As the story is told, the Graaten Family resolved its crisis by consuming several bottles of wine. The grass on their roof had grown quite long and the Coombs Fair was only days away.
Kris, his wife Solveig, and their children emigrated from Norway to Vancouver Island in the 50s. Sod roofs were common in Norway at the time so Kris decided to put one on his market in Coombs. Makes sense, I guess, in a Norwegian sort of way… but it also created the long grass crisis.
Son-in-law Larry had an idea. “Let’s borrow some goats and have them mow the grass.” No one recorded how many glasses of wine the family had downed but the response was “why not.” And the legend was born. Having goats on your roof is a great for business.
Today, the Coombs’ Market with its sod roof and goats is one of the top tourist attractions in British Columbia.
“You have to go to Coombs,” Peggy’s new friends from Qualicum Beach had insisted on the ferry ride between Port Angeles and Victoria. Since we were staying in nearby Parksville with our friends Ken and Leslie Lake, we responded like the Graaten Family, “why not.”
It was snowing when we arrived. And yes, we immediately spotted the sod roof. But there were no goats. It seemed like a no-brainer. What goat in his right mind would stand on a roof in the middle of a snowstorm to entertain tourists? Actually, the goats had another reason for their absence. They were off having babies.
We did find a dog that looked like he was trying to remove a bone from his throat. On closer inspection it turned out he was catching snowflakes. It was quite humorous. Maybe the goats hired him as a substitute.
Even without the goats, the market was worth the visit. It is crammed full of artisan bread, great cheese, wine, other foodstuffs and hand-made knickknacks. We wandered up and down the aisles waiting for the snowstorm to stop.
Sunshine sent us scooting outside. We visited a fruit and vegetable stand and then ate at Cuckoo’s Italian Restaurant. The food was great but apparently there is a shortage of waiters in the area. The same young man who had served us dinner ten miles away the night before was our waiter for lunch.
I looked out the window and saw a reflecting pool with a stone Buddha. My mind went into Alice in Wonderland mode. Not only was the same waiter following us around, we had skipped from Norway to Italy to the mysterious Far East in 50 yards.
Next door a 15-foot tall, belled lion stood in front of Fengy’s boutique. Carved wooden statues enticed us in. A large Mongol warrior stared down on us. A sign at its base warned against taking pictures. Fengy came over.
“If people take photos, they will copy my work.” It was either that or she didn’t want me photographing the chair that was based on male anatomy.
“Warrior is too big to sell,” she told me. “You photograph it.”
Outside, two dogs were driving a car, Peggy went nose to nose with a bear, and Ken had a shouting match with a rooster. There were also a lion, owls and another Buddha. Coombs was our kind of town.
Coombs is located two hours north of Victoria on the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. If you would like to learn more about the Old Country Market go to www.oldcountrymarket.com/. I understand there will even be live, streaming video of the roof and goats, assuming the goats decide to return.