By: Chris Parker
My grandfather once told me that the strongest apple tree is one that has been grafted…and perhaps in a somewhat similar sentiment, we can acknowledge that new talent added to strong well rooted stock is what has contributed to make the Robson Valley citizenry so strong. One such addition occurred in 1966 when Joy and Andrew Keim moved to our Valley from Ohio. Here, and after a short two years living right in McBride, the family acquired land on Hinkelman Road where they practice mixed farming with pig, sheep, assorted crops and chickens. In the off season the patriarch of the family practised his craft of land clearing and road building. Here too was where the sons were born to add their growth and giftedness to the Valleys wellness.
In particular this story recognizes one of those sons, Stan and his wife Jody Keim who live immediately adjacent to the elder Keim’s, on the original homestead. As we gathered to discuss this story we could not help but be mesmerized by the busyness of the entire family. From young to old, they moved from one task to another quickly and efficiently with humour and clearly demonstrated love for all the family members. Picking up discarded deck boards from the Holmes River (Beaver Creek) bridge, then children from school, unloading sheep purchased earlier in the day from Marilyn Wheeler, preparing a snack for everyone and finally cutting the lawn for one last time this season, they participated together in various farm chores. The busy whirl of activity was all completed with laughter, smiles and happiness with everyone participating in one activity or another. Stan was born here in the Robson Valley while Jody originated from Saskatchewan before attending Bible – or Bridal – College, depending on your sense of humour.
In the meantime I had several opportunities to admire the distant mountains including the striation on the east face of Beaver Mountain, the Stellar Jays (despite their sqwaking as they complained about the closeness of other birds) and other peaks in that section of the Robson Valley, and to admire and respect the work involved in removing all the trees on the north bank of the Fraser River and the many animals in the fields that remained. Inside their beautiful home, Jody had utilized her giftedness and skills of hospitality to create a warm home and hearth that clearly demonstrates her skill in home crafting, sign making and gathering of historical artifacts to create a warmth and homeliness for the family.
Stan returned to the valley with his wife in 2008 following a stop in the Grande Prarie area. He worked as a teacher there for a few years after he graduated from the University of Kings College in Edmonton. He then taught at the nearby Dunster School until that establishment was closed several years ago. Due to his lack of seniority, he then was forced to look at different options work-wise and ultimately settled on working at a mine in Hinton where he currently works full time. On his days off he occasionally gets the opportunity to teach school at McBride Secondary, keeping alive the dream of returning to full time teaching one day.
On the family’s east-facing porch, what was left of the 202 pumpkins grown in the adjacent gardens were displayed – simply put, the largest and most successful crop ever produced here, along with countless gourds grown on site this year. However these pumpkins were not just piled there on the deck – they were placed in an attractive display to demonstrate both the bounty from the garden as well as Jody’s incredible talent for decoration. Her old fashioned signs with various messages made one chuckle as they once again were enjoyed by all who had or have the privilege of seeing them. More of these same pumpkins were to be admired in McBrides EV Free Church and at Columbia Ice Fields Store.
Stan and Jody met while attending Prairie Bible College just north of Grande Prarie and they have been blessed with four delightful children, two boys and two girls – the boys aged 14 and 12 and girls 9 and 5 ½, Noah, Ezra, Esther and Micah.
Some members of the family have been baptized in the adjacent Fraser River, and are very proud to pass along the life lessons of the parents and grandparents. From traditional education and hand over hand oral learning traditions, the various skills and gifts are being passed from one generation to another. We thank them for allowing us to visit their home and get to know them – it was indeed a joy and a privilege.