July 05, 2013

Hero Songs

Canmore, where I live, has had an interesting couple of weeks.  Never-before seen combinations of water and snowmelt flooded parts of our mountain valley in stunning and dramatic fashion.

The efforts during the flood to contain it - specifically with regards to one area of town - were incredible.  Contractors with back-hoes and earth movers worked through the worst of the floods to protect hundreds of homes from destruction.  There are other people who put in unbelievable efforts that deserve mention, however this note is about the contractors.

I ran into a friend this morning whose house was saved by these men.  (I'm pretty sure they were all men).  For about 20 years this friend has had 100 feet of land between his house and the edge of the creek.  By the time the waters slowed, he had nine feet at the widest point and six at the narrowest.

In speaking with the contractors who worked to save so much, he discovered that what they wanted as a thank-you was a country-western song written about their accomplishments.  In short, to be imortalised through music.

As I putzed about the house after this conversation, I got thinking of how it was before the times of recorded sound, telephones, radio and commercial advertising always looking out for the bottom line.  Songs told stories - many of them true accounts, honoured with a musical telling that could be shared and passed on so that history might not be forgotten.  You only have to think of The Hobbit, which is experiencing such renewal through the recent movie, to see this in action.  I haven't seen the movie but I've read the book more than once and there are songs everywhere in it.

While The Hobbit is obviously fiction, it borrows much from real life in the middle ages - in many ways a simpler time before all our "modern conveniences" took over.  Minstrels were the keepers of oral history and tellers of fantastic story.  Singing was something everybody did, without fear of being judged.  The more I think of it, the more I long for that freedom of expression for every person, and the way music was used to teach. 

Now in the comfort of my home, while my children ask for the latest dance techno song and I hear my mother's voice in my head (What is this rubbish they're listening to?!) along with my own (OK, it's FUN), I think of the last thing my friend said to me of the contractors' dream song.  He said, "They don't want much - just a three chord song".  And I'm glad for the simplicty of it.

Thanks to all who worked so hard to keep Canmore on its feet.  Thank God there were no fatalities here.  My thoughts are with Exshaw, Calgary, High River and other places suffering these floods who have not been as fortunate.

As you soldier on, I encourage you to find the music in it - and sing your story.

From jessica on August 19, 2013 1:51 PM

Hello, dearest Sue - I owe you an email, but first, how lovely it was to glimpse this story, as I allowed myself a peek at your site.  I was moved to write to Volker Stevin a few weeks back, to thank them for the incredible job they did in Canmore, having read about the numbers of man hours they had put in.  I received a delightful answer from the President / CEO's secretary, who said her job had been taking supplies (including sandwiches) all over the place, non-stop.  She said the company motto was quite simply 'Gitter dun'. : )  And they did, just that - and how well they did it!!  I looked up the company website, and was moved and impressed by its simplicity, cheerful honesty, and fundamentally Christian kind of 'family' ethic. Hard-working, down-to-earth people doing their absolute best at all times. 
How lovely - truly lovely -, therefore, to read that you had been moved to write a song for them, and the whole story around that.  I had opened my note with 'I'm just a random housewife from the Bow Valley, wanting to thank you for the incredible job your company did...'.  And, most of the time, men in diggers as just 'random contractors' to all of us.  And yet, of course, they aren't:  they are somebody's husband, best friend, son, fiancĂ©, Dad, and they've got up early and worked long hours of hard labour, so that we can drive safely.  Good for you, Sue, to reciprocate in this delightful way, out of simple gratitude. : ) : )
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