The Canadian years,13, the Rocky mountains

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Monday 17 November 13:30

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The three sisters

‘Oh dear,’ said my sister,’ the minister has forgotten his cards’. Throw them away’, replied my father, ‘they stink, they have gone through his blessing hands’. He took a last sip of his coffee and put on his coat.’ I'll be back quickly’, he warned us, I will take the car and fill it up and then we can make our first ride in our new country. He gave my mother a kiss and walked away with heavy tread, out of the house. ‘I just have a feeling that the pastor is not going to come past here for some time’, said  my brother. I was sure he wouldn’t, I had seen the fear of God in his eyes before sprinting away.

 ‘Oh pastor, pastor,’ my mother said, he probably got his degree with a packet of butter, I never found him very bible secure.’ That was quite a statement for my mom to make, my mother never criticized people. My sister cleared the cups, and sang : tarara boembie jay, the fat pastoray , he has  burned his bum on the stove’ s end.’

 In short, we were over the shock, which could probably not be said of the almost martyrs of the first Protestant church in Bowness. We put our coats on and walked with my brother once around the house. There was a side strip of a meter or two on either side of the house and a small front garden bordering on the sidewalk without a fence. Behind the house was a deep garden with a garage at the end. Behind our lot ran an 'alley', a dirt road, a dirt road to get to your garage, than you had at the other side a backyard with a house and that house bordered with its front on the 13th Street North West. The alley was just wide enough for two cars to pass each other.

There was something that you noticed immediately about the alley. All along the alley was a line of heavy wooden poles, it were electricity poles, there was an overhead line going to each home. It  lokked ugly but it made sense though, when the ground is frozen hard eight months of the year you want easier ascess to yor lines. the same was true for the phone, everything was above ground  hanging in long loops between the heavy wooden poles. In the Netherlands all had been underground, but that was a country that was much smaller and experienced much less colder winters. After a few months you did not know better and you did not see it anymore.

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In the distance we heard a squeaking noise quite swelling up,  as a small car came whistling in a cloud of dust, storming through the alley. ‘What's that’, my brother said? The gray-blue car came screeching to a halt. It was a bug, but not like one of the modern Arab friends of my brother’s, this one was really old. The squeaking and whistling came from the air-cooled engine. My father got out, ‘are you ready,’ he asked enthusiastically? My father had bought a beetle and I had imagined  us coasting in a large American car. It was clear,there was no major oil company anymore who picked up all the bills, my father had become a civil servant and he had bought himself a humble car.

It fit with my father and mother in the front and we three children in the back, which was already quite tight with the ’little ones’ on our lap. Seven of us in a beetle. My father was a big man and the little bit of space that we had, disappeared when he slid his seat back. We were packed like sardines in a can. German engineering is to be praised, the car just drove away and we left a little later Calgary behind us. I sucked in all the new vistas and impressions like a sponge. The scenery was impressive. Where In Europe, built houses in a final stage, are surrounded by a planted park or forest, here were spots of a forest cut down to accommodate villages. As far as the eye could see hills, pine trees and mountains. Occasionally you caught a glimpse of the Bowriver that meandered along. It could not be denied, we were really incredible tight and uncomfortable. The ride to Banff would take an hour. The distance was only 70 miles, but throughout North America, the maximum speed is 70 miles, it would take at least an hour.

We had to brake suddenly, there was a long string of cars just standing still, some with emergency lights on. A herd of moose came crossing the Trans Canada highway. The Moose staggered about inelegantly with a hump in their necks and made no real hurry to get across. Some had huge antlers. Antlers that deviated from a deer antler, which counts one point per year. This was hand shaped. The adult moose were about as big as a horse, big, but more solid. ‘You should not get that against your car, at night’ said my father. They weighed a 1000 pounds easily. No one honked, people simply waited for the crossing to pass by. A few stood beside their car and took pictures of the whole scene. Moments later the cars were moving again, ‘that was very special and lovely’, mused my mother. At the end of the day we had gotten used to crossing wildlife, it had become quite common.

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At the height of lake Minnewanka a sign with an arrow and a text showed an alternative route to Banff.  My father followed it immediately. Now we really bounced all over the place, we had another learning opportunity in the new homeland. If you leave the Trans Canada highway you come instantaneously on dirt roads with all the potholes in them. They are hardened a bit by spraying each year a layer of used motor oil over them and then they are scraped by a large machine to a more or less smooth path, for as long as it takes. Green Peace had yet to find its origin in Canada, and Canadians found it very simply to combat dust, with oil. It was fortunately not long before we arrived at a beautiful mountain lake. A group of frightened quails first, ran a good start away, and then flew off. We rolled out of the car. The beetle was a two-door car and the front seats had to be folded over, before the five of us in the rear were freed.

We stretched our legs and we could just not believe how clear the water of the lake was. ‘How come,’ my brother said, ‘that it is not frozen over’ and he obviously thought of the ice fishermen in Bowness.’ That is’, my father said, ’because this area has springs, hot springs, which are called thermal baths. There is a place nearby where we will soon pass, which is called ‘Radium hot springs’, ‘you can bathe all year round, even in winter. It is a spa resort.’ My father was himself a source, a current source of knowledge. How much could fit in his head? I was impressed and a little angry at myself that my brother had noticed that Minnewanka lake was ice-free and I hadn’t, but it was great to stretch the legs.

Moments later, we were bouncing about again on the dirt road.’ We are almost there,’ said my father, ‘can you see those three mountains there, those are the 'three sisters' and they lie just outside of Banff. ‘But first some coffee, please’ said my mother, because I could do with one.’ My father sent the blue-gray colossus back on the tarmac and just outside Banff we stopped at a tavern which made clear by way of a sign that refills were free. ‘What does that mean,’asked my sister? My father said, ‘if you take coffee, they fill you up for free.’ That applies only to coffee.’ We sat in a coffee shop, where only coffee was served with a free refill. My parents took coffee and we took a coke and something I've always stayed addicted to: apple pie and ice cream. A nice warm piece of apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting over it.

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The waitress started a chat, there were not many customers and she tried to befriend customers that way. ‘Whether we came from away?’ ‘Yes,’said  my mother, ‘we live in Calgary’. ‘Oh, that's fairly near’ answered the woman. We would stop there for years on end for a coffee with 'pie'.’ We have just seen a herd of moose,’ said my mother. That is at least better than the bears here,’ the waitress said. ‘I want them to start their hibernation. You’ve got to be really careful in the morning when you go to the garbage pails. They have not eaten enough berries this summer.’ Hungry, huh’, In the spring, after hibernation it is worse, then they come right up to your front door. ‘Yes, that keeps the customers away.’ I could picture that. I would not leave my car if a few bears hung around at the entrance. ‘Can you do anything about it’, I asked?’ I take an empty can along with stones when I go outside.’ ‘It seems that they have sensitive ears and then I rattle the stones’, she answered.

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‘Where are you going to’, she asked my father? ‘We will explore Banff a bit,’ said my father, ‘and then we will go back.’ ‘Then you’ll be done fast enough’, the woman said, ‘out here we have 10 blocks of houses and a petrol station and then you have had it’. ‘Next week we'll be back’, said my father,’ but then we want to go to Johnston Canyon.’ ‘Oh,’ the waitress said, ‘it's been a while since I've been ther,e but it is definitely worth it’. We were waved off and we climbed all together in to blue gray monstrosity. Moments later we had seen the 10 blocks and the road led us back towards Calgary.

San Daniel 2014

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god bless english language very well done San-Daniel