Along the Trail: Dis­cov­ery

The Victoria Standard - - Heritage / Culture - CHUCK THOMPSON

Our re­cent jaunts across this great coun­try of ours led me to re­al­ize, even dis­cover, a cou­ple of salient Facts.

Now, these are not dis­cov­er­ies like un­coil­ing the se­cret of DNA or Lewis and Clark’s treks to open up the West. No, they are much more mod­est than that, but for me, at least, note­wor­thy. The first less-than- earth­shat­ter­ing dis­cov­ery is just how large and di­verse Canada re­ally is. I mean, on a ra­tio­nal level I knew that, but you still have to ex­pe­ri­ence it to get a sense of it all. We jumped a red eye out of Vic­to­ria, flew all day at 6-700 MPH and never reached the end of the coun­try be­fore tuck­ing into the sheets. Huge. It’s on a scale that as­tounds most Euro­peans and leaves them in awe and won­der. Me too. We started on one ocean and ended at an­other as the sun set and still never reached New­found­land (which, of course, was a good thing as we weren’t go­ing to New­found­land).

The sec­ond thing I no­ticed is that, although Canada is ge­o­graph­i­cally im­mense, the pop­u­la­tion is small enough (33 mil­lion or so), that no matter where you are, you al­ways meet some­one who knows some­one you know. Al­ways. For ex­am­ple, be­fore we left on our voy­age we had made e-mail con­tact with an old Bad­deck ac­quain­tance and agreed to meet up. As it turned out, the meet­ing up was a lot harder than the e-mail part. We drove up is­land and, although we knew we were close, we couldn’t find the place where our friend lived. So, I pulled into a drive­way and asked di­rec­tions.

The guy was friend­lier than a pound puppy, go­ing into great de­tail about how and where to find our spot. Of course he asked “where are you folks from?” When I told him that we were from Cape Bre­ton, he said “Never been, but my neigh­bour two doors down is from there.” Not want­ing to get into the prover­bial ‘who’s your father’ kind of dis­cus­sion, I thanked him and left, even­tu­ally find­ing my way.

Two weeks later we got an­other e-mail from an­other ex-pat Cape Bre­toner want­ing us to visit. Af­ter we got the di­rec­tions we again mo­tored up is­land and, you guessed it, landed at the doorstep of our friend who it turned out was the two-doors-down neigh­bour from two weeks be­fore.

On our flight from Vic­to­ria, the AIR­BUS 300 was jammed full, filled to the rafters, over 250 peo­ple. Ann and I ended up in separate rows so I chat­ted up my new seat mates and we had a grand gab fest for five hours. Of course I for­got that my ears tend to make me talk in a man­ner loud enough to cause static in­ter­fer­ence in the cock­pit.

As we be­gan to get up and move to the aisle, a head ap­peared over the head­rest just ahead of me.

“Did I hear you say you are from Mid­dle River?” No doubt, I thought. “Yes, I am, why?” The gen­tle­man replied, “Do you know Kelsey Ellsworth; he’s a cousin of mine!”

And so it goes, com­plete strangers who know some­one you know and want you to share that knowl­edge. It’s kind of neat. I’m not sure if that is what makes us Cana­dian but it surely is part of our cul­ture.

** As ev­ery­one knows by now the ink stained ba­ton has been passed from Jim Morrow to Andrew Brooks here at the Stan­dard. I would be re­miss if I did not take a mo­ment to for­mally thank Jim for ask­ing me to con­trib­ute to the Stan­dard, over 21 years ago. He sim­ply said, “You can talk, why not try writ­ing?” The sec­ond col­umn I wrote he re­jected and I thought I was to have a ca­reer shorter than a sore arm pitcher. It never hap­pened again and all this time he has en­cour­aged, ac­cepted, and men­tored me in writ­ing for the Stan­dard. He has been a col­league, a neigh­bour, and at times, while sit­ting on a log near a trout pool, a con­fi­dante. “Thank you, Jim; it’s been a great run. See you be­hind K.R.’S.”

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