Of the hundreds of thousands of words I have written over these past three years as a writer for Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts, too few have been about general manager "Cowboy" John Caton. Today, John asked me to write about "the resort family" that has worked together since day one. So with great enthusiasm I retrieved my notes on one and all - on young husband and wife caretaker team Erin and Gordon McDonald who live together on Quait Bay in a sailboat anchored very near the resort. But Erin and Gordon are away for a time clearing land for a home they will build eventually at Stuardson Inlet, so I couldn't be in touch. Then there's Timothy E. May, or "Chef" as he's commonly called. Chef is somewhere on the mainland preparing for Canada a la Carte, a showcase in San Francisco, of the best food and wine that Western Canada has to offer. Then of course there is Adele Caton. Adele is the glue that holds the resorts - and John - together. She is his wife and mother to their sons Courtney and Chad. Then there's Qaamina and his family, and Courtney, and Chad and Shari, and others. There is much to tell about them all, and I will - just not today. Today, John misses Adele.
Until nine days ago, when Adele went east to visit family, she and John had spent every day and night together since they arrived to the west coast from Ontario in the spring of 1998. Nine days ago, with the entire resort family away for a spell, John was alone - alone to play for the first time in a very long time. Suddenly there was no one to notice whether or not he attended to all that needs doing in the offseason.
I spoke to him early that evening, fresh in from the January chill, having spent the day talking (his words) - or doing that thing that cowboys and wild horses do - with Storm, his unbroken stallion who commands the woods up behind the resort. I was not at all certain it even was John that I was talking to at first. The character at the other end of the phone sounded not unlike my pre-school son telling tale of some fantastic adventure. It was in fact John, disclosing with unbridled enthusiasm, the greatness of horses and fresh air and nature and life-and freedom. If only he could tell Adele.
That's John, through and through. A rough and tumble cowboy with a big soft heart. Full of a thousand dreams and not enough time to make them all come true. John is the visionary behind the resorts and their expansion. He dreams in full colour, quite probably in IMAX, and I'm sure, at the speed of light. And he has found his opus in Clayoquot Sound.
A former real estate developer, rock and roll manager and record producer, John shed his suit and tie, donned chaps and a Stetson and followed his dreams to Quait Bay. He says something called him, called him west. He says it still calls him.
I've seen him beckoned out to sea, unaided by artificial intelligence - no depth finders, no sonar - then cut the boat motor and be surrounded suddenly, by whales. Grey whales, orcas, humpbacks-a few or a family, gathered as if to say hello to one of their own.
I've seen him walk onto shore, whistling what must in reality be half of some diurnal dialogue, and have Hannah the red tailed hawk come jetting down out of the sky, talons poised as if to shred some unfortunate creature, and light gently on his arm for a kiss.
He is answering the call-the call of the wild. Adele, is due home tomorrow.