"Go as far as you can see; when you get there you'll be able to see farther." ~ Thomas Carlyle
My reaction was unwarranted: quickly moving back from the bluff edge and back through the small gap in the fence, but towards the man who had called out to me. I had just unintentionally flushed a family of grouse who had fluttered up in front of me, protesting noisily. As they flapped clumsily down the steep bluff at my feet, Katy, my dog, who already had a sore leg caused by her energetic enthusiasm, started after them on three speedy legs, but luckily listened when I called her back.
We had stopped to stretch our legs at the Fish Trap Rest Stop on Highway 5 near Barrière, British Columbia. I immediately grabbed my camera, jumping at the chance to take some pictures from the ground rather than from the moving vehicle as had been my entertainment for the past two days.
The rest stop had been built at the edge of the high eastern bank of the North Thompson River. I ran to the rather flimsy fence that rimmed the steep scrub-covered bluff and made my way along it shooting picture after picture of this moving view. A rich foreground of vegetation stood out out against the swiftly flowing river and train track below, and the smoke-shrouded wooded hills beyond.
The smoke from the forest fires was still fairly thick here, although the hot-spot of sun was visible through it. The far bank and hills beyond had a special, mysterious atmosphere: like fog, but not. This was much more even than any fog that I have experienced. There were no gaps; no lighter or heavier areas. The colour, of course was different as well, although, as I’ve mentioned before, I can’t really say what colour it was!
So after flushing the grouse and retrieving my dog, when I turned to see the man coming towards the small gap in the fence that was built to protect people from their own stupidity, my heart was beating just a little faster than usual. That probably accounted for the slight paranoia that sent me skittering back through the hole in the fence, away from the ‘cliff’ edge and of necessity, toward the man.
He was 73, he told us later, and he looked it, but in the best kind of way. He looked fit and energetic and right away I was captivated by the character-map of his face accentuated by his impish grin. My slight fear was immediately obliterated by curiosity. Here was a man with stories.
“What are you doing?” he asked me, with a high pitched break on the final word like an adolescent whose voice is changing…or like an enthusiastic old man.
“I’m just practicing. I’m learning to take pictures.”
I don’t know why I’m afraid to say ‘photographs’ or why I always make sure that people don’t assume that I might think I’m a photographer. I guess I don’t want to raise any expectations. There’s an interesting discussion along those lines here on photographyfree4all’s blog.
Anyway, he wasn’t interested in my camera or photography but by then we had been joined by my husband, Jim, who might have had the same initial reaction as I did to this stranger approaching me. The questions flew. The old guy wanted to know all about us: who we were, were we came from, what we did for a living.
Well, I guess he’s been traveling since he was my age. He told us he’s been on the road selling his crafts, which unfortunately we never got around to finding more about. He was raised up north outside of Dawson City, where his father treated and recycled their personal sewage for his gardens. Growing up, he had a friend that experimented with solar power and thermal heat! He’s lived throughout the interior and he was on his way back down to a milder climate from the Yukon, where he’d spent several winters.
“May I take your picture?” I asked after we’d talked for a while.
Frank backed away, raising his elbows slightly as if to shield himself. “Are you the police?” he asked with a grin.
“I don’t know. Are you running?” I quipped.
“Not yet!” He giggled and the subject was dropped.
I did get a picture of him with his elbow on Jim’s shoulder before we parted ways. But it came with a promise to keep it to ourselves.