Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Up on Trickle Creek

January 27th, 2010 · 4 Comments

Having spent some time in Alberta’s northern climes, we’ve taken an unusually keen interest in the arrest of Wiebo Ludwig, a religious patriarch with a Luddite streak a mile wide. Having served time for vandalizing oil-industry equipment in the past, Ludwig recently presented himself as man capable of coaxing a fellow pipeline bomber into giving up his detonators. Now he stands accused of actually being that bomber, a charge that really doesn’t surprise us in the least given what we learned about Ludwig in this memorable Outside profile from a dozen years ago. The whole thing is worth a close read, especially if you share our interest in religious sects that purport to be living a truly Biblical lifestyle. But it’s this chilling passage that does the best job of summing up the patriarch’s rage:

I felt as though drafts of disorienting vapors had been released into the sun-drenched room. At one moment I thought I was sitting among a group of likable, harmless eccentrics who were giddy with the notion of naughty play; at the next moment I thought that this band of freshly minted green warriors was just desperate and disheveled enough to maim someone. “Blood has already been shed by the industry,” said Wiebo, with well-received bluster. “More blood is going to be shed sooner or later. It’s entirely justifiable.” Bryzgorni gazed at the crumbs on his cake plate and said, “We’ve got no choice. They’re choking us.”

Wiebo thrives under a siege mentality, and his family can be seen walking in lockstep directly behind him, straight into the heart of impending crisis. That is Wiebo’s way. “Will we risk being hated by men for the sake of the gospel?” he asks me, as if I’d know. “Do we fear men or God?”

We wonder if Ludwig ever questions his decision to be so open with the media. Then again, many reporters have given him sympathetic treatment, charmed by both his jocular manner and homemade cranberry wine. We’re sure the Canadian journalists don’t receive similar hospitality in Bountiful.

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • jackal

    Ah, growing up good ol’ Alberta we used to hear of Wiebo’s various escapades in the news a lot. I always jokingly tell my friends that Canada’s bible belt is a bunch of rural towns in Alberta and southeastern BC .. they’re definitely odd places to visit.

    They’ve got this nice combination of being sorta in the middle of nowhere, but somewhat near a big city, semi-productive agriculture etc. Though I guess Wiebo et al. are way up in Grand Prairie .. they’re obviously more committed than the sissy fundies that live in southern alberta, with his chinook winds.

  • jackal

    Did not mean to anthropomorphize Southern Alberta there.. Though if one were to, I suppose it would be more male. Do people say Alberta is their motherland? Off to do research on this..

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @jackal: When I was in northern Albert (close to Wiebo country), I was struck by how much pride the residents took in their province, to the exclusion of Canada at large. Such a huge percentage of Canada’s population lives in urban centers close to the American border, and the northern Albertans feel somewhat disconnected from the culture down that way. It is, indeed, the nation’s equivalent of our Bible Belt, but tinged with an Old West prospecting mentality.

    One thing that sticks in my mind was talking to an oil worker, and hearing him express how much pride he took in helping Alberta’s economy–not Canada’s, but Alberta’s. He was pretty clear about that.

  • jackal

    Once upon a time I had a somewhat excessive curiosity about these ‘western separatist’ and ‘alberta independence’ folks.. seeing as how you’d spot ‘western canada concept’ and other assorted bumper stickers on pick-ups every so often, even in Calgary. These parties tended to have your usual assortment of wackos, weirdos and fundies, of which a not insubstantial number were getting freaked out that Calgary and Edmonton were becoming diverse, cosmopolitan cities. So yes, a nice racist contingent there too.

    I believe the greatest support these fringe movements ever had was in the early 80s during the heyday of the National Energy Program (hence, probably why the oil worker was bitter.. even if it was decades later): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Energy_Program . There’s also the peculiar thing that in Canada, resources on land are strictly provincial matters, so in a sense, Alberta was far more responsible for developing the oil sands than Canada writ-large. (A flaky argument, imo, but one that probably contributes to the sentiments you encountered). And of course the individualist/prospector strain that you identified.

    Curiously such sentiments seem to have increased in the mid-2000s. Not entirely sure why, but probably has to do with the large influx of ‘immigrants’ from the rest of Canada during the oil boom years — there was much hand-wringing about these ‘new non-albertans’ changing the political landscape with their liberal leanings etc. The curious matter of course is that Calgary kind of runs the country both politically and economically these days, yet an upstart party called the Wildrose party (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildrose_Party) is supposedly gaining momentum against those right-wingers fed up with the big spending ways of .. the provincial Conservative party. Might be the first time Alberta is becoming a non-one-party state in its history!

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