The southern Interior of British Columbia is home to many ranches. Despite the small populations that inhabit nearby towns, those who don’t work on ranches are often disconnected from the changes happening each season as they drive by in their cars, and that separation of space is something I touch on in my book.
The Nicola Ranch, just outside Merritt, BC, is reflective of another aspect of small town life in British Columbia. The working ranch used to have much grander aspirations.
It was originally a townsite that has since vanished, leaving a handful of old buildings as a reminder of what the area was once intended to be. The village of Nicola disappeared after coal was discovered at Forksdale (Merritt) and the railway was built following the path of the coal. As Merritt grew, Nicola dwindled and disappeared (source: Nicola Valley Museum and Archives).
The fate of Nicola demonstrates the vulnerability that some of BC’s small communities still face. Unable to find ways to sustain their economies, their populations dwindle as people move to bigger centres to find work. With reduced numbers, they struggle to keep schools and other services open (which makes it even more difficult for them to attract newcomers) and eventually they teeter on the edge of becoming ghost towns. This struggle is reflected in the fictional community of Stapleton in which my novel takes place.