By ERIC VOLMERS, CALGARY HERALD
Published on November 1, 2015
Dave Elston may be half-joking, but he admits he felt some urgency to finishing You Might Be From Alberta If ... , his illustrated and tongue-in-cheek look at the Wild Rose country's ingrained eccentricities.
After all, it's tough to build a book poking fun of Alberta's red-neck character, political stubbornness and rough-hued rural nature if the province is, as some have optimistically suggested, in the midst of a progressive transformation.
"It's changed a lot and change is accelerating and that's a positive," said Elston, an Edmonton-born, Calgary-raised veteran editorial cartoonist who has lived in the province all 56 of his years. "I don't know, maybe I had to get these out of the way while I could, while they were still somewhat relevant."
Elston, who was a longtime sports cartoonist for the Calgary Sun and whose work has also appeared in the Herald, admits he didn't foresee an NDP provincial government when he submitted the 120-plus cartoons to his publisher, Nova Scotia's MacIntyre Purcell, back in March. Still, things seemed to regress back to normal, politically speaking, with the federal election as Alberta bucked national trends by keeping us a lonely patch of Conservative blue in a sea of Liberal red.
"Yeah," Elston says with a laugh, "we aren't changing that fast."
This is not to say You Might Be From Alberta If ... is overly concerned with politics. When Elston does comment on our political proclivities, it's more breezy comedy than hard-hitting satire. In fact, that is the general tone throughout, even as the cartoons tackle serious topics. One features a fisherman in a boat atop a lake-of-fire — a reference to the homophobic comments made in a blog post by a 2012 Wildrose candidate — and the caption "You wonder if there's any fish in this 'lake-of-fire' everybody keeps talking about."
Another one is captioned "You own a reusable bumper sticker," which reads "Please Lord, let there be another oil boom. I promise I won't piss it all away this time."
"If you finish a book in March and you know it's not coming out until the fall, you have to be pretty careful about the timeliness or lack thereof," said Elston. "Some of them had to be safe. But with some of them, it's kind of funny — or kind of ominous — how they worked out as well."
You Might Be From Alberta If ... is the newest in a series of books by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing, which has also offers similar titles for British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and two volumes for Saskatchewan.
For the most part, Elston sticks to skewering the more innocuous of Alberta's foibles: our unruly weather, rambunctious wildlife, cowboy-influenced wardrobe, excessively sized pickup trucks, Trudeau-phobia and Stampede over-imbibing.
There's also some reverent shout-outs to some Alberta's favourite sons, including Ian Tyson, Stampede Wrestling announcer Ed Whalen and country singer Paul Brandt, who wrote the foreword for the book.