Valemount sees its fair share of transient people. Contractors from different industries who live in nearby communities, international tourists, Canadians making a ritualistic cross-country trek, cyclists, bikers—people from all walks of life and every corner of the globe it seems. In this column The Goat presents a sketch of our short-term guests, observed and written by a transient himself—RMG intern Thomas Rohner.
“All you see on public transit are students and old people, we’re the ones that can’t afford to drive,” an older lady, in her 60s, said to the bartender as she was paying her bill. She was part of a group of three ladies passing through the Valley, all seniors. It was impossible not to think of the movie Steel Magnolias watching these three women.
The one who spoke was the bumbling, good-natured sort. She had accidentally sent her fork flying across the patio, and her steak knife clattering onto the cobblestones during dinner, giggling at every turn. She fumbled and dropped change while paying her bill.
One of the ladies she was with—the only one wearing makeup—was the first to enter the bar and had said to the bartender, “I’ll have a glass of wine please. I’d like to be inebriated.” The other two ladies deserted her after their meal. When she was by herself, this lady said to the bartender, “I’d like you to pour yourself a glass of wine now and sit with me on the patio. I’d like some intelligent conversation, please.”
The third lady seemed to be the prudent and responsible one among the three. “I”ll come and wake you up tomorrow, Clair. We have to be on the road bright and early,” she had said to the sweet and bumbling lady during dinner. The three ladies were traveling from Edmonton to an acreage outside Kelowna for a three-week getaway. From the sounds of conversation over dinner, they were on a shoe-string budget.
When the one lady, wearing the make-up and fond of wine, came in to pay her bill, she fumbled for her glasses and with her wallet looking for money. “I can’t count right now, you make me kind of dizzy,” she said to the bartender. “How lucky for you, you get to schmooze with people all day.”
An older man, with a faint Irish accent, sat at the bar talking to the bartender. He was on a business trip, from Edmonton-area to Prince George, and had taken his wife and their grandson along.
“Man, he’s a weird kid,” the man said to the bartender. “All he wants to do is play on his phone or iPad. Look around you, I say, it’s beautiful out here. We went to the pool, and he wasn’t having any fun there either. He couldn’t wait to leave to get back to his games. Now he just wants to sit by himself and eat. Pizza bread, that’s all he wants. What a weird kid. I can’t get through to him. He makes me nervous.”
He told the bartender of immigrating from Ireland four or five decades ago, of his struggles to find work, and his eventual settling near Edmonton. He recalled his days in Ireland working as a bartender.
“I used to work weddings at our local club, working until early in the morning. I was young then, maybe 18 or 19. But finally one day my mother had enough. I’d come home, inebriated, guests feeding me drinks, and fell asleep with my leg draped out the window. I could’ve fallen out of that window, my mother said, and she boxed me on the ear. Ha! Ha! That was the end of that job. I could’ve fallen out that window, it’s true.”
A white-haired couple sat with a woman, presumably their daughter in her late 30s. They were travelling from Alberta to Kamloops. They had just sold their acreage where they had raised their family and lived for the past thirty years.
“Just this morning we sold it,” the older lady said to the bartender. “It’s gone, just like that, we sold it.” She laughed nervously but with bright eyes.
“We had a few head of cattle, a few crops,” the man explained to the barkeep.
“But they were nice people we sold it to, weren’t they? A nice young family.”
“And now we’re going to live in Kamloops.”
“If we like it,” the wife reminded her husband. “We’ll spend a few months there, and if we don’t like it, we can always go back home.”
I wondered what she meant, since their acreage had already been sold. But it amazed me that this couple, in their 60s or 70s, were willing to relocate, to begin a whole new experience at this stage of their lives.
“Ya, if we don’t like it, we’ll go back,” the husband said.