PEOPLE OFTEN SAY TO ME, "DAVE, when you say you're not making something up, does that mean you're really and truly not making it up?" And the answer is yes. Meaning no, I am not making it up. I mention this so you'll believe me when I say that I'm not making up today's topic, which is: the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. The Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a historical site and tourist attraction in Alberta, Canada. Canada, as you know, is a major nation boasting a sophisticated, cosmopolitan culture that was tragically destroyed last week by beavers. Ha ha! Don't mind me. I like to toss out little "zingers" about Canada from time to time because I enjoy getting mounds of letters from irate Canadians who are Sick and Tired of Americans belittling Canada and who often include brochures full of impressive Canadian Facts, such as that Canada is the world's largest producer of magnesium dentures as well as the original home of Michael J. Fox, Big Bird, Plato, etc. The thing is, I like Canada. It's clean, and it makes good beer. Also, it has a spirit of social cooperation that you find lacking in the States, a good example being the metric system. You may recall that a while back we were all supposed to convert to the metric system from our current system of measurement, which is technically known as the "correct" or "real" system. This was supposed to result in major economic benefits deriving from the fact that you, the consumer, would suddenly have no idea how much anything cost. Take cole slaw. Under the current system, cole slaw is sold in easily understood units of measurement called "containers," as in "Gimme one of them containers of cole slaw if it's fresh." In a metric supermarket, however, the deli person would say, "How much do you want? A kilometer? A hectare? Hurry up! My break starts in five liters!" You'd get all confused and wind up buying enough cole slaw to fill a wading pool, and the economy would prosper. So the metric conversion was clearly a good idea, and when the government started putting up metric highway signs (SPEED LIMIT 173 CENTIPEDES), Americans warmly responded by shooting them down. Thus the metric system did not really catch on in the States, unless you count the increasing popularity of the nine-millimeter bullet. Meanwhile, the Canadians, being cooperative, quietly went ahead and actually converted. I know this because I was on a Canadian radio program once, and the host announced that the temperature was "8." This was obviously a lie, so I asked him about it, and he confided, off the air, that the real temperature, as far as he knew, was around 40. But then his engineer said he thought it was more like 50, and soon other radio personnel were chiming in with various other interpretations of "8," and I was struck by the fact that these people had cheerfully accepted, in the spirit of cooperation, a system wherein NOBODY REALLY KNEW WHAT THE TEMPERATURE WAS. Which is why we should not be surprised to learn that Canada is the location of the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump historical site and tourist attraction. I found out about this from an article in the Fort Macleod Tourist Greeter that explains the whole buffalo-jump concept. It seems that many moons ago (in metric, 14.6 megamoons), North America was occupied by large and fortunately very stupid herds of buffalo. Certain Native American tribes used to disguise themselves in buffalo skins so they could lure a buffalo herd closer and closer to a cliff, then stampede it over the edge. That's where the "Buffalo Jump" part of the name comes from. The "Head-Smashed-In" part comes from a native legend, which holds that one time, a young brave (probable tribal name: "Not Nuclear Physicist") decided to watch the hunt while standing UNDER the cliff. According to the Tourist Greeter, he "watched the buffalo topple in front of him like a mighty waterfall . . . When it was over and the natives were butchering the animals, they found him under the pile of dead buffalo with his head smashed in." Even thousands of years later, it is difficult to ponder this tragedy without choking back large, moist snorts of anguish. But some good has come of it. The Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump has been declared a World Heritage Site ("as are the pyramids in Egypt and the Taj Mahal in India," notes the Tourist Greeter). The Alberta government has built an interpretive centre (note metric spelling) where activities are held. "There's always something to see and do at the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre, and this summer is no exception," states an official schedule. I have called the centre, and when they answer the phone, they say, very politely -- I absolutely swear this is true -- "Head Smashed In, may I help you?" And the scary part is, I think maybe they CAN.