Thursday, March 11, 2010

Theatre Royal, Barkerville interrupted

 It’s been some time since I added to this blog, but at least there is reason in my procrastination. Life got complicated here in the Cariboo Mountains.
            First of all one of the Theatre Royal mules, Red, died of colic, a severe impaction of the bowel.  We worked hard to save her.  The gal where she is boarded did all she could, I walked her for several hours, Matt and Cyril Quick responded to my request and took turns walking her another few hours (what a pair – thanks guys), and the vet finally took her for intensive care.  Nothing worked.  After three days my companion of many adventures went to her pasture in the sky. Babe and I will miss her.
            Then, about a month ago now, just as I was beginning work on a new story out of Tombstone for this blog, just as I was completing some more research, just as a pretentious spring arrived here in the Cariboo Mountains, Amy Newman hopped in her sweet little Dodge Caliber and headed up here to the mountains for a visit.  The plan was to spend some winter days skiing, take part in the Wells Gourmet Ski and work on this coming season’s cast and shows.  As Hans Solo said when he fell into the garbage compactor, “Wrong!”
            The first couple of days went just fine. Then on the Monday I had an optometrist appointment in Quesnel.  “Let’s take my car and save fuel,” said Amy.  Red Flag!  Sounds fine to me, I said.
            We headed home about 5 pm. I nodded off as the eye drops for the exam had made me groggy and dizzy.  I awoke to Amy shouting, “Holy ….”.  I felt the car lurch, roll and drop with a hard, hurting, bang.  There was no easy whump into a snow bank.  We hit black ice, skidded, Amy steered away from a 20-foot drop, we hit the snow bank on the right, rolled, became airborne, hit a tree eight feet in the air and dropped upside down in the ditch.  “Damn, that was hard,” I remember thinking.
            Amy was talking, asking if I was okay. I hung upside down in the seatbelt. “Yeah, I think so, but I can’t get out.”  My side door was buried in the snow. Then a voice asked, “Are you okay in there?”  Amy managed to crawl out her door and she and the driver who stopped wrenched open the door for me.  We were both okay – bruised, a cut head, sore ribs, stressed - but okay.  Once again, not our time. (That’s at least four or five times I’ve said that. Lord, I am listening!)
            Danny, a Wells neighbour, stopped to help and started loading all our gear in his truck. It was clear we were not driving this puppy home. “My nice car,” said Amy. “Just a car,” said Danny. “You guys are okay.”  I can’t tell you how great it is to see a friendly neighbour’s face at a time like this.
            Gord, a friend who lived just across the highway, came over to help and took Amy to call the RCMP.  Many cars stopped to help. “How the hell did you get out,” was the usual question?
            Danny helped us pack everything up and drove us home. (Thanks Danny.) We dropped our stuff and went over to Dave and Cheryl’s at the Bear Paw. We needed to debrief. As friends do, they listened, and then made us dinner.
Downside up at Cottonwood hill.
            As they days progressed we found we were not able to concentrate and my ribs gave me a lot of discomfort.  But we got a cheque for the car from ICBC the next day - 22 hours!  Amazing.  Lisa at Regency Chrysler in Quesnel helped Amy find and purchase another used vehicle, the color she originally wanted. (That is one hard way to change the color of your car.) We decided to drive to Red Deer to pick up the car. On the way I was going to look for a mule, pick up a new cart, and a used horse trailer. Most of it worked out.
Meadowbrook cart. We have photos of a cart just like this in early Barkerville.
            The folks with the mule decided not to sell, the trailer was more used with more rust than I had been told, but the cart arrived in Alberta from Regina and it was just what I have wanted for several years; the car was ready to go and just what Amy wanted and the drive was in sunshine and mountains all the way.  A great few days away.
Bighorn sheep on the Kootenay Plains.
Cloud cover on the Columbia Icefields.
            Time had gotten away from us in searching for a car, a mule, wagons, trailers, physio appointments with Kate, car dealing and horse trading. We did manage a couple of meetings and dinners, with Danette Boucher for instance, who is performing a new one-woman show for us this season, and we had fun with the Gourmet Ski – another Wells success story.
            Friends rallied round. Patrick dropped off two loads of small firewood for instance, so I don’t have to split wood.  Folks like Patrick, Matt, Cyril, Gord, Danny, Dave, Cheryl … they are what makes small town living so great.
            Amy is now back in Vancouver. I am refinishing the cart, the trailer is being repaired and repainted, a bunch of stuff is being sold … and I am still looking for a mule. There is a great pair in Tennessee and a nice one in New Mexico … .
            Now we can get back to theatre stuff like contracts, costumes, our new expanded program and visitor’s guide and generally getting ready for the next season, which we anticipate will be the best yet. And I can hear Peter Boychuk our director and Dale Brotsky our set designer asking, “where is the script?”  Soon, just as soon as I can find this mule – after all, as Edward Howman says, “theatre is theatre.”
             Red, in foreground, on the Cariboo Road, Camel Trek 2003 - Leif Grandell photo.
So long Red. Good pastures. You were a good old girl.   
Copyright 2009 Richard T.Wright