By Helen Syryda – Regina, Sask.
With all the travelling this summer, it brought back memories of some of my own.
In the early 1970s I was working for the federal government in a smaller town. I had an ‘empty nest’ and lived alone. Weekends and holidays were mine to do what I wanted.
Auntie, who had been recently widowed, moved from their farm to town a block-and-a-half from me. There was a lot of visiting between us.
One weekend she asked me to go with her to Alberta to visit her daughter. That was the first trip we took together. There were many more.
The most memorable was a trip to Winnipeg to visit my sister. There was a lot of road construction and it was slow going, especially as we neared Winnipeg because they were building the Perimeter Highway. My sister lived on the southeast corner just past the construction.
We had a lovely visit and because it was a weekend that I had Monday off, we were able to leave early and visit friends in Brandon on our way home.
To avoid a lot of the construction, my brother-in-law told us to take a street into the city, go past another street and turn left. That street would take us out of the city and on our way home. We just had to watch out for the large replica of Robin Hood that was on the corner of the street and turn at the next block.
Sounded simple but we missed Robin Hood! On and on we went. The houses were getting fewer and fewer and trees more plentiful. We followed a curve which was partly gravelled then it was just a dirt road through trees. We realized we were on the wrong road which was so narrow that I was unsure of making a u-turn. I intended to reverse our steps just as soon as I could get room to turn.
A small clearing appeared and it had buildings of a sort. I saw a large man and stopped to ask for directions. He seemed gruff and just started to walk away when Auntie said, “What kind of place is this?” He stopped, and turning to Auntie he asked, “Do you speak French?”
You couldn’t miss her accent. She was French Canadian and didn’t speak English until her late teens.
“Oui,” she replied. He then hollered, “Pierre, come here. This woman speaks French.”
Another large man appeared, only he had a cook’s hat on and a white apron.
Then he saw Auntie and they began a conversation in French. I couldn’t understand all their talk so remained out of it. Joe explained that Pierre had not heard a word of French since he left Quebec so was in his glory.
A tablecloth was soon put on a table and we were ordered to sit. Joe set the table for four and asked if we would join them for breakfast. When we protested, they insisted on at least a little bite, with coffee.
Pierre reappeared bearing a very large platter. It had steaming slices of ham at least 1⁄3 inch thick, sausages, and crisp bacon, fresh fried potatoes, and a bowl of scrambled eggs. A plate of toast was added, along with slices of red tomatoes.
They insisted on filling our plates but we declined, only taking a taste of everything. It was so good! I have never had a more delicious breakfast. How Pierre managed to cook it all to perfection in the woods I will never know, but as the men had not had their breakfast the platter was soon emptied.
When we left we offered to pay but they refused. Joe shook hands with us, but Pierre planted a kiss on both cheeks!
They showed us the shortcut road to the pavement and soon we were on our way home.
We decided to keep our adventure quiet. It was not to be, though. Auntie told a friend about it, and news travels fast in a small town. Soon everybody knew, but few really believed us! They kept asking, “Is it really true?”
Yes, this is true!