Then versus Now

Any season in the Centennial provides a challenge. For example, our remote location makes getting to the store an ordeal, if not a challenge, regardless of the season. Planning a grocery trip, spring, summer, fall, or winter, requires quite a bit of organization.

Some things never change. The following excerpt from Centennial Valley History, Vol 1 could have been taken from a recent conversation.

"Figuring out and ordering supplies . . . was quite a task in itself. Figuring out the food needed . . . ahead of time was a skill. Most women spent some time deciding on this list and gained experience as the years went along." (pg 164)

The primary difference between 'then' and 'now'? Back then, they purchased supplies for a family (and the work crew, and a few visitors). Back then, they purchased everything except what they raised, for a six to twelve month period.

Now, we purchase supplies to feed 30 people or more EVERY day. We purchase everything - no 'exceptions.' Some things are purchased in sufficient quantities for six months or so. Others, like fresh produce and dairy products, are purchased for the week.

What has really changed - and yet has changed little - is the difficulty getting in and out of the valley. Of course, a major change is the mode of transportation. We've come a LONG way from horse-drawn transportation. During the Centennial's developmental 'hayday', few had cars and no one had a snowmobile. In fact, I believe the first snow machine used in the valley was the homemade snow plane used for mail delivery.

Now, no one considers horse-drawn transportation. We ride comfortably in our cars or on our snowmobiles. But, coming in last Sunday evening, at below zero temperatures with a brutal wind adding to our discomfort, was far from 'comfortable.' In fact, I wondered once again how our fore-fathers and mothers managed to survive.

Granted, they purchased their supplies in bulk. People only moved about when absolutely necessary. In fact, one early valley resident is credited with saying the valley wasn't fit for man or beast in the winter. None-the-less, people lived here. They survived. They flourished.

Normally, I would vehemently argue the valley's lack of 'fitness' in the winter. However, last Sunday I was close to agreement. And, if I had to spend any length of time outside today, I'd heartily agree. When temperatures drop below zero, and stay there, only my very hairy dog seems unaffected.

However, season and temperatures aside, getting around the valley can be challenging now, but even more so then. Winter, of course, often brought the greatest challenges. In fact, a letter from Wm J Brundage to Donnee Stibal, dated Aug 22, 1988, and excerpted in the Centennial Valley, Vol 1, tells about one particularly hairy winter.

". . . The horses and sleighs thru the winter had packed the snow for a foot or eighteen inches in each sled track. If a sleigh got off the road with one runner on the road and one runner off, it would tip over; so when two sleighs met (which wasn't often) the driver of the empty one or with the least load would turn out. His sleigh would tip on its side. The other driver would go on by, unhitch his team, come back and hook onto the other sleigh and help to get it upright and back on the road. Then he would go back to his own sleigh, hook up and both would be on their way again." (pg 120)

Now, the only way in and out is by snowmobile. When hauling a cargo trailer behind a snowmobile, however, the picture can get a bit 'grainy and old-fashioned.' For example, get the runner of the cargo trailer off the packed trail and you can end up with a wreck much like the one described above. Fortunately, a snowmobile cargo trailer (for that matter a snowmobile) weighs less than a horse-drawn wagon!

When people look at our lifestyle, shake their heads, and marvel at our resiliance (or craziness), I look a bit further back. Yes, we live a different lifestyle. Sometimes, it's a bit challenging. Sometimes it feels a bit hard. But, I've decided our fore-fathers and mothers were the extremely tough people.

After all, although my finger tips never thawed (last Sunday), my handwarmers kept frostbite at bay and my hands mobile. Although my nose began to hurt and tingle, my helmet protected my head and face from the elements. Although the cold bit through my bibs and coat, the quality of my clothing kept me fairly comfortable. Although the wind gusted wildly around my sled, my snowmobile blocked the bulk of it.

Thus, although life in the Centennial has its own unique challenges, and although life at Elk Lake Resort isn't always fun and games, it's home. And, there really is No Place Like Home!!

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