Milestone, Saskatchewan
Paul McLaughlin


It's after midnight and we've been driving hard and steady since
yesterday afternoon on our way from Edmonton to Iowa to visit friends
and our eyes are gritty and our butts are sore
and we are tired of the endless flatness of the bottom of Saskatchewan
as we head south-east from Regina on the Number 6 highway
toward Weyburn.

We pull into Milestone, Saskatchewan just after 1:30 am hoping for
a place to camp--well, not camp, really, just a place where we can sleep
for a few hours in the back of the van.

We follow the signs to the campground:

left off the highway at the darkened gas station/garage/restaurant
straight ahead bada-bump, bada-bump over the tracks in the moon-
   shadow of the old-style elevators--in prairie towns,
    there always used to be railway tracks and elevators--
right down the silent, one-storey main street
left down an empty street where tricycles are safely stored for the night
    on front lawns
right then left again into a silent empty field with six-inch unmown grass
   beside the municipal pool.


With weary eyes, we read in the headlights:

MILESTONE CAMPGROUND
$5 PER NIGHT
PAY AT POOL
RESTROOMS  SHOWERS


Perfect.

We find a level spot, not a hard thing to do in southern Saskatchewan,
step out of the van to stretch our stiffened legs and backs and are instantly attacked
by a billion love-starved mosquitos committed to pumping every drop of blood
out of our ankles, arms, necks, faces and especially
my bald head. We jump back into the van, close all the windows, cover all exposed flesh
(we forgot the repellant) and try to seal up every possible avenue of access to bare skin
before venturing out again to swat our way across the moonlit field
to the restrooms in the cinder-block building next to the pool, with

bug-filled flourescent lights
puke-yellow walls
flush toilets (thank God)
running water
the tops of large metal garbage cans for counters
dank, slimy shower stalls
and no mirrors.


For mirrors, you'd have to pay, oh, six or seven dollars, at least. But
we're tired, it's cheap, and we don't complain.

As I back-dive into sleep, the last thing I see looking up through
the van window is the three-quarters moon riding high
in the clouds.

We are jolted awake at 6:03 by an early-morning freight train blowing
long, long, short, l-o-o-o-o-ng three times in less than a mile. The last
extended long says, with a Dolby fade, "Get up, McLaughlins! It's time to move
o-o-o-o-n!"

The sky is clear and blue; the sun is already two fingers above the horizon;
we are back on the highway eating breakfast in the van by 6:25.

The back of the campground sign says

    THANK YOU

We say thank you, too.
Thank you, Milestone Saskatchewan.
We enjoyed our stay.

July, 1999

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