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Home Again

Like thousands of other travelers in this unprecedented time of social distancing, we put considerable thought into how to get out of Mexico, through Florida, then into the mid-western United States, and back to Canada. Covid-19 has most of our countrymen somewhere between wary, and outright panicked. Empty shelves have reached epidemic status, especially in the toilet paper section.

On a scale of ten, my anxiety index has hovered between two and three. That said; avoiding the Vancouver or Seattle airports seemed at least as beneficial as wearing a hazmat suit. Besides, it’s spring. Seeding new pastures and adding some hay ground is on my radar. I booked a flight to Edmonton so I could look for a cultivator. Let’s leave that thought for a minute.

My working holiday in Mexico was everything I’d hoped it might be. For three weeks we stumbled through conversations with our limited Spanish, far from the oceanfront tourist enclaves that enthrall most visitors to the country. In the tiny pueblo where we headquartered, I forced myself to remain glued to the rough wooden chair in front of my computer. Before we drove out of the hills, I’d typed “The End,” which for authors are the two most satisfying words in the English language. As of today, that book has no title, but the first draft of the fifth book in The Border Series is finished.

Self-isolation on the ranch.

I’m not sure dodging the Vancouver airport worked. Though I doubt what drags me down is anything remotely related to the coronavirus, I feel enough flu symptoms to definitely isolate myself from a number of old and dear friends I’d wanted to see. On top of that bummer, in a little town north of Edmonton I bought some ammunition, then forgot it in the rental car. Rental car companies equate a bag of .410 shotgun shells with a live hand grenade and immediately call in the RCMP. Not going to get that back. Oh, and I found no cultivator worth dragging home. That old ballad with the Spanish words comes to mind. “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be will be.”

Like many of you, my readers, I’m mystified at this North American run on toilet paper, and of course some of the other staples we depend on. Contrary to social media opinion, Canada still produces a cornucopia of products other than oil. That last bag of flour you grabbed off the bottom shelf? It’s good old Canadian. Pasta? Canadian. Steak, chicken, pork chops? All Canadian. Toilet paper? Don’t even go there. The Chinese make toilet paper, but it’s not likely you’re going to see it in Costco or Whole Foods. Our twelve-packs, for as long as I’ve been alive have sported in broad blue print: Made in Canada. And you know what? Canadian ranchers, farmers, and manufacturers have lots more product. A barrel of our Canadian oil hovers somewhere below Justin Trudeau’s wine cellar, so now may be the time to fill up the tank and drive down to your local grocery store to stock up on paper products, meat, pasta and beans. Made in Canada has always meant quality, and that is still true. But when filling your cart, please leave some for your neighbor. He may be down to noodle soup and on the other end . . . well, newspaper. Your benevolence will be appreciated.

Carving out a new field.

Carving out a new field.

Multiple factors enticed us to allow China to become the producer of all those products that fill so many of the mega-stores where we shop. That is now coming home to roost in a very uncomfortable way. But if that forces us to grapple with a long overdue re-think on the dubious benefits of globalism, we may exit the other side of this social and economic horror with a more sustainable and locally controlled supply chain. Not being able to access some of the myriad technological gadgets we buy may not be a material change to the way we live. But China produces somewhere over 90 percent of the drugs we depend on. That’s a big deal. And then there are those rare earth materials, the crazy mini-minerals that are required to manufacture a host of devices, including your cell phone? Again, China has cornered over 80 percent of that market. In the days ahead, we have work to do, but it may be worth considering that no matter what happens in China, we are blessed with a reliable supply of food, and yes, even toilet paper. What’s that worth? In the coming days, we may find out.

Stay safe my friends. Take care of yourself, and others. And don’t forget. If this Covid-19 virus gets even crazier, your rancher/farmer neighbor just might be the best acquaintance you’ve ever made.

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