Cakewalk – Loving the small stage and bad year for weeds in Ashcroft

Esther Darlington MacDonald's monthly column of opinions and observations about rural life.



Rockababy Grandma

I’ve never had ambition to be in a rock band. That is, until last Sept. 9, at the Fall Fair, when Tracy, a vocalist with Mudville, called me to the stage and handed me a pair of Moroccan shakers.

This could get serious. I could become addicted. Maybe, that experience, which must have taken off a pound or two of flesh, (given the heat of the arena and the stage being slightly warmer) prompted me to audition for the upcoming Winding Rivers Arts and Performing Society’s presentation of Midsummer Nights Mid-term.

Anyway, it isn’t every day a great grandma gets to shake her booty, and by all accounts, I didn’t do badly. I kept looking to the band members for assurance.  Am I doing okay? They all nodded, with a grin. As for the auditions, I’ve got a sweet little walk on part. Laugh all you want to. I’ll be one of those Shakespeare faeries, telling Robin Goodfellow what a bad boy he is with the village maidens.

War of the Weeds

Let’s get serious. Ashcroft, our lovely little rustic wonder on the banks of the Thompson River, one of the most majestic and beautiful rivers in the world, is infested with weeds.

Weeds everywhere. Growing where weeds should never have been allowed to grow. Home owners, putting their labor and their imaginations to work on their property, find themselves aligned with properties that are so infested with weeds growing five feet high, they cannot see their neighbor’s yards.

I kid you not. I was visiting friends on Tingley St. the other day and their charming property, truly a reflection of a Communities in Bloom kind of pride, was marred by what could only be termed “unsightly premises”.

My question to Council is why pass by-laws if they will not be enforced? There’s a by-law here that’s been on the books for years. It is not an unenforceable by-law. It just needs the will to be enforced. Come on Council!  Look around at our village boundaries and even inside the network of streets and avenues we call home, and do something about the infestation.

I don’t know the name of this particular weed which Sherman and I pulled off our lot with the help of a neighbor, Tarra, and with the help of Chris, who took the enormous bundle I had raked up, and pitched it into his pick up and took it up to the dump, but it is not too difficult to pull. Tumble weed, knapweed, and this abomination, you name it. They are fast taking over the town. And there isn’t any need to weed out with that toxic killer, Round Up.  Just pull the friggen things. That’ll do the job nicely.

The Fall Fair

To all those readers who, for one reason or another, do not take in the annual Fall Fair, I say, you are sure missing a wonderful community event! Kamloops Old Time Fiddlers had us all moving in our chairs – and some moved out of them to dance. Other musicians kept the spirit of mutual fellowship burning bright throughout the day. There’s just so much energy that goes into this event and so much joy and interest in the exhibits.

Planning for it is a year around occupation. Dedicated persons give their time and energy to it. Wholesome food, beverages, exhibits of fruits and vegetables, vendors and information booths, all accompanied by  musical entertainment. What better way to spend an hour or two?

I’m told that exhibits were down this year. One person opined that the people who were busy preparing various homemade things in previous years are now in their 80’s, and don’t do as they once did. Still, there was a fair supply of pies, cakes and novelty items to fill the tables and shelves.

I hung the Art exhibit. Those metal display panels are really great. You can move them so easily. Put them together or align them in any shape you want. Perhaps the Art Club should consider something like this. I don’t know. But the paintings offered for exhibit were fewer than most years. And that’s a shame. Because Ashcroft is becoming quite a cultural center for not only visual art, but for the performing as well. How about those painters out there, taking part in our annual Fall Fair, if you haven’t done so in past years?

Sights and sounds of autumn approaching

Working in my wildflower garden one morning a week or two ago, I heard that sound that always has Sherman and I looking skyward. The Canadian geese were flying south. There’s something lonely and nostalgic about the sound. The vee formation was large that particular morning.

Another sign of approaching Autumn is the vibrancy that flowers take on as the season approaches. Reds, pinks, yellows, blues and purples seem to flourish in their last throes of growth.

When we moved to Ashcroft a year a ago Oct. 1, we inherited a frontage that was quite large. But there was little soil on it. And beneath was what I call hard pan. So I had sacks and sacks of top soil brought in, and seeded it with wildflower seed. I barrowed in rocks and logs and stray pieces of wood, and lined them in a kidney shape around the topsoil. I put our ceramic bird bath in the middle of it, put some soil in it and planted succulents. To my delight, everything grew and grew and grew. Now, I sit in the Cape Cod chair and admire the variety and beauty of those small blossoms.


I was blessed with a home that always had magazines about – Post, Life, Liberty and Newsweek. And there was always a few books. We were certainly not a literary family by any means, but dad’s weekly international news magazine and mom’s Liberty, particularly the crossword, were things we took for granted. Along with the daily delivery of the Winnipeg Free Press. The radio was always on. CBC. The Happy Gang. Remember them? Ma Perkins. The spoken, as well as the written word was part and parcel of every day life when I was growing up.

The Cornish Library back in the 1940s was a good two miles away as the crow flew. Me and my girlfriends would walk to the library during the summer months, take out new books, and sit beside the Assinaboine River under the trees to read a few pages before embarking on the lone trip back home. Across from the small park surrounding the Library, was Miseracordia Hospital, where I was born. You crossed over the Cornish Bridge and walked along the beautiful boulevard known as Wellington Cres., and then down into the less prosperous neighborhood of apartment blocks and big two and three storey houses, all part of Fort Rouge, where I spent my girlhood.

Reading was my grandmother’s library of Charles Dickens books. Some poetry. Grandma Belcher could recite reams of poetry she had learned as a child in England. Which brings me to the subject of Literacy.

Did you know that one out of five Canadian adults cannot read or write? Here we are, one of the G8 countries, the wealthiest in the world, yet we have a literacy ratio like this.

Reading and writing cannot be encouraged alone by raising money. What is needed is a concerted effort, nation-wide, to investigate why so many adult Canadians cannot read or write with proficiency, or, in too many cases, not at all. No, money cannot buy literacy. Literacy is a cultural thing. It is a home with reading materials in it. It is a home where the written and verbal word, i.e. communication, is in full sway.

And, it is a basic grounding in English from the first grade. I recall the alphabet laid across the chalkboard, and the teacher’s pointer sounding out the sound of each letter. And the class sounding out the sound of each letter.  And I recall what I called, “tickets” all colored, yellow, green, red, blue, with the letters of the alphabet on them, which you put together to form words. That’s the kind of thing that helped generations of school children how to read and write. Simple stuff. No, you can’t raise a reader with money.

Native Gathering at Juniper

It doesn’t have to be a source of contention. That campers who’ve paid for their camping at Juniper are asked to move for a couple of days so that a cultural gathering of native Indian bands can be held there. The campers should be reimbursed. The native community have every right to use the Juniper Beach campsite. They are citizens of Canada. First citizens, if you will. No, it doesn’t have to be an ugly scene with belligerent reactions. In a word, it is about Sharing. Let’s hope that cooler heads will prevail.

Thanks to faithful readers

Scarcely a week goes by that I do not hear from the readers of my columns and articles, words of appreciation. “Keep writing”, some tell me. And I will.  Receiving what we call “feedback” is essential to any writer. So, thanks to all who take the trouble to express their appreciation.

Esther Darlington MacDonald