The Big Mud: Sinclair Mills
Not far from Mount Robson is a crooked bend where water slows and a bank has formed like the belly of a boozed-up logger. The river bucks back upon itself in a harsh curve before mellowing out in a gradual slope to the north-west. Forgotten clear-cuts dot the spruce forests like low-brush footprints of a giant mule deer, already mostly grown in. Once the site of multiple saw mills and a thriving community of families, the ripping blades are silent now. But on these banks, alongside the pine and skidway, my grandfather grew from a cocksure train-hopper escaping the hungry prairie, to a west-coast, frontier idealist who taught me the importance of Robert Service and the wisdom of the bush. Work camps were scattered all along the East Line of the CNR, teams of men working ten hour days, even in January. In those years before unions, the money came "once a week, once a month, or never." Off hours, the workers drank from pocket flasks and danced with women who rode the locomotive in from Prince George. There must have been at least one guy with a harmonica and a rhythm. I imagine us together again, maybe in the river, in different places and times, moon overhead. We are both young men. The water over our feet is glacial and khaki.
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