My dad always seemed to know a lot of “Characters”. Maybe it was a product of his generation but it seemed that every colorful friend needed a nickname. The best nicknames were the ones that had the word “The” in front of them. For example, there was “The Pike Nelson”. I met him but once and he seemed perfectly normal yet dad always referred to him as “The” Pike Nelson. I suspect his first name wasn’t even actually Pike.
But his name would live in infamy because on the wall in my dad’s garage was the biggest pipe wrench you ever saw. It was nicknamed, “The Pike Wrench”. Here’s where the story gets a bit nebulous. If my memory is correct, this wrench belonged to Pike Nelson. Perhaps he sold it to my dad. Or lent it to my dad and never got it back. Then, every so often, dad and I would be hard at work on a vehicle and get to a point where we needed “The Pike Wrench”. It always got the job done.
But I digress. What does “The Pike Nelson” have to do with “The Frank Slide”, you might ask? Everything, when it comes to this story.
It was 2003 when dad and I went on a trip through Alberta and British Columbia. Dad had so many friends and relatives scattered across the West that I never gave it a second thought he when intoned, “We gotta go see the Frank Slide”.
As we neared a small town, I couldn’t help but notice a vast field of giant rocks. Much like the Death Star from Star Wars, the closer we got, the more I realized this wasn’t just a field. It looked like the entire side of a mountain had broken off and avalanched. Then I saw the sign that simply read “Frank”.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have figured out that “The Frank Slide” was an event and not a person. The slide occurred in the tiny town of Frank at 4:10 am, on the morning of April 29, 1903. Over 82 million tonnes of limestone rock slid down Turtle Mountain within 100 seconds, and obliterated the eastern edge of Frank. It was one of the largest landslides in Canadian history and remains the deadliest, as between 70 and 90 of the town’s residents were killed, most of whom remain buried in the rubble.
To this day, I don’t think he knows that I was expecting to meet an actual person and that I was completely clueless about “The Frank Slide.”