February 08, 2008 Features & Images » Feature Story

Murder in the Great Big Playground 

A tale of real estate, murder, politics, and really great powder: Chapter Three

click to enlarge Illustration by Katie Green
  • Illustration by Katie Green

A sweaty Chuck Jessup looks at the earth, disdain directed down at dirty hands. The dank, musty scent of the fertile Pemberton Valley soil packs his nose. Windwhipped tears cloud his eyes. He draws the sleeve of his tattered flannel shirt across his spent grey peepers and peers down at the brown-tinged, purplish object freshly yanked from this living, vital soil…

“Goddamn it, if I never see another potato in my life, I’ll be happy. This farm is gonna kill me,” mutters Chuck, picking up the potato and chucking it as far as he can. An audible “sploosh” brings a satisfied smile to his face, the tossed tuber tumbling down the Lillooet River never to return to remind Chuck of his farm roots and his devious desire to harvest untold riches from this land. Never to return.

This land. The land Grandpa Spuds had inherited from his father, who had inherited it from his father… farm from father for five fairly finely fathered families. Protected by dikes. Held back. Floods which over time, naturally built some of the most productive, isolated farmland in British Columbia. Priceless potato plantings. Revered around the globe for its end-of-the-road geography, sheltered from the savage and unpredictable storms of fat cat city developers and vigilant viruses, the land was prime for sustained, quality production. For the past 27 years, since the day he was born in the old farmhouse by the crook in the road, Chuck patrolled the virtual verges of this land, trying never to do anything with respect to it, disdainful of his hayseed neighbours who were content with their dirty fingernails and cowshit-covered boots. He had come to resent this rich, vital soil and all it grew.

Now he didn’t envision producing anything except easy money from this land. Toil and hardship at the hands of the arbitrary and oft-cruel farmer fates of weather, water, wind, bugs and soul-sucking subsidy market-based pricing had turned Chuck sour on the once-coveted role of “the next great farmer.” When he mulled over his future farm plans, none had him at the wheel of a tractor pulling the olfactory offensiveness Grandpa Spuds called the “honey wagon.” In fact, Chuck pictured himself in a city – wealthy, well respected and wisely-wifed – you know, the trophy type. Honey waggin.’

“Aw, shoot,” Chuck mutters, eyes rising. Drags dirty digits down Dickies. Here comes Rory runnin’ across the field. He looks weird, fluttery.

“Don’t worry, nothin’ bad’s happened.” Rory slows, saunters over the potato rows, “We’ve gotta celebrate man, I just made the Olympic snowboard team. I really don’t think those Japanese girls have any idea what they’re in for.”

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