Thursday, January 31, 2013

Treaty Driving Down Highway Ten to Balcarres

Driving down highway ten, at a hundred and ten in minus 32 degrees. I wonder what the windchill would be if I stuck my hand out the window? I'm running ten-minutes-away to be an author this afternoon at Balcarres Community School.

Karla Esplin meets me at the door. She's all bundled up, ready to help me in with my guitar, suitcase, sign, purse and kitchen sink.

I'm tickled to see so many people I know in the hallways: teachers, friends from Fort Qu'Appelle, Kiane (my voice student), former students who used to come to Fort Qu'Appelle, and Brenda Gross, who I used to teach with in Black Lake, who just happens to be subbing for the afternoon.

I talk a lot about Black Lake in my writing presentation. Afterall, that's where my novel, Voice of the Valley, was born and raised. But, even more special today, I get to sing a song for Brenda that she's never heard me sing, about that day in February 2000, when she and five of our colleagues went down in a plane crash. I introduce the song and begin to sing.

From Edmonton they took off straight into the starry night.
They laugh, they joke, they got up close, to the northern lights.
But Stony Rapids had some fog when the pilot tried to land.
A second pass took control out of their hands.

Down, down, they went down, but they weren't down for long.
Down, down, they went down, together they were strong.
Down, down, they went down, the night it was long.
Down, down, they went down, listen to their song.

(To see the rest of the song, check it out on a previous post:

The kids are listening so intently as I sing. I look over to Brenda every now and then, wondering what she could be remembering as I tell the story of that night, through my from-afar-eyes. I don't look at her long, because I'm afraid I won't be able to sing.

Then the last verse comes:

Twenty below fighting odds, Joseph, Gint and Vilma
Bruised bodies, brave spirits, Deanna, Tracy and Brenda
Six everyday teachers, alone in the night, but six at their best
And man did they fight.

I've had to look away for the entire verse because I'm getting really emotional, and when I say "Brenda" I do choke up for a slight moment.

True to form, Brenda takes it in stride, says it's beautiful, doesn't crack a tear. Amazing. What an honour to sing for her today.
As I'm waiting for the second group to come in, a cowboy hat comes through the doorway, just missing the cross beam. As he walks closer, I can't help saying, "I've never seen such a tall cowboy hat before."

We chat for a little and I learn that this is Cliff Davis, Elder Mike Pinay's son. He says he recognized my We Are All Treaty People sign from one of the rallies, and I say, "were you on horseback?" and we figure out that he was leading the walk, and I was bringing up the rear.

Cliff sits in my next session for a bit. The kids are so attentive, it's really humbling. They are giving me the gift of listening.

When it's all over, I tour the school with Erin Bell, a former colleague and table tennis enthusiast who I'm trying to convince to start a club so we'll have some ten-minute-away-competition. I see Balcarres' renovations and am very jealous with all their potential table tennis playing space. (Erin, we'll talk.)

Karla helps me clean up and then haul my road show out of the library. Her daughter and she pose for a quick picture. I'm ticked with myself for not snapping a picture of Brenda.

Then, half way down the hall, I run into Cliff again with one of his sons. We chat some more and I tell him about the magazine project my students will be working on shortly, focusing on the topic of healing. He tells me a bit about the horse song, a ceremonial song, that they use in healing.

We shake hands, and I tell him he can count on a followup phone call from my students. (If we can hide from another one of my friends, Michelle Schwab, who is teaching down the hallway and is also part of the magazine project.)

Here's Cliff Davis, Elder Mike Pinay's son.
Cliff was on horseback at the front of our Treaty Four Unity Walk.
He says he remembers my sign, bringing up the rear.

Balcarres Librarian Karla (with a K) Esplin
and her daughter, Carissa (with a C).


  1. Love reading all of these. Your such a great person sheena. Thankyou for all u do within the community. Love it. Its like i wait for your next one to be posted. Your blogs take the reader right there with u. Too me anyways. Thankyou.Blessings to you and your family. Sherryann n family

  2. LOVE LOVE LOVE! Thank you so much for coming out in the cold to spend some very special time with our students! We were so lucky to have you and all your music and stories!

    April Dahnke