When anybody asks, I just say I’m a bona fide “B & R.”
You know, “born and raised” — as in one of Red Deer’s fetid fossils. My dad delivered milk with a horse and wagon in Waskasoo, for crying out loud.
Former mayor Morris Flewwelling was my Grade 9 English teacher at Central School, for heaven’s sake. I actually worked at the old courthouse on 49th and Ross when it was the actual courthouse. That’s how fossilized I am.
That was then, and this is now, as they say. And with the mighty Canada Winter Games here this past week, it has been quite a trip, as we former longhairs used to say. It’s been like some sort of magical mystical tour of Red Deer past and Red Deer future, all at once.
At the downtown festival, I stood by the super-cool Nova Chemicals Tiny House, where they hand out ultra-cool pins and lanyards. I was amazed that even though it was well below -20 C, there were bundled-up throngs milling around and hardly anyone was snivelling about the cold, except me.
I went into the big dome to rock out, and inside the humongous party balloon, I realized I was standing on the exact spot where I had broken my thumb during a city league game of flag football.
This was back when the Titanic was still a rowboat, but it seemed strangely vivid, and my thumb even started to hurt a bit.
I was at the new Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre watching teenaged racers zoom around on razor-sharp swords strapped to their feet, and I suddenly remembered that right at that spot several millenniums ago, I had crashed my Honda 50 Sport whilst rattling through a big open field, trying to find a big open pit where they were starting to build Red Deer College.
And later, over at the Centrium at a spot on the west end, I was taking photos of hockey, and it dawned on me that a few short decades ago, I was standing in just about that same place photographing Mayor Bob McGhee digging with a golden shovel in a field and announcing the building of the new arena.
And then there’s the new downtown arena. I hadn’t set foot in the place because I missed the old arena.
You could say I grew up in that old barn in Parkvale and I wasn’t about to like the new arena, and I thumbed my nose at it every time I drove by. But now my nose was getting sore from all that thumbing, and I decided to put the past in my pocket and tread lightly into the future.
Here’s the thing: I was genuinely surprised that the friendly ghosts are still there. It’s like a huge hand lifted up the old barn and plunked a new one down, leaving some — not all, but some of those same surreal feelings swirling in the same old spot.
The hockey was top notch, and when I sat where we ragamuffins used to sit in the old place — grey section, west side, far end, four rows up — it was like the original Red Deer Rustlers were playing the Lacombe Rockets once again. Just for a second.
They say some Indigenous folks view time as a river. That the past, present and future exist all at once, like a running river, and the present is where you’re standing, and the past is still there, and the future is there too, waiting for you.
That’s what the Canada Winter Games journey is for me — a Red Deer River.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.