Monday, June 28, 2010
Thoughts on Thompson: Thompson is changing from when I was first there. The roads and foundations of buildings have improved. Discontinuous permafrost used to lie in patches here and there and when buildings or roads were put there, they would heave or drop noticeably as the ground beneath melted. Sunlight beaming down on the exposed boreal forest soil, which is very thin, melted the ground beneath, causing many of the problems. Gradually over time the soil has become stable. In other areas of town exposed bedrock of Canadian Shield is a great place to build on and the three tall apartment buildings are put there. As I mentioned, artwork now graces what used to be painfully bare walls of siding on most of the buildings. Schools almost entirely without windows are still a common sight. Their resemblence to jails is easy to see, for me. I am sure the teachers do much work outside the building when the weather permits. But that north wind is awful cold in winter! Government, both Provincial and Federal, is putting a lot of $ into the town with infrastructure projects such as buildings and head-offices located all over. Thompson's multicultural flavour is as evident as before. Sikhs, Muslims with women wearing the hijab, and Indians (from India) are very common here and are taking good advantage of the opportunity for jobs and good pay. VALE/INCO needs workers badly and is hiring. Everywhere in restaurants and stores the tunrover is very high and help wanted signs flourish. A twelve-year-old boy who recognized me from a school visit (You're that author, right?) served me my Bagel BELT in Tim Hortons. He's been working there 3 weeks already.
This photo, taken from the headframe at T-1, shows the open pit excavation beside the mine. When I worked here that was a lake; it has since been diverted and drained and the top layer mined out. From the aircraft this morning it is certainly noticeable, but then, seeing the million of acres of vacant and unused land, I must disagree with my brothers & sisters in the extreme end of the environmental movement. Development helps people most of all, and when done sensibly, should be a net benefit. Now having said that, there is still a lot of abuse. Why anyone would drive a Hummer is beyond me. To my mind, unless a person needs to travel constantly over rough terrain, driving a Hummer is like flipping the bird at everybody.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
The Dry - many fewer buckets than in the 70's
The cage was smaller than I remembered and travelled more slowly. In my memories it almost did a free-fall downward and slammed around a lot more. That probably was the case, as so much about safety and the permanence of the place has been improved.
Stu Cunningham on the Mine Cat - a noisy diesel monster which travels maybe 3 KPH
The cage & in the cage.
Stu Cunningham brought me to 4000 level and together with another shift-boss, Mike Vallance, we rode a Mine Cat down declines to 4550 level. Mike showed how they are using newer methods of mining to extract the ore. Down here the cut and fill methods are not used. I spent a couple of hours there, and then returned to the levels the way I remembered them. An excellent day for good information. Many thanks to Stu & Mike, and also Don and Joyce Belson, (Keith's parents) who have been very helpful. Don worked his way from being an ordinary miner to being in top management and he knows the mine very well. He answered a lot of my technical questions and is good at explaining things to amateurs.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
The statue of the "King Miner" greets you as you drive into Thompson. A lot about this town is a celebration of nickel mining, the main source of community income and a huge revenue source for the Province of Manitoba. A big event every year in Thompson is the "Nickel Days" festivities - and I missed them by a week. Apart from a lot of other events, the King Miner Contest is quite popular. Miners from all over Western Canada and the north come to compete in traditional mine jobs such as jack-leg drilling (you can see the block at left which they drilled into) stoper drilling (drilling upward - see next photo) crib building, ladder climbing, hand mucking (shovelling sand into a small mine car) power mucking (using a mucking machine to drag ore toward a chute) and similar events. I'd like to see wiring and blasting a big boulder in there, but I don't think the idea would pass. The bits and pieces from the contest are left in the field next to the arena, and boulders full of drill holes (they used to use real boulders instead of concrete) are to be found all over. As I mentioned before, there are murals painted on many buildings which celebrate the aboriginal past, the wildlife to be found here, and the history of mining in the area.
Friday, June 25, 2010
The mine site has a shaft to enter by and also a ramp
entry. The cage was getting new 'ropes' - which are 1 inch thick braided steel cable - so we entered by the ramps, which was cool because I'd never done that before.
Here I am with "Peanut" (mine captain Noel Morin) who spoke English like Jean Chretien. They even let me keep the brand-new coveralls I was given. The coveralls are great, fit well, and have DUMAS written in reflective lettering on the back, along with lots of stripes. Anyone who has seen the Shawshank Redemption will rememeber the scene when the guy picks up a book by Dumas and reads; "The Three Musketeers by Alexandree dumb-ass."
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
None of the other rental places had anything for me.
I was doing a lot of walking. Walking is okay for a while, but I have a lot to see & do.
(When I first came to Thompson as a teenager, I was coming from Toronto and I found Thompson small. I could walk around it in an afternoon. Now I am coming from a very small town. I find Thompson to be pretty large - it takes a whole afternoon to walk around it! - Is this relativity?)
How about if I take a taxi for the long trips? The short ride from the train station cost $12. No thanks, Mr. cab driver.
How about a bicycle? It would be just the right vehicle; I could go slow, see stuff, and still get around. I could get a bicycle at Canadian Tire for a good deal less than the week's rent of a car... but then I have to sell it when I leave, or ask someone else to sell it... a hassle
Maybe I could buy a used one...
I am told about a few used-goods places. No used bicycles. I looked at the posted ads in stores; Lots of snow mobiles and ATV's. No bikes.
Kirstie my hostess tells me about the swap & shop time at the CHTM radio station which is right next door to my B&B. (see the picture)
Maybe somebody had a bicycle for sale. Lydia at the CHTM reception took the information and I also met A.J., the new disk jockey from Winnipeg.
They post the ad and also are willing to do a plug for my book-signing tomorrow and Saturday.
Went for a swim at the excellent Norplex Pool. I took another walking tour around the west and north end of town but didn't get to the millenium trail yet (too far).
When I got back Keith Belton was unloading a bright yellow 21 speed bicycle. "I heard the ad on the radio," he said, "and I know what it's like to be stuck in a town for a week with no way of getting around, he said. It's free. Just leave it at the B&B when you are done."
Thank you Keith! What a helpful town this is!
Monday, June 21, 2010
The day started at 3:30 AM when I woke and got Dan and Shirley up to drive me to the airport. The drive to Toronto went smoothly, and the flight left at 8:00 as they promised, and landed in Winnipeg on time at 9:30 (Central Time). I saw 'Invictus' on the tiny screen in front of me and although I didn't finish watching it I was so moved by what I saw I had tears in my eyes. Likewise I noticed the lady sitting beside me, constantly wiping tears away, watching a different movie, so I wasn't embarrassed by my streaming eyes. 'Moving movies' I thought to myself. Later I noticed her using eye-drops because her contacts were giving her trouble. She said her movie was pretty stupid. so much for moving movies! The bus ride was also easy and timely, getting me to Union Station Winnipeg with plenty of time for lunch before the train ride.
Here is a shot of me near Portage & Main waiting to transfer to another bus.
Right near the train station was a place called The Market, which was also a neat little market Shirley & I ate at several years ago while at the Winnipeg Heritage Festival. The Forks of Winnipeg are right behind the tyrain station as it turns out. Anyway the train was late leaving Winnipeg, arrived in Portage la Prarie late, was also slow coming into Canora, behind schedule coming into The Pas and pulled in en retard in Wabowden. Travelling at a snail's pace for some miles didn't hurry things along so we arrived in Thompson late too. Still, I got some great ideas for the stories I'm working on and I'm getting more comfortable with the laptop. More about writing later. I've taken a lot of shots from the train window. There has been lots of flooding in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and the evidence was very clear. This photo is basically a lake which last year was green fields beside a small river.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Clarissa from St. Theresa school writes;
It's funny because the last time I really loved a book was in Grade two. What's even funnier is when my teacher made me choose a book to read for red maple leaving fletchville and war brothers were the only books left and I didn't want to read either book.I ended up choosing leaving fletchville and I learnt a lesson; don't judge a book but its cover. This is exactly what I did, I didn't want to read it because I wasn't attracted to the cover.
Wazir at McCrimmon Middle School wrote; "In leaving fletchville I thought it was funny and sad. I thought it was sad when i figured out that Leon had no parents and only lived with his brother and sister. ...I thought it was funny when brandon pretended he was a plane and crashed into Ricky and his friends to make the little kids laugh... what got me so into the book and wanted me to actually finish it is that i thought Brandon had ADHD, which made it even more interesting. I personally never liked reading books until I read "leaving fletchville"
Joyosi, MacCrimmon Middle School My name is Joyosi and I am in the 7th grade. I love your book. At first I was a little resistant but when I started it I just could not put it down. This is a first for me.
Some students could quit school and become book-reviewers tomorrow. Emma at St. Theresa school had better insight into the book than most adults I have spoken with. She got everything I put in there; here is just part of her three page letter:
...the real reason I loved your book was because how you emphasized change. The change of person,, change of heart, and change of life. Even at the beginning of thebook you made it clear that Brandon was the kid that always got cent to the principals office because he felt the need to distrub the class or get into a fight. But it didn't bother him being known for the bad boy. When Leon step in and starts slowly changing his life one step at a time. helping Brandon with his homework and sometimes just keeping him company. As their friendship grew stronger I noticed Brandon had a change of heart. He cared for his friend so Brandon got a job to help give Leon money. Most importantly at the end of the book Brandon was a changed person. He didn't want to disturb his classes anymore because he rather sat with leon. Brandon was enjoying having a friend...
And Emily writes; ...It was the best book I ever read and I have read a lot of books. Me and six of my friends in my class , all voted for your book for the best fiction award. The reasons I love your book is because it has lots of secrets, trust, action, mystery, a problem and a solution, also the one thing I really love in a book and that is a happy ending.
All that week I felt really good about writing and pumped to carry on with my current project; "Dan, Time Boy". I got another chapter or two written and actually bought myself a laptop so I could write in places other than my office on my big desktop computer. Great!
Then I started doubting...
Maybe the story is too boring...
Maybe I need an extra character in there to balance things off between Dan and his family...
Maybe he should be fatherless and someone else should play a surrogate father role (I'm big on fatherhood)...
Maybe my son, the real Dan, won't like the character I created with his name on it...
So I start sorting out the things on my desk... (it always needs a clean-up).
Then I start thinking about the lawn. I think it needs another cut...
Maybe the story should be in first person...kids might relate better to a first person narrative.
I'd better check my emails to see if a publisher wants to publish "Escape the Mine"... Nothing. Maybe I'll check again in another half hour to see if there is a response then. I'll check also to see if the publisher looking at "Top Ten" wants to publish it... Nothing.
I cut the lawn. Vigorous exercise helps my brain to work better.
I finally put the new rear tire on the BMW. It takes a couple of hours because I don't have special machines to break the bead and separate the tire from the rim properly. (I do it with the help of two 2X4's and a parked car). The tire is on and it looks good.
I check the email for responses from publishers.
I notice the little arrow on the tire shows I've put the rear tire on backwards.
I remove the tire and put it on correctly. I do it at night so none of my neighbours will know I was so stupid as to put it on backwards the first time. (don't tell anybody) I check the email. Nothing.
The tire looks good and still holds 60 psi of air - no pressure drop.
I think the lawn needs cutting.
I check the emails. Nothing.
Maybe I should write some more of the Dan Time Boy story, except that my desk is messy. I'd better clean it up... maybe the grass needs cutting.
I get a letter from a publisher who is very interested in "Escape the Mine" - they say "if nobody has snapped it up" please send it along... Great! I send it.
Suddenly I get some new ideas about the Dan story and I begin writing...
Maybe the lawn will wait... my fingers are flying on the keyboard...