--- An Adventure in the West---

---In the high and far off times 1947 O Best Beloved we took a walkabout where I discovered some things about myself and the world.---

Continuing our journey, we crossed Puget Sound by another ferry and spent the night in Bothell Washington before crossing Snoqualmie Pass to end up in Cle Elum Washington where I was allowed to buy a bottle of Squirt from a cooler at a service station where we got petrol (gas). Over the door was a curious sign. It read "No Colored". In spite of my experience the day before, I pestered Jim for an answer as to the meaning. Surprisingly, I didn't stir his anger. Instead, he simply told me that negroes, black or any colored people were not permitted on the premises and were to be denied any and all services. This was my first encounter with the overt racism that prevailed in America then and I came to realize that it was largely accepted as normal. Racism and prejudice were not restricted to America I had encountered it in Britain and would encounter it frequently in Canada and throughout the world. It is pervasive especially when it hides in plain sight.

We spent a hot night in Vantage Washington on the Columbia River and lost our cat, never to be seen again. Sybil was sad. Jim wasn't. We were travelling on the route that today is Interstate 90. It was no Interstate then. Crossing hot dry country we arrived in Spokane. Jim seemed familiar with Spokane. He took us to Spokane Falls and regaled "Mummy" with stories about a woman from his past, one he called, "Spokane Lil" Sybil was not amused. The next morning we went into Idaho and passed through Coeur d'Alene, Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry. Back in Canada, the generator on our Model A failed and we drove into darkness without headlights trying to conserve the battery. Finally, we had to stop in Yahk BC. We were destined to stay in an old auto court on the Moyie River for a week. Jim found the one garage in Yahk. The mechanic discovered that the generator's commutator ring that held the brushes was broken. Spare parts were scarce in cities, They were non-existent in hamlets like Yahk. The part was located in Kimberley and needed to be sent to Yahk by bus. We waited. We were in the mountains and the river was supposed to be full of trout and the woods full of game but I never saw anything. Jim and Sybil's nerves were frayed. They argued. Jim, much more comfortable with the solitude, got up and left. "Mummy" quickly concluded that wilderness living was not for her. Moreover, being stranded in Yahk was definitely not for her.

I met a girl my age. She was pretty. She was having a camping holiday with her family. She wanted to know why I talked so funny. I told her I was English. Our dog Pixie, a pekinese, named for my grandfather's wartime pet. became the centre of a fantasy I concocted to peak the girl's interest. I told her Pixie was a circus dog and could do wonderful tricks. Pixie was my victim. I was cruel. The little animal did somersaults and other things primarily because I threw her in the air. In this childish silly self-aggrandizement. I learned a lot about myself. I really was flawed and in trying to get something for myself, I was prepared to victimize others to achieve my end. That night Jim whacked me for being cruel. This time he was right and I was dead wrong. Eventually the parts arrived from Kimberley. The car was repaired and we resumed our journey. The girl passed out of view. I never saw her again. Brief encounters like this are part of every existence. They become a part of the unique fabric of our lives whether we remember them or not.

Cranbrook came and went and we ascended into the Crowsnest Pass. The roads we travelled were more dangerous than the traffic. They were often narrow, precarious and free of all guard rails. As darkness fell and the moon rose, the Model A equipped with poor mechanical brakes struggled along. Sybil looked out her window and saw the tree tops reflected in the moonlight. She said she was enchanted by all the wonderful Christmas trees. I looked and gasped. Out my window I was looking down, straight down, what appeared to be hundreds of feet. We were driving on the very edge of a precipice. "Mummy" was looking at the very tops of a giant forest. Jim said nothing. "Mummy" was happy. I was scared shitless. Such were mountain highways in 1947. Thank God it was summer.

We crossed the Alberta border and came to the town of Frank. Jim knew the area and gave us a travelogue. Frank was close to Turtle Mountain. A good chunk of Turtle Mountain was gone leaving a massive scar and rock strewn over the landscape. Some of the boulders were more than huge. It seems the mountain fell on the town. I wondered about Canada and the Rocky Mountains. The previous evening we could have fallen off a mountain. Today, we were at a place where a mountain could and did fall on you. Sybil was silent. In 1947, 44 years after the slide the scene was still utter devastation. It seems that on April 29, 1903 at 4:10 am 90 million tons off rock slid of the mountain and buried part the town and its coal mine. According to history this all took 100 seconds, less than 2 minutes. Jim related the legend that the sole survivor was an infant girl found on top of one of the gigantic boulders. She became known as "Frankie". The legend wasn't true. Today, in Frank or on the Internet you can get much closer to the truth. Only part of the town was destroyed still nearly 100 lost their lives. Most were buried and never found. Still, the sight was frighteningly impressive to "Mummy" and I. having survived nearly 6 years of war we had travelled thousands of miles to a peaceful land where mountains fell on people.

I'd like to make more of my time in Alberta but it was so brief and so long ago. It was supposed to be a new start for Jim in familiar surroundings. It wasn't! He installed us in a downtown hotel on the second floor over some stores and disappeared apparently to find work. Over the weeks, we went to a ranch, cows and horses. nothing like a western movie. Someone called me a "slimy limey" who talked funny and was tied to the "apron strings". Bullying apparently was a big Canadian pastime. I think I rode a horse named Poison. He hated cold saddle blankets and the cowboys had to kick him in the stomach to get the cinch tight. I was warned that he would bite and rub my leg on any fence he could find. At that ranch everybody had 'fun" with me. I stepped on something. They all said it was a diamondback rattlesnake. I hate snakes so I threw a "hissy fit". I never did see what it was. Jim good-naturedly enjoyed my humiliation.

One night, Jim and Sybil had a heated argument. The next morning we packed our bags and headed back to Victoria. The return journey was much faster. "Mummy couldn't get back quickly enough. The Model A's battery failed coming off the Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles. Helping hands pushed the car on to the dock. I thought I saw Sybil kiss the ground. She did not leave Vancouver Island again until 1977. Jim installed us in the Balmoral Hotel at Broughton and Douglas Streets in downtown Victoria. Yes, the second floor above the shops.