The Pheasants of Pheasant Lake
It was an idea which made sense at the time. Allis and the Bushman had made an excavation in the bush, had landscaped around the dugout and watched the melting snow-load provide the finishing touch to a trout rearing facility. But the exclamation point to the project was still missing. In a stroke of pure hyperbole the Bushman profited from a quirky resource available in Prince George at the time, pheasants!
Now, the Central and Northern Interior of British Columbia is not naturally endowed with brilliant colour. Nature expresses the beauty of the region rather modestly in the unbroken stretches of unsullied greenery that predominates. In the decades of the 1960s and 1970s, a car ride from Prince George to Jasper, a trip of 400 kms, (250 miles) the green blur of forest on both sides of the highway was broken only by a few rivers, one village, McBride, and the magnificent Mount Robson. One former colleague, a College Instructor in the Forestry Department, participating in a staff room debate, playing devil’s advocate with a tongue-in-cheek arrogance defended the logging practice of clear-cutting the forest as a welcome break from the boring, monochromatic monotony of greenery. The clear-cut, he argued, added a contrasting visual variety and hence was more interesting for the motoring public.
Of course, the fauna of the region eschews excessive expressions of colour as a suicidal strategy in the game of survival, the consequences of that kind of vulgar display of colour being quick discovery by predators and quick extinction as a species. The modestly plumed, well camouflaged grouse in the region are evolutionarily aware of the dangers of celebrating flamboyance.
Despite the prudish image that the North projects, for a short time in mid-June on the non-forested strips of terrain bordering the highways, the traveler is surprised by a modicum of colour with pastel shades of Lupines, Fire Weed, Indian Paint Brush, Wild Daisies and Wild Rose punctuating the inevitable background of green. In autumn deciduous trees brighten the year with a contribution of a nearly homogeneous gold to the northern landscape. An extensive, cold, reflective white innocence may rescue winter from its funereal twilight, but the north never trots out its pulchritude, never engages in vulgar displays, never brags about its beauty.
The Bushman was intellectually aware of all this but on the practical level he allowed himself to be beguiled by the glitter of the Golden Pheasant. He would appropriate the brilliance of the Asiatic Pheasant and transpose it into the drab surroundings of the 40 acre bush. He envisioned a kind of environmental alchemy where the gilded bird would transmute, transform and elevate the basic quality of the environment into which it was introduced. Moreover the decorous Pheasant seemed the perfect cherry on top of the fish rearing project. The Pheasant would become the logo for the Bushman’s project.
The Bushman was a slow learner. His high flying ambitions of bird rearing had already gone up in flames, sabotaged by a feisty skunk, a patient lynx and a persistent bear (see Archives: In the Land of the Black Bear Part 7). He stubbornly resisted the lessons from the past. Fortified with a new supply of abundant enthusiasm and an excess of optimism, he commissioned his friend and neighbour to build an aviary of grand proportions to be located on the bank of the pond which would be elevated by the presence of these magnificent birds, from its lowly dugout status and reincarnated as Pheasant Lake. The aviary was a veritable birdly castle fit for a dozen pheasants of Asiatic genetic origin but recently hailing from a backyard belonging to George Fisher on the Hart Highway in Prince George. The Bushman and his friend Ken Lund liberated them from their servitude only to reimpose servitude in Greater Red Rock, B.C.. Through the pheasants, the mystic East was imported and imprisoned in a foreign bush for the vain pleasure of the Bushman. Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas: Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
The Pheasant’s chateau and the adjoining moat full of Rainbow Trout would have a glorious but appropriately fleeting decade of existence as a very modest business venture. The real value of the combination of fish and festive fowl was rather as recreation and retreat for the Bushpeople from the frustrations and rigours of country life.
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