Stegner House April 1st and 2nd

Just settling into Eastend a small town two and a half hours SE of Medicine Hat.  To the Southeast of the Cypress Hills nestled in a river valley invisible from the rolling prairie plateau.

During the drive, the high cumulus clouds off in the distance with purplish curtains stretching out toward the ground reaching downward and becoming thinner as it descended. Thirty minutes later I reached the curtain, snow so thin in the crosswind raced across the highway to be lost in the dry yellow grass. Then as quickly as it began it was gone. 

Turning off the main highway to a two-lane car-less road heading South, then dropping down from the Cypress Hills ridge, a coulee appears as the road begins to drop. The Frenchman River valley appears around the last bend. The valley floor was absolutely flat, a drained shallow lake created by a canal tucked against the valley walls, and cattle dotted across its expanse. Then the engine begins to labour up the other side and we came out of the valley onto the high prairie to be buffeted by the wind. Then after some time, I disengage the cruise as the “T” intersection rushes toward me. I turn left next to an abandoned farm and the car is pointing due East, I look down at the dash it says thirty more minutes of the seventeen-hour drive. 

Nearing Eastend we descended back into the Frenchman river valley again, this time from the South, passed exposed coloured clay beds looking out from under dry grass. Then there we were in Eastend on the old Red Coat trail. 

In the morning walking along the river and down the streets I could see both the Coop and the Rexall had closed. Yet there is a convince store and a small private grocery store that has everything you need. The convenience store has two gas pumps out front one for diesel and one for regular, anything else is just too expensive. I slid the flap over the opening removed the nozzle and filled the tank before going inside to pay. No electronics no advertisements or pitches for a car wash with extras. 

There is an operating grain elevator owned by Jim who got it from his father and had it passed down from his father. In the morning they gather in the office for long conversations over coffee. It stands next to a more modern-looking superstructure or inland grain terminal.

Many of the shops in town are closed but there is a stunning museum, churches, and a day surgery medical clinic, with extended care beds. Each house seems to have a service from pottery to hairstyling and car repair.  A neatly woven community safe and comfortable, with a love for the arts, history and phalotology.

Near the river’s edge, there is an outdoor pool with a water slide and a small golf course across a small suspended bridge. Across the street, the library, school, tea room, and bingo hall. There was evidence of oil in the fields as we drove in but the town seems to have no evidence of that industry in its streets.

Near the Stegner house, the river takes a wide arc and embraces the campground, picnic area, baseball diamonds all empty this time of year and the ground are as bare as the trees that follow the path of the river. The house built in 1917 by Stegners father just two years from the founding year of the town was built during the war years when wheat was needed to feed the troops and country. But his father abandoned the home they built after four years of failed crops. It is a dry windy area prone to lengthy droughts, but a serene and calm oasis in our modern world.