by Chris Cowland –
Our summers in Lake of the Woods were quite challenging.
There was one season when I tried to install a new back door, but did not quite finish the job. The following year my wife drove out with our four kids (I was supposed to join them two weeks later) to find that a whole zoo of animals had taken up residence through the winter, and had held multiple parties in the kitchen, spreading from wall to wall dog food, flour, spaghetti, rice and all the other dried staples we had carefully stored.
This of course was all my fault, as a proper carpenter would have closed off the doorway hole with plywood rather than mosquito netting.
We originally bought the cottage when we lived in Winnipeg, an easy two-hour drive away. Later, we moved to Saskatoon, and the journey became closer to six hours, still not too bad. However, it is a good 30-hour drive from Sidney, if you catch the first ferry, drive non-stop to Calgary, and then drive for what feels like an eternity along flat featureless straight roads across the prairies. This might be okay in a nice modern car, but we were doing it with four kids aged between six and 12, two dogs, and our wretched cat Roo.
The return journey was eventful. We were 50 kilometres east of Moosomin, my wife was driving, and the motor literally exploded at 3 a.m. No cell phones to call for assistance. When the sun came up, I managed to hitch a ride into this town of 2,000 inhabitants and find a garage.
We were towed into town, and the van was rapidly diagnosed as a write-off. I sold the wheels for $500, and found someone who sold us for the same princely sum his 1972 Ford Country Squire station wagon, “guaranteed to get us home.”
This wagon had everything. A 460-cubic-inch V8 motor, rear-facing back seats, and even an Esso “tiger in the tank.” Perfect. When we loaded everyone, it did scrape on the ground a bit, but only at the back.
Off we set. The family deserved a treat after all this ordeal, so we had a full meal deal lunch at the next McDonald’s, which was the first non-organic food they had eaten for nearly two months. Big mistake.
We were running low on fuel in Kamloops, and pulled in to fill up. In those days, service was all “jump to the pump,” and a friendly young chap filled us up. My wife had been driving, and as she leaned over the back of the seat to get my credit card, Ronald got the better of her, and she let out one of the worst explosions I have ever heard. The kids were mortified, but not half as much as the attendant who chose that exact same moment to lean in through the window with the credit card machine. I think she singed his eyebrows.
Even worse was the walk of shame, when she had to go inside to the washroom, and there were five sniggering employees lined up as the eyebrowless worker pointed her out to his friends.
In England, we call these places petrol stations, but I guess that’s why they are called gas stations in Canada.