[Vancouver, B.C.]
Saturday a.m. [9 Sept. 1950]

Dearest Cayke:

Here we are in Vancouver having arrived yesterday morning. It is now 9 a.m. with breakfast finished and the forenoon before me to get some work done by the time Belle and Thora and George arrive for lunch. George Dalmage (Thora's husband) is a gov't geologist here and though I do not know him personally I am inviting him to tap his knowledge in connection with mountain strata and fossils. Some of the questions will be as follows:

  1. (1)Would fossils be discovered in the midst of the mountain tunnels several thousand feet below the summit?
  2. (2) Are they found along the river beds?
  3. (3) What makes the Kicking Horse River so chalky white, a dirty chalky? (Note specially – the nearest thing I can compare it to is the colour of a foul mixture doctors give to patients when said doctors want to diagnose said patients in respect to trouble along the digestive tract. It consists of a quart of milk containing a dissolved calcium compound which under the X-ray shows up the shadows of things like ulcers etc. etc. etc. I took it once when I was going through my fourth year at Vic and under the impression (fortunately without foundation) that I had something wrong with the gastric juices. May I add just here to lengthen this addendum that I never had the impression or sensation before or since.) Well the Kicking Horse River looked like that concoction and if I can find out the medical name I shall so describe it.
  4. (4) Do wild big-horn goats drink of this vile unnatural product? Does it act like a poison on grizzly bears when they descend the mountain side thirsty after a deadly bout with cougars?
  5. (5) What was the nature of the sea-life from which the fossils were formed. The trilobites, crinoids, brachiapods – Did they just float around like jelly fish grabbing anything within reach? Did they have any sensations, any social life such as dancing, cavorting, in other words did they ever descend into such low form of activity as meditating in the night watches or worse still, did they sing in chorus, that is, did any poetic strains ever emanate from their gelatinous strings?
  6. (6) Why do so many of the mountain peaks look like embalmed Egyptian mummies? – they are so placid, recumbent, never troubled with the cawing of crows or the squawling of tom-cats.
  7. (7) Do they ever snore? Are avalanches a kind of snoring or a variety of swearing?

Well to move from these low planes to higher and more ethereal realms, I may say that your mother has just gone down to the shore with a party gathering shells, while I stay here in this room gathering wool as it will take me a day or two to get over those four sleepless nights on the train and then to gather my thoughts. You may observe that my aforesaid 7-point classification does not reveal any supreme philosophical or poetic heights.

Well, how are you getting along chick? I hope you are having some parties. Make sure that you get long leisurely week-ends to sleep them off. I shall be here at the Hotel till Friday a.m.; then the address will be the Royal Alexandra Hotel at Winnipeg from Monday, Sept. 18 to Thursday, Sept. 21 7:30 p.m.

Most lovingly,
Fossilized fanciful Father


his knowledge
In preparation to write 'Towards the Last Spike.' For a review of the knowledge gleaned from this conversation, see the
letter to Claire Pratt, 10 September 1950.