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MY STRUGGLES WITH MISDIRECTION

Snowden people don’t like having their town dragged around. 

In my October 4 column I gave the location of Snowden as five miles west of Smeaton. Now it had never been located there before, and Snowden residents did not wish to have it moved. So, correction:  I hereby return it to the spot five miles EAST of Smeaton where it has been--except for that brief westward jaunt--for the past 85 years.

My mistake of course, but I refuse to take responsibility for it. The culprit, you see, is Bedard Creek School, a one-room country seat of learning six miles northeast of Snowden, where I got most of my grades one to eight education.

Now the front of our classroom--where the blackboard and teacher’s desk was located--was on the south wall. Our maps hung there as well. Now picture this: You’re facing south, looking at a map of Canada. (If you’re my age you’re probably seeing the chocolate bars too.) British Columbia is at the left of the map--but if you look to the left through the windows of your classroom, you’re looking EAST.  And this means Quebec and Nova Scotia, on Canada’s East side, are on the right-hand side of the map, on the WEST side of the classroom. Similarly North and South are reversed.

Thus all my life I’ve thought of B.C. & Alberta as being to the east, Ontario and the Maritimes to the west. So if you need to get directions from anywhere to anywhere, don’t ask me. If you do, you’ll hear something like this:

ME: Well you go from our place north to the 55 highway and..

ESTHER:  No, no, no! You go  SOUTH to the 55.

ME: Oh, yes, well then you turn west for four miles…

ESTHER: NO! You turn EAST…etc, etc, etc…

You can see why people who asked me how to get to Melfort have wound up in  Flin Flon. It’s very embarrassing and stressful, and I’ve considered suing the Bedard Creek school board. Unfortunately the school closed down in 1961 and the members of the board, pioneer people more or less my dad’s age, have all passed away.

I must make clear here that aside from how it screwed up my sense of direction, Bedard Creek school #4904 holds very precious memories for me. The men and women responsible for building it and getting it into operation in 1932 were pioneer homesteaders who had just moved onto their land one to three years earlier. They were still living in primitive conditions and working hard at carving farm fields out of the bush land, constructing houses, barns and the like.

But they knew well the importance of education. And having spent most of my working years in teaching, I believe that little school did a heroic job of getting its pupils ready for lives of accomplishment, honourable citizenship and  pleasurable pastimes.

I’ve made many journeys to coastal B.C. and Vancouver Island, and always there is a point, somewhere in the interior if that province, when I find the world suddenly accommodating itself to my Bedard Creek directions. I seem to be driving east though I know it’s really west, and the noonday sun shines down on me from the northern sky. This continues for the rest of the journey to my destination and back, until somewhere approaching Alberta the directions resume their normal positions. Weird.

Similarly, driving down into the U.S. there is a point where my brain knows I’m going south but my eyes tell me I’m heading in the Bedard Creek north position.

I’ve learned to cope with these ridiculous distractions in my travels. But if you’re ever in Smeaton and need directions, do not--I repeat not--ask me. Ask Esther.

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