tapping a towns spirit

WATSON LAKE The idea behind this page is twofold. First, it aims to start conversations among the people of Watson Lake by having them reveal…


The idea behind this page is twofold.

First, it aims to start conversations among the people of Watson Lake by having them reveal themselves to one another in new and unexpected ways.

Second it is designed to show the rest of the Yukon, and the town itself, that we are not a community of substance abusing, violent, garbage-burning, unemployed rednecks and subsidized aboriginals, but a town with thoughtful, hard-working, bright and caring people who enjoy their lives in Watson Lake and strive to make it better for everyone.

There was a tremendous willingness on the part of almost every individual I approached; it was an act of faith for which I am grateful. I thank them all.

That there are no interviews featuring First Nation people is something I want to acknowledge.

While those I talked to expressed interest, and agreed to meet with me, there was an incredible level of activity needed from the Liard First Nation in hosting the 21st Annual Yukon Handgames Championship for the weekend of July 18 to 20.

Not only was the event itself calling upon the participation of every able person, but the work on the site was being done weeks in advance; everyone was simply too busy.

It is hoped the next series of interviews will focus on First Nation people.

The absence of youth will also be addressed in the future.

Meanwhile, let’s celebrate one another, laugh together, revel in our differences and keep working at making Watson Lake an even better place to live.

Laughter and music

create balance

Colum McCready is the new chief administrative officer for Watson Lake.

He is a slender man with an aura of deep calm; he takes his time in responding to a situation or a question, seeming to want to give everything and everyone respectful consideration.

It’s a quality that inspires confidence.

Born in Ireland, his working life was spent initially as a teacher in London, England. He immigrated to Canada about 10 years ago and worked and lived with the Gwich’in First Nation people in administrative capacities in the Northwest Territories before moving south to Whitehorse.

The pull of the Yukon had something to do with a great grandfather who crossed the Chilkoot Trail into the Yukon in 1902 in search of that life-changing yellow substance, he says.

Colum then had a brief stint running a pub and restaurant on Vancouver Island, but the North’s magnetism pulled him back, this time to Watson Lake, the Yukon’s Gateway.

Q: So far, what do you like best about living here?

A:  The interesting, colourful residents.

Q: What do you like the least?

A:  The mosquitoes.

Q:  Do you think you are going to stay? Will you retire here?

A:  I don’t know.

Q: Does Watson Lake have an image problem?

A: It appears to be a town in search of a soul and an identity. I don’t know when it lost both of these … maybe when the mines and forestry operations went into decline.

People are in survival mode and are hoping for something messianic to deliver them from unemployment and boredom … perhaps when a new railway comes through?

Q: How do you think the rest of the Yukon sees Watson Lake?

A: Patronizingly; as somewhere insignificant, without industry or a future or a culture … not somewhere to move to … it’s an illogical prejudice based on hearsay rather than practical experience.

Q: Are we a racist community?

A:  The races blend seamlessly here and live together in community quite well.

Q: How do global concerns relate to you and your community?

A: The escalating price of gas causes concern that it will become unaffordable to travel even to Whitehorse. Will we all be riding horses soon?

Q: What would you like to see happen in Watson Lake?

A:  Jobs, industrial development, especially for young people raising families.

Q: How do you think you are seen by your community?

A: I don’t know. (Fair enough; McCready hasn’t been in Watson Lake for very long.)

Q: Your friends?

A: They think I am crazy for living so far away from them.

Q: Your family?

A: They wonder why I decided to live in another remote community, but they don’t realize that I love that lifestyle.

Q: What is your best quality?

A: Optimism.

Q: What is your worst?

A: When I slip from being optimistic.

Q: What natural ability would you like to possess?

A: The ability to read music fluently and to play the piano.

Q: What is your present state of mind?

A: I don’t know what you mean — am I nuts? I do think that there is a fine dividing line in life between comedy and tragedy and often the mind flits between these states. Having said that, I think that the USA is not a country but a state of mind.

Q: What quality do you most admire in a woman?

A: Honesty!

Q: In a man?

A: Honesty.

Q: What makes you angry?

A: Injustice.

Q: What do you do with your anger?

A: Defuse it with laughter.

Q: What makes you happy?

A: Making music.

Q: What do you do for fun, for pleasure?

A: Write prose.

Q: Where are you spiritually?

A: Balanced.

Q: What do you want people to know about you?

A: That I am trustworthy.

Q: What fears do you have?

A: World War III.

Q: What do you think most people do NOT know about you?

A: I have musical talent and play most things with strings: banjo, mandolin, guitar, ukulele, harp, and I tinker with the fiddle. I wish there was a coffee house here in Watson where musicians could ply their art. Indeed I wish there was a coffee shop … period!

Tor Forsberg is a Watson Lake freelance writer. Her profiles will appear every Wednesday.