Melon is Watson Lake’s gold

Yo Uma! Remember when we first got here and Pete and I were having the big debate about whether to get a dog or not? I really wanted one for the…

Yo Uma!

Remember when we first got here and Pete and I were having the big debate about whether to get a dog or not?

I really wanted one for the company when Pete’s away, and for the boys to enjoy when, and if, they ever come here for their holidays.

We’ve never been able to have a dog, with all the travelling for Pete’s work, but he swears after this gig he is retiring, so what better time to be a pet owner?

I lost. Pete’s argument was my health issues — his trump card — and I was a tad bitter for awhile.

Now I’m grateful to be married to a man of such good sense. It was so cold last week that a dog would’ve guilted me out of the trailer and the time it takes to garb oneself for an encounter with the outdoors could eat up most of a day.

I don’t know how the parents of young children deal with this piling on and peeling off the layers of clothing needed before venturing outside. It takes me half an hour to prepare for surviving a trip to the garbage bin.

But I did go to a meeting.

Community events are posted on various bulletin boards around town, and these make good reading. One can learn a lot about the town and the people just from a careful read.

My favourite so far: “FREE: One stupid bloody dog, with papers”.

The meeting was facilitated by a Yukon territorial government nutritionist named Jennifer, and attended by about 15 women.

The topic was the availability of nutritious and reasonably priced food in Watson Lake and the consequences for those unable to buy elsewhere.

There is only one grocery store here, though there are two gas stations that sell milk and junk food, and the sundries store has a grocery section, mostly canned and dried stuff.

Only Super A sells produce, though, and this is the rub. The prices are astonishing; bananas, purchased at Super Store in Whitehorse for $1.79 a kilogram are $2.29 here.

This difference is more typical than not. 

It’s enough to warrant the trading of my wee car for a small pickup so that I could buy groceries in Whitehorse.

All right, all right, I know what you’re going to say; I always wanted a truck anyway (and a dog to ride in it), but the price of food in Watson Lake made my argument unassailable.

It seems I’m not the only one taking this trek through the wilderness, the path strewn with wild animals, to gather food.

What Jennifer wanted to discuss, though, was the lack of food that was not processed and packaged (in other words, nutritious) and why the prices were so very high.

Her research showed Dawson City and Old Crow getting better and cheaper food than Watson Lake, and they are more isolated than we are.

Her favourite price story was the watermelons last summer that were less than $5 in Whitehorse and were $18 here!

In the course of her inquiries, she discovered that the truck bearing the groceries for our local grocery store DROVE THROUGH WATSON LAKE and unloaded the Whitehorse stuff before coming back down the highway and delivering Super A’s stuff.

You’ve looked at a map of the Yukon — isn’t that a contender for the Darwin prize?

When Jennifer approached the store manager, she was told it was up to the supplier of the groceries to determine the method of delivery and she should talk to them.

She did, and reported to us at this meeting that the person she talked to at that company said it was up to the store manager.

No one asked her what she did next, they were all too busy sharing stories of food that was not fresh, food that was dumped rather than marked down, prices they had known, etc. etc….

I added my e-mail address to a list and waited to hear what was going to come of this. That was weeks and weeks ago and, so far, nada.

Meanwhile, though, some gossip.

You know what a shameless eavesdropper I am so you can imagine my bliss at living in an English-speaking country again.

I justify my listening in to any and all conversations anywhere by the fact that it is a necessary qualification for being a writer.

Anyway, the post office is a mother lode of casual and not-so-casual talk. One can stand at the little counter, sorting and reading one’s mail, while all around people are exchanging information and stories, and yeah, gossip.

The best time to go is noon, when the working folk collect their mail.

There I was, poring over one of the dozens of catalogues I get, when I overheard one of the women from the meeting talking to our mayor, Nancy Moore.

It started off wonderfully, with the mayor, after conventional greetings, displaying her new teeth.

They are impressive, and so is the mayor.

She looks as though she would know how to get maximum use from those teeth.

Anyway, the talk segued somehow into food and then into the cost of food in town.

Apparently the mayor has made some efforts to get hold of a Health Canada report about food here and was told, in Whitehorse, that the Yukon government has “pulled” said report and it is not available.

At this point, the mayor and the other woman were leaving the post office lobby, and short of out-and-out tailing them, I could no longer hear what was said.

I am soooo curious, Uma! This is political food, it seems. I have heard that the grocery store is owned, or part owned, by one of the current government ministers, or his wife.

All the information is gleaned from post office offerings, or the morning coffee crowd in Tags (another bonanza of gossip) or other times I have been privy to conversation without being a participant.

I hope I will learn more about this, and be able to fill you in. You must admit, this place is a whole lot more interesting than you thought it would be.

How are the horses? Thanks for the photos; the baby looks adorable.

Love to Andrew and to you,


Heather Bennett lives in Watson Lake.

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