Signpost - A Prairie Town

by Dan Lundine

Excerpt (pages 31-32)

"Let me buy you coffee, show you the town. I understand you just got in." We hustled into the cold. A red and white Springer Spaniel fell in beside us.

"Your dog?" I asked.

"Yep. Hub. He loves hubcaps. Pees on every one. We named him for his passion." As if on cue, Hub stopped to check out an idling red half ton truck, marked himself on the right front tire. Yellow trickled into the snow.

Mervin pointed out several buildings as we pushed along—the general store where the owner stocked everything from peanuts to walleye lures; the blacksmith shop; the barber shop cum credit union; two rinks, hockey and curling. But for a large brick hotel at the end, and the cafe´ directly in front of us, that seemed the extent of Main Street.

Outside a small plywood porch that extended into the town’s board sidewalk, we scraped snow from our boots and hurried into the cafe´. A puff of steam snuck in with us, spent itself against an electric heater on the far wall. Mervin hung his parka and toque on a peg, but despite its weight, I kept my buffalo coat on. There wasn’t enough separation yet between life on the West Coast and this new one on the prairie. A train had plunked me onto Canada’s tundra almost a year earlier, and despite the efforts of training instructors determined to whip my sorry butt into shape, I was not one blister tougher than when I’d arrived. If I’d taken off my long johns during those nine months of training, I couldn’t remember.

The air in the cafe´ was redolent with the smells of fresh coffee, pie, cigarette smoke, wood wax and old dust. “Two coffees?” asked a voice. I looked up from examining a bus schedule taped to the counter in front of me. It supplied times for arrivals and departures between Regina, Moose Jaw, Weyburn and other towns whose names I didn’t recognize. A tall sinewy fellow clutching two coffee mugs hovered above me. A bare-breasted doll taped to the bill of his ball cap jiggled provocatively.

“Uh, yah. Thanks.” I strove to focus on the mugs.