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Wildfire evacuee a former high wire artist

For some being evacuated from their homes under threat of blazing wildfires could be a traumatic event, perhaps even the worst thing that's ever happened to them.
Sture Kallman talks about his experience of being evacuated from a seniors home in Williams Lake to housing at UNBC. At one time, he was a high-wire walker.

For some being evacuated from their homes under threat of blazing wildfires could be a traumatic event, perhaps even the worst thing that's ever happened to them.

For others it's just a blip on the screen of a lifetime filled with world-spanning adventures, heart-stopping moments and soaring triumphs.

Sture Kallman, 87, a former circus high-wire walker, is a Williams Lake Seniors Village evacuee who arrived at the University of Northern B.C. residence last week along with about 60 others.

For Kallman, originally from Sweden, this is just another thing to endure, like sleeping under a circus trailer in the pouring rain and waking up to an escaped rogue elephant rocking the trailer in an attempt to get to him. Or trying to move a circus truck off a scow in the dark of night only to find too many snakes to count had broken free of their glass case and had made their way into the truck cab and under his feet.

Of course, Kallman's only fear is snakes.

Kallman didn't even mind when he fell from the five-foot slack rope during his circus days.

He was in great shape, he said.

He just bounced back because he knew how to take a fall. The real pain came when he slipped.

"When I was practicing the wire would bounce up as I was coming down and it would come up between my legs," Kallman said.

"And that was painful. Very, very painful. It happened so many times I was surprised that I didn't get really seriously hurt but I took all that pain and kept on practicing."

He used to perform his act in Sweden on a mountain top in 1950. He was 1,100 feet in the air and people would come from all over to see his performance.

Growing up, Kallman had a book about the Canadian prairies, which inspired his dream of coming to Canada.

He thought he was only coming for a visit in 1952 but never left.

He was a logger at Aleza Lake and when there was a festival in Prince George he was asked to perform his slack-rope walking and was promptly whisked away to Vancouver to join the circus.

His performer's name was Max Morris. He retired from the wire in 1954 and turned to carpentry.

Much less painful and risky.

He moved to Williams Lake in 1956 where he mostly built schools.

Kallman made his way into the Williams Lake Seniors Village in 2015 from his ranch when he realized he just couldn't look after himself any longer. He'd lost his wife of 49 years, Noreen, in 2010.

His health improved dramatically once he settled into the seniors village, he said.

Kallman gets emotional when he talks about how grateful he feels about the efforts made during the evacuation.

"This is way better than a first-class hotel," Kallman said about staying at the university's Neyoh residence, which very appropriately means "our home" in Carrier.

When one of the university staff heard Kallman was a former slack-rope walker, she invited him to attend the circus with her family.

American Crown Circus - Circo Osorio, an all-human acrobatic show - set up their big top at CN Centre and performed from July 13 to 16.

"We were just chatting one day when we were sitting in the hallway," Brenda Schlesinger, UNBC project manager facilities, said about how she found out about Sture's circus performing past.

"It was fun being there with someone who knew about the circus because Sture told me all kinds of insider information about the things that were going on and that was kind of neat."

Kallman couldn't believe Schlesinger's generosity. He was thrilled to attend the circus with her family that Saturday night.

"It's just been a tremendous experience," Kallman said about the evacuation.

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