Journeys by Chance

Wikipedia says this about Corb Lund:

Corb Lund is a Canadian Western and Country singer-songwriter from Taber, Alberta, Canada. He has released nine albums, three of which are certified gold. Lund tours regularly in Canada, the United States and Australia, and has received several awards in Canada and abroad.

I have no idea how old or young he is; the paragraph above summarizes almost all I know about him.  One other thing I know about him is that he produced an album entitled Agricultural Tragic that includes a song entitled Old Men.  Even though country and western music is not among my favorites, Corb Lund’s brand of music in that genre appeals to me. At least what I’ve heard appeals to me.

It’s rare for me to pay any attention, beyond their music, to recording artists. Their personal lives simply hold no interest for me; I guess I assume I will never know them personally, so their biographical details are irrelevant. That having been said, I was a little curious about just who this Corb Lund guy is (which I how I found the Wikipedia entry), so I did a bit of digging. I learned that he is from Taber, Alberta, Canada. Taber is a very small town about fifty miles north of the U.S./Canada border, north-northwest of Great Falls, Montana. Its population of roughly 8,100 is employed primarily in agriculture. Again according to Wikipedia:

The Town of Taber gained notoriety when it adopted [in March, 2015] a bylaw on February 23, 2015 that granted the police and bylaw officials the authority to levy fines for controversial actions including swearing, public assembly, spitting and applying graffiti on one’s own private property. The bylaw also implemented a curfew.

As one might expect, the bylaw was challenged as unconstitutional, violating freedoms of expression and association protected under Section Two of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I do not know whether the challenges had enough traction to be upheld. The fact that the governing body of the town saw fit to pass such a law seems utterly bizarre, until one digs a little deeper into the rationale for it.

According to a May 16, 2016 article in the Calgary Herald, “Southern Alberta is home to thousands of Mennonites who’ve emigrated from Mexico in recent decades and settled in Taber and nearby hamlets and villages, including Enchant, Barnwell and Grassy Lake.” The article goes on to say that Mennonite young (mostly male) gather on Sunday, after a week of hard work, following church in the Walmart parking lot on the edge of town to socialize. Some of the Mennonites (and others, apparently) claim the law was aimed at curbing those gatherings that some people in the area found disturbing.

The 2016 census (Canadian) reported that 43 percent of the residents of the town of Taber report that German is their mother tongue and Mennonite was the most frequently reported religion among townspeople.  The Calgary Herald article goes on to say, “The gatherings are simple. Some sit on the backs of their pickup trucks, while others light cigarettes, look at cellphones and talk in English and Low German as families trickle into the shopping centre.”

I make a number of assumptions about the culture of small towns in the U.S. I assume the populations of small towns are, by and large, fundamentally conservative. I assume small towns have deep, if not direct, connections with agriculture. I assume people who live in small towns are more likely to be bigoted than their more worldly big-city counterparts. I wish I could erase these biases from my brain, but I cannot seem to get them to disappear; I encounter too much evidence that supports them. Even when I come across progressive/liberal people in small towns, people who are open-minded and tolerant, I assume those folks are aberrations.  More bigotry. Those biases apply to small towns in the U.S.

I make an entirely different set of assumptions about Canadian small towns. I assume their populations are largely liberal, well-educated, tolerant; but also connected in some way to agriculture. Anecdotal data suggests those biases and assumptions are misplaced, though. While Canadian small towns may (or may not) be more liberal than their U.S. counterparts, they are not necessarily progressive in the sense that my mind has heretofore decided them to be. It’s wishful thinking, I believe. I want to believe all manner of positive things about Canada because I have found so many legitimate reasons to believe so many other positive things about Canada. Biases and bigotry work in odd ways. They may be based in part on facts and experience, but they transform personal interpretations of experience into evidence in support of perspectives that have no real basis in reality.

Let me add that the comments I’ve made thus far about small towns, the populations of small towns, the philosophical leanings of people in small towns (whether Canadian or in the U.S.), etc. are based more on a flash of personal assessments than on facts. I cannot seem to stop myself from making assumptions, even after considering that they may be based on inaccurate interpretations of slanted information. While that flaw is one I wish would dissolve into a mist of regret, at least it might offer a cautionary encouragement to look for evidence of unwarranted assumptions in my thinking.

So, how has it come to pass that a post that began as a contemplation on a Canadian country-western music artist turned into a musing about bias and bigotry with respect to my feelings about a small Albertan town? That’s just the way my mind works. Or doesn’t work; the rust may prohibit linear thoughts from taking hold.

A few more things about Taber, Alberta. It claims to be, or is called, the corn capital of Canada. There’s a cenotaph in the center of downtown Taber. And there’s a place called the Aquafun Centre that features a 200-foot water slide, a sauna, a steam room, and more. I would not have thought a small town would have such an entertainment feature. That’s not my bias speaking; it’s my assumption (perhaps faulty) about the size of population necessary to support such a venue. And it’s my assumption, based on virtually no knowledge of the area surrounding Taber, that the area has an extremely low population density. Why do I think that? I don’t know. I just do. Or I did.

It’s my understanding that Corb Lund still spends his time on the family farm outside Taber when he’s not touring Canada, the U.S. southwest, Australia, and Europe. By the way, how do I know of Corb Lund? I heard one of his songs, Old Men, on Sirius XM radio several times as I drove to and from CHI Rehabilitation Hospital to visit my wife. It’s intriguing, to me, how chance experiences can trigger mental journeys like the one I’ve just documented.

I just heard from my wife. She is awake and waiting to have breakfast and take a shower. I should do the same.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Culture, Demographics, Music. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Journeys by Chance

Please express your appreciation for or disparagement of this post.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.