Teutons and Moosery – 22/07/06
It was an unexpected start to our first season.
Last month, returning to the ranch one sunny afternoon, Kristin came upon three over-sized red-headed German tourists spread out comfortably in our garden around one of our refurbished picnic tables.
They had unloaded their lunch onto its pristine olive-green surface – I know it was pristine because I painted it only a few weeks ago – and were chomping away happily.
Anyone else might have felt abashed to have been caught in the act of a surreptitious lunch in somebody else’s front garden when the owner returns unexpectedly.
Not these hearty souls. “Where are the grizzly bears?” one of them demanded with a less than humble tilt of the nose as he stuffed a tasty morsel into his gullet.
Kristin, as ever, was reasonable. She let the tourists finish their lunch before waving them on their way. I would have been less understanding.
The name Grizzly Bear Ranch seems to be causing all kinds of confusion among this year’s crop of Canada-bound Europeans.
“You breed grizzly bears? We would like to see them,” said an Austrian couple who showed up with two small kids in a camper van the size of a small housing project.
“Well, no, we don’t actually breed them,” I tried to explain. “But the name,” the man countered. “You are a Grizzly Bear Ranch, no?”
Feeling guilty we invited them in for coffee. For the next hour their offspring jumped on the sofas, slapped the windows, kicked the television and teased the dogs.
I made the mistake of proferring a bit of my schoolboy German and in return was bombarded with a half-hour of Teutonic tongue-twisters. So much for good PR.
Another regular, who never fails to shake up the neighbourhood, is a local RCMP constable who seems to have made it his mission in life to bring law and order to our wayward valley.
He spends much of his time up here hunting down people who ride quads on the road (technically illegal) and checking for unlicenced guns (soon to be legal). As for the acres of pot, which is the mainstay of the local economy, they seem to go largely unremarked.
The last time I met the constable was about two weeks ago in a neighbour’s garage.
As he approached, a huge array of gadgety strapped to his uniform, I was standing holding a large butcher’s knife, splattered in blood and body parts.
That morning, my neighbour had dispatched a moose that had been badly hurt on the road with a shot to the head. He had summoned me to help skin and butcher the unfortunate animal.
I had never butchered so much as a mouse but I joined in the grisly task. Soon even my hair was full of clumps of flesh and blood as my neighbour, a past master at moosery, took a chainsaw to its spinal column.
Perhaps unwisely, I invited the two teenage sons of a friend who was staying to watch the spectacle. For the elder of the two the sight of the deceased cross-eyed moose proved too much. He went down like the proverbial sack of potatoes.
The kids, as it turned out, were also German.
The poor boy’s suffering was compounded that afternoon, when, barely recovered from the morning’s ordeal and still a little shaky, he watched his team sink to Italy in the World Cup semi-finals.
As for the Mounties’ finest, my knife-wielding, blood-splattered aspect did little to worry them.
Anywhere else this may have elicited suspicion but up here in redneckland, it barely raised an eyebrow.
The constable, in any case, is, by his own admission, after bigger fish.
He once confided that he was hell-bent on finding a mysterious black helicopter that apparently flies around our lonely valley at night.
“Had I seen it?” he asked. “No,” I replied, ignoring the temptation to ennumerate the logistical difficulties of spotting anything black at night.
“Had I heard about it?” “No.”
“Did I know anything about helicopters? Have a helicopter? Helicopters ever visit?” “No, No, No.”
Three or four weeks later, a helicopter did indeed visit. As is the custom up here in the mountains, one of the local pilots, who does logging runs and the like, was dropping by to introduce himself.
As the chopper lowered its lozenge-shaped body over our ranch, the horses began to gallop in panic. Inch by careful inch it descended over our large field.
It was at that very moment that the constable decided to pay a return visit. Just as the chopper touched down he came floating down our drive in a late-model police pick-up. (Even the cops drive pick-ups up here.)
The smile on the face of the helicopter pilot turned to a slight frown as the saw the squad car glide to a halt and the constable emerge with a face like thunder.
“I’ll be on my way,” he muttered.
Needless to say the officer was not interested in my breezy explanations as to what the pilot was up to. He clearly saw conspiracy writ large.
Next month we have a booking from three Californian couples who are each planning on arriving in their own helicopter. Not exactly western Canada on a shoestring.
“What are your GPS co-ordinates?” one of them asked, which had us scrambling to Google Earth.
(For the record they are 50*24’34” North, 117*06’50” West.)
I only hope that the constable doesn’t chose August 1 to make his next visit to our innocent, little valley.
I’m sure that no amount of explaining would convince him that a show of such blatant aeronautical prowess could be occasioned by anything as innocent as a summer holiday.