What a way to spend the 4th of July!
I should mention that the Calgary Stampede events began on Friday and the whole city is decked out in cowboy hats and western dress. We and others from the office will be going to the Grandstand Show and the Chuck Wagon Races tomorrow evening after work so I will have much to say about that in the next blog. The rodeo events each day are in the afternoon so we will not be attending the rodeo. This will be my third time to see the Grandstand Show and the races; the second time for
Our week at the office was pretty routine, so there is not much to tell about except for the way I spent the 4th of July. Fortunately, this weekend was wonderful.
Early on Saturday morning (July 2nd) I received a call while enjoying a morning run on the trail around the Glenmore Reservoir (see my last blog entry for comments about the trail). The call was from the Mission President asking if I would accompany one of our Elders home with a medical problem. I said, “Sure, I’d be happy to,” and then the news came that the travel would be on Monday, the 4th of July. Thoughts of the last time Kathy and I accompanied one of our Sisters home to Salt Lake came to mind where we had about six hours after arriving in Salt Lake to go home and check on things, sort the mail, and meet with family members before it was time to make our way back to the airport for the return flight. Unfortunately, it was not to be on this trip. When I was given the itinerary the Church arranged, the trip to and from SLC was via Seattle so I spent the entire day in airports.
Kathy and I enjoy traveling to different parts of the mission to see the sights, to appreciate where our missionaries are working, and to meet with them. We determined early in the week that we would travel south toward Lethbridge and then west over Crow’s Nest Pass (again) to Southern British Columbia.
Our route took us past a fascinating place called, “Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.” Yah, I know; it’s a strange name for a place but here’s the story.
For hundreds of years before the Indians had rifles and horses, in summer they would drive buffalo over a cliff as a means of harvesting buffalo meat for the severe winter that lay ahead. This at first sounds horrible but when the drive proved to be successful, it was a more efficient way to gather needed meat, hides, etc. for the harsh winter that lay ahead.
It turns out this was quite a complicated process; keep in mind how hard it is to sneak up on a wary buffalo with your bow and arrows and shoot many buffalo. Also keep in mind that this method was in use before they had horses and rifles. Such a drive would only be successful if the buffalo were in the right place to begin with.
The elaborate process would begin with a special ceremony and the entire encampment would be set up just beyond the cliffs. Then the hard work began. Many of the tribe were assigned to set up piles of rocks and stick trees and bushes down in the rocks which would appear as a barrier to onrushing buffalo. The piles were arranged in a funneling manner first quite far apart on two sides then closer and closer together resulting in a funneling effect as the cliffs were approached. Prior to the drive members of the tribes would hide behind these piles of rock and bushes. Just prior to the buffalo drive all the participants needed to rub themselves with herbs to mask their human scent. The young braves would don hides collected from wolves and circle out around the herd and begin slowly working their way toward the herd. In the meantime, some of the faster braves would don buffalo baby hides and move in between the cliffs and the herd. Buffalo apparently don’t see all that well but have a keen sense of smell and they go nuts when they sense the young buffalo are in danger. As the braves approached the herd from three sides, the buffalo would get restless sensing what seemed to be wolves creeping toward them and they would begin moving away from the “wolves” and toward the “calves”. As they got closer to the cliffs, the “wolves” would begin to move more rapidly toward the herd and the “calves” would also move faster ahead of the herd. As the herd moved in between the piles of stones, it became pandemonium; the wolf skins came off, the tribe hiding behind the piles of stones would suddenly jump up and wave stuff in the air. In the meantime, the “calves” had to be very fleet of foot and just before reaching the cliff, run between the piles of rock as the buffalo ran by and headlong over the cliffs. Waiting well back from the cascading buffalo coming over the cliffs were the women and older children and older men who would rush in to finish off the wounded buffalo. Nothing went to waste except the skull itself. The meat was dried (jerky) and made either into pemmican - pounded into a fine texture then mixed with berries, all of which would sustain them over the winter. The hides were a valuable resource for teepees, blankets, and other uses. The sinews were preserved for sewing the hides together. The bones were cracked and boiled to get the marrow and fat out. Even the hooves and horns were used. The bladders of the buffalo were used to store the fat recovered from the bones.
Now back to the name of the historical site; the “head smashed in” part of the name didn’t come from the fate of the buffalo but from a young Indian who had crawled under the ledge to watch the buffalo come cascading over the edge. He was found among the buffalo carnage with his head smashed in.
The historical site is an amazing place. It is totally staffed by First Nation personnel from the Blackfoot, Blood, or Peigan tribes that exist in the area and who are descendants of the original tribes in the area. The building is on six levels, all built in an earth sheltered manner back into the cliffs. I will include some pictures. The displays and the movie are remarkable. It is a must see if you are ever in the area west of Ft Macleod, Alberta.
After leaving the historical site (we were there far longer than we had planned to be), we drove through the Crowsnest Pass and Frank’s Slide (which I talked about in a previous blog) and made our way to the B&B where we had a reservation outside of Cranbrook, BC. We checked in and then continued on toward Creston, BC. We had planned to travel on the east side of the Kootenay Lake to where the roads end at Crawford Bay, take the ferry to the other side, then drive on to Nelson to meet the missionaries there, then drive back to Cranbrook via Creston, but it proved to be too long a drive (many hours!) so we drove instead to Creston. We called the missionaries, Elders Bunch and Thackeray, and it turned out they could meet us and let us take them to dinner. They love the area and we could see why; it is incredibly beautiful (like being in a Swiss Alpine Valley) and it so happens that the climate there and all the way up to Nelson is very unique. It is very temperate and they grown incredible fruit there. The cherries are in season and there were cherries hanging in clusters from the trees. There were orchards on both sides of the road as we drove toward Creston. We wanted to buy some cherries as we prepared to return to Cranbrook, and while there were many fruit stands along the road, they appeared to be closed because it was late in the day. The missionaries told us they lived near some members who were in the cherry business and would certainly sell us some. They gave us directions and we drove to a cherry orchard owned by a Bro. and Sister Low. They told us they really hadn’t started to pick the cherries yet due to all the rain they have had recently but would be beginning the harvest the coming week. We learned much about the cherry business from Bro. Low. Cherries are big business there; hundreds of tons are harvested and shipped primarily to China and to Florida. When it rains, the water that pools in the hollow where the stem comes out causes the cherries to split at the top. To prevent this from happening, they hire helicopters to hover over the groves and blow the water off the cherries. There are apparently a number of helicopters that are in the area that can be hired for that purpose. In the end, Bro. Low took us to a refrigerator in his packing house and pulled out a bag of cherries they had picked for their family to eat and insisted that we take the whole bag (probably ten pounds of cherries) and share them with the office staff. They apparently send cherries over to the mission office each year when they can find someone going to Calgary, so we saved them the effort. These cherries are amazing. They are quite large; bigger than Utah cherries, and oh are they delicious! I expressed surprise that they harvest cherries so late in the summer but that is the harvest season for them.
The B&B was nice; close by the St Mary’s River. We enjoyed the stay and the breakfast was delicious.
There are two wards in Cranbrook and we wanted to attend the Sacrament Meeting for both. We hadn’t told the pair of Elders in each ward that we were coming so it was quite comical when they spotted us. Elder Owens and Elder Sondrup are assigned to the 1stWard, and Elder Manarii and Elder Bryner are assigned to the 2nd Ward. We had a very pleasant visit with them after each of the meetings and met a wonderful investigator Elders Owens and Sondrup are teaching. Afterwards we stopped at a McDonalds and changed clothes before leaving Cranbrook.
The drive from Cranbrook to Invermere is along a beautiful glacial valley; beautiful mountains and meadows and winding rivers.
At Radium Hot Springs (just north from Invermere) we turned east and wound through Banff National Park which is magnificent.
The mountains in the Park are absolutely breathtaking.
After stopping for gas in Canmore, we continued on home and found all to be well.
Kathy. Some of you know Kathy and I traveled to Canmore three years ago during our courtship and it was during our stay in Canmore that we got engaged. We traveled on two different days to Calgary, once to see the rodeo and once for the Grandstand Show and the races. We are looking forward to seeing both again.
Whew, this proved to be much longer than intended so I hope you weren’t bored by the detail. This blog is also a journal of our mission events so that is part of the motivation for some detail.
Have a blessed week.