Archive for May 2013
They don’t sell postcards in Flin Flon, Manitoba; at least none that I found. It’s a desperately cold place most of the year.
“Chilly” is how the pilot describes it upon landing. Helen at the car rental desk confirms that, yes, it’s cold. “But tolerable without the wind.”
Minus 39.6, according to the airport’s only baggage handler. “We’ll call it minus 40,” he says.
Celsius … Fahrenheit, it doesn’t matter. My idea of cold will never be the same. Lager’s cold. So is a dip in the sea off Margate. But February 1st in Flin Flon is worthy of its own definition of cold.
My colleague Javier and I are here from Vancouver to film a video in Flin Flon’s copper mine. We try to look casual, hauling our camera gear across the car park to the rental truck. “It’s not that bad,” says Javier. “No, not so bad,” I wheeze, acutely aware of snot freezing in my nose.
The pallid sun we’d last seen during a stopover in Winnipeg has long since set and we drive in twilight to Flin Flon. Manitoba looks grainy monochrome, a stunted boreal forest dotted with lakes frozen into frigid stillness.
In Flin Flon, we plug our truck into a block heater outside the Victoria Inn. Inside, we eat perogies and drink beer. Our server tells us that minus 40 is mitigated by the fact that Flin Flon’s cold “is a dry cold”.
Her tongue is not in her cheek.
Fortified by curiosity, we drive into town, and then walk down Main Street. Most of the houses are old and wooden, with rooftops wilting under snow whipped into drifts. At the Co-op I buy myself a Flin Flon Bombers hockey jersey. I tell the cashier about a friend from Saskatchewan, who hated coming to play hockey against Flin Flon, the toughest team in the Canadian junior league.
At first she’s offended. “Why,” she demands. “Because they knew they’d have to fight,” I tell her. She smiles. “We love our Bombers,” she says.
We tread gingerly on a snowy sidewalk up the street to Flin Flon’s war memorial and a view overlooking the town. Fumes from the mine are the only thing obscuring a sky full of stars. The only other person on the street nods hello as he passes us, and calls us pussies for wearing gloves. He’s not wearing gloves.
A short drive away, we arrive at Flinty, a statue of a cartoonish-looking prospector. Gloves off, I photograph Flinty – built in tribute to Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin. Flonatin appears in a sci-fi novel called The Sunless City. He pilots a submarine through a bottomless lake and into an underground world through a hole lined with gold. Prospector Tom Creighton had a copy of the book when he stumbled on a rich vein of copper here in 1918.
Flin Flon might be the only town named after a character in a dime-store paperback.
But that’s another story.