Beyond Bad Luck
by J.A. McDougall
**Photos courtesy Environment Saskatchewan
|Greenwater Provincial Park Visitor Centre|
My grandparents live northeast of Saskatoon in Naicam, a town of 1000. After six summers experimenting with campgrounds in the area, Dick and I discover the perfect place twenty minutes east of town: Greenwater Provincial Park. There are excellent sites near a lovely fishing lake. We plan to sleep there and spend the days with Grandma and Grandpa in town.
I navigate with our old atlas as Dick drives. Tension increases in the van between the hamlets of McKague and Chelan. The kids whine and the slow, jerky ride over the gravel road tries my patience. We are almost there.
The shock of the exploding noise fires my body under the dash before my mind catches up. Terrified of what I might see, I force myself to peek over the headrest.
Three heads are turned to stare at the smashed windshield.
“What the—?” My husband’s eyes shift to the rear view mirror.
“No way, we’re nearly there.”
My son and daughter move from the rear bench to climb on my lap. I unbuckle the infant carrier and flip it around, out of the path of the shards. My other daughter is safely seated behind my husband.
After seven tense minutes, we pull in to our reserved site. Dick and the kids search for a playground while I carry a pocketful of change to the payphone. A hundred kilometres from the Manitoba boundary—in the middle of nowhere—nobody stocks our windshield model, but a fellow in Saskatoon can bring it in by Monday. Greenwater’s storekeeper sells me some duct tape and I root through her garbage for cardboard. Back at the campsite I entertain the kids while Dick sweeps glass chunks from the back of the van.
Evening descends with cooler weather but we smile around a campfire, determined to close the day with a happy memory.
In the dark I wake, my ears freezing. I scoop up the baby, his skin icy through my nightgown.
“Dick, wake up!”
“Huh?” He opens one eye.
“Get up!” Dick establishes the furnace isn’t working and reads me the thermometer result: 0 degrees Celsius. At the opposite end of the trailer, we bundle our children. I hadn’t thought to bring mitts and hats so there was nothing else we could do. Dick went back to sleep and I worried all night.
|Greenwater Park Marina|
The sunny fields raise my hope that the worst is behind us. Soon, we’re surveying Naicam’s tree-lined streets. My oldest recognizes the house with the gorgeous garden from a distance, confirming these trips create lasting memories.
As we park, I see a neighbour escorting Grandma to the car, her face bright red.
“I’m sorry, dear. I have to go to hospital in Melfort. I can’t stop scratching.”
“I should come!”
“No, no. You stay. Grandpa needs a hand.”
Inside, the 90-year-old is hunched over a coffee.
“Well, I’ll be!” He pushes up with both hands and shuffles over. Suddenly I am so grateful we have come.
The kids search for raspberry canes; Dick and Grandpa talk politics; I don Grandma’s apron.
We discover she had experienced a severe allergic reaction to her new medication. She stays in hospital two nights and by the time she’s released; we’re heading back to Calgary.
On the highway, I try to distinguish the crops. For a millisecond I attempt to focus on single stems, until they whiz past. Flax is purple and barely has hairs, the wheat is the pale yellow one, I think. Farmers take this knowledge for granted but I am in awe of their abilities. The homes vary in size and lavishness; shacks here, ranch estates there. Their owners’ histories fill my imagination. Saskatchewan may not be a glamorous tourist spot but those of us with family here are fortunate to have an excuse to visit.
As we cross into Alberta, Dick says, “Well, we made it.”
In March we’ll be dreaming about our annual road trip again.
**Thank you Environment Saskatchewan for Greenwater Provincial Park Photos.