By Les Falk, retired Kelowna Teacher, former leader of the Kelowna Outdoor Club and longtime fan of
You've called me "
McCulloch1 gave to daughter cherished,
And to a station, sidings, yard
That once met trains, but now have vanished.
For once I was a proud hostess
To a railway
Through our tortuous land
Of azure lakes, green forests tall,
And buried wealth that lured you all.
With long debate and lurking doubt,
In nineteen ten, you despatched out
McCulloch's engineering host.
"From Coast to Kootenays" was your boast.
From Midway west, east from
'Cross massive ridge and on your maps drawn,
Strings of survey lines did snake.
And when my chasm you did see,
You pondered how to deal with me.
Some said, "Yes," while others, "No."
"Let's go around." "Let's build down low,
But bold McCulloch raised his hand.
He placed around my emerald nape
Strung with iron rails,
And for its jewels he set aloft
What engineering skill entails:
Along firm roadbed, 'neath my edge —
Eighteen trestles, two of steel,
A pair of tunnels — seemed not real!
Through numerous years,
The trains came creeping,
With throttles low, and wheels shrieking,
Along my gaping, cavernous throat.
And from the heights, down through my moat,
I sent you streams, from melting snow,
That watered thirsty engines black
And homes and orchards far below.
But then, in time, the trains were gone
To gentler and less costly grade.
Said CPR, "Since there's no trade,
Remove the rails, uproot the ties,
And then we'll see what value lies."
But you did not much time need take,
For swiftly in the Railway's wake,
Because my marvels you'd beheld
Even 'fore the Railway's yen had failed,
You saved my trestles, smoothed my bed,
Drove vehicles, or walked instead
Around my lips.
And as your wonders did accrue,
You asked in awe,
"Is all this true?"
You organized your interest strong,
You blocked my roadbed at both ends,
So only stout pedestrians,
Or cyclists could my joys behold,
And save me damage, all foretold.
You planked my trestles, set guardrail,
Erected plaques, tamped down the trail,
You sang my praise in many lands,
And tourists came in growing bands.
And as my fame the world did stride,
You shared, with me, a burgeoning pride.
And high officials took my measure,
Proclaiming me historic treasure!
But then there came a fear-fraught season,
In that sad year, two thousand three.
Through rain-starved land (and for that reason)
A monster fire
Came raging free.
It came from far, near curve of Lake,
Left desolate park in its grim wake,
It torched fine homes,
Charred countless trees,
Cavorted devilishly in strong breeze,
And taking a gargantuan path,
It sent you fleeing from its wrath.
And when it played at half-asleep,
Up loftier slopes did boldly creep
Its right-hand claw.
It crossed the
Then, roaring down from high plateau,
Brave fire crews cried, "How can we keep
This priceless treasure from the sweep
Of this consuming, hideous blaze?
For if we leave, 'twill surely raze,
From ancient creosoted heap."
But though they tried preventive art,
They finally said,
"We must depart!"
For my topography's too steep
For hose and manpower to leap.
For four long days,
I heard you sigh,
"Could her destruction now be nigh?"
Twelve wooden trestles turned to smoke
And wooden planking on the metal
Fell down to ash around my hem —
The flames, they were too much for then
And when the smoke at last did clear,
Stood four survivors, now held dear.
Now here I lie, though not alone,
My trees are scorched, most trestles gone.
But through the mists, I bid you cheer,
My dearest friends, for I'm still here!
My roadbed's good, foundations strong,
Four trestles live, should you take long
To reconstruct my cherished site?
For once you did, with bold foresight,
If such is what you will to do,
With open arms, I'll welcome you!
Then you'll return from far mid near,
And my soul's secret clearly hear.
For it can never be confused
That in me both of these are fused:
Within one single, sweeping sight —
Great works of Man,
And Nature's might.
And from my depths, this would I say,
An affirmation like no other:
This truth — we have a common mother.
For we both do most clearly see
That Nature made both you and me.
1 Andrew McCulloch
(1864-1945) was the Chief Engineer, later Superintendent, of the Kettle Valley
Railway during its
most critical construction years. He is recognized as having been one of the most brilliant locating surveyors in the history
of Canadian railroading.
2 The "Lake"
in this poem refers to Okanagan Lake, not Hydraulic Lake, although Hydraulic
Lake was a major objective of
Kettle Valley Railway surveys and construction.
3 Bellevue Canyon lies
to the southwest of Myra Canyon. Although a similar geological feature, it is
smaller and less