Cakewalk Chronicles- Remembering a good man – Ed Gyoba

Esther Darlington MacDonald's monthly column of insights and thoughts on living in small town BC.

Death of a good man

Having known Ed Gyoba for nigh onto 30 or more years, I can say that he was a big, gentle man with a lot of useful knowledge about how things worked. Skills that the whole community drew upon at one time or the other. Ed’s untimely death in Ashcroft came as a shock in the extreme.

He was a friend and fellow coffee conversationalist with so many in Ashcroft. Ashcroft is not the kind of village where violent deaths occur. The fact is, this is a bucolic kind of place. Sheep move slowly across the meadow on the farm on the edge of the town. The fields of freshly planted produce butt up against the alluvial fans on the brown mountain sides that surround us. Nothing much seems to happen here. So the week that Ed Gyoba was killed and the yellow crime scene tape was strung across Hill Street, a hush seemed to spread over the entire area above and below the mesas. I guess we were all in shock. These things happen. But somewhere else. Not here.

When our university in Kamloops was known as Cariboo College, Ed and I did some teaching work for the College. Ed taught some computer courses, and I was teaching some women who had decided to go back into the workforce business English, filing and something called Ergonomics (which is a study of the work place, sort of). Ed had a little car then, and we had to go to the College for reasons I have long since forgotten. What I have not forgotten was the conversations we had as big Ed drove at what seemed breakneck speed. Casual conversation, you’d call it today, as the fields of alfalfa and the rocky escarpments slid by and we threaded through the traffic.

The years passed by and Ed got married to Barbara and they had a little white dog, as I recall. And I would see the three of them walking. Ed tall and large and Barb much smaller, and the dog still smaller still. Barb drove school bus then.

More years passed. I bought some property in Cache Creek and life was pretty good by the Bonaparte River. Then Sherman came into my life. Sometimes, the odd guest would tell us they smelled gas. I guess we had lived with the odour for so long, we hadn’t noticed it. We called Fortis. The man came with something that looked like a geiger counter. I know it wasn’t one of those, but it looked like that. Yes, there was a leak somewhere the man said, as he moved around the kitchen, laundry area (It was too small to distinguish the spot by the word, “room”). Fortis man said he thought we might need to have an air vent put in that area. Couldn’t detect a leak. In the meantime, Ed had gone to Lillooet to work. But one weekend he happened to be back in Ashcroft, and I asked him if he would come out and look at the place in Cache Creek. Ed said he’d do so on his way back to Lillooet.

He came into the kitchen area which was little more than a galley, pulled out the big natural gas stove, lay down on the floor, looked at the pipe. Said, “I need a monkey wrench.”

Ed got his six feet something frame up off the floor, went out to his car, and brought back a monkey wrench. I take it that Ed kept a tool box in the trunk. Anyway, he brought back a monkey wrench. Lay back on the floor, and did some jimmying with something. I guess it was the pipe. Then he got up, pushed the stove back in place against the wall, and said, “It’s fixed.”

And it was. Now the moral of this rather long story is, that Ed took the trouble. You know. To move the stove, and to get down on the floor, and look, and smell. He didn’t have that geiger counter looking thing either. He just had Ed. And Ed knew one hell of a lot about gas stoves. At one time, he’d done warranty work for the company that made them. Then Ed returned to Lillooet.

Direct, practical, self sufficient. He will be remembered for many things, that good, uncomplicated, intelligent man that he was. By the way, Ed taught Tai Chi too.

The Rodeo Parade

As parades go, Ashcroft’s Rodeo Parade has to take the red ribbon every year. More power to the organizers, participants. The crowds that line Railway Avenue. Some bring chairs. Some sit on the curb.  Some stand. The senior folk are comfortably chaired under the shelter of the shopping plaza. They are supplied with cold bottled water, cookies. The parade begins with the Mountie in his fine red uniform on his fine brown horse that prances under the rein as if it was a royal horse on Buckingham Palace Road in London. The equestrians follow. The Shriners come with their motorcycles, swinging from one side of Railway to the other, not missing a beat. The floats move by, throwing candy. The pipe band marches with the plaintive piping that stirs the heart (if you have one), tartans swinging. The drummers from Kelowna beat their drums. The dance hall girls swing their beautiful netted stockinged legs and show off their derrieres to the Offenbach number, as they did in Paris a century ago. Dancing, drumming, marching, piping, the procession moves slowly by.  And finally, the fire department and search and rescue end the parade with their usual drama. You’d have to be pretty weary-worldly not to enjoy the live drama of a parade like that.

My new home

“But where will you paint?” I was asked by a concerned some one, when I told them I was moving into the Manor. “Never you mind,” I replied, “I’ve been painting in a corner of a room for 60 years. I’ll find a place.” After all, it only takes space for an easel and a work table. And some light. Daylight, for me. I don’t paint by artificial light. So I jettisoned a couple of dining chairs and found a place. And I am ready to begin.

No.4, Thompson View Manor is my new home. I have more closet and cupboard space here than I have ever had. The Manor is expertly managed, inside and out. The long view of green grass, tall elm trees, a beautifully masoned rock wall, and the mountains beyond are what I see from my front window.  Automatic sprinklers keep the lawn green. There is a big rose bush just a few yards from the bedroom window. Everything works. Even the smoke detectors. I found that out shortly after moving in, when I put a tray of fish and chips into the oven. It went off with that penetrating beep that brought a neighbour in with a long fly swatting looking thing which she waved furiously and stopped the beeping. But as she was about to leave, the beeping began again. She went back and waved the thing and stopped the beeping. Handed me the beeper stopper and said, “Here, you can have it.”

It’s a little like living in a hotel. You don’t have to worry about a thing. Except yourself. I like to cook.  Simple meals. But if I want to, I can walk down the long hall to the Assisted Living dining room and have a meal. You have to give the cook 24 hours notice though. And you purchase your tickets before hand and give them to the waitress when she serves you.

Visitors are starting to come. Bob and Kirsten brought a lovely pot of chrysanthemums and admired the layout. Tanner is getting trained to walk with the other dogs.  Nancy comes twice a week when she can, and takes the dogs for their much needed walks. The dogs get along very well. And everyone carries their doggie bags with them and does their civic duty by picking up. Which is more than I can say about some of the users of our lovely Heritage Park on Railway. Dispensers are at either end of the park. Yet, some irresponsible dingbats are letting their dogs do and not picking up.  And people who leave their cigarette butts in and around the park. Well, I’d shoot them at sunrise, if I could.

Wilderness Way

Has their zip line up I was told. That should attract all those bold young hearts. We wish them well. Their float in the Rodeo Parade was very effective. And Andrea on the drum beat helped too. (Despite having part of her hand wrapped in a bandage). Wilderness Way is a great idea. There should be plenty of weary business men and women who would find a resort like that a very attractive get-away from it all.

The new Tea Room

And have you tried the spanking new Tea Room on Railway Avenue in Ashcroft? If not, why not? It’s the type of facility you’d find in a large city. Congratulations to Nadine Davenport on its opening. It’s a lovely venue for having a good visit with a friend. Very comfortably designed. And the tea is pretty good too! (And I’m told there will be coffee as well).

Boil water advisory

Has been a bit of a drag.  I’ve been drinking a lot more bottled water than usual. I hate all that plastic.  But when the river rises and so much that shouldn’t be in it comes with the spring flooding, I guess we should be grateful that authorities are keeping an eye on our health. We had another water shut off on Elm Street earlier in the week. What a bother that is! Now there is a great deep hole on Elm Street, which everyone no doubt hopes will be filled soon. And we can get back to normal. Whatever your normal is!


Let’s talk about posters. For some years, WORMS were the rage on poles near the highways. I never saw so many worm posters in my life. Everybody in God’s Green Acres from Barkerville to Ashcroft seemed to be selling worms. Those lowly creatures you turn over with spade in the garden.

Now this is the time of year when posters blossom all over the town. They begin to bloom in May and finally end at the end of this month. The posters come in colours that can’t be missed. Bright orange, yellow, green, blue. Nobody looks at a white poster these days. The computer variety posters look very tidy and all that. But they just don’t carry like the homemade black marking ones that seem to add a little more rustic to our bucolic patch on the mighty majestic Thompson. By the way, the river in full flood this year was pretty spectacular as it didn’t creep up this year as usual, but literally swept up with a surge and covered the black rocks of its previous many years markings.

But back to Posters again, – I am re-reading some of the books from my library, – the ones I chose to save from the Yard sales. Yard Sales are, of course, the most prominent posters in town, and though the printing of them isn’t always inspired, nor is the text, which is pretty basic, you’d think, after all these years, they would sport a little more humour, a little more graphic art that would hold the eye. We don’t expect great art from posters, like they did back in the 1890’s and even before that. Posters were so good in those days, we hang prints of them on our walls today. Art Nouveau, used the female figure over and over again (suitably clothed). The male head and body was also a frame for a product. The line and the color advertising everything from cigars to wars. No, we don’t see posters like that any more. They were Art.

Esther Darlington MacDonald