We arrived in Waterton on Sunday. Despite the smoke from forest fires, I was home. While Lance was setting up the camper, I gazed at the peaks. Way down there beyond the head of Waterton Lake, there was Mount Cleveland. A group of us almost got to the top in the early 70s, turned back by slippery slopes in the rain. At the other end of things, on our approach to the park I saw the silhouette of Chief Mountain. It stands separate from the other peaks at the edge of the prairie. I came within fifty feet of reaching its summit. My friends got there. The short cliff between them and me ended my mission. I was so scared as I looked up. And that is as it was. Decades later, the experience makes me smile, and has me reflect on life as a little bit of everything … gain and loss, pleasure and pain.
Standing in the campground, I also saw Bear’s Hump, a shoulder of Mount Crandell. It was the scene of my crawling up it on hands and knees. Such a silly goose I was. Tomorrow we’re hiking up to the speechless summit view and I’ll tell you all about the past and present.
Nona, Lance, Jaxon, Jagger, Jace and I went for a walk downtown. Approaching me was the Waterton movie theatre, or so I hoped. The door was open. I walked in, and found not rows of plush chairs but instead a bunch of tables. The building was now a restaurant and a venue for concerts. Tonight was an open mike event. These were fine new uses but I wanted the old days … sitting with friends munching popcorn, laughing at “If It’s Tuesday It Must Be Belgium.” I lingered in the space and remembered. I was a young man, ages 20 to 25, discovering what life was really like, discovering people. Now I’m an older man, age 66, and I’m happy. I have friends. I love them and I love me. And I’m very thankful for that that young guy who came west to see the mountains.
We walked along Main Street and just happened to find an ice cream shop. I didn’t remember it but my tongue sure remembered the taste of a chocolate chip cookie dough waffle cone from a few weeks ago. Gosh, I’m even getting nostalgic about 2015.
Farther along, we entered a gift shop. The building felt familiar. I asked our hostess if she knew where the old Waterton pharmacy had been. She didn’t, but a fellow looking at the displays said “Right here.” And so I stood in the room where I had many fine conversations with Dave Cruickshank, a young pharmacist. I remembered the little books on rotating racks, the aisles of health aids, but mostly Dave. Young Bruce and older Bruce stood in the same spot. Silence. I saw Dave four years ago in Waterton. He had bought a gift shop (not this one) and was managing it. I wondered if he was still there.
I asked my resource person if he knew where the Tourist Café had stood. He did. Long ago, as a long hike neared the townsite, I would start dreaming of rhubarb pie at the Tourist, with a dollop of ice cream. And then we would bring the dream to life. What incredible pie. I remembered watching an old fellow doing the baking. He always wore a white chef’s hat and white clothes. And my memory told me that he was always dangling a cigarette from his mouth, the ashes of which often dropped into the pie. More flavour.
So I walked into the scene of baked yumminess. Now it was a steak house and I told the young host my story. He smiled a lot. And he let me stand there, breathing in the aroma of rhubarb and youth. Ahh.
Eventually I found Dave’s gift shop and I found Dave. We talked for fifteen minutes about the old times and the new times. I was right back there with the young pharmacist who was now 74. He’s been in Waterton for 48 summers. He was sad that Jody died. He happily remembered the 1976 production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”, with me as Snoopy and my former wife Rita as Lucy. He said we were good. Thanks, Dave. You’re pretty good yourself.
Onward and backward
Happy now and happy then
With a touch of angst for flavour