I step left out of my coulee and walk, walk, walk. Around a bend I see someone on the road, but I'm not wearing my glasses -- carry them in my backpack in case I want to pull the balaclava over my face -- and I can't see who it is. I snap a few pictures, try and get a close up of the fishing shacks on the lake, and when I turn back toward the road, I see the person has stopped. It must be Angie, I think, and it looks like she's waiting for me. As I get closer, she waves.
"Good morning," I call.
Angie is the teacher-librarian at the elementary school and her family also runs the ski hill. Better pick up my pace, I think, I'm going to be walking with Angie.
"Saw some of your pictures on your blog of night skiing. They were pretty good," says Angie.
"That run to the far left is so beautiful; the town lights just twinkle," I say.
We're walking pretty much in the centre of the road, the washboard surface keeping me from pushing off with my toes in a nice, steady rhythm. Angie and I chat about the beautiful weather. We swap some plans for the upcoming winter break. Angie's going to squeeze some ice fishing in, but will be working at the hill most of the time. I tell her about a meeting Michael and I are off to tonight, and then some committee work we'll likely be doing.
She waves as we pass the ski hill. Her oldest son is driving the big tractor, smoothing and rearranging the snow. I'm surprised; I thought Angie's husband would be at the controls.
As we pass the hospital, Angie tells me about her second son's, recent knee surgery. I had no idea. She says last night he texted her at three in the morning; the dog had jumped on him and he was in a lot of pain. Poor guy.
We're passing the gravel yard. Our pace has picked up even more since we've been on blacktop. Angie is telling me a little of her family history, how her father's name should be Peltier, not Pelltier, so he wasn't related to the Pelltier's. He was underage signing up for the war, so didn't correct them when they got his name wrong. He was French Metis. Her mom was from the east but adopted by a northern family.
She tells me that she started teaching at Lebret's Residential school in 1986 and taught there until 1996, ten years.
"You're not old enough to have started teaching in 86," I say.
She laughs. "I went through SUNTEP, and back then, it was easy for us to get jobs in Regina. They were always calling, but when I saw the writing on the wall, knew Lebret was going to close, I went for an arts education position here in town. I didn't want to commute."
We're going Angie's route, past the coop card lock.
"Was Lebret one of the last residential schools to close?" I say.
We're walking in the crunchy snow now, single file toward the highway, and if she answers, I don't hear her.
"Lots of memories," I say.
"Those were good years in Lebret," she says. "I run into students from those days all the time."
We're crossing the highway now, going into the ditch with Robin's Donuts straight ahead. We turn toward the school, and follow Angie's path. Pretty soon we're walking past the ball diamonds and in the REXENTRE parking lot. We part ways, Angie off to the elementary school, and me into the high school. She waves with her red Canada mitts just as the first bus of the morning pulls in. I hold the glass door open for seven boys and one girl from Pasqua First Nation.
I'm breathing a little harder than usual, and I'm not sure about my pictures taken as I was still walking, but I'm about ten minutes earlier than I would have likely been thanks to my gift of the morning, keeping up with Angie.