(RECYCLED FROM ABOUT 20 YEARS AGO)
ODE TO FRASER LAKE
How do I love thee, O small town edged against the northern wilderness and bisected by grey pavement that stretches east and westward like well-chewed gum? Let me count thy ways:
THE LAKE: Its azure and indigo waters sparkle and splash whenever the wind blows. Silhouette shapes of ducks, geese and swans bob back and forth on the waves. Quiet surfaces reflect lush green leaves in summer, laced with crimson and gold in the fall. And in winter a solid mass of white with occasional dark flecks of children and dogs.
THE MOUNTAIN: Its protuberance along the highway indicates home to its travellers. The pine covered bulge behind the ball-field looms skyward like a prickly pillow. The town rests below with neatly folded sheets, blankets and towels for buildings.
The sprawling structure in the mountain’s shadow houses sheets of ice for curling and a larger rectangle for hockey and skating. The building hums with activity from October ‘til April. It then rests sedately, except for summer weddings when whole families dance the daylight hours away until the sun sets at 10 o’clock and the children are ready for bed.
THE PAST: In my mind’s eye I visualize First Nations people skimming across the water in spruce bark canoes or following the shoreline in cumbersome cottonwood dugouts laden with freshly netted salmon. Sometimes they are accompanied by white fur traders such as Simon Fraser, after whom the lake and the town were later named. At the turn of the twentieth century, large clinker built boats straggle in, filled to capacity with survey crews and supplies. These are followed by the first few hardy pioneers who have ridden in through the bush on the backs of horses.
Once when the Nechako River was high, a steam-powered sternwheeler from Fort George laden with trade goods made its way up the steep tributary to the lake, to triumphantly churn up the length and breadth of its waters. After the railroad came through, settlement grew upon the hillside, above what is now White Swan Park. For more than half a century, a sawmill cluttered the waterfront with booms of logs and stacks of lumber. In 1965 Fraser Lake became the chosen town-site for the Endako molybdenum mine. People swarmed in from all parts of the world to work. They helped construct a brand new community alongside the freshly-paved highway.