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Jim Cumming - From the Publisher's Pen

Jim is the former publisher of the Fort Frances Times Ltd. He writes a weekly column and can be contacted at jcumming@fortfrances.com

Derailments a worrying scenario

Last week, sitting idly in the train yard in Fort Frances, was a train made up entirely of tanker cars.

It was only one of the 29 trains that pass through our community (and district) every day of the year.

If you watch the trains from one of the level crossings in the district, you’ll see a mixture of tanker cars, flat cars carrying lumber, as well as cars carrying grain from the west and containers that have arrived at Prince Rupert, B.C. with consumer goods from Asia.

You also will see unit trains carrying crude oil.

There are no easy answers

If you could sit down and plan for a community, what would be your most important considerations?

As we look to the future, the communities of Rainy River District have to deal with their histories and also with their futures. They do not have the luxury of beginning with a blank sheet.

Our histories are shared in that our communities were built around the railway. We live on either side and the railway divides us.

Weather makes travel adventurous

When I travelled a fair bit, I always worried about doing so in November and March while going between Fort Frances and Toronto.

The rest of the year was clear sailing. But fog and freezing rain seemed most problematic during those two months, and more than once resulted in delays or cancellations.

In the summer months, you might be held up for a short period of time for a heavy rainstorm.

When is it best to retire?

I will reach the age of 65 later this year.

Shortly after my last birthday, the government sent me a notice to begin applying for my Canada Pension and Old Age Security. I wondered at the time if the government was trying to tell me something.

In the last five or six months, I’ve been reading almost every column that has been written about preparing for retirement that has been written in either the Globe and Mail or the National Post.

Better get planning for Valentine’s Day

In our youngest grades, Valentine cards were really important.

My Grade 1 teacher, Mrs. Benson, had a big decorated box that we all put our cards in and then on Valentine’s Day, she opened the box and, as a postman, would take the cards to each of her students.

We waited in eager anticipation to see how many cards we would receive.

Later, in Grades 3 and 4, we made Valentine mailboxes. Then on the appointed day, we would bring our cards to school and go from mailbox to mailbox depositing our Valentines.

Renewed hope

I walked out of the Canada Games Complex in Thunder Bay at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday—the last day of January—and it was still daylight.

It was a distinct sign that there is light in the tunnel that winter is ending.

On Monday morning, Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willie were split in their annual Groundhog Day forecast. Willie did not see his shadow and predicted an early spring.

Phil, on the other hand, saw his shadow, which traditionally means we’re in for six more weeks of winter.

Home renovation not a simple task

My wife likes to watch home renovation shows on HGTV. “Leave it to Bryan” is perhaps her favourite, although she does have sympathy for “Holmes on Homes” when large issues happen.

We renovated our home some 35 years ago. Built in 1904, it had many issues. For instance, it had an old coal furnace that had been converted to oil that produced hot water heat for the house.

We suspect that on more than one occasion, the furnace had failed and the freezing pipes had caused considerable water damage.

Losing our common sense

Are we losing some of our common sense? I wonder when I see communities and the public in fear of offending or allowing some risk.

Today, many of the things that I did growing up now are considered dangerous and should be banned.

I must be lucky to have survived growing up in Fort Frances. By today’s standards, I had too much freedom. Today, the kids on my block would be known as “Free Range” kids able to travel all over the community without supervision.

Put their feet to the fire

Sometimes when you write a story, facts and figures conflict and may or may not be accurate.

I take, for instance, information that was published in the Fort Frances Times on Nov. 5 when the minister of natural resources and forestry revealed that Expera had been offered more than 700,000 cubic metres of fibre by Resolute to operate the kraft mill here in Fort Frances.

Age a matter of the mind

Last August, forms from the federal government arrived in the mail for me to apply for my Canada pension and Old Age Security. They came as a shock since I really had not thought that I was “old.”

To me, my mother and her friends were old—all having well passed the 80 mark. Of course, when I was 40 and they were filling out their pension applications, that seemed old at the time.

Today, as I look at the council of Fort Frances, I note that Mayor Roy Avis and Couns. Albanese, Caul, Kitowski, and Ryan all have reached the age of retirement.