SIZZLE

Suicide .... 20 times more than the world’s highest

I’m not a cop but I’ve known great ones ….

Here’s one of the worst things that a cop ever saw and sometimes when he’s had a few drinks my friend, a member of The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Mounties), re-tells the story of Fat Joe.

This Mountie was posted to Coronation, a tiny town on the plains of Alberta where I grew up.

Coronation’s population stayed around 950 for decades. The joke was that everytime a child was born, a single man would sneak out of town that night.

Not many locals ever became famous in our area except for k.d. lang.

 My father looked after her family dentistry but I never met her. She has a terrific smile and she can sing about as elegantly as anyone in the world. Not bad for a vegetarian, raised in ranching country, who was more interested in cowgirls than cowboys. 

And, although no one else became as famous as k.d. lang in our part of the world, Coronation was secretly infamous for something that the town never bragged about: Suicide. 

In the 1960s I could stand on our back porch and count about a dozen places where sad souls had taken their lives. They would often wipe out their entire families.

No one knew why. I told some of my colleagues at the CBC about Coronation’s astonishing suicides and they checked it out and were going to do a story about it — but it died unexpectedly …  like a lot of people  in Coronation.

In the 1960s the country with the highest suicide rate was either Japan or Sweden.

Today the Kingdom of Lesotho’s suicide rate is 30 per 100,000, making it the winner in self-murder. That’s about three per 10,000. One out of 3,500 Basothos (Lesotho citizens) offs themselves. 

Coronation, with a population of less than a thousand, often lost four or five locals annually to suicide in the 1960s.  It’s suicide rate was 20 times more than the world’s highest suicide rate of today.  Talk about killer statistics.

Which brings us to Fat Joe. Today we’d say he was morbidly obese. He seemed  a happy go lucky fellow. 

But Fat Joe, ran into some bad luck, grew despondent over a sour marriage and there came a time when he could cope no longer …. he made a decision.

Moments later the town’s phone operator called my friend to report an explosion. He grabbed his jacket and jumped in his squad car. 

Fat Joe farmed east of the town, not that far from k.d. Lang’s home. 

Low hanging smoke covered Fat Joe’s home.  All that was left was part of a chimney and a crumbled brick wall.  Apparently there had been a gas leak and a flame had found it. BOOM!

Fat Joe —  by some miracle or maybe curse — was alive. Seems all his fat had cushioned the explosion. 

My friend rushed Fat Joe to the hospital. 

Rolling folds of fat had protected Fat Joe but his adipose became his executioner.  The fat fried inside him.  Like bacon that had caught fire — infusing the emergency room with a sickening sweet aroma. 

The doctor sliced Fat Joe open, again and again in a failing effort to cool Fat Joe’s burning innards. 

Hopeless.

Nothing could quench the flames that sizzled in Fat Joe. 

He finally died. 

“To this day, over half a century later,” said my friend, “when I think about his screams … the bad smells come back.”

 

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jaron

Jaron Summers wrote dozens of primetime television and radio programs, including those for HBO, CBS, ACCESS TV and CBC. He conceived the TV and Film Institute of Canada. Funded by the University of Alberta and ITV, Jaron ran the Institute for 12 years, donating his services for a decade.

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