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.
A man, a journey, and a flood
“The highway to Banff was closed, eh? They wouldn’t let anybody through.”
A man, probably in his late 50s, sat at the bar drinking spiced rum. His leathery face and paunched nose suggested his health had seen better days. But he was amicable and his eyes betrayed a lively curiosity and interest in the world they perceived.
“And the Saddle Dome, well that’s ruined. All the way up to the 14th row was under water. They wanted to replace it already, it’s old, but now they’ve got no choice.”
Paul was travelling from Calgary to Vancouver to visit his son, a trip that just happened to coincide with the worst flooding Calgary has seen in decades.
“I don’t know what they’re gonna do about the Stampede. You know how much money they’re gonna lose? Billions probably. They have massive grounds, tents as big as this building I bet, and real western stars, cowboys, top stars come out. They’re gonna lose a ton of money.”
Our conversation was interrupted by another man roughly Paul’s age. “He’s a happy fellow,” this new patron said, nodding towards Paul, then sauntered over to him and had a five minute conversation that began with the exclamation, “My name is Paul too!”
When our conversation resumed, I told him that I was interning at The Goat and in school for journalism.
“That’s something I bet I would’ve liked doing,” Paul said. “That’s something, if you like doing it, you can just do it forever, can’t you? If you’ve got your hunch, you just dig and dig to find your story, stick to your story. I can see a man being really happy doing that. A lot of sacrifices, I bet. But we need people like you to keep them straight and honest, because without that, without journalists hounding them, they won’t be.” I gathered Paul was referring to politicians and business moguls and anyone who’s accrued substantial power.
“Lookit all the stuff that’s come out in the States, about the phone taps and stuff. They know exactly what you’re doing, where you are, if you’re sitting at a computer, what you’re buying. I was listening to the radio just the other night, and they had this guy on who nailed it, who said it just right. Eventually they want to make it so that you can’t do nothing, buy a house or a car or get a job or anything, without having some chip scanned in your hand or your neck or some place. And it’s already started, you bet.” Paul raised his eyebrows above the frame of his spectacles in incredulity.
“But that’s great, we need journalists to watch out for us like that. We need open-minded people, because they’re sure not open minded.”
Paul works as a security guard for an information database in Calgary, a building filled with servers with clients from all over the world.
“You wouldn’t believe the information in that building, it’s just a normal-looking building. My nephew, he’s a security guard in Toronto at a college, and you should’ve heard him when I told him how much money I make. He couldn’t believe it,” Paul chuckled.
Paul told me of another nephew of his, in his 40s. “He’s always in school, he’s in school now to learn some…systems…” Paul trailed off. “But he’s an artist…you know, well… no, ya, he’s an artist.” It seemed his nephew had struggled to have the right to be called an artist. “He spent time on Vancouver Island with the Natives, learning some of their crafts, he was really interested in that.”
Despite being delayed by the flood—“I could’ve sworn there was a turn off to Highway 1 around here,” Paul said—he planned to be in Vancouver the following night. “I’ll leave when I wake up, I guess.” He reached for yet another napkin and wetnap, finished with his plate of honey garlic wings. “These wings were great, but I hate sticky, icky things.”