It’s a backroad I’ve traveled dozens of times in the past. It’s a fairly straight stretch of blacktop that runs from Highway 22 at Hartell to Highway 2A just north of High River. Straight as an arrow, it’s a pretty nondescript roadway. I thought I had seen it all and there was nothing new to discover.
As we zipped along I made a passing remark about a series of trees planted along the south side of the road. “There must have been a homestead there at one time; check out that windbreak.”
Then, I saw it. Sitting at the back of the property through the trees I noticed a swing set. Your standard A-frame swing set. Rusty and alone.
With a quick glance in the rearview mirror I slammed on the brakes and made a three point turn right in the middle of the highway. As I turned down the grid road running beside the plot of land I saw the sign – a sign I had never noticed before. “Former Site of Tongue Creek United Church 1916 – 1994.”
Grabbing the camera bag from the trunk I scanned the fence for the gate. Before long I was tromping through the yellow prairie grass, still waiting for the warmth of Spring to come and turn it green. Sure, I was looking for signs of a cemetery or a foundation or something tangible besides the sign to show me a church once stood here but my real goal was that swing set.
I knelt down in the mud and clicked the shutter. I repositioned and clicked again. Then one more time. Capturing the landscape but also connecting with the history. Visions of children, dressed in their Sunday best, came to mind. Children laughing and playing on that old swing set while nearby their parents stood visiting with their friends, casting the occasional glance to make sure the kids weren’t dirtying or tearing their clothes as kids are know to do.
Countless stories took place at this spot. Secret crushes were revealed to friends, veiled under the vague promise of “Don’t you dare tell her!” Teenagers hid back here to sneak a quick puff of a cigarette while comparing who had the fastest car. Weddings. Funerals. Stories that are lost to the passage of time – except for that one brief moment when I was able to connect with them once again.
Walking back to the car I couldn’t help but feeling pleased with this discovery. That plain old backroad revealed something new to me after I thought I had seen it all. Those are the moments that make this exploration worthwhile.