Monday, May 21, 2007

Banff's Treasure Chest - the Merman awaits!

If you've been to the town of Banff lately, you can probably attest to its increasing mall-like atmosphere. While there seem to be measures in place to control the influx of chain stores and restaurants, many still manage to muscle their way through, ensuring nature-loving tourists will never be too far away from their Triple 2/3 Decaf Grande Non-Fat 2 Splenda Latte.

Just off the branded and beaten path of Banff Avenue is what has to be one of the town's most interesting attractions: The Indian Trading Post.

Amid the rather overwhelming selection of native arts and crafts (more moccasins, dreamcatchers and turquoise/sterling silver jewellery than I've ever seen anywhere. And hey, I thought those 'native' dolls were politically incorrect! I'm so confused) is a stunning collection of taxidermy, big and small, furry and feathered. Most interesting is the halved specimens - goats, bears, cougars - all sliced in half lengthwise, right down the middle, and mounted flat against the wall in a variety of action poses. My rationale for this, being in a national park, is that perhaps these were salvaged from road kill. What you see is the side of the animal that didn't meet your man's bumper. Just a guess.

It also begs the question, did famous British artist Damien Hirst ever make an impressionable trip to the old trading post in his pre-Goldsmiths College days?

But BY FAR the most enthralling specimen to be found is the rather modestly (even carelessly) displayed MERMAN in a glass case at the very back of the shop.

This "curious creature of unknown origin", as it's called in the back of this postcard, available at the shop, lives a quiet, almost neglected existence here. You are just as likely not to see it, as you rifle through the stacks of moose-emblazoned sweaters hung all around. Poor creature. Tom Babin of the Calgary Herald, however, has done his homework. Read more about the merman here

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