Barb Howard's "Still Making Time"

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary through the eyes of writers

Completed in 1933 and costing $4 million, the Glenmore Dam was the largest public works project in the city's history, providing needed employment during the first years of the Dirty Thirties. The dammed Elbow River flooded 900 acres of land to create the Glenmore Reservoir. In the 1940s, the area was considered a "swimming, fishing and picnicking paradise." Later, the reservoir was closed to swimmers and power boaters, but not to the literary imagination. (Photo: Calgary Public Library Postcards from the Past)

Completed in 1933 and costing $4 million, the Glenmore Dam was the largest public works project in the city's history, providing needed employment during the first years of the Dirty Thirties. The dammed Elbow River flooded 900 acres of land to create the Glenmore Reservoir. In the 1940s, the area was considered a "swimming, fishing and picnicking paradise." Later, the reservoir was closed to swimmers and power boaters, but not to the literary imagination. (Photo: Calgary Public Library Postcards from the Past)

Labour Day weekend. Scott pauses on a bluff above the Canoe Club and thinks about calling Nadia. It’s been twenty years since their summer on Glenmore Reservoir. He’s seen Nadia only twice since then, once with her two small children in tow, and once on the Stampede grounds. He unlocks the cellphone screen, and pauses. Nadia is at her parents’ house in Calgary, helping them pack up before they move to a condo. She sorts through a cardboard box of outdoor gear stowed away after her job at the Canoe Club twenty summers before. Each item sparks a memory. A late-night paddle up to the river’s mouth at the west end of the Reservoir. An accident involving the Canoe Club commodore. The Labour Day weekend when she and Scott met at the dock. “The water, the morning, the summer. The guy. She never wanted them to lose their pre-dawn shimmer.”

 

Scott sits on the bench, looks across to the patrol hut, shakes his head. He shouldn’t have stopped here. It makes him feel like some rube who can’t move on, like he wishes he was still twenty-four and working on the patrol and rescue boat. Pathetic. Because for all his first-responder courses, and water rescue training, and experience in jet boats and sailboats, for coming all the way from Muskoka, the job hadn’t required much more than putting around the reservoir. The patrol boat was the only jet boat allowed on the water, so there was some status attached to being in it, but driving slowly with that powerful engine always seemed like a waste. Sometimes he towed a canoe or sailboat back to shore. Mostly he drove around telling people not to swim in the water. He met Nadia on a Friday, which meant regatta day for all the canoe and sailboat camps on the water. He and Eddy – he was always on a shift with Eddy – spotted a group of kids standing in their canoes. One kid at the stern of each canoe, right up on the gunwales, bending their knees, swinging their arms, bobbing a crooked track across the reservoir. A swimming incident waiting to happen, Eddy figured.

 

Barb Howard, “Still Making Time,” Western Taxidermy (NeWest Press, 2012)