The Country Register
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Dear Reader
It's easy to take so many things for granted when everything is running smoothly -  health, relationships, homes, jobs, - even trucks! This was one of the many thoughts running through my head when I found myself stranded in Spruce Grove just days after I had bragged to someone that my good old reliable truck never cost me any money beyond it's regular maintenance.
If I had to define 'helpless' it's the feeling you get when you realize something is very wrong with your vehicle, you are hours from home in the winter and you are at the mercy of the closest mechanic. The extent of my mechanical abilities is being able to recognize if something doesn't sound right and then possibly gauging the seriousness of the situation based on the sound. My instincts told me to have the strange sound in the front end of my truck checked out before going any further, and when I happened to see a tire/mechanic business just off the highway, I pulled in and asked if someone could have a quick look at my truck.
It was almost closing time and the place appeared to be busy so I was most grateful when the man I asked (who turned out to be the owner) dropped everything and came out to take the truck for a spin. He returned with bad news - there was almost 6" of play in my front left tire and the bearings were shot. The good news was that I hadn't continued driving and that somehow I had been fortunate enough to pull into a small owner-operated shop where they made my distress a priority. Not only did he rearrange his schedule to fit me in first thing the next day, he discussed my options with me respectfully in a way I understood and appreciated. Then he took the time to drive me over to the nearest respectable motel (a couple of kms away) after promising to have me back on the road as soon as possible in the morning. He also suggested that he could pick me up when the truck was ready, since taxis in Spruce Grove tend to be very busy in the morning and can take a long time to show up.
I hate having plans change mid-stride and unexpected stays in strange places, but I had to admit that all things considered, I couldn't have landed in a better place.
True to his word, Bill Kaiser of SoLo Auto Repair, not only kept me informed of what was going on with my truck, he also had me back on the road before noon the next day - complete with new front end bearings, new front end brakes (yes, I needed those too!) and a more than reasonable invoice, considering he rearranged his schedule and provided chauffering. I found myself grateful to be paying for services rendered - because the whole experience could have been so much worse.
So what does all this have to do with taking things for granted?
My whole experience reminded me why I appreciate and support small family-run businesses. Their reputation and livelihood is at stake every time they serve a customer. If they don't give good service, aren't honest and fair about the way they do business, and don't care about what they do they won't be around for long. I'm not saying that every small business out there is perfect and that all small business owners are wonderful, but because their business survives on a good reputation and service (not slick, over-priced marketing campaigns and multi-national store recognition), you are much more likely to be treated in a way that will have you feeling good when you leave - even if it costs you more than you bargained on!
I leave you with two suggestions - 1) whenever possible choose to support the small businesses that make parting with your money an enjoyable experience,
and 2) don't ever brag that your vehicle hasn't cost you money!

- Ruth
Meet our Cover Artist: Nola Fell
It's a story that begins with nachos and then finds its way into the wild world of buttons. By her own admission, the trajectory of Nola Fell's artistic career has been out of the ordinary.
Fell's artistic career began in 2001 when her sister asked her if she'd be interested in joining her for an art class at the Alberta College of Art and Design. Surprisingly, given how passionate an artist she's become since, Fell said she wasn't interested until she was persuaded by the offer of nachos after class.
"She said there'd be nachos afterwards so I said 'okay I'm in' and I went and just really loved it. I started painting every night and it was all I wanted to do," Fell said.
Fell's passion for painting blossomed, and she soon found herself online looking at the work of renowned assemblage artist Zac Freeman.
Freeman specializes in mosaic-like pieces where he constructs artworks made entirely out of collected junk he finds in the garbage. Fell found herself drawn to Freeman's style, and began experimenting with creating similar pieces of her own.  
Nola Fell lives in Cochrane, Alberta.  To contact her, see more of her artwork or upcoming shows visit her website at Nola is currently showing at The Amaryllis Yoga Studio in Cochrane Alberta.  

-Written by Daniel Austin
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