This Really Happened
Pete Chattaway was in Saskatoon on the 20th and left on the 21st. It was good to see him, however briefly, and we hung out and gabbed with Geosomin for a while. On Thursday morning we decided we had time before meeting Geo for lunch and decided to head to north to Hepburn and Waldheim, Saskatchewan. So we hoped in Pete's rental and headed due North.
Pete had attended a Bible College in Hepburn, Bethany Bible College. Naturally, a lot has changed about Pete since those days, so it is fitting that Bethany and Hepburn have changed as well. Hepburn has one restaurant, gas station, credit union, a community hall/bowling alley, a co-op (read general store) and a couple of regional offices in its town centre. There is the old grain silo, which has been preserved unlike some other rural towns it seems. Pete recalled the time he was walking from Bethany down to the town centre during an infestation of grasshoppers. There was nowhere a person could walk outside that wasn't covered in the insect and and the sound of footsteps were obscured for all the crunching.
Pete showed me around his old campus and we were met by the man who runs the school. He was one of Pete's old teachers and the only person from Pete's time there who was left. It was good to finally be able to put have a mental picture to go with Pete's stories about his Bible College days. The people of Hepburn and Bethany are friendly and hospitable.
We carried on up to Waldheim, just about 15 minutes away. The reason we went to this obscure out of the way place is because our good friend, Trent Ernst (Macanuck) as well Tyler and Darin Clisby, call Waldheim their hometown. The road is rough into town. It is a rolling landscape filled with wheat ready to be harvested. A strong wind was blowing, the skies overcast. We entered the town limits and were greeted by the hungry looks of feral dogs, gathered outside an abandoned house around a suspicious looking, messy red and black heap.
We missed the first turn off for the town centre, but looped around a near by street. We rolled through the centre of town, noting that the restaurant was closed and the building was up for rent. Trent, Darin and Tyler were always tight-lipped to certain degree about growing up in Waldheim. We pushed it but always met with resistance. Maybe if they had told us a little bit more about Waldheim, we might not have made the mistake rolling into town.
Trent has always been competitive in weird ways. For instance, Peter was reading his way through the myths of the Greeks and Romans. He mentioned that he just finished Aeneid by Virgil and a load groan of disappointment came from the backseat where Trent was. He had wanted to read it before Pete had. In that spirit, Pete decided to take me to Waldheim before Trent had the chance.
We decided pictures were in order, so I settled on a picture by the old rail station, Pete in front of the post office and both of us in front of the now defunct Waldheim Cafe. The rail station is now part of a park dedicated to the memory of Sanford Waterland, aka "The Colonel". On a plaque it read that he had been the mayor from 1947-2007. When we walk up to the Waldheim Cafe we ask a woman walking by if she would care to take our picture in front of it. She hestitates and but accepts to do this for us.
Cautiously she asks, "You two just passing through?"
"Yeah, we just came from Hepburn on our way up here." responded Pete.
"What brings you to Waldheim."
"A friend of ours grew up here. Thanks for taking the picture." I said.
"You're welcome, have a good day." she looked at us with reservations and went in to the nearby insurance agency.
Having a cold, I decided to get a tea at the Tea House. The women inside were very friendly, none more so that the one named Rhona. Bright and excited she got me a cranberry tea and fresh hot cornmeal muffin. Pete ordered some decadent, homemade chocolaty thing called a ho-ho. Three burly men in their late 50's were sitting at a table watching us. Pete went to the washroom when one of the men received a phone call. all three got up to settle their bill and paid close attention to me as the left, offering a curt nod and a pressed smile.
Soon Pete and I were out the door and on our way back to Pete's rented vehicle. We got past the Post Office when six trucks loaded with men came rolling into the area on either side of us. All eyes were fixed on Pete and me, silent, serious.
Pete looked around, "Um? Hello?"
A large man came around from one side of the truck closest to the rental. He strode up slowly and casually. He pointed with his thumb over his shoulder to the vehicle, "This belong to you boys?"
"Uh, yes?" Pete looked at me. Men in their late 30's can hardly be called boys anymore, but this man made us both feel like guilty teenagers.
"Enjoying the cornmeal muffin?"
I looked at him, " It's very good."
"Best in the area, better than what you could have got in Hepburn." He looked at Pete, "The ho-ho's are good too, but a little early in the day for desert, don't you think?"
"I hadn't thought about it."
The man nodded, "I guess thinking isn't the order of the day. Understand you have friends from this town, mind if I ask their names?"
"Uh... Trent Ernst and Darin and Tyler Clisby." Pete stated.
"So you know the Ernsts and the Clisbys, do you?"
"Those boys haven't lived here for a long time, but I guess you know that." he kicked the left toe of his boots into the pavement and brushed something out of his moustache, "They don't come around much either, usually call ahead to let us know if they plan to. Know why that is?"
Pete and I looked at each other again and I looked at the man,"Well, no. We don't have a clue."
"You see that plaque in the park? the one where you shot one of those photos? Sanford Waterland was my father. I'm Obediah Waterland, his son. I'm the mayor now."
"Pleased to meet you your worship."
"Thank you. Now since those boys decided not to talk about why they don't come around much I figure it isn't up to any of us to enlighten you either. Were you planning on dropping the Clisby home today."
"Well, I suggest you hop in that rental vehicle of yours and head back to Alberta. Understood
"Good. If you don't mind we'll all drive on with you for a bit."
"It's your town."
He stared fixedly at us for a moment before speaking, "Yes. It is." He strode back to the passenger side of his truck.
Pete and I hoped in the rental and headed out of town. The convoy formed behind us and stayed with us all the way back to Highway 12. as we waited for traffic to pass, the locals all got out of their tracks and moved up, staring at us as we drove out onto the highway. No words were spoken for the next couple of minutes, Pete and I only able to look at each other. Our hearts were partially stuck in our chests with the realization that what people don't know about their friends just might get them hurt them.