A Cowboy in the Mountains

As I suggested in an earlier post, Banff, Alberta is represented in the world of salt and pepper shakers in a wide spectrum of ways:   a pair of golden hands, a pair of ungrammatical aboriginals, a lion and a grass-skirted person of African descent.  Here’s another odd addition to that very miscellaneous assortment:Well, perhaps it’s not so odd–at least not so odd as the lion and his/her friend: for after all, Banff is not all that far from Calgary, where they have chuckwagon races at the annual Stampede.  But that’s far enough away to be down on the prairies–it’s harder to imagine those wagons racing around right in the shadow of the Rockies that surround Banff itself.  And are there not shaker souvenirs of Banff that do in fact in some way evoke these mountains?  So far, at least, I don’t have such a set.

It all makes me wonder about how this whole business of souvenirs of places people have visited operate.  You bring home a souvenir presumably as what the word “souvenir” implies–as a memorial to the visit and the place, a device that allows you to preserve or evoke and indulge in your memories of the place, or as a sort of passive-aggressive reminder to others who weren’t on the trip that you got to go there and all they got was this gift from you of a lousy set of salt and pepper shakers.  But apparently, the memory or the envy can be evoked by a representation of just about anything: as long as the shakers have the name of the right place printed on therm, it doesn’t matter if they are golden hands or racial stereotypes of minoritized local residents or people from an entirely different continent.  And perhaps you choose the lion and companion over the golden hands because of a personal taste and interest in Africa, or hunting, or race relations–which means that the more significant meaning of the shaker souvenir is not the place it names but the personality and character of the person who buys it.  In other words, you’re remembering or memorializing or confirming yourself–which surely you didn’t need a ceramic African or golden hand to do?

This chuck wagon is made of wood, in a pleasingly primitive style of carving, and has a very simply outlined driver, who, despite his simple outlines, manages quite successfully to communicate the actions of a driver on the go:He looks a little like a clothes peg.  Oh, and for those who might wonder how this qualifies as a salt and pepper set: the shakers are to be found as the load the wagon carries.  Here they are removed from their perch and with their shakerhood more clearly on display:

Published by pernodel

Children’s literature critic and author of books for children

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