Years ago, I wrote a column in the Herald. It seems like a good time to resurrect that effort.
What has changed? I have changed, gotten older. There’s no downside, as it is preferable to the other option, not getting older. The change also includes retiring, moving to a tiny village, Laird, an hour from Prince Albert.
Recently, someone suggested I apply for a pastoral position in a church in a large Canadian city. My ego liked that quite a lot. I gave it some thought.
The whimsical welding project that has held me in thrall in this past year is created with metal salvaged from oilfield leftovers. In my zeal to polish rods that have been slowly sinking into tall grass, deeply pitted from rust, I chain the twenty-five foot sections behind my ATV and take them for a brisk two mile run down a gravel road. Neighbours grin, wave, and count me as clever, I’m pretty sure. Do large Canadian cities have gravel roads? Would I be measured as clever?
There’s a thing, going into its third year here in Laird, where young boys recycle old lawn mower tractors, gear them up, and use them to cruise our village. A dad from down the street comes by. He has a small engine from a snow blower, with handlebar and wheels. Could I build a hitch so it can tow a wagon? Shortly thereafter, Holly reports sighting this contraption, loaded with boys, careening down main street at it’s top speed of about .8kph, while cars patiently steer around it. I have not yet had my turn. Could I cruise at .8kph in the midst of equally patient traffic in a large Canadian city?
As I was on my driveway building something, a grade five class walked up my street, on a nature hike. I heard a voice say, “Mr. Harris, can I go say hi to my opa?” Mr. Harris replied, “Let’s all go say hi to opa!” I was quickly surrounded by students, asking questions, needing demonstrations. A girl observed, “You have a lot of holes in your shirt!” Another shushed her, “That’s rude!” A large Canadian city would need to offer those kind of days.
The local general store is also the post office. On getting the mail one day, we find a small bag in our box, with a few coins and a note. “You bought bananas and right after that we lowered the price. Here’s the difference.” The change counts out to $1.63. Would large Canadian city box stores show that kind of scrupulous concern for it’s customers?
An extended family member who lives in our town has spent a number of months in hospital. As we check out their residence, do summer chores, some repairs, a neighbour from across the street appears. “How can I help?” I offer a suggestion, and though he is a professional person with agenda to attend, he is there immediately, tools in hand. His children show up on the weekend to cut grass. How would this story be told in a large Canadian city?
There are, I assume, both plus and minus points to living in a tiny hamlet, where everyone knows everyone’s business. Small “pre-tractor” aged boys and girls pedal or run down the middle of the street, wave, and shout greetings. Adults stop by to examine whatever is on my welding table, to anxiously discuss the drought, to talk proudly about a son who will play junior football a few provinces over, to worry about whether he will be okay. Other neighbours bring garden produce, cinnamon buns. The woman at the insurance agency is excited that I have a 58-year-old truck under restoration.
The ebb and flow of Laird becomes a place to experience wholesome community. As I delight in the many upsides, as I feel the sense of healthy spirituality, as I sense the simple determination to live well together, it is something about God.
Think I’ll stay.
Ed Olmert has been a farmer, welder, truck driver, underground miner, heavy equipment operator, and preacher. He is currently rebuilding a 58-year-old truck, and doing some of what he calls “whimsical welding” as well as practical welding. He is still writing and still doing some itinerant preaching, and like many, he is still trying to perfect the partner, father, opa thing.