Saturday, December 6, 2014


To the north of Vanguard is Turkey Track Ranch, over which I once rode over 26 sections to get to the heart of a girl at a rodeo in Herbert, Saskatchewan, Canada.

To the south of Vanguard there is a bridge over Notekeu Creek, over which one bright and sunny summer day when I was 13 years old I was riding a horse and got shot in the back, by Philip with his 22 calibre rifle, as he in adolescent fashion was trying to startle the horse.

To the east of Vanguard there is a ford on Notekeu Creek, where we would ride our bikes, hunt bottles, and kill frogs.

To the west of Vanguard is Gouverneur Dam on Notekeu Creek, a fishing hole of local renown for catching perch, pickerel, and whitefish.

On July 3rd and 4th, 2000 in Vanguard the unexpected happened. One of the largest flash floods ever recorded in Canada, 13 inches of rain in just seven hours of perfect storm, drowned out the residents. 

Vanguard, situated in the drain of the Notekeu Creek Basin, has a history of mud.  In fact, for quite some time (until worn off by the rain and wind and sun) the road sign just outside the village in 1964 read Welcome to Mudville, in mud-smeared letters over-top the original Welcome to Vanguard.   

Back in the 60’s Mudville was synonymous with Vanguard.

When I go back to the 60’s in Mudville, admittedly my memories are hazed by romantic nostalgia.  And when I do go back there, I think of mainly two things, hockey and baseball. (Methinks the latest news of the hockey greats, Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau, has prompted this particular blog.  Le Gros Bill, at 83 years of age, has just passed, while Mr. Hockey, who is 86, is in hospital.)


Back in the 60’s the Mudville roads were pure dirt, and after every rain, vehicular driving was next to impossible.  After every rain the streets were gumbo greasy and the cars and pick-up trucks would be parked until streets dried.

Back in the 60’s, not unlike every other village within a ten mile radius, Mudville had a Chinese café.  Guy Seto set up his diner right after Charlie and Sam, the previous owners, both Chinese, retired. 

Black and red licorice sticks cost 2 cents apiece at Guy’s Café.  A small bag of Hostess plain or barbeque potato chips cost 5 cents and a large bag cost 10 cents. (Sour Cream and Onion chips were the latest crunch.)  A small pop (Coca-Cola and Fanta being the most popular, Kik Cola and Orange Crush being close seconds) cost 8 cents if you drank it inside, and ten cents if you took it outside.  A large pop was 12 cents.

In Guy’s Cafe a small packet of 20 Players or Sportsmen or Du Maurier or Black Cat or Export A cigarettes cost 38 cents; whereas, a large packet of 25 costs 45 cents.  Or you could purchase two cigarettes for a nickel over at Wally’s Pool Hall.

A brand new Chevrolet Biscayne, or any other four-door sedan, cost anywhere from 2400 to 3500 dollars.  By far the most impressive car of the day was a 1964 Chevrolet Impala, previous to which the 1957 Bel Air Chevrolet was the classiest drive.  

Back in the 60’s the government wage for a survey technician was $1.74 per hour, and a really expensive house would be in the $40,000 neighborhood.

Knowingly disenchanted I shall continue in egocentric style.

In our seemingly sleepy little village, we rode our bicycles on worn bisque wooden sidewalks, forever having to duck beneath the overhanging blue and white lilacs and yellow and white honeysuckles.

In our sleepy little village anybody wrinkled over 60 years of age was considered to be old, old, old.

In our sleepy little village our school teachers, who were noted to be strict, were also our parents’ teachers when they attended school.

In our sleepy little village the white and crispy highbrows were the teachers, the bank manager, and the owner of the hotel.

In our sleepy little village nobody locked the doors.  In our sleepy little village there was only one thief, and everybody knew him.

In our sleepy little village we had four Christian churches to suit Roman Catholics, Anglican, United, and Full Gospel Tabernacle evangelicals.  In our sleepy little village the church was where beautiful faces married beautiful faces and the wrinkled ones buried their dead.   

Comparing the churches in Mudville, it seemed the Catholics were a mass of the rather rich, the Anglicans not so rich and not so many in their membership, those in the United flocked together and were especially noted for their fowl suppers, and those Tabbies were the ones who didn’t smoke, didn’t imbibe, and didn’t even wear lipstick.

In our sleepy little village we were (mostly) all of Western European descent.

In our sleepy little village we did not appreciate people whose ancestry was not of Western Europe, and those who were not were more oft than not subjected to name calling such as Dee Pee, Polack, and Yuke.

In our sleepy little village English was the majority language, though we did seem to tolerate the Pea-Soupers residing in the Francophone communities west, south, and east, Lac Pelletier, Ponteix, and Gravelbourg, respectively.  We probably did so because these Frogs were in the same shared league for our baseball and hockey teams.

In our sleepy little village some of the young men served as soldiers and sailors and pilots in both world wars.  In our sleepy little village the sons of farmers were the fortunate sons who did not have to go to war.

In our sleepy little village the adolescent boys’ fashions were laminated jackets, madras shirts, tight jeans, white socks, pointed shoes.  

In our sleepy little village we in the NHL (Notekeu Hockey League) favored only the jerseys of the original six NHL (National Hockey League): Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Black Hawks, and Boston Bruins.

In our sleepy little village the most popular hockey sweater number was number 9, following in the delusional and romantic fashion of Maurice Richard (Montreal Canadiens), Andy Bathgate (New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs), John Bucyk (Boston Bruins), Bobby Hull (Chicago Black Hawks), and Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe (Detroit Red Wings).  Number 4 came in following in the delusional and romantic fashion of Les Gros Bill, Jean Beliveau, and Bobby Orr.

In our sleepy little village, we in Little League Baseball had our uniforms sewn from Robin Hood Flour bags.  
My last time in Mudville I was at a village reunion, drank a few beers, and watched a few of baseball games at SETO FIELD (named in honor of Guy Seto of Guy’s Café).

Growing up in Mudville, we had approximately 500 residents.  Mudville, at that time I thought, was the epitome of contemporary culture, a callithump of marching bons vivants.  And now, looking back at my boyhood I realize all was but a cat’s paw, a quiet ripple, of the same sort of stir as when we used to skip stones upon the waters of Notekeu Creek.    

Today there is no joy in Mudville – submitting to the trend of rural exodus, mighty Casey has struck out.

And what, dear reader, does this essay have to do with busking? 

Methinks everything.


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