We made a lunch stop yesterday in the small hamlet of Duvernay, Alberta. Its on Hwy 36 on the way to Fort McMurray. We originally had planned for a pancake lunch followed by a nap, but further inspection of the town revealed a pizza parlour - who can resist - and the extended family of Bob Bachelets.
In a community of roughly 70, Bob is the elder statesman and unofficial mayor at the age of 86.
He owns and operates River View Ranch, a cattle farm. It is the same land his father farmed since he bought it in 1909. Bob was born two years before the current farm house, and has lived and worked there all his life. He is healthy and active with no retirement plan. "What else would I do?" he shrugged when the subject came up.
Bob, known affectionately as Uncle Bob in the community, has 6 kids, 23 grandchildren, and soon to be 10 great grandchildren. By his own admission, he "loves kids". Outside of his blood relations, he is a father or uncle figure to many in the community. He is interested in seeing children succeed and is more than willing to help out those in need, "whether its here in Alberta or in Ontario".
We met Bob and some of his family as they were installing a new roof
cover over a workshed. During the "admiration of a job well done" phase
of the day, the small band of family and friends were curious to know
who the out-of-towners were and if we had anything to do with the big
canoe tied up by the riverside.
Well before you know it - we had new best friends.
Marissa and Hollye got a personal tour of Bob's ranch, as well as a neighbour's fresh batch of kittens. There was temptation to take a couple of Trip Kitties, but we thought they might not take well to the canoe.
We discussed local wildlife, farm life, village life, river life, Alberta life, tar sands, even how to turn an old school bus roof into a river boat, and of course the logistics and cause behind a certain 5000km canoe trip. Great people sharing a slice of their lives all in the name of small town hospitality.
When it finally came time to leave, we were given a few parting gifts including -but not limited to - Bob's personalised pen (one each so we don't fight), fishing tackle, a hand crank USB charger, directions to a cabin to stay in (couldn't find it), Bob's "best Kobasa in Canada" from his own beef (one each so we don't fight over it), the promise of Christmas cards from Bob himself, and an unprecedented donation to our OE cause.
To Bob and his family, we thank you for the great afternoon and the small town Alberta hospitality. You are a testament to hard work and generosity. It was unexpected and exactly what we needed.
If you pass through Duvernay, make sure to stop and ask for Bob. You won't come away empty handed.