Monday, July 7, 2008

Day 3: Bikin' to Gleichen (and the "Indian house")

The Siksika Nation owns the section of the Bow River from just after Carseland to the Bossano Dam. When I called their head office, I was told I would need a permit to canoe this section, and to get a permit I would need to see the Department of Lands, located in the head offices just south of Gleichen. Gleichen being roughly 25 miles (40 km) away, I would need to ride my bike there to obtain the permit.

About the ride there, I do not have much to say. It was raining, but I made good time and was happy to feel as though I were going uphill all the way, since that would mean an easy downhill ride back.

During one of our landlord's frequent complaining sessions of us as humans and as caretakers, they said that the small pile of junk that had appeared in the back when two new people moved in made our place look like an "Indian house". I asked Calvin what this meant, and he said it was general racism. Now that I have observed some real "Indian" houses, I can perhaps provide a description of those I saw on the road.

In an area proclaimed by sign as the "West End Development", were what looked like some prefab houses laid out in a seemingly random pattern. My first impression was that they were dismal, not because of collections of junk, but rather by the lack of it. All these identical houses, each painted in some plain color appeared soulless, unlived in. And after seeing a couple more of these developments further on, my general impression was always of these buildings being plopped down, indiscriminately on the prairie. There were rarely the kind of strong architectural features, such as fences, driveways, sheds, trees, and the like which make a building appear to belong to the place, and even when these features were present it simply made the feeling of otherworldliness extend to the border of the fence, say, rather than the wall of my house. If a squadron of UFOs were to land in Stanley Park, they would appear to be as at home in the landscape as these houses in the prairie.

But above all, I did not see any conspicuous junk in the yards. I do not know why, but in my stranger's imagination, it is because these people live without all this extraneous material, as if ready to pack up their houses and go on to the next world at a moment's notice.

At the office I met some weathered faces who told me where to go for my permit, and I wondered how my face would look at the end of my journey. I was able to quickly get a $30 permit for one day of boating on the river.

On the way back to the park, I could not tell if I was truly going downhill most of the way, because the wind was so incredibly strong in my face. I got back, my legs exhausted but my arms still in good shape, and went a couple of miles so I could camp on free land and be able to empty the water out of my boat.

Day 3 ended: 50*49.572N, 113*23.673W

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