February 16, 2000
Amongst the Valley lifestyle - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
LANGLEY - Well, itís a Saturday morning, say 7:00ish and rather sleeping in, Iím schlepped out of the shower (not to mention a warm bed) and into a drive into the country. Langley to be exact. On the way we pass through the outskirts of town onto Highway 1, itís into Surrey and then Langley. The heart of the Lower Mainlandís Fraser Valley, Langley. Itís really a bunch of concrete with boxes of supermarkets and outlet stores, much like Bellingham. The roads are wider, and well travelled. I guess, urbanisation is slowly (and quickly) schlepping into the bible belt.
We pull into a gravel and dirt lot, which is really mud and potholes with frozen moisture. It is February, after all. The lot is located up front of the property with a barn and bunk house round back and a quasi-office edifice up front. Itís a auction place for live stock, cattle and farm animals of the sort. It hasnít been my first time there, Iíve spent many a Saturday morning there; this was my first time in about a year.
The barn and its adjoining auction hall have been a fixture of the Fraser Valley for years. So we go there on this fair, Saturday to look around and, for me, have breakfast. Probably the biggest bribe anyone can get me into the den of hickville is food. They have a coffee shop in front of the office building that produces, not bad grub. Sure it isnít Š la carte, but it isnít bad. I stand in the line with the other farm folk, guys who havenít shaved since Nixon was President, guys who use an F-word or something to that effect as frequently as breathing out.
The fare is simple, no eggs benedict or even matching flatware. The dishes look ripped from a 70ís mail order catalogue and the entire dayís grub is cooked on one of Ďem flat grills. I order the breakfast special, a couple eggs scrambled, two pieces of heavily buttered toast, a couple strips of bacon and a hashbrown patty. Sure, a patty is awfully modern. The baconís a little thin, but with generous dashes of salt the meal doesnít taste so bad. So after paying $4.30 for the thing, including a hot chocolate. I park myself to a table, no linen clothes covering the postage size table suited for no more than one. I wait, for both my plate and the drink to cool down. Other fellas bring their kids too, kids no younger than 5 or six run up to the counter to pick out the doughnut of their choice in the glass showcase underneath the counter. Their paws pay for the doughnuts and their, probably, 3rd coffee that morning and it isnít a quarter past nine yet.
Poultry buyers are called to go to the auction area, itís an amphitheatre sorta set-up where the farm animals are showcased at the stage area, for bidding. And, yes they talk in that auction sort of way. Iím still in the coffee shop, and my breakfast comes. I throw some salt on the eggs and butter my toast with the strawberry jam, the ladyís also brought. Toast jammed is only good when it has a layer of melted butter underneath.
After I finish breakfast, I walk out and encounter a couple guys smoking outside the door. Theyíre freezing their asses, but they have no choice but to freeze, because of the WCB smoking ban. We leave and go on that stretch of highway back to Vancouver, like the road has no end. As we get closer to home, the roads get smaller, the space less spacious and this journey closer to an end. I fall asleep, and when I get up weíre on Grandview Highway. It looks I slept through a good few kilometres of Highway 1.
My morning wasnít all that bad. I regret getting up and losing sleep, but getting to go out in the country isnít so bad. Actually, itís a breath of fresh air.
The Fraser Valley is awfully spacious, but sadly it retains some of that charm and some of that timelessness of farming, even though I spotted three Starbucksí, one Chapters and a mega-sized Willowbrook Mall in less than half a mile of driving. Fresh air, sure; progress definitely.
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