September 15, 2011
“It will take a few minutes before this is ready,” he said. “Why don’t you boys call home and tell your mothers that you are all right? There is a phone in the office. Call direct. I have a budget for long distance.”
That sounded like a good idea and Jimmy and I went to the office and made our calls, calls I am sure that our mothers appreciated. Jimmy spoke at length to his mom about Qu’Appelle.
Back at the table, our host had laid out a spread of food that would feed the entire 225 seat congregation in the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church. Yes, there were hot dogs, though not the kind one would find at the grocery store. There were several different kinds of hot dogs and sausages, a choice of various breads and buns, jars of pickles, several varieties of cheese, a jug of milk with an inch of cream on top and a hot pot of tea waiting for us. On the counter nearby were three pies and some other deserts.
He could see the look in our eyes. “I have many very kind parishioners. They bring me food all the time. So much that I don’t have to shop. I can’t eat it all myself. If I didn’t have someone to share it with, it would go bad. Please, dig in. Eat all you can.”
During lunch, Jimmy asked if the priest had ever heard of a Canadian Navy ship called the Qu’Appelle.
“Yes,” he replied, “I think it was named after this town.”
“My father was the first Officer on that ship, when it was commissioned in 1963. We were living in Victoria at the time.”
The priest thought for a moment and then picked up the phone. He spoke briefly to someone familiar and concluded saying, “We’ll be over shortly.”
“Eat up, boys. We’re going to see the mayor. I’m sure he has photographs of the ship and crew on the wall in his office. We’ll stop by there on our way back to the highway. I have a benediction at 2:00, so we’d better hurry.”
We piled into the priest’s old sedan along with our back packs and a new bag filled with homemade treats. Several blocks away we pulled up beside a non-descript house and were met at the car by a young girl, the mayor’s daughter, who led us into an office decorated with photographs, and among them was a photo of a group of sailors on the deck of a ship. Jimmy pointed to one of them and said, “That’s my father.”
The view from the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border. Click image to enlarge
Forty years later, I am driving toward the Manitoba border and I can’t remember that priest’s name any more. It has vanished into the mist of my memory, where some details are as clear as the day they occurred, but others stubbornly refuse to emerge from an almost forgotten past.
I stopped at a small rest area that marks the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border, took a photograph of the Accent and some nearby cows then launched the browser on my iPhone searching for the detail my mind refused to offer up. I found what I was looking for online (http://www.ourroots.ca/e/page.aspx?id=526918) and learned that the priest could have been one of two people, Rev. Emil Kutarna who served the parish from 1968 to 1971 or Rev. F. Marcotte, who arrived in Qu’Appelle in 1971 and stayed until 1973. I know that Jimmy and I would have thanked the Father for taking the time from a busy Sunday schedule to feed two young travellers, but it would have been nice to thank him now for his lessen in generosity.