I just love this crosswalk sign in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan.
Maple Creek is where Wayne was born and went to high school, and where his father managed the elevator.
It’s also where Charlie told BJ in 1996, on a Camera Club’s field trip, that his divorce from Mary would be finalized the very next morning, July 1 (Part I, Chapter 2). That, of course, accounted for the number of Labatt 50s he was drinking.
And on that very next morning, BJ, at his request, ended up telling him far more about herself than she had ever done before.
Randy was raised in Fox Valley, forty-five minutes north of Maple Creek on Hwy. 21, right beside the big dunes where they would spread his and Roz’s ashes years later.
But shortly after Randy graduated from high school and went to the University of Saskatchewan, his parents moved to Leader, about a half hour north.
Now, if you thought the area around Maple Creek was flat, check this out.
It’s important to remember that Fox Valley is where Lisle was raised, and where she returned after university to teach in the elementary school.
She had been Randy’s sweetheart all the way from grade eight to just before Christmas of grade twelve, when Randy broke up with her.
And because Randy had told Roz about Lisle, and about Lisle’s belief that she and Randy were soulmates and would reunite someday, Roz had a major aversion to Fox Valley.
As an aside, in 2016 Fox Valley’s population was 249. In 2001 it was 326. And in 1996, the year Charlie told BJ about his divorce, the population was 359.
Its population seems to be dropping about ten percent every five years.
Maple Creek, on the other hand, is quite a bit larger. Population 2,084 in 2016, 2,307 in 2001, and 2,334 in 1996.
Roz had an aversion to Fox Valley, as I just said, but it was nothing compared with her aversion to Leader, a half hour north, where Randy’s father, Jake, had lived and was buried.
Jake had teased Roz every chance he got about Lisle living nearby. He kept pointing out that Lisle had never married, that she was probably just waiting for the right guy.
When good ol’ Jake finally died, Roz had felt a great relief. Sorry that he’d died, of course, but relieved all the same.
Even years later, Roz would still get upset whenever she thought about Randy’s dad. She’d never forgiven him. She’d never even tried.
So in 2008, when they took Randy’s ashes down to the Great Sandhills to throw them from the top of one of the highest dunes on as windy a day as possible, as Randy had requested, Roz asked Jillian to go down Hwy. 4 through Rosetown, then across 1 to Maple Creek, and up 21 past that blasted Fox Valley.
It would take a bit longer to go that way, but at least they would bypass Leader. After all those Lisle-teases, Leader was still a town of very, very bad memories.
This is the Leader cemetery, Jake’s final abode.
The Great Sandhills, just to west of Fox Valley, is where they’d spread Randy’s ashes in 2008, and then Roz’s in the same spot in 2017.
She had wanted to be with Randy.
(A couple months ago, in April 2019, when I tried to take some photos of the dunes, I couldn’t get to the big ones where they’d spread Randy and Roz’s ashes. The main road in was passable, but the trails into the bigger dunes were much too muddy to use.)
After spreading Roz’s ashes, Charlie and Jillian drove into Fox Valley to check it out. They wanted to see if they could spot Lisle. They did see four or five elderly women, probably in their late sixties or early seventies, and they tried to decide whether one of them might be Lisle.
Both ended up choosing the one with a Tilley hat as a possibility. In fact, they decided that it had to be Lisle, but they didn’t want to ask her and ruin their fantasy.
And then they headed for Montana’s back in Saskatoon for the Rib and Wings Combo with the side order of beans. They’d had that Combo, Randy’s favorite, after spreading his ashes, and now they were doing the same in honor of Roz.
But at Montana’s, Charlie suddenly realized that someday he might be spreading Jillian’s ashes in the dunes. He still planned to live to at least a hundred twenty-five, and he was pretty sure she wouldn’t.
And that’s when he thought of Herrick. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, before it’s too late. And Robin William. Carpe diem. Seize the day. Seize every, every friggin day.
And when he said to Jillian, “We must make much of time, my dear,” and took her hands in his, they both teared up. And sat silently looking at each other.
Of the original six, they were the only two left.
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(© 2019 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)
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