After we said goodbye to Marlene and Bill (more on that later), there was one more thing I had to do. It was scary but important. I didn’t come all this way for nothing,
I was going to look for the site where my great-great-grandparents, Heinrich Paul and Maria Kroeker Neufeld, had built their log cabin upon their arrival in Saskatchewan in 1907.
Or rather… I knew this was the place… Marlene had told me this. It was out there, somewhere. But whether I’d find evidence, is another story.
But when the sun is setting and you’re alone in the wilderness, in a place you’ve been reading tales of terrifying encounters with wildlife… it’s easy to “find evidence”. That is to say, my imagination saw and felt many things. And this was something I was definitely doing. And I was definitely alone.
Andrew waited for me in the car while I embarked upon this one last adventure. This is our arrangement. I do like to do this kind of thing on my own. And he is patient. And I am lucky.
I had found a golden portal at the back of the cemetery where seven of my ancestors lay. The glow came from all the autumn leaves lit by the sun. The leaves of the trees along the boundary stretching between fields, the treeline went for half a mile.
Perhaps I would not have wanted to trespass except Marlene is local and kindly, helpfully told me this was the way to where they had lived. (I don’t know if she realized I was actually going to walk out there…)
I had come a long way to experience what I could here in Lost River. And if that meant following a treeline for half a mile in a tresspassy and scary manner in waning daylight, then so be it.
I walked and I walked and I walked. My footwear was not great and I worried I would fall and twist my ankle. I decided that would not help me accomplish my goal. I did not fall.
I studied the trees as I walked. And then… I swear these are lilac bushes. I suppose a visit in spring would confirm this.
It seems to me lilacs do not grow in the wild. Lilacs, to me, say “there was a homestead here”.
Then the treeline gave way a bit and I could imagine a yard.
But I don’t really know what a homesteading yard would’ve looked like over a hundred years ago in Lost River. I’m actually looking at pictures right now… but they don’t really show the yard site at all.
Then… something emerged on the horizon…
A hole of sorts. I had all kinds of funny feelings about this. What had been here? What was it for? Did I even have any business being here, seeing this, imagining things about it? What if it was just some kind of agricultural maneuver and my imagination was running away with me? What if I wanted my imagination to run away with me? After all… I had already run pretty far on my own. My imagination could take it from here.
If I had truly wanted confirmation, I suppose I could have contacted the landowners whose farm was within eyesight in the distance, nearer to the Saskatchewan River. They’re frindschoft, after all. But maybe I wanted to not know. Maybe I first wanted my imagination to run wild, as the sun set, and my awareness of my stupid footwear choices took hold, and as I remembered every wild bear story I’d read in the Lost River history book.
I reached the end of the quarter, the end of the treeline, where a few well treed vistas opened up. Yes, something had been here. A yard. A family. Generations of Neufelds, new to this land. Model Ts had roared about, on paths that sometimes were easy to traverse, and other times impossible. Babies were born, and died. My ancestors had likely passed away here, somewhere, too.
I tried to look around. To really take it in. It was so beautiful.
Then a text from Andrew: “You okay?”
“Coming home,” I replied.