When we entered Winnipeg, the sun was barely cresting. I sat up as we began to slow down. Fate was on my side as we stopped in an industrial section that had a small eatery named Kosta’s. Breakfast for 3.99 and a bathroom within 100 yards. This was a miracle. Papa J was gathering up his gear when I looked over. He made a quick head nod that said good morning, how are you, all in one. He came over and put his aging hand on my shoulder. When the train slowed to a crawl, he simply whispered “hip!”
And he was off.
Apparently that was my cue so I threw my hands up and said “hip!” as well. It worked for him. Twenty minutes later, we were in Kosta’s with a coffee. I felt odd walking on solid ground. Funny how easily a person can lose their balance.
We ordered two he-man breakfasts, 3 eggs, 2 pancakes, Canadian bacon, and hash browns. Of course there was bottomless coffee. The diner was lack luster, but it did the trick. The smell of motor oil oozed out of the pores of the regular’s. Grey jumpsuits and Nascar hats were dress code, but one thing I noticed were the smiles. What on earth can make men smile like that?
Papa J. never spoke, and I never pushed for conversation. But at the end of the meal, with Nancy, our waitress, pouring out a third cup of black gold, he stretched and cracked his back.
“Now that’s a meal fit for a couple of wayward kings.” He smacked his stomach with perfect woodsman etiquette, and smiled.
“I’m told that there’s a car rental place up the street. We can walk it. From there we get what we can and hit the road.” He pounded back his last cup of coffee as if dared and fished his money out.
“This one’s on me son”.
“We walked down the street. The buildings faded from large gray tombs to small business centers. We found what we were looking for and wound up in an Impala.
“This will be a nice drive, better for sightseeing.” The humor was that we were entering the Canadian plains. Though the enormity of it is awe inspiring, it is still very flat, and from the Trans-Canada highway all you see is horizon 360 degrees.
“I’m afraid that stopping for souvenirs is out of the question. I have to be in Medicine Hat by tomorrow. Which means two very large provinces.”
I was just happy to be a part of the ride. I hopped in the passenger side and quietly thanked God that I was here. This struck me funny, as I still had no idea where I was. I had the distinct feeling I was heading in the right direction, and would come face to face with me at the end. It was not that “travel to find oneself” feeling. For some reason, I felt led.
We spoke of the Canadian landscape (natural and political), Canadian writer’s, Moodie to Frye. About a girl he knew in a town called Justice. More and more he sprinkled in God’s work. He made me think about the sunrise, and of myself.
“My wife’s grandfather lived out here during the depression; said, nothing would grow; the ground just, dried up. The dust storms made the street lamps come on at noon; it was so bad. But one day, the winds settled and so did the sands. They held their breath but realized they were out of it. First thing they did was they took a bucket of water from the well and poured it on the ground. They did this for a week, tilling the small patch each time, making it softer and more receptive. Soon the patch was workable for seed and the area grew. They couldn’t make a living out of it, but they could make life of it. Her grandfather said there was nothing he couldn’t do after that, because he realized that even in dead soil, there was hope.”
The sky ahead of us was dark with the rain. We would make it to Swift Current later that night, but for now, we would enjoy a spring shower. I cracked my window and let the rain come in.
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