By Sally Scales
Dan Meakes is a storyteller. He came with his wife, Cathy, to Salmon Arm to farm after 35 years of ministry in the Anglican Church. Most of his ministry was in small towns so he ended up doing all sorts of jobs as well: school principal, college teacher, businessman, and even a touch of politics. When all is said and done, the only common thread is the stories.
Much of their life was spent in the north: truly Canadian. When they were living about a block from Robert Service’s restored home in Dawson City, Dan was a young deacon. He tells the story of one Sunday sending out the collection plate to a particularly small number of people in church. To start the process he put a $10 bill in the plate. When the plate returned, the bill was missing. Someone had taken his gift!
At first he was angry. Then it dawned on him that many people in the congregation were a lot poorer than he was and needed the money. They needed to have a chance to work. So Dan went to the chief of the band and two young men, and together they organized the fishing industry.
It was a two-year process and started by organizing a transportation company to haul fish on the Yukon River. Then a company was started to clean and smoke the salmon. It became a First Nations’ project. They knew the river, the fish, and the people who wanted to work.
The fish were HUGE, and when smoked they were very valuable. At first, buyers in Japan and Amsterdam bought all their product, and CP Air flew the fish to distant corners. Given a chance, people take charge of their lives, says Dan, and take pride in their contribution. Dan says it was the best $10 he ever invested in his education.
Now, Dan farms tomatoes, peas and beans on six acres in Salmon Arm, and sells them at local farmers’ markets. However, his greatest treasure is the 350 stories he has gathered from his lifetime.
He preaches in churches in Chase and Revelstoke; and always takes time to hear stories and share yarns. He says, “To live is to make sense of our lives through the stories we share.”