Lance and Nona took us exploring yesterday. Their home faces west towards the foorhills and the Rockies. Way over there, angling towards me, is a gravel road. On my last visit with Jody, I loved seeing a truck kicking up a spume of dust. It hung in the air for the longest time. But it’s rained some since I got here. Only one truck … no dust. Ah but my time will come. It’s supposed to be sunny today.
Yesterday I got to be on that very road. I kept checking the side mirror for dust. At first nothing. Later on, though, I saw the telltale cloud – small but it met my needs. Except I wanted to be back at the house to take in the spectacle. “Irony,” Lance said. Where’s the Star Trek transporter when you need it?
We kept driving along the gravel road. It rolled way back into the foothills, across a few cattleguards (metal pipes in the ground that keep cattle from escaping). Prairie and stands of birch trees to the left and right, plus expanding views of the mountains. And then the road ended at someone’s driveway. I wonder what that person’s life is like. Living in paradise. The nearest neighbour kilometres away. Are they happy? I hope so. As they say, that stuff is “an inside job”.
Next we went geocaching. New to me. People deposit tiny containers in subtle spots on public property. Inside there might be a treasure or maybe just a piece of paper so you can mark down that you were there. If there is a treasure, and you take it, you need to leave something in its place. The person who creates a geocache goes on the Internet and gives its GPS co-ordinates.
We drove to the entrance of the Bar U Ranch and the GPS said we were right there. We found a path through the tall grass, which led us to a fence post. I walked right by it, seeing nothing. Lance, however, has the eyes of a western hawk. A dark wire hung from the post, with a loop at the end. Sitting inside was a little plastic container, about two inches long, which had been painted a dull green – perfect for blending in with fence posts and grass. Inside were a few pieces of paper full of visitor scribbles. There had even been someone yesterday morning! Cool. And people from the Netherlands recently. I felt so much like Bruce The Explorer.
Now, on to the Bar U, a Parks Canada historic site. The ranch started sometime in the 1800s. We toured around the historic buildings and met historic people. A woman in pioneer dress showed us her kitchen, including an old black metal stove that took me back to my grandma on the farm near Lindsay, Ontario. She had just whipped up some cinnamon buns and I was too weak to resist. She told us that when the men were having dinner (at noon) in the cookhouse, they weren’t allowed to speak. It was all business. Wolf down your food and get back to work. Yuck. I spent one summer working on my former father-in-law Ellwood’s farm. I remember breakfast and dinner at a long table with the regular farmhands. Those platters were sure piled high! And we yapped a lot. Back at the Bar U, our hostess also showed us a crokinole board. I remembered it from my childhood. You use checker pieces and try to knock your opponent’s pieces off the board. It was fun, then and now.
I especially enjoyed visiting with Lewis, a saddlemaker who keeps a guitar in the corner of his shop. Sure looked like a cowboy to me, with his Western hat, red bandana, rough white shirt and jeans. I invited him to sing the song he was telling us about. The title was something like “I’ll Pay You Back When My Sister Gets A Job.” He was hilarious. He told us about a friend of his who sings Italian arias. Not to be outdone, I told Lewis “I’d like to sing you an area.” “Sure. Go ahead.” And so I did. Here goes:
“Two metres by three metres equals six square metres.” He laughed. Actually, he laughed all through our visit. I liked him.
We ended our journey through Alberta history with a wagon ride back to the visitor centre, pulled by two white Percheron horses – really big guys. I felt like chewing on a wheat stalk. But I guess I’m more of a T-shirt and shorts type of fellow.
And now, a concluding message from Nona, the lady of the house: