Harley Survives. Will the Honda Lawnmower?

When we last saw the Harley Davidson in August 2012, it was being loaded onto the back of a truck. Bent and broken like it’s owner, the bike was no longer The Car Guy’s concern. The Harley’s destiny was in the hands of the insurance company.

Then – we got a phone call from our Son-in-law a few months ago. “I’ve found your Harley,” he said. “Not only that, it is repaired, and is being sold by the same guy here in Alberta that I bought my Harley from. If that isn’t coincidence enough, the guy who is selling the bike is the guy who repaired the bike, and he did the work this past winter in Phoenix Arizona!”

Phoenix – that meant the Harley had spent the winter in the same general area where The Car Guy had spent the winter recovering from his damages. But there is even more to the story. The guy who repaired the bike has a son who lives right next door to The Car Guy’s dad. It really is a small, small world!

The Harley survived, but will our Honda? This Honda lawn mower is 30 years old. It spent the last 3 years out at the cabin, and was one of the items The Car Guy salvaged from our flooded cabin last weekend. So far all he has done is pressure washed it, but starting this week, he and his Dad will start to dismantle it and see if they can bring it back to life.

“Why bother?” you might ask. Indeed, why.

Maybe it is because it has faithfully mowed our lawns for 30 years, and it deserves another chance.

Maybe it is because we were raised to reuse, recycle, fix and make do – long before it was the popular thing to do.

Or maybe it is because there was so little we could salvage from the flood, that anything is better than nothing, and something is a nice reminder of all the happy days we spent there. Mowing the lawn. We didn’t have much, so it wasn’t really a big job. But it smelled so nice when it was being done, and it looked so nice when it was finished. And every time we fire up this mower again, we will be reminded of all our neighbours, and the sounds of their mowers on those happy sunny days when all the mowers on the street came out for a quick run around the yard.

Consider the many special delights a lawn affords: soft mattress for a creeping baby; worm hatchery for a robin; croquet or badminton court; baseball diamond; restful green perspectives leading the eye to a background of flower beds, shrubs, or hedge; green shadows – “This lawn, a carpet all alive/With shadows flung from leaves’ – as changing and as spellbinding as the waves of the sea, whether flecked with sunlight under trees of light foliage, like elm and locust, or deep, dark, solid shade, moving slowly as the tide, under maple and oak.  This carpet!
–   Katharine S. White, Onward and Upward in the Garden, 1979

Lady’s Slipper Orchid Mimics the Old Masters

There is a small patch of Lady’s Slipper Orchids in the ditch near our place. It really is a miracle that this small group of delicate flowers continues to live where they do. Browsing deer and the county mowing program reduce the chances that the flowers will multiply by seed.

Here are the photos I took of them, but I’ve described them as a painter would!

The Mona Orchid by Margio da Antelope Street

Margio used an inverted pyramid design to place the flower simply and calmly in the space of the photograph.

The enigmatic and slightly open mouth expression, common to the entire Orchid family, is a genetic adaptation that allows Mona to call out to her family, “Heads down! The county mowing machine is heading our way!”

Mona and her family really should move further from the edge of the road…


Someone’s Mother by Margie (a Whistling Bird is nearby)

Margie achieves tonal composition and harmony in a simple pose of quiet contemplation.

You find a lot of junk when you’re searching through lost and tossed photo ephemera, but every so often you’ll find a gem, a wallet-sized masterpiece you’re certain could hang on the wall of a gallery if only someone with a name had taken it. Find one or two of those and you’re hooked for life.
– Ransom Riggs –

Alberta Flooding – Messages Muddy and Otherwise

There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.
– Carl Sandburg –

A slippery, gooey, contaminated mud coated just everything in Hidden Valley. When it dried, it formed sheets that cracked as they hardened. Such was the case at Kevin’s house, where his mailbox announced

You’ve got mail – a Letter from your Mudder!


Hidden Valley was a unique little place – a community on a First Nation’s reserve but with mostly non-First Nation residents.  Many partnerships and friendships were formed between the two entities, and these should have been enough to ensure a new lease. It wasn’t. The “No to a Lease” group continued to grouse about our existence, even after we had been obliterated.

Lately though, some members of Siksika Nation have voiced their disapproval of the people who “bash” us. It takes courage to speak the way they have and we thank them for saying the things we will not say ourselves.


An entire sand bar was deposited on our Hidden Valley lot.  In some places it must be several feet deep. Inside the house – not so lucky. Mud and mold just like everyone else.

This coming week-end, the Car Guy and the Son-in-Law will attempt to rescue the lawnmower, one (or both) metal garden sheds, and perhaps the golf carts. We don’t really need the lawnmower or the golf carts. If we did, these items would have lived at the Red House, not at the cabin. But, they have engines, and in the Car Guy’s world, no engine should die without at least one resuscitation attempt.


I golfed with my girlfriends yesterday at the “One Tough Nine”. We were a threesome of Women of a Certain Age, but became a foursome when the Course Marshall (a man with a very odd sense of humour) attached a Much Younger Male golfer to our group. Midway through the game, MYM spotted the Hidden Valley tag on my golf bag. “Hidden Valley,” he said sadly. “See, I have the same tag as you.”

The Hidden Valley Golf Course may be disappearing under a forest of baby poplars, but golfing memories will continue to be told thanks to connections we make with our bag tags!


Antelope Street Photographers – I’ve been putting this label on my photos ever since I started this blog. I chose the name because Antelope Street is where our cabin is/was. Most of the photos in this blog are mine, but a few are by family members, friends, and lately – other Hidden Valley residents who have let me use their work. Thanks go today to Kevin for the photo of his mailbox!

Rubber Boot Puppies

Recycle old rubber boots by making them into these adorable puppies!

Rubber boot puppies or dogs

How cool would it be to have a few of these in your yard! Here are my thoughts on how to do this!


I haven’t been able to find any instructions on the internet for how to make these puppies, but this is what I surmise from the photo:
– you need 7 boots – 4 are used for the legs, one for the back and tail, one for the lower jaw and neck, and one for the upper jar/head and ears.
– you would use a pair of heavy cutting shears to split the legs of the boots as needed.
– maybe you would use a bolt to hold the upper jaw to the lower one.
– perhaps you would fill the legs with sand to keep them from falling over.

What a happy way to remember the not so happy activity of slogging through the mud in our flooded cabins!

Alberta Flooding – Note to the Human Vultures

It seems to me the vultures have stopped circling.
– Geoffrey Becker –

Toonaday vultureHidden Valley has been a beehive of activity since the go ahead to enter the flood zone was given by Health Canada and The Siksika Nation. The predominantly senior population have donned safety equipment and entered their properties. For most of them, the recovery of a few precious items is the most they can hope for. A few others are trying to salvage pieces of their home so that they can rebuild elsewhere.

The sole road into the area is manned by security guards. This isn’t new. Hidden Valley might appear to be rather remote and isolated, but there have always been Human Vultures who knew how to bypass security. For the most part, they were more an annoyance than anything, but last March, the species know as Vandalis vulturus  caused extensive damage to 25 homes. A few of the homeowners had not yet moved back in before the flood hit.

Other vultures have been circling over our flood disaster zone for several weeks now – watching, waiting, and finally swooping in to pick up unguarded items. These vultures belong to the species Thiefus cowardesis vulturus and they seem to prefer to gobble up satellite dishes, though a set of golf clubs and a lawnmower have also apparently been on the menu.

The Provincus governmentus vulturus belong to the group of birds that are particularly good at preening. They act much like a mosquito except they suck tax dollars. There are, however, a few eagles who live with this group and though they are very hard to find, Hidden Valley is diligently hunting them in hopes that they will come to the rescue of those who are most in need.

Also disturbing are the members of the Insurancis vulturus, a species that sucks yearly insurance premiums instead of blood. So far, their cry can be heard right across our community – “Denied, denied, denied!”

Yet to descend, (or perhaps they have already and we’ve been fleeced without knowing it), are the Federalis vulturus. Six days after we were allowed to enter our properties, Health Canada (a federal department) finally released a letter advising us to ‘stay away from our properties until appropriate measures are put into place‘ to ensure our safety. Of course, they probably already knew we had entered, so they followed up with a few cautionary notes so that they could say that they had warned us.

The Car Guy and I made a preliminary trip to our cabin to assess the damage and one subsequent trip to bring home a few more little things. We found our two golf carts and The Car Guy has talked to a cart repair shop about availability of parts should we decide to haul the carts home, repair them, and sell them. Hopefully there is not a  Cartstealis vulturus operating at Hidden Valley!

My Freshly Pressed Natural Disaster

Michelle, a well meaning WordPress Story Wrangler, chose my post ‘Hidden Valley – A Community Lost’  for the honour of being Freshly Pressed. Michelle had been following the story of  the flooding of our community, and she thought it deserved a wider audience.

Unfortunately, most of the Freshly Pressed readers didn’t agree. They weren’t as drawn to a story that was tagged ‘Natural Disaster’ as they were to – well – just about every other post that day… or week… or month probably. So much for my expectations of Freshly Pressed fame! I don’t, of course, blame WordPress for my somewhat dismal showing.

WP StatsAll my long time, loyal readers (and you know who you six are!) will want to know about the meteorical rise in Viewer Stats that comes with being Freshly Pressed. I’m going to satisfy your curiosity by inserting a clip from my stats page. On the far left you will see a very, very short bar, which is my usual readership. The next three bars are what happened to my readership when I posted the stories that no one else in the Google World had picked up on – the Flooding on the Siksika Nation and Hidden Valley.

Continuing on from left to right, you can see what happened when The Mainstream Media finally picked up on the story. Freefall! When you get to the fourth bar from the right – that is where I was Freshly Pressed.

As if the loss of our entire Community in a flood wasn’t tragic enough, I must now announce my voluntary resignation as President of the “Never Been Freshly Pressed” (NBFP) Club. (It was very short sighted of me not to proclaim myself  LIFETIME PRESIDENT.)

We are going to need a new President, and because I am the Founder of the Club, I am quite prepared to stalk and bring down the person who I feel would be best qualified to carry on the traditions we don’t really have, but would have if we should ever need them.

It is with great pleasure that I dictatorially proclaim our Treasurer, Al, of the blog thecvillean, as our new President. Now, I know that Al is not a Canadian, and he is, well, a man. But he has worked very hard to manage our dark chocolate fund and I think his dedication should be recognized and rewarded. Congratulations, Al!

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.
– Rosalynn Carter –

As a NBFP Alumnus, I promise to sink back into relative obscurity. I promise to continue to write in the mediocre style that is my trademark. I promise to continue to overuse exclamation marks! And I promise to keep looking at life from the sunny side of the street.

Alberta Flooding – Hidden Valley Re-entry

There’s no such thing as a 100-year flood.
– Andrew Cuomo –

Our Cabin before the flood – of 2013 …  after being rebuilt by the previous owners after the floods of 1995 and 2005.

Our place after the flood. The cabin was lifted by the water,  rotated almost 90 degrees, and then set back down in a different location.

The front of the cabin – the sunroom was torn off, leaving only its roof.

The back of the cabin came to rest against one of the outbuildings in the neighbour’s yard. The blue bench in the foreground of this photo was part of the deck that was attached to the back of our cabin. This deck is now on the far side of the neighbour’s yard. There is a row of flat rocks on the top rail of this blue bench – I put the rocks there, and they did not move though the deck floated more than 60 feet and turned a full 180 degrees. (We’ll rescue the rocks!)

The same deck as above, other side of it – four bicycles, two fell off the bench, but all of them stayed fairly high and dry. In the background, the hot tub – it started off next to this deck, but on the opposite corner.

The upended shed – this boot and the tin of pop were in the shed – which was padlocked. The shed door is open now, but we don’t know what is in it because it is too high off the ground to see inside.

The Car Guy and his dad made these little tables. There were ten of them, and we found five of them in our yard!

The inside of the cabin – kitchen to the left, living room to the right. The only thing we salvaged was the big ceramic bowl on the floor in the foreground of this photo.  It had a bit of mud on the bottom edge, but was absolutely clean otherwise.

Black colored mold is forming on many surfaces. The loft room upstairs is dry, but I don’t think we’ll salvage more than a few things from there. The mold is starting to creep up into areas that are not water damaged. Everything upstairs is exactly as I left it – even the piles of books on the dresser didn’t move.

The little putting green by the clubhouse – a small forest of trees are already starting to claim the land – and it has only been three and a half weeks since the flood!

It felt very strange to be so sad about my cabin, yet so cheered that the little piece of land that my cabin sat on was still a beautiful wooded paradise. At the front of the lot, the bulldozer had roughly scraped away a driveway, but at the back, the saskatoons were heavy with fruit. The familiar old trees that were growing nearly parallel to the ground – they had been chopped down. But the tall old poplars that threatened to fall on the cabin – they were still standing. The birds were singing, and all my neighbours were in their yards and houses, right where they would have been if this had been a normal day. It was so oddly reassuring.

On the drive home I said to The Car Guy – just suppose someone waved a magic wand and said – here is a new lease, we have a new utility system – please come back. I started to picture where I would put a house this time. I thought about how we would build a cabin that would float like a houseboat. People who don’t know better would say, “Why would you build on this flood plain again!” And I would smile and say, “You don’t understand what it means to ‘love a piece of land’. You don’t understand what ties a group of people to a place. ” Instead of moving off the flood plain, maybe a better solution is to figure out what is the best way to live on a flood plain.

The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.
– Sarah Ban Breathnach –

This and That – Pumpkins

The moment you click ‘send’ your message travels at the speed of light to our server where it awaits collection by a real live snail. Yes, that’s right we’re not called real snail mail for nothing! When time is worth taking RSM is the service for you.
– From Real Snail Mail –

The artist Guillermo Forchino (1952) was born in Rosario Argentina and lives in Paris France with his wife Monica and their two sons. His artworks find acclaim worldwide. With the development of the replicas of Guillermo’s art, his designs have become available to art lovers in many countries.
– From The Comic Art of Guillermo Forchino –

Looking from the window seat on a long plane flight, you might have noticed that large swaths of the United States are divided into a latticework of farms, towns and forests. The cells of that grid, each one mile to a side, are the visible result of a land planning system first proposed by Thomas Jefferson more than two centuries ago.
– From The Jefferson Grid – Everything that fits in a square mile from Images from Google Earth and Even When You Go Off the Grid, You Might Still Be On It –

Today is the day we throw away those safe, cute carving tools. Today we will buy a big, ugly, pumpkin so large one man cannot lift or move it. Today. We will carve that sumbitch into something ugly and plop it on the front porch. October 31st we will light it brightly enough to give visiting children suntans. Pumpkin carving is reborn.
– From Extreme Pumpkins –

When we started Despair, we had a dream. To crush other people’s dreams. But we knew, given our goal, we’d be in for a fight. After all, the Motivation Industry has been crushing dreams for decades, selling the easy lie of success you can buy. That’s why we decided to differentiate ourselves- by crushing dreams with hard truths!
– From Despair, Inc –

Fly Air New Zealand – Safety Video, Bear Essentials, Epic Safety

There are two critical points in every aerial flight—its beginning and its end.
— Alexander Graham Bell, 1906 –

Trouble in the air is very rare. It is hitting the ground that causes it.
— Amelia Earhart, 20 Hrs 40 Mins 1928. –

You land a million planes safely, then you have one little mid-air and you never hear the end of it …
— Air Traffic Controller, New York TRACON, Westbury Long island. Opening quotation in the 1999 movie Pushing Tin –

The QuipperyDon’t you wish all airlines were so creative!?

Alberta Flooding – Hidden Valley A Community Lost

The Siksika Nation chose not to renew the Lease for Hidden Valley. Insurance companies will likely refuse to compensate cabin owners for loss from the  overland flooding of the Mighty Bow River in Alberta. Provincial and Federal Governments might choose to provide Disaster Assistance to some who lost their primary residence. The result: the majority of people at Hidden Valley will have to walk away with nothing to show for years and years of pioneer like effort. With the stroke of a pen, the people in power will finish the destruction of a Community. None of them will think to ask what was, in years gone by, perhaps the most important question, “What is the value of a community?”

Unlike some of the people at Hidden Valley, my cabin is not my primary home. But like so many other people out there, Hidden Valley is the only community I really belong to. Yes, my principal residence is in a rural area that is high and dry (except for the hail and now – more rain), but I only know a handful of my neighbours and though we watch out for one another, we don’t socialize much. We just all happen to live in the same general area.

Hidden Valley was my Community. It was the place where I could chat with my neighbours over the tops of the dogwood and rose bush ‘fence’; meet for supper at the only restaurant for miles; discuss the state of the world with passers by while watching the river flow. It was where our family all gathered, where I watched my grandchildren pass from childhood to pre-teen. It was a little lending library that kept growing;  hunting for lost golf balls in the dim light of late dusk. It was lying on the grass watching satellites and observing stars in the black of the night. It was little bush bunnies on the lawn and watching for snakes and rare frogs in the back water. Bonfires and s’mores and games of golf where you counted how many balls you lost in the river rather than how many strokes you took. (Okay, maybe I’m the only one that kept score that way…) It was where many of us chose to be after a lifetime of working and saving.

The first ‘on the ground’ photos of our community are now being posted thanks to the opportunity yesterday to see the destruction from inside the safety of a bus. (Many thanks to the Siksika Nation for making this possible.) Although I wasn’t able to be there, I’d like to thank Chelsey for letting me post her photo.

Some of the houses, like the one that once graced this lot, are gone. All that is left is the litter – and the headboard of a bed stuck in the mud. Think about that. That was someone’s bed. That bed was once in someone’s house. That house was once in a Community – a community that is now gone. We didn’t even get to say good-bye…