Tall Tales

Have you noticed, driving around BC, Alberta and the Yukon, just about every community with a population over ten has adopted a nickname or slogan which are usually displayed on the signpost welcoming you to their home town? ?Welcome to Smallville, Home of People with Big Hearts.? Just about every town from Atlin, ?Switzerland of the North,? to Lillooet, ?BC?s Little Nugget? has such a welcome mat which are supposed to give you a impression of the locale even if you?re blowing through fast enough to get the local Mounties out of Tim Horton?s.

Having lived and travelled in western Canada for decades from ?The Heart of the Klondike? (Dawson City) to ?Canada?s Alpine Playground? (Whistler) to the ?City of Champions? (Edmonton), I have often marvelled or groaned at such signposts and either admired them or wrote them off as dumb or silly depending on the written message. For instance, there is a farming community in Alberta called Hythe which bills itself as ?The Volunteer Capitol of Alberta!? I later asked a Hytheite was that was supposed to mean and he said: ?Ah, I dunno, they built the hockey rink with 100% volunteer effort and were so proud of themselves they put it on the sign.?

Fair enough. There was a show on TV recently about a similar community in Oklahoma that bills itself as the ?Cowchip Capitol of the World? because they annually have a contest, with participants from around the globe, to see which man and which woman can fling a cow pie (manure) further than the rest. (Editor?s note: You can get the best distance by selecting a flat one which has seasoned for a year and throwing it like a frisbee.)

All of this bovine background is by way of introduction to note Tumbler Ridge seems to be suffering from a case of sloganis confucious. That is, in English, slogan confusion.

Like most Tumbling rookies, my introduction to local lore came from reading Charles Helm?s ?Tumbler Ridge, Enjoying its History, Trails and Wilderness? which calls Tumbler Ridge ?The Taj Mahal of the Canadian Rockies.?

As an aficionado, indeed a connoisseur, of communal nicknames who has noted them around the globe, this one did not ring any bells and I would give it a two on a scale of one to ten. I have no idea who coined the ?Taj Mahal? nickname nor how widespread is its use and acceptance but it certainly isn?t the right slogan for Tumbler Ridge. This community and area are known far and wide for black coal, hard work and big dreams. The Taj Mahal is a white building in India built by a lovesick monarch with a foxy wife. The two items – Tumbler Ridge and Taj Mahal – just don?t mesh. I groaned and rolled my eyes when I first read it and thought ?Blackheart of the Peace? would be far more appropriate.

I mean, if Tumbler Ridge is the ?Taj Mahal of the Canadian Rockies,? what do you call Lake Louise, Banff or Jasper, ?The Versailles Palace of the Canadian Rockies?? Tumbler Ridge is in the eastern foothills at a very low altitude of 2,700 feet above sea level, just 600 feet higher than a place that calls itself Grande Prairie.

No, whoever came up with ?Taj Mahal of the Canadian Rockies? for Tumbler Ridge will never be listed in the Nickname Hall of Fame and needs to take a long, slow summer trip up the Alaska Highway to Kluane Park and gaze upon the majesty of Mt. Logan, Canada?s highest peak at 19,700 feet. If there?s any alpine protuberance in Canada worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence with the Taj Mahal, that would be the one.

Then I saw another slogan at the Visitor?s Center on a brochure which called Tumbler Ridge ?The Peak of the Peace? and I liked that immeasurably better. Afterall, we are in the headwaters country of the mighty Peace and, if you hock a wad of chewing tobacco into the Murray River, it will ultimately find it?s way to North America?s biggest river, the Mackenzie, and finally sink to the bottom of the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean. That?s a long way to chuck a chaw.

If the town fathers and mothers ever hold a referendum on the burning question of ?Taj Mahal? or ?Peak of the Peace? for Tumbler Ridge?s official catchy slogan, I will campaign vigorously for the Peak people.

A vital community needs a vital slogan on its welcome sign to give vitality to the future. Look what it did for those chip-flinging Okies who previously had to follow cows around with a wheelbarrow so they would have something to do on Saturday nights.