John Kenneth Galbraith died on Saturday April 29th. He was 97 years old. I had no idea who Galbraith was until I moved to my current residence approximately 17 months ago. That he was a person of some importance was made eminently clear to me as the closest library was christened in his honor (one of my favourite places to frequent by the by). Galbraith even has his own monument here. Granted it is on a lonely dirt road backed by acres and acres of farm land but it is well kept and there’s a bench if you’d like to sit and relax in the shadow of that dedicated statuary.
It is a little confusing to me, that monument, as there is an aspect that I find hard to reconcile to a six foot eight inch tall Scot’s descent farm boy done good. The monument that marks the location of the childhood home of one of the greatest economists of the past century is an inukshuk. Although he was a great collector of East Indian art, to my knowledge Galbraith was in no way associated with the native peoples of Canada. But as my maritime relatives like to say “go figure”.
There were some hard feelings out this way in the sixties when Galbraith published his scandalous 1964 memoir “The Scotch”. Some of it still lingers on but for the most part they’ve let bygones be bygones. You can bet that his virtues, grown exponentially with his passing, will rate more than a mention in the local paper that comes out every Friday. Apparently Galbraith still held the small place that engendered him in some regard and here, under the never changing sky that still blankets the old back ways, among all the others that remain (over the earth and under it as well) they held him dear as well. Although he had occasionally visited it has been decades since he walked the dirt roads and looked over the fields that refuse to let him go. I wonder if he knew that in the end, no matter how far he traveled, this place would always claim him as its son.
I didn’t know much about the man but I can tell you that “The Scotch” he wrote about are still out and about and going on with their business in the old township. They and others keep his memory alive and even I, as a new immigrant to the soils that birthed his world genius, have (obliquely, tongue in cheek and admittedly on a coat tail) deigned to poke a toe in his shadow. I wish him a good journey wherever he’s headed off to, while myself and all the rest of us regular folk wait it out here in a place that still remembers his voice and the sight of him heading down the old dirt road to supper and home.
So with respect to the barefoot boy … to many people you walk here still. Travel well.
(Originally posted July 21st 2005)