The Ukrainian hall has a sign on the wall near the kitchen that says, "Legal capacity: 85 persons." Last night the Stepanko/Schur wedding dance brought in a lot more than that. I watched Marty Gorski park his truck (one of those trucks that is, unmistakeably, a young man's pride and joy) on Mrs.Price's front yard. He wasn't the only one. By the time I went home there were four trucks on her yard. No room anywhere else, I guess. Seemed like most of the town showed up.
They played the same old casette tapes over the 70s Yamaha sound system they always play at dances: a lot of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Stompin' Tom. Stuff like that. Those silver tower speakers were crackling away.
I drank more than a couple beers with Susan, sitting on a bench near the back. You had to holler to hear anything. There were a bunch of kids making tunnels through the enormous pile of jackets that had compiled in one corner.
"Dance with me, uh, with me," Susan said. How much had she drunk? I can't remember.
"Aww," I replied. I tried to raise my eyebrows and give her a look that said, 'I'm sorry, I know you like dancing.'
"C'mon! C'mon c'mon." She stood up and dared me to turn her down. "Just one song. It doesn't matter if you're not good." I'm definitely not good. So we danced our way through Bud the spud in the bright red mud they call Prince Edward Island. Susan was beaming. Then I stepped out behind the kitchen for a smoke. Marty Gorski was there with his leather jacket.
I went back inside. It was too crowded to breathe. Susan was deep in conversation with our neighbours on the back bench. I went to order two more pints. Which is when I noticed the picture. Hanging on the wall behind the bar. Above a bottle of Chivas Regal. Old, black and white, of a guy just standing there. I spent the rest of the night stealing glances at it.
Susan must've noticed my looks. "Didn't Mr. Simmonds used to look after the Trees or something?" she hollered in my ear an hour later, over the sound of twenty dancing couples and Life is a highway I want to ride it all night long. Mr. Simmonds? The guy in the picture? And then it came flooding back to me. The email from Dr. Remphries. How could I have forgotten?
I'd asked Dr. Remphries if he'd been out to the Trees at any point for his research.
A 1992 trip was my only time at the site. My technician visited there once. In my trip there... they took me to the person who was kind of the 'steward' of the trees at the time, the late John Simmonds. He was very keen on the trees and took us out to the site. On behalf of the land owners, he gave us the permission to take some of the sucker trees.