TREENA MIELKE – On The Other Side
In 1795 or somewhere around that time, the famous Scottish poet Robbie Burns penned the well known “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Although I lay fierce and proud claim to my own Scottish heritage, I must confess I’m not exactly sure of the rest of the wording in the poem as the dialect, for me at least, is a bit confusing.
But, I’m sure it meant something like when you get up on Saturday with plans to wash your kitchen floor until it sparkles, clean your bathrooms to a dazzling shine, and finally greet guests at the door with a Suzy Homemaker smile, it ain’t gonna happen.
And so was the case for me on the long weekend, when a surprise, but delightful phone call from my son, resulted in an afternoon where I forgot about living in the moment and, instead, travelled back in time via Alberta Prairie’s excursion passenger train.
It happened because my son said, “Do you and dad want to come with us on the train,” and I said, “Yes.” And he said, “Have you asked dad, yet?” And I said, “No, but he’ll come.”
“Be here at 12:30,” he said, in his stern, you know you have a problem with time management voice that he uses on me pretty much always.
We were late, of course, but they were still boarding when we screeched up to the train station, and no one seemed to be moving particularly fast anyway, so that was good.
And Gabriel Dumont, who was helping passengers aboard, didn’t seem too upset, although he did check his big pocket watch when he saw us, but then he smiled, shifted his shot gun to his other arm and gave me a big hug, almost crushing my parasol which I endeavored to twirl prettily when I spotted him looking all handsome in his homespun attire.
“Mr. Dumont,” I murmured, batting my eyelashes at him demurely. “Really.”
We boarded the train, sedately, my husband, my son and his wife and daughter, and discovered much to our delight nameplates above the seats, all stating ‘Mielke’. “Wow!” said my granddaughter, who had just learned how to print Mielke. “Cool!”
The train trip from Stettler to Big Valley was full of unexpected events, and even as the train clicked its way down the tracks, we were kept guessing.
What will happen next?” we wondered, as we munched our popcorn and watched the guy sporting a handlebar mustache and a guitar, gracefully exit our coach.
We were soon to find out.
“Bad guys,” my granddaughter mouthed, her eyes big and blue and scared. She threw herself into her dad’s arms, hiding her little head in his chest, as the bad guys with guns and handkerchief covered faces stormed through our coach demanding money.
With shaking fingers I gave them a quarter, then when the bad guy’s eyes, blazing with greed, glared at me accusingly over the top of his handkerchief, and he brandished his gun ever so slightly in my direction, I dropped another quarter into the moneybag.
Once the train robbers exited the train and attempted to flee on their horses, Gabriel sprang into action and a gunfight ensued.
My granddaughter, who had kept her pretty head tucked inside her dad’s coat, ventured to peer out the window as she watched Gabriel, my forever hero, save us from the bad guys, who met an untimely death and would no doubt, be dragged to Boot Hill, after the gun smoke cleared.
We travelled on to Big Valley, where we stopped long enough to enjoy a full course meal, because we discovered travelling back in time meant we were pretty much starving.
After a tour of Big Valley, which has a population of 351 people, but no dogs or cats that I could see anyway, we boarded the train for the trip back to Stettler.
The trip back was less eventful and those of us who weren’t lulled to sleep by the train’s hypnotic swaying motion, learned some interesting historical facts about the train, itself, and the surrounding countryside.
“On the trip today, I’m sure you will have met small town and country people with the warm hearted, hardworking spirit of their pioneer forebears,” the guy with the voice said.
His words made me smile and I had to agree.
From the moment we boarded the train, my family and I experienced nothing but acts of unnecessary kindness. Everyone we met seemed genuinely concerned about us and our welfare.
For me, it made the trip truly a passage back in time, where no one was in too much of a hurry to sit back awhile, have a cup of coffee and share a joke or two.
There was, of course, the bad guys, but they were just pretend.