When the world thinks of Canada, they think of the Yukon.
When Yukoners think of the Yukon, they think of Faro.
When the world is thinking of Canada, they don’t picture an industrialized Hamilton or the concrete of Toronto or even the wheat fields of Saskatchewan. They are thinking of mountains and forests and lakes. That’s us all over.
When Yukoners think of the Yukon, they don’t think of Whitehorse’s Main Street or the territorial buildings or even Dawson City (nice place, fine people, but too touristy).
No, Yukoners think of their land as easygoing with lots of space and super-nice people.
On a visit to Faro about eight years ago, that is exactly what I found.
I was a freelance writer and had gone there to research two stories.
I ended up with 10 stories.
I’d finish one interview and the person would say to me, “Have you talked to ‘John and Mary’? They’re doing some fascinating things there.”
I’d knock on John and Mary’s door to see if they were willing to be interviewed at a convenient time and, over and over, they said, “Now’s a good time.”
I had dinner with Judy Freake’s family, whom I had just met, and the window of my bed and breakfast overlooked a wide valley. It was so quiet there, all I could hear was the buzzing of the caffeine high I had from so many coffees that day.
And driving from here to there, everyone waved at me. It was so friendly, so quaint, so un-Whitehorse-like. I felt like Marty McFly in 1950’s Hill Valley, California.
I am reminded of all of this because July 1 marks Faro’s 40th anniversary. It is an all-the-more-important milestone when you consider how many people thought the various mine closures would mean its death.
Heck, incorporation came shortly after the town was nearly wiped out in a forest fire.
Over the past dozen years, we read stories of how houses were boarded up and businesses were closing and it would only be a matter of time before it would be decided municipal services were not warranted for such a small population.
Then we read stories of how this spunky town was populated by people who loved it (how can you not love a town named after a card game?) and, more importantly, believed in it.
We heard the argument of how a railroad really should be built near this town and through the flat, straight, solid Tintina Trench, the center of a mineral-rich region, instead of along the Alaska Highway, which is already served by a … well, a highway.
We read how the cheap houses were being bought up by retirees and hunters who salivated at the idea of living in the center of one of North America’s most densely concentrated wildlife areas.
Now we are reading that the entire town is welcoming the entire Yukon – and everyone else – to celebrate its birth.
And, when you visit, you will ask yourself, How can a town, with a golf course running through the middle of it, ever be left for dead?
Bono says the world needs more Canada. I say, “The Yukon needs more Faro.”