Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Landslide

Aerial view.




The day after.
Not far from Calgary, Alberta, and just east of the Crowsnest Pass, lies the small, bustling town of Frank, Alberta, nestled on the floor of a deeply-glaciated valley.
Looming menacingly nearby is Turtle Mountain.
Also nearby is a scene of a destruction of such magnitude that it has never been equalled!
In the early morning hours of April 29, 1903, Turtle Mountain collapsed, resulting in the greatest landslide in North American history.
In 100 seconds: at least 76 people were buried alive under tons of massive limestone boulders; three-quarters of the homes in Frank were crushed like balsa wood; over a mile of the Canadian Pacific Railroad was completely destroyed; and a river became a lake.
Yet, few people have ever heard about it.    - Neil Simpson                                                                        
My parents were driving out to the coast and travelling through Frank Slide was a necessity.
In the years after the tragedy, not much of the rubble had been disturbed. The giant boulders and pieces of mountain lay where they had fallen, a silent testament to those trapped forever beneath.
The road had been cut through and the railway reconnected.
Little else had been touched.
Driving through, one's car dwarfed by the massive chunks of rock, one could easily imagine the horror and heartbreak of that fateful morning.
Unless one was four.
Which I was.
I should mention here that, when our family travelled, the scenery or anything else flying past us outside the car never interested me. Because when I was in a car I was either:
  1. Sick
  2. Oblivious
  3. Sick and oblivious
  4. Asleep
The only thing that could rouse me were the words, “Look! Horses!”
I would leap up instantly, despite being heretofore (real word) comatose and press my nose against the nearest window. “Where!? Where!?”
One or the other of my parents would point out the eagerly anticipated animals.
I would stare at them for as long as time permitted, then collapse back onto the seat with a sigh and return to whatever I had been doing.
I was fairly easily entertained.
But I digress . . .
The road had been long. We had already been travelling for an hour.
I was drowsing on the back seat.
Suddenly, Dad spoke up, “Here we are kids! Frank Slide!”
At almost the same time, my Mom said, “Look at all the rock!”
The tone of voice was the same as what my parents used whenever they pointed out something interesting.
Like horses.
But because the word 'horse' had not actually been used, I was slow to respond.
I must admit that I never even heard my Mom's comment.
I sat up and pressed my face against the window.
I don't know what I was expecting. Dad had said something about a 'slide'.
To me that meant something 'playground-y'.
All I could see were huge rocks.
What kind of playground was this?
Finally, I turned to my parents and said, “Can't see it!”
They burst out laughing.
What was that all about?
Mom pointed out the window. “Can't you see all the rock?”
I glanced outside. “Yeah.”
“Well that's it!”
I looked again. “But I can't see it!”
I don't think they ever figured out that I was talking about the 'slide'.
The real slide. The one Dad had seen.
All they wanted was to look at the stupid rocks.
Parents are so weird.
Perspective.

11 comments:

  1. I can imagine your four year old confusion, if you'd mentioned the word slide, maybe your parents might have caught on. but that isn't the sort of thing a four year old would think, I guess, when thinking playground was meant, not rock slide.
    Just think 200 or 500 years from now, archaeologists may unearth that site and find a treasure trove of artifacts and bones, buildings etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They said slide. I wanted a slide!
      Imagine the history just waiting to be discovered! I've heard that all of the great mounds of earth in South America actually hide whole buildings. All you need is a shovel and time. Oh, and quite a bit of energy!

      Delete
  2. I'm having a thought to deep to write out here, but it has to do with changing perspective with age and how taking 12 year olds to see American Sniper is a bad idea because of perspective at that age, which is to say "no perspective" and well, this has been stuck in my craw a while...i think i'll have to write it so thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like something that needs your touch, Carol. I look forward to reading it!

      Delete
  3. What a terrible tragedy. The aerial view is numbing.

    And, yes, the gap between our four year old minds - or even older - and the minds of grownups is often a yawning chasm :)

    I remember my folks wanting to go to a town about 45 minutes away to buy a deep freeze. They asked 8 year old me how long it would take me to be ready. I thought about it and said three hours because that's what seemed to be about the right amount of time to wash hair and change clothes. They laughed and said - we're leaving in fifteen minutes, be ready ...!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The aerial view brings it into perspective, doesn't it?
      I don't know . . . three hours sounds about right to me! :)

      Delete
  4. Four-year-old kids are so literal. I remember my eldest daughter at four. She'd been out playing on the farm and was absolutely filthy when she came in. As I ran the bath for her, I commented that she was going to need a real scrub to get all that dirt off and went out of the bathroom for a couple of minutes. When I returned, she had the nail brush and was using it on her arms then said to me "I'm trying to scrub it off but it hurts!" I'm not surprised it hurt. As I say, kids are so literal!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, the sweet little girl! Ouch, indeed! :)

      Delete
  5. I can't imagine anything more terrifying! Being very claustrophobic the thought of being buried alive scares me to death. I don't even want to be buried when I die I want to be cremated! As a four-year-old I see how the confusion would seem!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm claustrophobic as well. I was watching a TV program where a woman was buried alive. They found her in time, but I had nightmares about it. Gasp!

      Delete
  6. If it hadn't been for horses and wildlife, I might never have looked out a car window in my younger years. It wasn't until I moved away that I realized how spectacular the scenery of the Rockies was, which I had always just taken for granted!

    ReplyDelete

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