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Three Buffalo Creek Stories

Susann at Buffalo Creek

Susan at Buffalo Creek

Buffalo Creek was backyard to the homestead where my mother was born. The creek ran for miles, or so it seemed when I was a boy, through their cow pasture. Enough reeds, if bulrushes count , to weave a baby a basket, enough reeds for my mother to set herself apart from her nine siblings. There would have been ten but one of her brothers drowned in the creek when he was three, playing with the ice letting go one early spring.

 Buffalo Creek was one of the reasons we kept visiting my mother’s bickering brothers and sisters, I thought. The other to gain her mother’s approval for her getting an education and leaving the farm, which she finally got when we moved to the city and grandma moved to the old folk’s home, where we watched her go a little more senile every Sunday afternoon. Back then they didn’t remove cataracts from the eyes of 87 year-old widows, no matter how much they read.

 We didn’t go to the homestead as often after we moved to the City, though my mother continued to sit on the small bank listening to the frogs in the summer when she could. It wasn’t long before she figured out she could use dad’s portable tape recorder to record the frogs, and some birdsong. It was not unusual to hear the frogs and the birds in the living room of 74 Linacre, even in the dead of the winter.

 When I was a boy I convinced a friend of mine that there had to be fish in Buffalo Creek, especially a long way up where it was almost as wide as a lake, or so I told him. We took our rods, and worms, and bobbers, and weights, and stood in the hot sun in our shorts. I removed my leather boy sandals, and short sleeves. We had no luck of course, but I thought if we went a little further in, and cast our worms out further into the deep water we’d have a better chance. My friend said well, just go ahead, I’ll wait and see if you’ll get anything.

 I was just wearing my shorts, so I started to wade in. It was hot, so I thought, well maybe a swim would be enough to save the day and cool off before the long trek home back to grandma’s house. I hadn’t counted on the mud. I had hardly taken two steps before I started to sink, past my ankles in the prairie mud. I lost my balance, fell and was muddier than anyone at Woodstock by the time I got out. The walk back was excruciating. While my friend got a little dirty pulling me out of the gumbo for the last couple of steps, he arrived back at the homestead with his dignity, more or less, intact.

I was pointed to a rain barrel amid gales of laughter, and found my way in and out leaving most of the mud behind. My friend had the fishing gear.  There were jokes about having failed to bring home any supper, and likely my misadventure became just a little moment in the separate men’s and women’s  story circles between the cracking of sunflower seeds, and drying of dishes.

 I felt ashamed, again the gullible egghead town boy above his depth in the country; but it was not enough to discourage my romance with water, and the next time I was covered in mud, my friend was too, a result of braving the rain and the muddy hill at the Edmonton Folk Festival almost two decade later.  

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