Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Homeward Bound 2000

     We reached The Pas a little before ten and bee-lined for the Wescana Inn, the largest motel in town. They were booked solid and had been on Friday nights since construction began at the new paper mill. The friendly lady at the front desk called around to see if any nearby, empty beds existed but there were none.
     "Well boys, as near as I can figure the closest open motel is down in Swan River. Hope that's not a problem for two fine Voyageurs like you? They might even have clean sheets but from what I'm smellin', I don't think that'll be a necessity, eh?"
     She didn't actually say those words but a little thought as to how we looked would have brought them to mind. When I asked her where Swan River was and how far away, she said,
     "South a few hours but don't you worry, the road's a halfway decent, unlit two lane with swamp and water to both sides and wanders a bit so you'd best pay attention and hope you don't hit any bears, elk, or caribou. Locals call it the shortcut to Hell but I'd pay them no mind."
     Turned out it wasn't but two hundred miles to Swan River. and the road was indeed a winding, two-lane, and the night, black as the ace of spades. We hit the local Burger King, gassed up, and bought a pack of Players figuring, since we were heading off on the highway to Hell, what would a few more cigarettes matter? We pulled out of Cranberry Portage a few minutes shy of eleven.
     Swan River silently slumbered at two-thirty but the lights were on in the first motel we approached. From its appearance the lit Vacancy sign was no surprise. Not being choosers we turned into the parking lot. At the front desk we were greeted by a balding, middle-aged man and an enormous elk head and rack. Things were looking up. Yes, they did have a vacancy and yes, there was a story with the elk.
     Seems the previous elk season began on the west edge of town about the same time as Swan River was heading out the door, oiled rifles in hand with intentions of driving high into nearby Porcupine Provincial Forest. Turned out to be no need as a suicidal herd was passing by at the stroke of sunrise. Word quietly spread and the season ended with a hail of rifle fire before the sun crested the trees. Not much of an adventurous hunting story but sure was memorable.
     Once in our room, we quickly showered and collapsed into the concave beds at three a.m. My ribs were still a mess but over the weeks they'd heal. I was unconscious in seconds. 

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