Ode to Saskatchewan towns along the Yellowhead Highway

saskhighway

Let them say that he wrote crap poetry but that he loved the sound and feel of words: words, names, two, three or twenty at a time, coming together like sprocket and chain;

like the names of Saskatchewan towns picketing by on the Yellowhead Highway, rolling in your mouth: Langenburg, Churchbridge, Bredenbury;

bright words on green backgrounds, Saltcoats, Yorkton, Orcadia, Spingside—sweet town of freshwater rising—rising south of Good Spirit Lake, where, let them say;

he dreamed of a girl in the city of bridges, 200 hundred miles away, that he had a black, 1964, Chev Impala, hardtop, that his friends called the Staff Car;

let them say he loved the long slow curve just east of Theodore where he drove sensible and slow ’til he passed the Co-op service station, and Motor Hotel then cracked open the modest but decisive 2-barrel, 283 cu in V8;

and let them say, just like they used to say, that he hauled ass all the way to the big city—the evening coming on and the sun swinging low and the chrome trim gleaming;

past Insinger, with that banked bend around the Holy Ghost Church, where he stood on the accelerator and the frame creaked coming out of the curve—and the hood’s silver molding sighted Sheho;

let them say that he tooled by Tuffnell, all four windows down in the airless heat with Foam Lake floating in the distant prairie shimmer, below that green water tower you can see for miles and miles;

rattling over the tracks, onward to Leslie, west by northwest with Nantucket Sleighride, Mississippi Queen, spitting dust up off the front speakers;

to Elfros, and the small bridge by the farm with five acres of car bodies;

waving at Mozart and coasting through Wynyard, until he passed the graveyard, the big centre cross throwing its shadow over the Touchwood Hills;

on to Kandahar and the smell of cattle in the valley down from the Steak House;

sailing south of the saline shores of Big Quill Lake to Dafoe, where he’d come to a rolling stop then steer north lifting that black body over Grand Funk tracks at 80 mph, then slow for the turn west again;

sweeping by the thousand hidden stories of Jansen, Lanigan, Guernsey;

and let them say that by Plunkett, Viscount, Colonsay, the Impala was humming steady as time and cruising smooth and rhythmic as Midnight Rider, harmonious as Suite: Judy Blue Eyes;

into the cooling dusk of Elstow and Clavet, where, on the return trip, the Chevy’s front-right retread will come off and go jackrabbiting into the ditch;

and let them recall that Saskatoon is a Cree word, beautiful and suitable for any old poet who quickens at the memory of high summer and prairie haze and a dark car with an 8-track;

and JJ Cale’s, Call Me The Breeze—those muffled beats and palm-damped chords pulsing and reaching right into his bones, shuffling him on down Broadway with that green light baby…

13 Comments

  1. A great ride that stimulates personal pulse and provides memory that forgives those who crack their pipes as they go by my window at 2 AM.

  2. Ah the simple pleasures in life and memories – gliding along in real time and circuitous past memories of trips past. I always thinking of your family as I pass Springside – Orcadia reminds me of kids I’ve raised who spent time there. For some time I owned a table from the church at Sheho. 15 leaves in it almost enough for a community meal and a fav old church at Esk … Good words in threes or twenties

  3. I loved the flow of words and smell and sound of memories flowing like ribbons of strait high ways through some very interesting names and the history becomes enticing as I hear the mind rafts lap against riverbanks. a wowthankyou

  4. My vehicle was the VW van that Dad owned – came by all those places left Saskatoon at midnight fell asleep at the wheel drove into the ditch and back out and later blew the engine…

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