Article reproduced from the Calgary Sun, November 12, 2006:
Blowin' in the wind
November 12, 2006
It was Tuesday afternoon and the chinook had taken the snow from all but the most shaded areas and a shelf of cloud arced overhead leaving the sky to the west above the mountains a clear swath of pale blue.
I'd watched the clouds change as I drove east out of the city following the Bow River.
I was looking for any remaining migratory water birds - pelicans, cormorants, killdeers - stuff like that. Ducks and geese didn't count. There's a lot of them that stick around here all year.
I didn't see any, but in truth I wasn't looking that hard. The day was warm and the wind wasn't too strong, so I decided I'd rather try for a trout than scout for birds.
Three casts, hooked two, landed one. Nothing big, but fun anyway. I'd have kept fishing for a while, but there were a couple of other guys working their way upstream on the same run I was fishing, so I packed up and headed out.
There's a spot I like to go downstream from Carseland, but it requires a good hike down a steep bank to get to the water, so I like to have a look over the river valley edge to see if it's worth the trip or not.
Yeah, it looked good. There were goldeneye ducks feeding on bugs in the backwater where the river's main current hit the bank and made a tight left turn, and three western grebes - migratory water birds just like I'd started out looking for - chased minnows in the deep, slow water of the eddy.
Then the first blast of cold north wind hit me.
The chinook was instantly gone and the atmosphere around me took on a grey, misty quality as the cold air condensed the moisture in the warm air. I changed my mind about fishing. I didn't feel like sliding down the long bank only to get hypothermic. I hopped in the truck and rolled on.
I crossed Arrowood Creek where I watched a muskrat swimming in the current and then pulled into the town of Arrowood itself, a pretty little farming village that has a couple of elevators still standing. I headed up the hill on the south side to check out the elevator.
The air beyond it was grey and the light dull on the elevator, but beyond that, to the north, there was bright sunlight. I could see the amber of harvested grain fields glinting in the sun and the sky was roiling as the cold air battled with the warmth of the chinook.
The clouds were being swept south by the north wind like a hand wiping crumbs from a table. The pale blue swath that had been over the mountains now extended all the way to the northern horizon.
I kept heading east, back through Arrowood and on toward Shouldice. The air was becoming more and more clear as I drove and I could see the water tower at Gleichen distinctly, even though from this point it was more than 20 km away on the Siksika Nation.
There was a big barn to the south of me so I turned off to take a picture using it as a foreground. And as I drove south, I passed a cemetery I never knew existed. Our family moved to Gleichen in 1959 and I've often wandered around out this way, but I had no idea there was ever a Doukhobor settlement on the prairie between Arrowood and Shouldice.
Doukhobors were a religious sect from Russia whose members settled on communal farms in Canada around the turn of the 20th century. I knew about their colonies in southern B.C. and I know people whose ancestors farmed near Cowley, west of Pincher Creek.
But this one, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, escaped me. The cemetery is well-kept with pretty grave markers, many of which are inscribed in Cyrillic, their native alphabet. A marker at the gate says that the community was founded in 1926.
I took a few pictures and carried on up the hill to photograph the barn. By now the temperature had really started to drop and the sky was nearly clear.
The air was absolutely transparent and Gleichen shone on the far horizon.
But the day was wearing on and the short hours of sunlight were nearing their end. I stopped in Shouldice to photograph a couple of old Buicks nearly drowned in tall amber-coloured grass, but by the time I got to Cluny, the sky was once again full of clouds, this time rolling in from the northern horizon.
I'd hoped for a pretty sunset, but nope, the best I could do was catch the evening glow in a stand of cattails at the west end of Namaka Lake.
As I sat there listening to the splashes and nibbles of muskrats among the reeds, geese flying overhead and coyotes singing their evening song I thought of that cemetery.
They say you learn something new every day. Well, today I actually did.
Link to original article: http://www.calgarysun.com/cgi-bin/publish.cgi?p=161512&x...