Why, oh why do I love Cochrane? Because...

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, June 4, 2003

With Cochrane's 100th birthday less than two weeks away, I was strolling through the centre of town to see how preparations are coming. And, indeed, things are looking pretty good. But in chatting with several of you along the way, I was reminded that our town's real beauty is more than skin deep.

True, the decorative new streetlights are in; upgraded sidewalks have become home to new park benches, and as I'm writing, construction is nearing completion on roadways and the Centennial Plaza, focal point of the June 17 Proclamation Day celebration (www.cochrane.ca).

But while taking all this in, I happened upon Marie Sigurdson tending her magnificent flower gardens at Rustic Market Square. Year after year, the delphiniums, pink cosmos, and orange poppies speak of the heart she has for this place.

I couldn't resist. "Why do you love Cochrane so much?" I asked her.

"Cochrane is quaint," she said. "It has a small-town feel, but with all the big-city amenities."

That brief encounter put me onto something far more important than streetlights, asphalt and concrete. I went across the road, grabbed a coffee and joined Mark Bretherton, conductor/engineer with CP Rail. Originally from England, Mark now calls Cochrane home while driving freight trains through British Columbia's famed Spiral Tunnels. I asked him the same question I'd asked Marie.

"Cochrane's an island of culture in an ocean of prairie," he replied. "It's a living library; you can go to any coffee house in town and find someone to talk with on almost any subject."

Mark was pointing out how this column attempts to reflect that richness when Jack Gotta, retired head coach of the Calgary Stampeders, came over to our table. For the past 12 years, he's lived on an acreage just east of town, and all four of his kids attended Cochrane High School.

"Why do you love Cochrane, Jack?" I asked.

"I love the openness of the area," he said. "When I look out my back door, I see the mountains, the woods, some cattle and fences, but no more roof tops. My wife Joani loves the whole area, too – she's a horsey person."

Somebody else who like's Cochrane's wide-open spaces is 27-year-old Chris Muller, world hang-gliding champion. Chris was born and raised in Cochrane and can often be seen soaring colorfully over Big Hill. When I asked him why he loves it here, he said:

"I like Cochrane's panorama – and the people, too; it's really a friendly little town."

Sitting nearby, Margaret Hunziker absolutely agreed. Over the 30 years she has lived here, she has served in many public capacities, including as chair of the Rocky View School Division.

"Cochrane has a small-town atmosphere, easy to meet people, friendly, a good place for kids to grow up," Margaret said. "It's an easy place to get involved in politics and the church."

Cochrane's also an easy place to meet visitors from all over the world, I realized, as I approached a middle-aged couple sitting on the bench in front of MacKay's Ice Cream shop. They were licking double-dip chocolate/strawberry cones. Jerry and Iza Michalczyk, originally from Poland but now living in Tampa, Florida, were told by friends that, if they were ever up this way, they must certainly drive out to Cochrane for a cone at MacKay's.

Were they enjoying their time here? Holding up their trophies and giving me an ice-cream smile, they answered without words: Cochrane was leaving a good taste in their mouths.

Well, Cochrane certainly leaves a good taste in my mouth – everyday, everywhere. Yes, in part it is about our geographical setting: the mountains, the treed hills, the rolling fields, and the Bow River. And yes, it is about urban convenience in a small town setting. And yes, it is about people unsurpassed in their warm friendliness and community pride.

But more than that, for me personally, it's about the privilege you good folks give me, cup by cup, to travel with you, through your thoughts and stories, to the edge of the universe and the depths of the soul.

You are the reason I love Cochrane.

© 2003 Warren Harbeck

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