperous farm community; we were a major clover seed supplier in Canada and even abroad.  I suppose that is how our ‘Clay Belt’ became the ‘Clover Belt’.

There is a story among Oxdrift farmers that during WW2 food shortages, Britain was making ersatz strawberry jam out of turnips or whatever pectin sources they could find, with sugar and artificial flavours added. An entire freight car load of alsike clover seed was shipped from our Cloverbelt Seed Co-op to Britain, where it was blended into the jam to give it that seedy strawberry texture we are all familiar with.  A carload would probably be enough seed to treat all the artificial jam for the entire war!

So what does this have to do with Chinese Peaches? Read on.

PART TWO — BUNKER C — We had relatives in the Niagara area some 50 years ago, and when they would visit, they would bring baskets of fresh peaches.  When they went back home, they took baskets of our beets, carrots, potatoes which taste better than any grown down there.  So we were both winners.

A few weeks ago we purchased a few baskets of peaches from the Niagara area from Jack Rhyner’s Fruit Truck. They taste just as good as I remember, better than western or US peaches, maybe the best anywhere.  Perhaps this woke up our peach appetite; a few days ago we opened a can of peaches we had bought on sale sometime this summer. It contained five identical, absolutely uniform half-spheres with an absolutely uniform scoop out of the middle, clearly formed by a robot, not by Mother Nature.  There might have been the faintest hint of peach flavour.  Couldn’t recognize the texture, maybe a bit like a pear, or maybe like gritty Jello.  Who knows what ersatz material it was made of, maybe peaches picked green by robots then ground up and ‘reconstituted’ with appropriate modifiers, or maybe nothing to do with a peach tree at all.

Last week’s story, after a long-winded introduction to clover seed, was about ‘strawberry’ jam made out of turnips or whatever pectin could be found, seeded with clover seed from Oxdrift during WW2. I just read about a new idea, where assorted crap is dumped into a quiet body of water so it grows a good crop of algae; this is processed by microscopic critters and chemicals in a factory, and out comes a ‘food’ which is sort of like sausage, and will save the world from starvation.

Considering that jam, and that sausage, ‘peaches’ made out something else seems entirely possible.

There is something seriously wrong with this picture – Ersatz peaches from China in the store, while Ontario grows some of the best peaches in the world but we are busy tearing up the orchards to make residential subdivisions. Meanwhile in BC all the canning facilities have been bought up and shut down, and their peaches (almost as good as Ontario ones) and other tree fruit rots on the trees, the farmer cannot get enough for them to pay pickers.

Maybe part of the problem is shipping is too cheap.

Sea-going ships are all powered by burning ‘Bunker C’ grade fuel oil. This is the filthy dregs left after all the good stuff is extracted from crude oil.  There is pretty much every chemical element invented in this thick, tarry stuff, it is too dirty to even use it to tar a road.  Aside from pollution from that dirty oil, these ships are one of the biggest manmade sources of CO2 to the atmosphere.

So we face a ‘carbon tax’ which is supposed to save the planet by encouraging us to drive our cars less; would it not be more effective to use a ‘carbon tax’ to encourage all those ships to clean up their exhaust instead?  Even if we had to grow our own peaches?  Just asking.

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WALMART SUPERSTORE

THE CONTRARIAN

Back about 20 years or so, we had ‘inside information’ that our Walmart store had the highest sales density per floor area of any of its stores (in Canada? or the entire world?). So the writing was on the wall, sooner or later Walmart would need a bigger store.

After the mill announcement of 2003, the city got serious about economic development, and did some serious research. They were quite startled at what they learned.  Firstly, the city staff were woefully lacking in training and knowledge as to how economic development really happens, and undertook some serious training (most of it lost, now).  The second big problem was that the city had no land ready for development.  As was explained, just as a shoe store needs to have a variety of styles and sizes if it hopes to attract any customers, so a town needs to have a variety of properties ready for development if it hopes to attract the attention of anyone looking for a new location.

So the city started the process of developing some land, and ran into a demand from the province – no more development until we build a new sewage treatment plant. This is a very subjective matter; our old plant was and is doing a better job than most such plants in Ontario, notably Toronto.  That makes this ruling disturbing, and perhaps that is why governments were sympathetic and the city was successful in obtaining 2/3 funding from senior governments for the plant.  This was quite unusual – such infrastructure projects are usually built and paid for by debt on municipal Public Utilities Commissions, on people’s monthly water bills.

Unfortunately after expenditure of some $30 million for the new plant, and another $5 million or so to build a commercial and an industrial subdivision, Council elected not to spend the relatively small amount of money to finish the project by having Ontario Hydro put in electric power. That can take a year or more, so this 35 million dollar initiative comes to nothing; nobody is going to buy a lot with no power.  No new enterprise is going to come to town, and senior governments are not impressed with our not finishing the job and so wasting the big grant money they put in.

So we have no place for a new bigger Walmart. Or if you have seen the rows and rows of storage containers behind Canadian Tire, a bigger Canadian Tire.  Or a Giant Tiger or an Applebee’s or any of the others who have looked at our city, and left.

Blame our lack of growth on the small thinking that unfortunately set in a while ago, and hopefully is on the way out with our new city management; there are some signs of change. We are seeing some of our younger people coming home again, it is not now a social requirement that they go to the big city as it was a couple of decades ago, and we need some commercial growth to match that new population.

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CHARISMA

THE CONTRARIAN

A page from Willy Brant’s diary —  One of my old navy buddies called, said he was passing thru on his way west, and would I join him for lunch.  So I did.  “Let me tell you my latest theory”, he said, between swigs of coffee and bites of Mary’s pie.  “You know how the old lighthouses worked, they had an oversize candle in the middle, and a dish-shaped mirror which collected the light and sent it to a lens, which focussed it into a sharp beam, which was aimed at the horizon.  Then the whole thing rotated, so sailors a long way off would see that flash of light when the beam went by, even though it is just a candle.”

By way of encouraging him, I said “Yup”. He went on “And you know how space telescopes work, it’s just the reverse of that, they have a big dish-shaped mirror aimed at the sky, and it gathers up light from a distant star and sends it to a lens which focusses it into a beam, and that goes into the eyepiece so the light from that star looks many times brighter”.  He hesitated again, so I encouraged with “Yup”.  “Your eye is a lot like that, light comes in and gets focussed by a lens on a dish-shaped collector at the back, and your brain is connected to that collector and that is how you see”.

Another “yup” from me, and he finished with “So my theory is this. Your eye works like the telescope so you can see, but I think it works in reverse like the lighthouse too.  So the dish-shaped back of your eye puts out some kind of nervous energy, and the lens focusses it and sends it out like a beam to whatever you are looking at.”

“Good theory,” says I, “but you need some evidence. I don’t see anybody getting sliced up like I am shooting out a laser or anything like that”.  He went on “OK, supposing we can sense that beam.  If you look at the back of somebodies head intently for a bit, you will see him get fidgety, then look around kind of nervous.  And sometimes when you are alone and get the feeling somebody is near, you look around and by golly there is somebody in the room.  My theory is we are picking up on that beam.”  “Could be”, says I, thinking that my old buddy is getting kind of weird, and I will be happier when this conversation ends.

Told my neighbour Joe about this weird conversation, thinking he would laugh, but he took it very seriously. “There’s lots of stuff we can’t explain, like out-of-body experiences where somebody floats out of his body and sees things his eyes can’t see.  And psychics who can see something happening miles away.”  A pause, then “Did you ever notice in a group some people attract lots of attention while others seem almost invisible?  I think they call that ‘charisma’.  I think it is just some of us put out more of some kind of energy, maybe it is through their eyes like your buddy suggests.  Our science doesn’t have all the answers”.

Wow. I was sure Joe would call me a nitwit for even listening to the guy’s ideas.  You just never know.

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SASQUATCH

THE CONTRARIAN

Here is a story run as a series of articles in some small weeklies, melded into one post

Part 1   April, 1987 was a disastrous month for the Fisher family.  Our farm was visited by a Sasquatch, with the result that our teen-age children were all bullied, ridiculed, marginalized, and we were branded hoaxers in search of publicity for some undescribed purpose.  First some background, then the story.

Our pasture was a fence around 80 acres of bush, with miles of trails made by a bulldozer willy-nilly all over it. The cows made a cowpath, a foot or two wide, worn down to bare earth, down the centre of all these trails.  Our animals were free to wander this pasture, but of course in winter they stayed around the barnyard, so in April these paths were undisturbed sloppy mud.

My wife Louise had no problem going back to sleep if disturbed in the night, while I did, so at lambing time I would check the sheep before bedtime, and she would get up at 3 am or so and go check again – lambs born outside in March do not survive for long.  One night in late March, 1987, she had the sensation of being watched while wandering around the barnyard at 3 am, so strongly that she fled to the house, and I had to take up the night inspection from then on, sleep-deprived or not.

On April 7, 1987, a beautiful evening, snow mostly gone, I decided to go spread some granular fertilizer by hand along those trails making up our pasture, and in doing so came across a procession of very unusual tracks. With cattle and horses and sheep and kids out there, and remembering my wife’s experience a few weeks before, I felt I had to take the matter to the MNR.

The game wardens response was that it was probably just a bear; still, not one but three of them came out to look, carrying a 12 gauge shotgun just in case. They were able to trace the creatures’ trail for about a quarter of a mile on those muddy cowpaths until he went into heavy bush.  After consultation, their spokesman said to me “this is not any animal known to us, therefore it is a police matter, and we will leave it in your hands.”  That implies a hoax of course, but we both knew that was not the case – it was obviously impossible for a hoaxer to make such a trail and leave no sign.  After a bit of silence he added under his breath “I wouldn’t say the word ‘sasquatch’ if there was one lying dead at my feet.”

With what I know now, I would have taken the same tack, it could have been worth his job and certainly his reputation. So that was no help with my concern that a strange creature was hanging around my pasture, but as matters developed we had a lot more concern about people than about strange critters in the next weeks.

My wife’s coffee group inspected the tracks the next day, and took a plaster cast of one. It is sort of like a human foot, but flat, no instep, and very wide, with big strong toes.  It had flat toenails, not claws, and the cast even showed a fingerprint pattern.

Part 2   Part one told of the appearance of about a quarter mile of Sasquatch tracks on the Fisher farm.  Word spread like wildfire, and within a couple of days literally hundreds of people came to look at the tracks.  Many more stayed away and scoffed at us, our whole family was scarred by the ridicule we took.

The Observer even sent out a reporter, a nice young lady fresh from the city journalism school, wearing white jeans and running shoes, with her yellow sweater tied by the sleeves around her neck, and her sunglasses pushed up into her hair. My wife was one of the nicest people you would meet; unlike me, she never argued with anyone (if she disagreed with what you said, she would just smile and say “that’s nice”).  After some conversation, she offered to lend the young lady a pair of farmer’s high rubber boots to go see the tracks.  She refused, obviously such footwear would not go with her image, even after my wife reminded her they would be going through a barnyard in April (!), then wading through shallow mud and water out to the site.

To avoid the manure, Louise took her around the barnyard where they had to cross a substantial fence. Louise explained we needed such a fence to keep the wolves out of the sheep, and even so occasionally one gets killed by wolves.  “So, what do you do when that happens?” from the young lady.  From Louise “Oh, we just call the trapper whose territory this is, but he doesn’t have much luck – “ interrupted by “What kind of trap does he use?”.  Louise kind of lost it then, and answered “I am sure he follows the law, but I really don’t care, if you saw one of your pet lambs torn apart and half-eaten you probably wouldn’t either!”

The reporter, by now her white jeans spattered with mud and her running shoes a mess, said “Well, I think you are a horrible person if you don’t care about the wildlife, and anyway this is obviously a hoax!” and she started back. Louise trudged back the shorter route through the barnyard; she thought she heard a wail “How will I get back” and ignored it, and after a while the car drove away.  Good thing, the last thing we needed was more publicity.

The above is a bit of fun at the expense of the green reporter from the city, but I do not fault her, the majority of people would agree with her. We were astonished that people we thought were friends suddenly became distant.  People instinctively dislike and avoid the unknown.

Part 3   Here are some comments which came to us from assorted people after our unfortunate Bigfoot encounter.

“I have been a trapper all my life, but I never saw anything like those tracks.   I figure the creature walked on its hind legs with about a 3 foot stride, but in a slouchy way, flat-footed and pigeon-toed with each step directly in front of the last, which is not how people walk (here he demonstrated his idea of the stride).  He must have weighed at least 500 pounds by the way he sunk in the mud of the cow-trails he was following.  It was definitely not human.”

“We live about a mile west, across the river. About the time of the Fisher’s event, our (pretty big) dog went roaring off into the bush one evening, then we heard a loud scream, then a heavy thump as something struck the house.  When we looked out, there was the dog, laying there unconscious as though he had been picked up and thrown against the door.”

(a neighbour) “I was out in the back yard when my neighbour up on her elevated deck hollered ‘look at that, there is a bear running on his hind legs across the big field behind our places’. By the time I got up there it was gone.  That was a day or two after the Fisher’s encounter”

“About 1975 I was riding along a country road south of Minnitaki on my old Scorpion snowmobile, when a big cat jumped over the snowbank in front of me, I think he was just crossing the road and surprised to see me, he ran alongside for a bit before he jumped the other snowbank and went on his way. He had a long tail, clearly a cougar and not a Lynx or Bobcat, but the Ministry just laughed at me, ‘no cougars here’, they said.  Of course now they accept we do have cougars.  So maybe one day they will stop laughing at your Sasquatch”.

(A couple of years later) “I stopped at Max Nauman’s store at Dinorwic on my way to Sioux Lookout, and there was a car in the yard full of an American family. They were all excited; they said they were on their way down from Sioux Lookout when they got pictures of a black hairy creature bigger than a man or bear, walking on its hind legs.  They said it crossed the highway just ahead of them, so they got some good pictures.  I figure that would have been in the summer of 1987.”

A final note on local Sasquatch stories, there was a well-publicized sighting of a very large such creature near Waldhof, I think back in the 20’s.

Part 4, a sequel   The world has changed in the past 30 years, and apparently it is no longer socially unacceptable to talk about unexplained things like the Sasquatch.  I got no scornful commentary on my Bigfoot story after it appeared in nespapers, and feel emboldened to add a subscript.

You might recall Louise’s ladies circle made a plaster cast of one of the Sasquatch footprints. As previously noted, many people were very skeptical of our story, and would ask to see the cast.  They would say “Oh, look, it even has fingerprints”, while rubbing same so the fingerprints gradually disappeared.  One even said “Ooops”, as he dropped it and it broke into several pieces.  So I made a display case for it, gluing it to the back of the case, so folks could see but not touch.

Some twenty years after our event, my brother sent me his Alumni Journal from Western University, which featured a paper on “Cryptobiology”, by John Bindernagel, Professor of Cryptobiology from UBC. Cryptobiology is the study of evidence of unknown species; I didn’t know there was such a thing till then.     I thought Professor Bindernagel would appreciate knowing about our experience, and I sent him a copy of the report I had sent MNR at the time of our incident.  He was very interested, and after some correspondence we agreed that I would send him our plaster cast, for his evaluation and to add to his rather large collection of Bigfoot casts.

Unfortunately the cast came loose and rattled around in its case while in transit and was broken into a number of pieces. It was so damaged that the good professor did not want to add it to his collection, but at the same time he was reluctant to send it back in case of more damage.  As it happened I was travelling to Vancouver Island a year or two later, so I brought it home.  It is in several pieces, the fingerprints are barely to be found, and even the toenails (not claws) are not as easily seen, so it is much less dramatic because of its travel misadventures.

I had a long conversation with Professor Bindernagel at his house when I picked up the cast, and I have since bought a copy of his book “North America’s Great Ape – The Sasquatch” – a good, factual, not evangelical read. He pointed out that my cast is like the others he has in that it is less like a human foot than like a human hand with an elongated palm and toes instead of fingers and thumb.  There is a pronounced crease across it like that on your palm, no arches, and no ‘ball’ like the ball of your foot.  Also it is very coarse and heavy, definitely not a ballet dancer.

Otherwise, he said it is unusual, being much smaller than others in his collection, perhaps indicative of an immature animal (we have all seen how adolescent beavers and skunks are kicked out of their home and get killed on our highways as they search for a new one; perhaps that was what was happening here). It is much more tapered than most; the toe portion is much bigger in proportion to the heel.  This could just be reflective of the particular track the ladies selected to make the cast, or maybe we have our own Northwest Ontario species; his other casts are all from the west.  Anyway, I still have the cast, still in its case but broken up some.  Enough Sasquatch.

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PROPORTIONAL REPRESTENTATION

THE CONTRARIAN

 

The colonial system. All the smart worthy people live in the center, and the rest live in the colonies.  This creates a powerful drag, almost like gravity, moving everything toward the center, the biggest city.  It works at all levels, from the bigger village, the bigger town, the bigger city, growing at the expense of their smaller neighbours.

Left to run its course, there is no hinterland left, just one Megacity which without a hinterland is unsupportable. The civilization collapses, and we are left with a desert with a collection of stone artifacts for future archeologists to marvel at.  “What a marvellous civilization, I wonder why it disappeared?”

The Constitution put in place by our British masters included a geography-based Senate to safeguard against this happening, sort of modeled on the British House of Lords. But without the inherited, may I say rich, peerage as a base, it was weak, and we see the move to the city is happening.

This gravitational pull to bigness has also had an effect on the US, but their geography-based Electoral College system of electing their president provides at least some countering force. Without it, the President would always be elected by the big cities, to the detriment of the regions.  The lefty-loony press has made a case that Clinton got more votes than Trump in total, which proves that the Electoral College system is undemocratic.  Apparently they are unaware or uncaring that the popular vote was hugely based in the big urban areas; if California is left out of the equation, Trump won the popular vote.  Apparently they are unaware or uncaring that the country is called the United States for a reason, it is a collection of States, and all the States need a say.

The Electoral College system is really the only force they have to counter that gravitational pull to the center, and without it they would join us in going down that colonial path to one big unsustainable city, then oblivion.

Our government structure and democracy was destroyed some 50 years ago, when we allowed all decision-making power to be concentrated in the “Prime Minister’s Office”. Power was transferred from Parliament to the Prime Minister by allowing parties to impose rigid party discipline – members must vote on party lines, and are therefore robots – their only function is to win the election. We compounded this by giving the Prime Minister the right to appoint the Senate, the Governor-General and Lieutenant-Governors along with the Supreme Court Justices.  Sort of like allowing the prisoner to appoint his prison warden and all the guards, or allowing the Shop Lead Hand to appoint all of Management.

This gave our Prime Minister more power than the American President or for that matter any feudal king or queen – in effect the Prime Minister is a powerful King, the Queen is merely a figurehead. The only limit on his power is our periodic elections.

Even though our geography-based Senate has been neutered by allowing the PM to appoint senators, and our geography-based Parliament is almost neutered by the PMO system, we still see a cry from the city for some kind of ‘proportional representation’. This will remove even our last resort, our (sort-of)  geography-based elections, and  there will be absolutely no avenue for any opinion but the big cities to be heard.  We are doomed.

Australia is even further down this centralization path than we are; there are vast empty spaces between the few big cities. We already see pressures to empty northern and rural Ontario, witness the ‘Provincial Planning Policy’ and “Investing in People-creating a human capital society for Ontario”, blueprints created by the province to move everybody to big cities.

So we can pretty confidently predict an end to our civilization, as we collapse into one or a few unsustainable big cities surrounded by empty space. Some future archeologist will marvel at the wreckage of the CN tower, and puzzle over massive blobs of concrete scattered among the best farm land.  He will probably guess these are landing pads for spacecraft – I bet he will never guess they were just foundations for Don Quixote type windmills!

 

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TALE OF TWO CITIES

THE CONTRARIAN

One city, call it Ernie, is growing rapidly, with a solid industrial base, vast natural resources, highly educated and well paid work force, low taxes, up-to-date municipal infrastructure, new residential developments happening all over.  Surrounded by natures resources, a tourism mecca.  A regional shopping and service center with great highway and rail connections.

The other, call it Bert, is primarily a farm district service center, and the rural population is shrinking as farms get larger. It is close to a large city, whose better shopping and service providers are putting pressure on local businesses.  Modern infrastructure needs are difficult to provide in this depressed environment.  It is much smaller than Ernie in every way, less educated, more provincial and isolated.

Can’t recognize them? OK, the picture above is how it was in the 50’s, or even 60’s.  Some of you might have recognized that Ernie is Dryden, and Bert is Steinbach, Manitoba, as they were fifty or so years ago.

Fast forward to now. Ernie’s (Dryden) population has remained the same, or even shrunk.  No new housing developments in 20 years.  Empty storefronts.  Airport on life support.  Deteriorating municipal infrastructure.  Industry under attack.

Bert (Steinbach), on the other hand, has been thriving. Its rural population has stopped declining, while its urban population has doubled or even tripled during those 50 years.

So, what happened? It would be easy to dismiss it as Ernie, Ontario versus Bert, Manitoba.  While the province’s utter cluelessness as to what its clumsy actions have done and are doing to the north is an important factor in the decline of Northern Ontario, that is not the whole story.

We could blame it on the County system, local politics; our communities fight each other like cats in a bag.  But that is too simple, although I do have a need to do a column on that subject.

We could blame it on our Northern Ontario anti-entrepreneur culture, “business should be done by big companies from somewhere else, who does he think he is trying to start his own business, he should go work in the mine or the mill like everybody else.” Sure, that is part of it.

But all of these together do not explain what is happening; I believe the biggest factor is attitude. Steinbach people see their town as their home, best place on earth, we are not going anywhere.  Too many of us here in Northern Ontario see our towns as substandard, terrible weather, not a good place to live, offering limited opportunities; under attack and endangered, the grass looks greener almost everywhere else.  Steinbach folks look for ways to work together to make their town succeed, they invest both money and effort/time/attitude in their town, while we look for an angel to come from somewhere else to save us, be it a new industry or new chain store or whatever, and fear to invest in our own town lest it disappear.

Part of Dryden’s recent general self-destruction was the destroying of its active and enterprising Economic Development initiative, leaving only one employee with no budget or authority. It is very encouraging to see we are looking at how to put some positive attitude in place in the form of a renewed Economic Development initiative.  Applause to Mayor Wilson and his re-energized new staff, perhaps Dryden will one day outshine Steinbach again!

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