It was about two weeks ago when I boarded a train at Toronto’s Union Station with a one-way ticket to Melville, Saskatchewan. A friend had come along with me to the station to keep me company and say a final goodbye. These kinds of goodbyes are never easy. As a diversion, I told my friend to take care of her health because without it, all the success in the world is worthless. She looked at me, paused, and then starting laughing. Either she knew it was a cheap diversion or felt that it was cheesy advice, I’m not sure though. Moments later we exchanged a hug before I hopped onto the train.
It was around 10 p.m. when the train left Union Station and I was still awake by the time we reached Sudbury, where a mother and her three children boarded the train. They were on their way back home to Saskatchewan after spending Thanksgiving with family. The kids were full of energy and it was a few hours before they settled down; needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night.
The next morning, the kids started chatting with me. Their ages ranged from about 8-12 years old. The oldest, a young girl, was telling me how excited she was for hunting season. Now when I think of hunting, images of rustic men with beards comes to mind, not 12-year-old girls. But when she brought up tagging along with her father on hunting trips, her eyes just lit up. The next day, somewhere near the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border, she was peering outside the window and pointed to a thicket; they were an ideal habitat for deer, she told me (not in those exact words of course). Sure enough, what seemed like seconds after, a buck sprang out of the same thicket. She claimed it was a six-pointer but all that I ever saw was a blur.
When the train arrived in Melville I said goodbye to my new friends, assembled my luggage and started looking out for my new boss who was coming to pick me up from the station. Stepping off that train, my initial impression of Saskatchewan was amazement at how open it is. I had come from a concrete jungle to the open prairies, and did it ever feel refreshing.
When my boss arrived, the first order of business was dinner. We had a pleasant chat over Chinese food in a restaurant just outside of Carlyle. After that, I checked into the Ramada and started to ponder how I would get settled into to my new life. It didn’t take much pondering before an anxious feeling set-in. I felt totally out of place.
The next morning, I shut out the timid voice in my head and went exploring around Carlyle. I eventually stumbled upon a garage sale on Railway Avenue but the owner had just closed-down for the day. I mentioned to her that I was looking for a bed mainly and was invited to come by the next day to discuss a potential one for sale. I never would have imagined that this brief encounter would trigger the waves of generosity, warmth and hospitality that soon followed.
It turns out that garage sale owner’s mother was giving away a bed free-of-charge. Before I knew it, the bed along with bedding and a computer desk were delivered to the Observer and stored in the backroom for me. Well the word continued to spread that there is new reporter in town from Ontario and phone calls offering me furniture and other household items started pouring in. Now, thanks to the kindness and generosity of complete strangers, my apartment is fully furnished and I feel quite at home. But more than the furniture itself, it was the thoughtfulness behind it that made me feel most at home. It has left a most heartwarming impression on me that I am sure will last a lifetime.
On a final note, I can never seem to forget the metaphor of Canada as a cow that teachers used in high school civics. The mouth of the cow consumed the resources of Western Canada, the stomach digested the goods in Central Canada, and you can imagine for yourself what the cow did in the East. But left out of this metaphor was the heart, which I am now convinced must be in Saskatchewan.