Can’t Really Go Back


Approaching the village of Margo, my home town.

On the way to Karen’s I listened to Joni Mitchell and was, yet again, moved by her deeply articulate lyrics and beautiful guitar-playing. So much so, that when it came time to turn onto Karen’s road I kept going so I could hear more, and took a wee drive around Margo:


Past the house Mom and Dad built, where the evergreens they planted around the borders of the yard are now 50 years old.

Then there was the cemetery where Mom’s ashes are buried. So are her father’s. Also buried in this precious ground are the remains of her grandfather and grandmother, several of her aunts and uncles, her great-grandparents and some of her great-uncles. Dad’s parents are buried here too, and his own ashes will be as well. I’d like mine scattered here if that’s possible. Can you just scatter human ashes any old place? I didn’t tramp through the snow to Mom’s grave but probably could’ve easily; we haven’t had much snow so far.


So many memories come as I pass down these streets.


I was confirmed here as a young teen; it’s the only church still in operation in Margo. Karen bakes the communion bread, and usually about 12 people attend a Sunday service now.

Across the road from the house my parents built in town is the schoolground, where as a kid on my bike I spent many summer days and after-school hours. The school’s been closed for years but is now in use by a bin-building business.


Here I’ve pulled up to the main street, just two doors from where the real Stubblejumpers Café stood. It had another name and the building has been gone for a lot of years. I visit it in dreams sometimes, and in my fantasies this place still exists. Those must’ve been happy childhood days.


The railroad company has been tearing up ties for miles upon miles, and here you see some of them stacked at the north end of Main Street.

It’s always a bit painful to go to Margo and see how it has changed from my growing-up years. It has been steadily dying; no longer the bustling community it once was. There’s life in it yet, though. As a matter of fact, there’s an annual hockey tournament this month, part of a weekend of “fun days” the local rec. board puts on. Dad’s even going to come out for it this time (all jaws dropped when he made this announcement, as he has been avoiding Saskatchewan winters for many years) in hopes of running into some old friends there.

A drive through the countryside is a pleasure, but I cannot pass by a pile of pushed-down trees without a pang of dismay. Farmers are still clearing their land to gain croppable acres, and they’re doing it a lot. Knowing what we know about carbon pollution and about dwindling wildlife habitat and about soil erosion, the sight of freshly cleared land never fails to disappoint. My family and I are only here because my great-grandparents and their parents cleared quarter-sections to homestead and plant, so it seems hypocritical to decry this activity. However, they didn’t know then what we know now.

Bread’s coming out of the oven and Sadie Sue is waiting to go for a walk.


16 thoughts on “Can’t Really Go Back

  1. I hope your father enjoyed his outing. I’m feeling sort of not-outing myself but we’re on call to deliver my daughter and kids to the airport for a Disney trip. I won’t have to be out much, but I will wear my silver heat-returning socks when I do. My place for that kind of nostalgia is my dad’s village of Shediac N.B. It prospered, being on a lovely sandy beach but my grandparents’ home is still there beside the place where the CN tracks used to be.


  2. Me too! I miss riding my bike around those streets, hour after hour. Most people imagine the town a lot bigger than it is. I’ve said “four streets by five streets” numerous times, but did I mention that each of those streets is no more than four blocks long?


  3. I want to hear more about those socks, Lorna! I have winter boots with thermal lining, and socks with some wool in them, but as soon as I am sitting in a vehicle for five minutes my feet are cold. So even a drive to town is unpleasant sometimes. When I take the boots off the socks are damp, which is the reason my toes are cold. So I need socks that don’t get damp, or don’t get cold when they’re damp (100% wool?). Or is it silver heat-returning socks that should be next on my wishlist?

    I think I’ve been to Shediac, or at least through it on the way to or from Kedgwick, or maybe it was a Katimavik outing. One I remember was to Percé.

    Who lives in your grandparents’ home now?

    I’m still able to visit my maternal grandparents’ house in town, as my aunt and uncle bought it after Grandma moved to a seniors’ residence.

    Dad’s not here yet; week after next.


  4. Thanks for the cruise down memory lane. Bitter sweet. What a comforting graveyard. I get that feeling visiting my ancestors in Cork.



  5. Years ago I was back in SE Kansas with my parents and we drove out by the old home place. My Dad’s nephew owned it then, and yes, it’s all about more acreage. Dad (born 1913) saw that they were ripping out the hedgerows and he was so angry. Said he guessed they sure didn’t know anything about the Dust Bowl. After that most farmers had made sure there were windbreaks, trees along creeks, etc. I hate to think how history repeats itself, perhaps helped by climate change?


  6. There are many farmers who do their best to be environmentally responsible and who do care about what it will be like for future generations. Unfortunately there are also too many who don’t look beyond their own bank accounts; they don’t care, because it will not be their problem after they’re dead. Shortsighted and selfish, and nothing changes their minds or hearts.


  7. I miss home. I have been thinking about grandma and grandpa a lot lately. Especially when getting off the bus after work in the dark and walking home. Reminds of walking to their place after skating. Had a dream the other night where I had a nice conversation with your mom. Almost time to come and visit.


  8. Oh dear God Saskatchewan. The Lamp at Noon.

    What do I do? I take a little tour, now in your passenger seat, then on the ‘netz. Went all the way down Hwy 5 to the border. Pelly, Benito, Arran.

    Four streets each way, punctuated with a coyote. Saskatchewan. Funny thing though I grew up far north, I remember those little villages and towns and the poetry of that flat land and those straight to nowhere highways. Summer days at my grandparents. My grandmother cursing Sifton.

    It’s not the same anymore is it? Now all the farms really owned by the bank. And Monsanto. People down east think this place is nothing. The stories Saskatchewan harbours.


  9. Those dream visits are more than welcome, aren’t they?
    Make sure to let me know when you’re here so I can see you.
    Ah, all those hours spent skating at the Margo rink … my feet get cold just thinking about it.


  10. One of the best things about some parts of Saskatchewan is that you can have a snooze while you’re driving. It’s so relaxing when you don’t have to manage hills and curves all the time! Out in Kelowna, I’m sure I had a headache the entire first week, just paying such close attention to the road every moment.

    There are still a lot of privately owned farms around here, but they are much farther between, now. In the 1970s there was a farmyard on every quarter-section and you could make a living with a lot less land. Now the farmyards are farther apart and there are more massive land holdings by single owners. The depopulation has decimated the villages, too. The schools have shut down and students have to be bussed to larger centres. You can’t even get up a local hockey team anymore in most small towns, but have to drive many miles to get a team together. Hospitals in small towns also closed or had their services cut so badly that everyone travels to the cities for all surgeries and even for childbirth. Centralization … very inconvenient for country folk.


  11. We sure are. And selfish. It’s surprising how many otherwise good, kind people have said to me, “I don’t care what happens after I’m gone.” I’ve said, “What about your grandchildren, and their children?” and they’ve replied, “Not my problem.” Maybe they find long-term consideration too overwhelming.


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