Stuff: A Paradox In Drayton Valley

“The robb’d that smiles, steals something from the thief; He robs himself that spends a bootless grief.”

William Shakespeare, Othello

Photo credit: Lynne Fedorick

Stuff: A paradox in Drayton Valley

When I started this journey a year and a half ago, I did so with the idea that RV living would be a temporary adventure until I found a suitable piece of land and built a small house in Alberta. I had packed up my stuff, all the things that I used to fill up my house, (minus the furniture and larger bits) into boxes and hinged lidded Rubbermaid trunks. There was a lot of stuff I didn’t want to part with: Old Photos, books, carpentry and renovation tools, rapidly becoming obsolete electronics, dinnerware and all the necessities for performing with my trick dogs as part of local events, (should Covid health guidelines ever relax).

Even after I downsized, these were were among the many items that I shipped to a 10×8 foot locker in a storage facility in Drayton Valley, Alberta. The place promised the best security and used a special coded phone app to open the automatic gate. The woman at the front desk promised the site was constantly monitored by security cameras and proudly proclaimed “We’ve had only ever had one theft incident here.”

After living in my RV for a year, I changed my mind about buying land and resurrecting my dog training business in Alberta. I was really happy in my RV. The Arfpod gives me everything I need in a living space, plus I have the ability to be completely mobile, visiting our friends and family year round. The Arfpod is perfect. Except it doesn’t fit all my stuff.

Earl Balanced Photo Credit Lynne Fedorick

Balance

But I can spend winters with friends on the beach, working and helping people with dog behaviour problems on Vancouver Island. I spend summers on the prairies, visiting Georgie, Stella, and the rest of the family. It’s a perfect balance. My stuff could stay in storage in Drayton Valley for the time being. But my 5 year plan is to keep this wonderful mobile lifestyle, so the cost of storage would be over 7000 for that period. Trick dog equipment for trick training classes and West Coast shows at local events and charities would be inaccessible. Payload capacity limits meant it couldn’t all fit in my vehicle when I headed back out to the coast. I would need to get it shipped to a facility in Black Creek. Another $1200. So what to do?

I have to admit, I stressed about all the stuff that was tucked away safely at Drayton Valley Storage. I resolved to give more stuff away, and then get the remainder shipped back to the coast, with the trick dog equipment and have it stored there. Having made this resolution, I went to retrieve a few items, including Earl’s beloved red toy piano from my storage locker.

Earl playing his piano: Credit Lynne Fedorick

I opened the 3/8 inch plywood door to my locker, walked in, and went to turn on the light. The little room remained darkened. “Why?” I wondered. I don’t ever leave lights on, so it seemed odd that the bulb would be burned out. But okay. Whatever. I went to get Earl’s piano out of the trunk. The trunk was not there. I looked and saw the portable PA speaker we use for shows was gone. Along with all my saws and all my tools. Every last box had been opened and rifled through, except those that were labelled “books”. Some entire boxes were missing. I was in shock. Indeed.

Nothing as it seems

I looked at the 3/8 inch sheet metal screws hanging loosely from the hinges on the outside of the locker. Evidently, the thieves had easily taken my door off the hinges and had spent a long time in my locker going through stuff and picking out what they wanted. Why they took trick dog show props is beyond me. I would have to get my remaining stuff out of there. Thieves always return and as I loaded up a few dishevelled boxes I saw the missing chain link fence on right side of the yard. The place was not secure at all. I loaded up what I could with 3 dogs in my vehicle and figured I should inform Candice, at the front desk that someone had removed my door from the hinges and robbed me blind. She would no doubt be concerned.

Candice didn’t look at all surprised when went into the office and I told her. After a few seconds, her eyes shifted up from her computer, and with apparent effort, she stood up from her seat. She says bluntly to me: “You must have been targeted. No one else has reported being broken into” Since no one but me knew where my storage locker was, this was impossible. I tell her about the other lockers in my block that showed signs of either forced entry, or hanging hinges. Maybe other locker owners should be informed. Candice doesn’t blink, and firmly says that there were no other thefts.

We emptied the locker by the end of the day, and I tried to file a police report. It took 4 days before an officer called me to get the full report, and there is probably no hope of ever seeing any of our stuff again.

There is a good possibility this was an inside job with facility staff either being a part of the theft, or turning a blind eye to it. Police don’t receive enough funding here to properly investigate property crimes unless there is a threat to human life involved.

Drayton Valley property crime

But rampant property crimes are so widespread in Drayton Valley that absolutely no one is unscathed by them. A current community project being funded by private donations is the new community aquatic centre. The building is in the process of being framed with tall steel posts and beams triumphantly marking the spot that will house the new aquatic centre. The site is surrounded by a compound of steel construction fence panels. Last week, to no one’s surprise, thieves broke into the compound and robbed it of construction materials and tools.

Poverty pits an entire community of neighbours against one another here in a relentless battle of wits. Everything not nailed down or locked up, including family dogs and livestock gets stolen here. There is so much extreme poverty in Drayton Valley due to job losses, that people perched on the line between honesty and a life of crime is easily pushed over the brink into the latter. Poverty, drug use, a lack of police services has caused the property crime rate here has climb to extreme levels. Criminals have learned there are no police services here between shifts and on weekends. They come from all over Alberta to target this little town that once thrived on oil and gas money.

Anyway…

I didn’t set out to do a dissertation on property crime in Drayton Valley or to write a harsh criticism of the town. Drayton Valley is struggling to do it’s best under the burden of ridiculously hard economic times. In some ways things seem to be improving here since last year. I see many more people here busy working and bustling about. A new painted mural in the business district of Drayton Valley has a bison’s head on either side, each staring at a script that spells out “Strength”. And the little town will sure need strength to draw it through these difficult times.

I’ ve been relieved of anything that had value in any of Alberta’s pawn shops. l still have boxes of old photographs, old books and writing projects that I never finished from back when I had a clackity old Underwood typewriter and some art supplies. I have very little stuff left now. While I am not happy to be involuntarily stripped of my material possessions, It feels kind of good not to have to worry about having them anymore. I actually feel even more free than when I drove into town worrying about what I was going to do with all my stuff. Freedom is kind of frightening when it first arrives and beckons us from the comfort of old habits. But I am getting more than used to it. I am really starting to like it.

Life is good

On today’s schedule are: A bike ride with George and Earl , cuddles with Stella, bikejoring with Annabelle, acrobatic trick practice with Jolene and then preparing a book submission for a publisher. At the end of the day, I will raise a glass or two of excellent scotch with two of my favourite humans on the planet. I really like this life.

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