Commentary – Memories from 30 years of news

Joe McWilliams

The other night as your reporter should have been sleeping an idea for a story occurred. It had to do with some of the strange and sometimes funny incidents that come up from time to time in this business.

North-central Alberta may not be the most exciting place in the world.

That’s probably a good thing; but if you stick around any place for 30 years, a few unexpected and interesting things are bound to pop up.

It’s something along the same lines as what professional wildlife photographers must do. You see the results of their work and think: “Wow! How come when I’m out in the bush I never see anything like that?”

The answer, of course, is they set up in a spot and wait. It might take hours or even days until it does, but eventually a cougar will wander by.

Or, depending on the location, a crocodile will intercept an unlucky wildebeest.

If you wait long enough in the same place, something unusual will happen. Around Lesser Slave Lake, a forest fire or a flood will definitely happen. You probably won’t even have to wait that long. If you hang around long enough, one of those fires might even burn its way right into town. It’s been known to happen.

Wildlife encounters are also pretty much guaranteed. Sooner or later, for example, unless you never get out of your car, you are going to find yourself face to face with a bear. Or a moose. Or a wolf. It happens.

One of the strangest wildlife stories was the one that had a deer breaking into the college. It ran right through the door, knocking the lower window pane off.

Finding itself in the space between doors, it somehow got through the inner set and into the hallway. Now there’s something you don’t see every week!

Then there was the one about the two mountain bikers who were pursued by a hostile black bear south of town. They had to spend a cold night barricaded inside a shack at the ski hill.

Strange behaviour from people is guaranteed. For example, there was the guy who curled in his bare feet. We’ve got the photos to prove it.

Then there was the fellow [possibly drunk] who came across a bulldozer parked on or near the berm along the creek in behind Slave Lake Ford one day. So he decided to go for a joyride and walked the dozer along the berm, over the railway tracks, along the paved trail [wiping out a garbage can], along the street by the post office and across Main Street before abandoning the thing behind Dom’s.

One time I took the kids with me to a Saturday interview in Sucker Creek. While chatting with the lady in her house, I left the kids in the car with the two sliding doors open. A few minutes into the interview, we were alarmed by screams from outside. Rushing out, I found my youngest pinned against a fence, a little goat prodding his midsection with its horns. It turned out the curious and fearless animal had climbed inside the car, scattering the kids and then followed one of them out. No harm was done and it became something to laugh about.

Who knew a goat would do something like that? Probably anyone with experience of the critters, of which I had none!

Then there are the true believers fanciful thinkers who expect to be taken seriously. These range from UFOs to Bigfoot to the existence of little green people in the forest [not making any of this up], to a touching faith in certain political philosophies.

Complicated … but never boring!

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