Counterculture in the Cariboo

Wells Community Cookbook

shortbread cookies Shortbread cookie recipe in the Wells Community Cook Book, 1980      edition, sponsored by the Wells United Church Women. The recipe is called “Melting Shortbread,” and these cookies really do melt in one’s mouth. They are the softest, most cloud-like mouthfuls of shortbread I’ve ever had. The recipe is from Bunty Thatcher. Was she known for her shortbread? She was a Shortbread Queen.

When I first moved to Wells (actually, Stromville) in 1980, Marguerite Hall gave me this cookbook with the inscription: “Welcome HOME! Love from your friend in need, indeed, Marguerite.” She wasn’t in need of a friend–but I was, as a stranger to Wells, to life without running water, to wood heat, to winter, etc.! And I’ve always been grateful for her support and friendship in those early days–which have grown into a 30+-year-long friendship.

And I’ve been making these cookies ever since. I’ll bring a batch to Wells–just over a week from today!

p.s. that drawing of the United Church on the cover is by Suzanne Bessette


On November 23, I’ll be going to Gabriola Island (thank you, Friends of the Library) to give a presentation (talk, slide show, book sales and signing, etc.) based on All Roads Lead to Wells.

The Gabriola Museum organized an exhibit called “Free Spirits, Changing Times: Gabriola Hippies in the 1970s” about the back-to-the-landers who setttled on this beautiful Gulf Island at the same time as similar free spirits were settling in Wells (and places all over British Columbia, for that matter…but more on that in a moment).

I hope you can find a few minutes to watch the slide show on the Museum website: the faces, the clothes, the kids, the houses are so familiar–they look like the folks in All Roads, in Sally Hamm’s photos on Facebook, in the photos I just saw for the first time that Fred Heringa took as one of the first hippies to settle in Wells (at Filthy Larry’s Leather Shoppe) in 1970, with Brian Humber and Dale Ruckle. Also familiar are the values and motivations, the push and pull factors that drew young people to places like Wells and Gabriola. A sign in the Gabriola museum exhibit reads:

“The 1970s were a time of change and upheaval around the world. Children of the post-war era were challenging the rigid lifestyles and norms of their parents. Gabriola Island became a haven for many young people seeking freedom, an alternative lifestyle and a safe place to experiment with new mind-altering drugs. Islanders and newcomers adapted to the many changes resulting from the arrival of the hippies.”

GabriolaGabriola2I’m looking forward to meeting some of the people on Gabriola who settled there in the 1970s as I begin to collect stories for a new book about back-to-the-landers/hippies from the many rural locations and small-towns throughout BC (the Gulf Islands, the Kootenays, the Cariboo, etc.) that drew young and idealistic people to new homes and new ways of life throughout the decade and beyond.

Join me at WORD Vancouver

WORDOn Sunday, September 29 at 1:20 p.m. at Library Square in Vancouver, I’ll be joining a host of writers, editors, performers, readers of books and magazines and all manner of passionate lovers of the word at the amazing festival now known as WORD Vancouver (formerly Word on the Street). Here’s a link to their program and all the inspiring and informative events that’ll take place over the five-day-long happening.

I’ll be talking about what being a writer taught me as an editor, and how being an editor inspired my writing, and the session will include audience participation.  It’s called Editing: Both Sides of the Fence. 

And with any luck, I’ll also be signing copies of All Roads Lead to Wells at the WORD books tent, so please come by and say hello either at the session or the book tent or somewhere in-between.

ARL2W on BC FerriesAug312013_1ARL2W on BC FerriesAug312013_2

Yes, that’s All Roads Lead to Wells in the BC Books section of the ferry between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay (it’s also on the Horseshoe Bay route)!  I’m thrilled that our stories will now be shared with a wider audience. And since the gift-giving season is just a few months’ away…

The card reads: “The remote town of Wells, BC, was rediscovered in the early 70s by a disaffected generation of young people seeking to refashion their lives. This book details their earthy, poignant, and revealing stories.”

(Thanks to Raffie Mackie for the photographs.)


woot! royalty cheque!

woot! royalty cheque!

So there’s all the hard work, when no one–especially the author–believes it’ll ever turn into a book; there’s the thrill of finishing it and saying, whew, it’s finally a manuscript!; then the transcendental sensation of being accepted for publication; the book launch is the best day of one’s life; and then, a year later, comes a “royalty” cheque, which says, in essence, “you are a real author, and here is recompense for your writing.”

“Royalty” is a peculiar word for a form of payment that has nothing to do with kings and queens, isn’t it?* But that’s how I felt–a little bit like royalty, for just a sparkling moment–when I saw the cheque from my publisher.

I head up to Wells this weekend for the tail-end of the ArtsWells festival (after going to Wells boy Sean Hall‘s wedding in Lac La Hache).

I’m looking forward to seeing Back to the Garden at the Sunset Theatre and to visiting with so many of my wonderful friends who made All Roads Lead to Wells possible, who are the reason why all of my roads seem to lead me back there, year after year.

See you there!

*for fellow etymologists:

royalty [n]: c.1400, “office or position of a sovereign,” also “magnificence,” from or modeled on Old French roialte (12c., Modern French royauté), from Vulgar Latin regalitatem (nominative regalitas), from Latin regalis. Sense of “prerogatives or rights granted by a sovereign to an individual or corporation” is from late 15c. From that evolved more general senses, such as “payment to a landowner for use of a mine” (1839), and ultimately “payment to an author, composer, etc.” for sale or use of his or her work (1857).

Alfred Heringa (p. 64) came to Wells with the first hippies–Dale and Brian–and helped start Filthy Larry’s Leather Shop.  Before Christmas last year, he found a copy of All Roads Lead to Wells in a Victoria bookstore and, in the new year, contacted me. I asked him how he came to Wells, and this is the amazing story he told me:

“I met Brian when he moved to Abbotsford to finish his high school. I watched him transform from a short-haired basketball jock into a  more open version as he began attending some parties we hosted out in the hills of Mt. Lehman. We both met Dale in our 1st year at UBC, in the Fort Camp residence.


I know they’re not Norton’s, but this was the classic template hippie road trip!

“Dale was raised in Quesnel, knew about the tourist attraction at Barkerville, the semi-ghost town of Wells, and he was the impetus for taking a road trip up to explore the possibilities. This was late spring of 1970. The hippie thing was blooming in Vancouver. The coolest thing was to be a good leather worker.  We checked out a couple of the best existing shops and drew some sketches of their sandals and handbags. Dale and Brian had taken out student loans and each bought Norton 850 Commando motorcycles with the proceeds. These they sold to get some cash for leather etc. at Storeys and Heads Boots, the two existing suppliers in Van at the time, as well as psychedelic posters, a few cases of paraffin wax for candles, and an old Dodge panel van. We were on our way to make our fortune…”

Wouldn’t it be great if Alfred and Dale came up to Wells again during ArtsWells and told us some more stories? If you think that sounds like fun, write a comment, below, and I’ll forward it on. Let’s see if we can convince them to come back for a reunion!

New Wells South Outpost

Hello, Wells friends and friends of Wells!

For the last few months, I’ve been completely immersed in moving, in settling into my new home, and the book and blog have fallen by the wayside.  But Island Mountain Arts has posted a lovely “behind-the-scenes” video about the ArtsWells festival that’s worth sharing with you all. artswells

I’m looking forward to heading up to Wells in August for the Tenth Anniversary of the festival! And in the meantime, I’ll be unpacking books, trying my hand at little home-repair projects, working like crazy at Arsenal Pulp Press, and trying to resuscitate marketing and sales of All Roads Lead to Wells.

Keep in touch… and don’t forget: the possibilities are meaningless!

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