PART FIVE – Moon River to Harvest Haven (cont.)
We never knew what to expect from Joel, Clarence and Joanna Arnoldussen’s son. He would shout in mockery and contempt at me while I was weeding the lawn by hand. One day, we heard a thud against the east wall and discovered Joel had thrown a water balloon against our house. Another time, he set off some fireworks that stuck into our garage wall only feet from where I happened to be working. Still another time, in the snow in our yard, he tramped out the word “ASSHOLE” in giant letters facing our house.
I couldn’t help suspect his actions weren’t solely his, but were bred by attitudes and conversations his family had of us. What to do? I assumed that the Christian and wise way to gain any semblance of peace with the Arnoldussens was to suffer Joel’s abuse without a word of complaint or rebuke. And we did suffer many things from him for a time; however, I wasn’t prepared to do so indefinitely.
Let this particle now be a warning and a promise: The next several particles may seem rather irrelevant and pointless in the context of an autobiography, but pay attention to them because they lead to developments of great significance, I promise you. I marvel at how circumstances are formed to serve certain ends. Only a much Higher Power can do such things.
A Moon River neighbor, Ron Crighton, owner of Alberta Meats in Lethbridge, a casual golfer, decided he would make a few golf greens from sand and grass in the rough prairie areas of Moon River. The way he explained it to me was that he would have sand hauled in, pack it down, seed it with grass, and water it. Knowing a tiny bit about golf greens and their complexity, I thought his notions quite unrealistic, to be polite.
He circulated a petition, seeking a majority vote from residents to be submitted to the Municipal District (M.D.) Council of Willow Creek for approval. The majority of the community signed, thinking the project was benign enough, having no idea of the complexity involved in making useable golf greens. They didn’t realize fairways would need to be maintained between greens, and that considerable and consistent community labor, water, and funds would be needed.
I decided to oppose the project, thinking it a foolish waste of community money. Just before the hearing in Claresholm, I gathered a counter-petition, explaining to the residents more thoroughly what was involved and what the possible implications could be, never mind the fact that only a fraction of the residents would be golfing, even if it did work. Many expressed gratitude for filling them in.
Frank Eden, a Moon River resident and owner of Eden Funeral Home in the nearby town of Fort Macleod, appeared at the hearing as the spokesperson for the Crighton greens proposal. I immediately presented the counter-petition with a strong majority of the residents signed up, and he was totally surprised. Others in favor of the course were also surprised and chagrined because our petition quashed their proposal.
Frank was immediately offended. I think he would have loved to take a few divots out of me then and there. Fortunately, he didn’t have his clubs with him.
We had an instantly divided community on this issue. John Zoeteman, our area Reeve (elected representative) of the M.D., chaired the meeting. At the end, he made an announcement: Council had just received another proposal from yet another party. He advised that the Moon River community unite because the proposal could have a significant impact on us. He wasn’t free to divulge the details at the time.
It seems I was in the very successful business of making several quick, easy sure enemies. There was a rapidly diminishing number of neighbors who were on friendly terms with us. I was stroking every cat the wrong way.
Though he was once friendly with me, Frank was no longer. I found out he was quite infatuated with Crighton’s idea and was incensed at me for killing it. It seems he thought the project would enhance the sorely depressed Moon River real estate values. Meanwhile, councilors and staff at the M.D. office were shaking their heads about Eden’s proposal, thinking, “What in the world are those Moon River people smoking?”
When Al and Kay Wheeler discovered I had quashed Crighton’s bid for his “golf course,” they were also very upset and immediately severed any relations with us. What?! As a member of the community, did I not have a democratic right to express my views and take action as I saw fit, legally and reasonably? Was I only allowed to agree with what others wanted while disregarding myself and others in the community?
The Wheelers were also concerned about real estate values, hoping Crighton’s golf project might brighten their prospects for sales. It was the conclusion of the rulers of the community, particularly those on the executive, that I was a most unprofitable influence and troublemaker. The time of judgment was fast approaching.
(Note: Do you recall my saying Kay had given me the pictures of the ground-breaking and foundation of our home from July 10, 1986, just in time? Had she waited much longer, I would not have had them.)
Now the kicker. Ron Crighton must have given others a bright idea. A local resident, Brent Derricott, came by announcing he and Alan Orr, the original owner and developer of Moon River Estates, planned to develop a professional multimillion-dollar 18-hole course on the land around our community Alan still owned, the same land Ron Crighton was going to use a tiny portion of for his golf greens. The Orr/Derricott proposal was what John Zoeteman had referred to.
The importance of Mr. Zoeteman’s warning to Moon River residents was now evident. The proposal created immediate controversy. There were those who didn’t want the subsequent commerce and traffic, but there were also those who saw a potential financial opportunity and significant improvement in real estate values, several of the latter being on the Moon River Association executive. The battle lines were drawn, but in what way, to what extent, and why, was a great surprise pending!
Marilyn then had a vision. She saw Alan Orr and Brent Derricott take people’s money, stick it in their pockets, and run. More later, much more… wait for it.
Hearing a golf course was coming in, our next door neighbor, Bev Magee, expressed her great displeasure to me privately about it, but didn’t wish to offend the Wheelers by speaking out. Her daughter, Karen, was entertaining marriage with their son, Mark. She was hoping others would take up the cause, which I did.
Did it pay Bev to remain silent and let others pay the price for her benefit? Mark Wheeler and Karen did marry, and they built a horse stable, intending to start a business boarding horses. Bev invested tens of thousands of dollars in the project. However, Mark and Karen soon separated, and Bev told me she lost all the money and her daughter was left without.
That which we hold on to at the cost of truth and right is soon lost, and we end up with far less than we had hoped, if anything at all.
Steve and Marquise Harris came to purchase the McClimens home across from us, which had been vacant for close to a year. While we were hiking together, Steve asked me a peculiar question, not much unlike that of his predecessor in the same house, Sandy McClimens. On a hike around the countryside, as if out of the blue, though the conversation was about spiritual matters, Steve asked me about the “second coming.”
I didn’t answer him as I would today, if I replied at all. “Why did he ask me that?” I wondered. I wanted to tell him what I knew, but decided not to. I didn’t feel it was time to say anything. Perhaps he had been talking to the neighbors about party-line phone conversations I had had with Archie and others.
I wanted to share more on spiritual matters with Steve as the days went by. I appreciated the talks we had, he being an interesting and intelligent fellow, but he would stall, saying, “We’ll have more chances to talk.”
I said, “You won’t be here long.”
He thought I was talking about their living at Moon River. They had just moved in. I think I assumed that was the meaning of what I said, as well.
Later I considered the words prophetic and spiritual in meaning – he wouldn’t be given to receive what I had for him much longer. So it was; we soon parted ways, not in enmity, but as a natural course of development. Opportunity from the Lord to hear is not to be taken for granted.
As it says:
“While it is said, ‘Today’ if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation” (Hebrews 3:15 MKJV).
In 1989, Marilyn dreamt of Steve. He was riding a small black horse on his property, driving it furiously. We haven’t known what to make of it.
We met Dave and Pam Adams, a young couple at Moon River who had moved in not long before us. Both were schoolteachers in Lethbridge. As we visited, Marilyn received of them that they would be “friends better than Archie and Cathie.” This was a strange Word, particularly because of the comparison. Dave and Pam didn’t profess to believe as did Archie and Cathie, but they soon ended up identifying and sympathizing with us in a major and highly unpleasant Moon River incident in which Archie and Cathie weren’t involved.
Elections came up for executive positions of the Moon River Association. I was nominated, and there were those who thought I had a good chance of being elected, despite my many enemies. That’s because there were many who felt the stifling atmosphere in the community due to those in power and who were running for reelection. The people were also in disagreement with various developments and expenditures the executives were forcing on the community, yet they felt helpless to resist.
Ballots were cast and should have been counted publicly, but they weren’t. Instead, the Wheelers and Edens illegally took them and counted them at Frank Eden’s house, Frank being the former president and Wheelers supporting him. How convenient and transparent! As if that wasn’t the classical entrusting of the chickens to the fox, I don’t know the meaning of the proverb and never will. Needless to say, I wasn’t elected, at least not on record.
Frankly (enjoy the pun), I was relieved. I didn’t feel at all the Lord was leading me in that direction, but the Wheelers were gloating, as though they pulled a fast one on me. The executive was now in place (mostly those who had already been there) for the next stage of the marvelous design of the Lord. The enemies were about to be caught in the terrible snare they laid for me.
Clarence Arnoldussen was elected chairman, Byron Neu vice chairman, Ed Langford secretary, John Van De Merwe director, and Jim King treasurer. Three out of five men were soured against me, excepting John and Ed (as far as I knew). However, they all supported the golf course Orr and Derricott were promoting.
Then there were those who unofficially ran the community in league with Clarence, those being Frank Eden, Al Wheeler, and Ron Crighton. As for John Van De Merwe, he was usually a very friendly fellow, whom Frank Eden referred to as a “cream puff.” John was of a Christian/Dutch Reform denomination (not sure which), as was Clarence. I mention this because, at the time, I had little understanding of Reform people, but I was destined to receive it through revelation and the school of hard knocks.
I had little doubt that if there was ever a time of conflict, and Clarence and I were on opposite sides, John would support Clarence. It so happened, as you’ll see. Clarence was a prominent, popular, successful citizen of the community. Who was I but what Al Wheeler would soon call me, a “shit disturber,” that any should side with me?
Al Wheeler, owner of Hagen Electric Lethbridge Limited (HELL), was the waterman for Moon River. This was before the provincial government took over responsibility for our water. The community for the most part was beholden to Al, seeing he serviced its wells, cistern, and water system, day and night at reasonable expense. This gave Al considerable power and a sense of authority as to other aspects and activities of Moon River. He felt he had a say, if not a final one, and didn’t hesitate to express his opinions in the boldest of terms.
In his sales pitch on the golf course at a community meeting, Brent Derricott was manipulative and not forthcoming. We weren’t comfortable with their perceived intentions and methods of operation. We heard the same from others in the community. It seemed to be a get-rich-quick scheme that would hurt not a few in the end and be another white elephant project, even as was the original Moon River Estates residential development.
Marilyn had taken notes. Coming home, she noticed the marked lack of answers in our notepad for all the questions asked. Several questions Derricott answered with his eyes closed, a peculiar thing, as though he didn’t want us to see what he was thinking. We were hearing speech, but little if any substance.
Lesson: Take notes on presentations and study the value of the answers later; it may surprise you.
Word got to us that Frank Eden, Al Wheeler, and Clarence Arnoldussen were promoting the proposed golf course, though the executive should have allowed the community to make the decision by plebiscite. Clarence didn’t seem too interested in risking a rejection, or he presumed he knew best for the community. He was already purchasing available vacant lots, speculating on their appreciation in value. As far as these men were concerned, their hour of opportunity and relief from depressed real estate values had arrived.
Clarence even purchased a lot from John Van De Merwe, who had held an empty lot for some time at a depressed value. Al Wheeler bought an empty lot and Ed Langford was also looking to speculate. So who was left to speak for the community? Who should be executing the residents’ wishes instead of executing the residents?
I spoke to several people who indicated they didn’t want the golf course. They hadn’t come to Moon River speculating, but because they enjoyed the privacy, quiet, and beauty. Some of these were Bev Magee, Walter Burton, Dave and Pam Adams, Art and Ann Adams, Steve Harris, Lloyd Sereda, John Shaskin, Ernie and Josie Smiley, and George Kush, as well as several others with whom I hadn’t spoken.
I wanted to meet with the executive, asking them to bring the issue before the community. George Kush promised he would support me if we had a meeting, testifying as to what he heard would support our case with the executive.
I called Clarence on November 8th, asking for a time to talk. I said, “Clarence, this thing is a serious matter.” He said he would get back to me.
According to the Cooperative Associations Act in Alberta legislation, under Consumer and Corporate Affairs, the Moon River Cooperative Association was required to abide by strict regulations, which weren’t being recognized by the executive. When I spoke to the Crown Prosecutor, Gordon Faulkner, he said that if I mentioned names, he would be obligated to investigate.
It seemed I had the executive dead to rights in a serious way, though I wasn’t certain. I knew I could take the legal step; however, Marilyn and I prayed about it and agreed the Lord would take care of things His way. I didn’t expect Clarence was intentionally breaking laws, and we weren’t interested in the matter becoming a legal one. Though tempted, I withheld names and details from Mr. Faulkner.
On November 9th, Clarence called, saying, “Okay, how about we meet tomorrow night, Friday, November 10th? You bring whoever you want and I’ll bring whoever I want.” I felt like something ominous was brewing. Ideally, one would expect the executive to be there to patiently hear residents’ concerns. I would especially expect this of Clarence and his wife, seeing they professed faith in Christ. Not surprisingly, we were receiving a very different witness from God. We knew we were headed for trouble and went to prayer.
Recognizing Clarence was not out to do right, but to put me away, I had three choices as I saw it: One, forget the whole thing and let others bother about it, if they so wished; two, report and let the law handle it; or three, go to the appointed meeting, present our case, and let them do their worst. I knew I had to make the third choice. We knew it would be bad. A great heaviness came on us, but we had to endure it.
I let others know about the meeting. George Kush, Walter Burton, Steve Harris, and Dave Adams decided to come. I still recall that evening, as Marilyn and I walked to the fire hall, where meetings were held. It was lightly snowing, and we felt like we were going to the gallows.
When we arrived, they were all there waiting, gathered in a small back room, chatting with one another. Stacking chairs were set up in a circle, Clarence straight across from us, and sitting next to him was John Van De Merwe; they were both dressed in black trousers. On Clarence’s right was Al Wheeler.
Then there was Walter Burton, Dave Adams, and next to me, on my left, was Jim King. Marilyn was on my right and immediately next to her, also dressed in black, was Frank Eden. Also present were Byron Neu, Ron Crighton, who was very drunk, and Steve Harris.
Someone passed some beer around. Clarence drank. Dave Adams declined, if offered any. We weren’t offered any and would have declined if so. Steve, whom we vaguely hoped might conduct himself empathetically with us, went to drinking with the rest of them. I believe Walter was also drinking, he having been known to have a weakness for alcohol.
Clarence called the meeting to order immediately and asked me to start by expressing my concerns. I barely opened my mouth, starting with how it was rumored the executive was already informally approving the golf course and was land speculating, when they should instead be apprising the residents of the implications and determining if the community wanted the course in the first place (many residents weren’t in favor).
Those were the words I intended to get out, but didn’t come anywhere near it. An uproar almost immediately ensued, primarily coming from Al Wheeler, who, it was evident, couldn’t wait to vent. Al bellowed, preached, and insulted, not remotely having a grasp of, or the least interest in, what I was saying or the implications of what they were doing, legally or otherwise. While he bellowed, Clarence smiled and others cheered as they guzzled their beers.
Frank Eden also set to constant interruptions and accusations in a high-pitched voice. Ron Crighton, so drunk he could hardly speak and resentful of my opposing his own personal golf course scheme, began to rail out loud, as well as curse and swear; he would do so throughout the entire meeting.
Occasionally, Byron Neu would shout short statements against me. Jim King sat by quietly, objecting only to the fact he was suspected of speculating along with the others. Though I don’t know for sure, he seemed to be aware of possible legal implications in what the executive were doing and wasn’t going to have any part in it.
Steve Harris sat by, silently drinking his beer. Walter Burton, a timid fellow, sat silent, visibly intimidated and red in face. Dave Adams also sat silently. These last three uttered not a word throughout the entire meeting.
Frank boasted of his honor, how he sold an empty lot next to his home to someone who called back asking if Frank now wanted more for it, seeing values were suddenly to spike upwards. Frank quoted himself as having responded, “You know what, ‘So-and-So’? I don’t do business that way!” I marveled at how these men were self-aggrandizing, testifying of their virtues.
I wasn’t there to discuss their moral fiber or self-perceived social image and status, but to deal with the golf course issue, which, obviously, was morally related. Not only was their conduct immoral, but almost certainly illegal. But this night, a few of them were moral giants, strutting their integrity before one another like peacocks spreading their tails in full array.
Al Wheeler boasted of dickering down the sale price for a lot he purchased that was already selling at a low price.
Then Clarence spoke up. He began by talking of himself as one with honorable intentions, claiming he had purchased the lot from John Van De Merwe, not to speculate, but as a prospective site for his eldest son. He would occasionally look to John, and John would smile back – another man saying not a word throughout the entire meeting.
Finally, Clarence rabidly tore into me for several minutes. He was raging, as were several others.
Whenever I tried to say something, Al, Frank, Ron, Byron, and Clarence shouted me down. While Clarence was chairing, he wasn’t judicial by any means. He didn’t even try to appear objective. Frank and Clarence were friendly toward Marilyn, declaring they weren’t blaming her, but me.
For a couple of hours, they railed angrily while I could only pray silently, thank God, submit to the circumstances, and commend myself to His sovereignty over all. In spite of the horrible circumstances and my distress, I had an abiding peace within.
George Kush was there to testify on our behalf, but suddenly spoke up for them instead, without mentioning a word of what he had promised to say. Indeed, he said the opposite. He ended his words with, “And I don’t lie!” like a little boy looking for praise from his parents. They could all see he was a sycophant, without integrity, but weren’t about to reject his support. Why wasn’t I surprised George would act and speak as he did?
When Clarence was done and the meeting adjourned, he offered his hand and I accepted. Why? I don’t know, except I wanted him to know there was no personal ill will. Perhaps I thought it was simply the Christian thing to do.
We left for home, somewhat in a daze. On the way, we dropped in on Dave Adams who sympathized some, declaring it was a lynching and if it had happened in the Old West, it would have been literal. He was busy bathing his infant daughter, Brittany, and promised to visit us.
We then dropped in on Steve Harris, who blurted, “Why do you do that to yourself?” suggesting, I believe, I shouldn’t speak up, but let affairs go as power brokers pleased. When Marquise, his wife, asked what happened, Steve replied there was a brutal lynching. Finding everything empty and ourselves disconsolate, we headed home.
Immediately arriving home, we got on our knees before the Lord, asking Him what happened and why. Marilyn was temporarily angry with me for confronting people on their offenses, thinking perhaps Steve was right that I shouldn’t take issue with people in these kinds of things. She was crying.
It was approximately 10:30 PM. As we knelt there, suddenly God reminded me of the vision I had in October of 1987 at our Queens rental home. He said that vision was now fulfilled. Wow! I was amazed. The vision had come to pass years before I expected it ever could or would.
Who says there is no God?
The next day, the Wheelers and Arnoldussens were out on the street in front of our home, openly celebrating and, later, giving one another gifts. We were shunned and despised. The next few years were to be very lonely and dismal for us in the community. However, they would be much darker and more dismal in the near future for our enemies. God wouldn’t take these things lightly.
Dave and Pam Adams came over to console us and to encourage us not to leave Moon River, not that it crossed our minds. Pam was even tearful. It seemed they were hoping for a savior from the tyranny, not realizing God had provided one that crucial night. We didn’t realize it ourselves for some time.
We were hoping for more empathy from them in weeks to come. I would call and leave messages, and they would never return the calls. As a result, I grew cold toward them for their inconsideration, which was terribly childish and wrong of me. I was partially disappointed with them, given the Word Marilyn had received of them. I recall Pam having said something to Dave that he should have returned my calls.
They soon sold their house, leaving the community in defeat. I suspect my attitude might perhaps have precipitated their quick departure from Moon River. Years later, in 1994, I met them at Zeller’s and we had a friendly talk, though Pam seemed cautious or wondered how Dave might react.
Sometime after, I tried to visit them once at their new home to speak to them personally, but they were absent, so I left it to be worked out in God’s way and time. I apologize to you, Dave and Pam, for my attitude.
Days or weeks later, I was going through my journal and spotted some relative dates. I saw the date of the vision I had in Stettler of the mare birthing a colt – July 10, 1986. I saw the date of the Moon River fire hall “conflagration” – November 10, 1989. I measured the time and discovered it to be forty months. I had also recorded the time of the vision, late evening, and realized its fulfillment was forty months to the hour.
Who says there is no God?