As I was walking in the east village the other day working on a side project (details coming soon) I came across a man sitting in a wheel chair on the side walk just down from the King Eddy Hotel. From a distance I noticed something moving in his lap and after approaching even closer I noticed it was a gopher. I was in complete shock because usually you find people feeding pigeons, or ducks, or even the random tourist feeding a bear, but not gophers. After the little critter hopped down from the mans lap, ran across the path, and down his dirt hole I asked the man why he was feeding the gophers. The man replied and said " I have been feeding these gophers for over 3 weeks now... and it's fun". I guess one day this man was out for a stroll and had a bag of peanuts with him where he noticed the gophers and just started tossing peanuts curiously to see what would happen.
The name of the man in the wheel chair is Horst Copp who was born in Germany in 1953 and immigrated to Canada not long after he was born. He immigrated to Ontario where he studied photography at Ryerson University in Toronto. From there, Horst became a plumber where he later suffered a stroke and is now on disability where he has been living in Calgary the last 15 years.
Horst finds himself feeding the gophers everyday where his peanut stash dwindles from a single pound of the delicious nuts to nothing in a matter of minutes due to the number of gophers who have come to Horst searching or should I say asking for food.
After a couple more hours of walking around down town Calgary, I drove by an alley where I noticed two men chatting next to an abandon building. I quickly made a right turn, immediately another right turn, and then proceeded down the alley where I noticed the two men.
I got out of my truck and approached the two individuals just like I do every time I confront a stranger. I introduced my self and within 20 seconds one of the two men willingly and happily offered to pose for a photograph. The gentleman who did not want his photograph taken was still very kind and loved to reminisce about his days when he was young in the 70's, telling me several stories about partying and going to concerns in the states.
Reggie is from Regina, Saskatchewan and has been living in Calgary since 1995. When I asked what he did for a living when he arrived in Calgary he responded and said "I chased hookers and drank...HAHAHAHA". To be honest I could not help but bust into laughter with his response. After we both had a chuckle, I asked him what he does on daily basis. Reggie now is a full time beggar spending his time between the streets, visiting his girlfriend on the reserve, and sleeping at the drop in center.
As the three of us continued to speak more, I later found out that Reggie has two daughters whom he has never met, but has somehow tracked them down via by Facebook. Reggie is then quick to draw his wallet, where he pulls out a crumpled piece of weathered paper and In his hands he holds his daughters Facebook profile page printed on office paper. This is the only picture he has of his daughters. He managed to get the photo's from a computer from the Drop-in-Center.
I enjoyed talking with the two men as they always had a story tell and were completely honest and open with me.