Thursday, February 12, 2009

RON WOOD AND HIS BELOVED 'MANYBERRIES'




In Alberta there was a time when people of a different political stripe were pleasant and civilized to one another. They could work together and enjoy each other’s company. Whether it was the workplace or mutual charitable pursuits or interests, politics was only the slightest impediment to normal discourse and communication.

This civilized and democratic behaviour began to disintegrate in Alberta and elsewhere some time ago. I don’t exactly know when, but it seems to me to have originated with the era of conflict infotainment in the media, hard-edged talk shows, and the rise of the neocons. The neocons of course can be traced right back to the Reagan era, and I suppose that’s probably where it all began. In Alberta, this disturbing trend was magnified by the highly partisan Klein era, the rise of the ideological right in the Reform/Alliance rebellion against the old federal Tories, and the very divisive editorial policies of the major print outlets first under Hollinger and now CanWest.

But there are still oases of civilization in the body politic out here. There are still people in Alberta, who although having very divergent views as to what is best for Canadians, can speak to one another with wit, intelligence and respect.

One of those is Ron Wood. I met Ron the first time many years ago when he was a prominent radio newsman and had the misfortune of moderating a political forum that I participated in during one of the federal elections 1979, 1980 or 1984. I’m not sure which one it was exactly. I did run as a Liberal candidate in Calgary North in all three. And no, I didn’t win any of them. I had no idea of Ron’s politics back in those days as he handled his duties with such an even hand he was the epitome of fairness.

Ron had gone to school in Calgary and began his career in the news business there. By the time I met him he had already worked in Ottawa for some time in the Press Gallery, had been news director at a couple of radio stations, and was on his way to becoming an award winning journalist.

In 1990 he went into politics, first working as press secretary to Reform Party leader Preston Manning. He later worked as an executive assistant and communications advisor to opposition leaders John Reynolds and Stephen Harper. Now if that isn’t a conservative pedigree I don’t know what is. When Harper won the big show in 2006, Wood decided he’d had enough. He returned to Calgary and began his career as a damn good writer.

I have just finished reading his first venture into the literary world ‘And God Created Manyberries’ published by Frontenac House in 2007. For those of you unfamiliar with ‘Manyberries,’ it is a very small Hamlet of no more than 100 souls in Forty Mile County very close to the U.S. border about 50 miles south of Medicine Hat at the eastern end of Highway 61.

Wood’s book is a tribute to small town virtues and values. It is a gentle, funny, and at times sentimental work about small town characters, their adventures, and their spouses and secrets. The reader will learn about their town celebrations and listen to their conversations and political and world views. We get to know their pets and, in their dotage, even accompany them on their sad final visit to the vets. We join them on their hunting trips and learn something of the town’s colorful history. We get to meet Three-Eyed Tom and even Four-Eyed Tom, two prominent residents of Manyberries, only one of which is a human being. And we learn much about their civilized drinking habits in their beloved Ranchmen’s Saloon.

‘And God Created Manyberries,’ is written in the down home tradition of Garrison Keillor’s “A Prarie Home Companion’ and Stuart McLean's 'Vinyl Cafe.' The chapters are short and crystal clear snippets of experience and shrewd observation from a great admirer of rural western Canadiana. It is a great read.

Recently, I have had occasion to spend some quality time with Ron. Over good vintages of Oaky Merlot, we trade stories of our experiences, talk politics and talk about writing. Ron is from the old school. He’s candid, honest, civilized and great company – he’s a throwback to the good old days when most everyone was civilized.

11 comments:

WesternGrit said...

Great post.There are still some good ones out there - reasonable people, willing to debate vs. shout and scream. Kind and gentle people: "ladies" and "gentlemen" - statesman-like... The angry NeoCon revolution killed that, and pushed many of the kinder-gentler types over to us...

John Prince said...

Very good post Darryl. Thumbs up!

I like the 'nose picking' Bush up above too! No class but some people are going to pay $4,000/table to see 'No Class'. ;-( :-) When they can see the guys coming out late at night from the bar at the Shamrock Hotel on St. Patricks Day for nothing. :-) LOL!

Darryl Raymaker said...

By the way John, I have trouble commenting on your blog. How do I do it in a few simple steps? I'm not quite a luddite but sometimes this cyber stuff stumps me.

John Prince said...

Good Morning Darryl,
I love to get comments, especially from you. Why you are unable to comment on my blog stumps me... unless you are trying to post anonymously? I have a setting on my blog that does not allow anonymous posts. Is that it?

John Prince said...

Darryl,
I have checked my settings and made an adjustment. You should be able to comment from now on.

Ladyhihi said...

Great post.There are still some good ones out there - reasonable people, willing to debate vs. shout and scream. Kind and gentle people: "ladies" and "gentlemen" - statesman-like... The angry NeoCon revolution killed that, and pushed many of the kinder-gentler types over to us...





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