At Home

As part of our preparation for a new book of my paintings from across Canada, we spent an enjoyable interlude in the Jasper area. We did a needed visit to a laundromat in Hinton, Alberta, just east of Jasper National Park on our journey to Vancouver Island. I was surprised to find an Internet hook-up ($1 for 10 minutes). This busy place also had a bulletin board that I perused while waiting for the laundry.

A free community space brings out so many aspects of an area that do not appear in any travel guide. My apologies to the C.A.A., but even though their guide books are very comprehensive with hard data about hotels, roads and tourist spots, they cannot convey the flavour of an area as well as a simple corkboard can.

Next to the photocopied advertisement for the local seamstress was the offering for sale of a Honda Goldwing, a Browning rifle, a “hardly” used computer, some attractive maternity clothes, and a notice for a Bible study. “No Offering,” it said, in large printing underneath the time and place for the Bible study.

A slight blond woman in this establishment was doing washing for oil rig guys. The machines that she used were especially designated for “extra dirty” laundry. She schlepped bags of wash to and fro from an extended white van parked right by the door. I got the idea that she ran this cleaning service for many grease monkeys working on rigs stashed deep in the bush.

I had the chance to visit many of these sites years ago when I painted a series of pieces for Murphy Oil. These roustabouts are strong young men eager to make a great deal of money in the oil patch, often as a grubstake for some further adventure. Let’s just say that hygiene is not a priority for them. I am surprised that they actually wash those clothes when their use as a barbeque fire starter is so obvious.

Although the coal mines in the area were running short of both coal and contracts, the oil business continues as does the tourist traffic in this area within Jasper National Park. The dramatic mountainscapes as well as the wildlife continue to fascinate the many tourists who flood this area in the summer. Skiing is popular here in the winter, of which, a local barber told me, they get too much.

As we drove toward Maligne Lake, we were halted by some confusion on the road ahead. Cars were not parked, but rather just abandoned, as people leapt from their vehicles to take photographs of a young bear grazing for lunch only twenty feet off the road’s shoulder. Ignoring the tourists, he ambled along, turned over logs and shook bushes. I thought it most unwise that people did not heed the warning given in all Parks Canada material to stay in their cars when they saw a bear. Bears, the notice said, were unpredictable.

I heard a radio interview with Ian Miller, the well-known equestrian, in which he said that in competition riding you can go from the penthouse to the outhouse very quickly. I would assume that in an encounter with a bear, the same principle applies.