Heritage Day was always spent with my dad. He’d put on his best cowboy hat and we’d drive to Weaver Park in Lloydminster, where we’d spend the afternoon looking at exhibits from a bygone era. One of dad’s favourite stops was at the blacksmith display. (Also, at a coffee and doughnut shop later on, but that’s another story.) We’d meander up to where black smoke poured into the air from the forge, and there we’d find my son Justin Walker, covered in soot and hammering on a hunk of red-hot steel. He’s not only a talented musician, he’s also a very polite blacksmith.
Justin was the youngest member of the Border Blacksmith’s Guild when he joined, about 17 years ago, and I imagine they were pleased to have a youth enter their ranks. Every month, this guild gathered to do what they loved: sweat over hot coals and beat scrap metal into submission.
One cold winter day, the guild met in a large shop. After a morning of hard work, they seated themselves in a circle of provided chairs. Justin rustled in his lunch bag and drew forth a bacon sandwich. He sank his teeth in pleasurably.
Presently, the host announced he had something for everyone and bustled out of the room. He returned carrying two Styrofoam egg cartons and from them, began to dispense small, caramel-coloured morsels, each nestled in an attractive cupcake wrapper and speared through the centre with a Popsicle stick.
“Thank you very much,” Justin said courteously, as the man handed him his very own treat. Justin looked at the delicacy, wondering what strange sort of candy it was.
Not wishing to appear rude, Justin raised it in a token of goodwill to the fellow seated across from him and carefully nibbled a chunk off one side. It wasn’t all that easy, and he was forced to bear down to gnaw the piece off, but with applied determination he finally broke through and began working the tiny tidbit around his mouth. He chewed and chewed some more. Strange stuff, he thought, finally getting out a thermos of hot tea and pouring himself a drink to wash the gummy substance down his gullet.
Several of the men began to cast sideways glances Justin’s way and, idly, he wondered about that too. However, he had enough to contend with as he dealt with his cupcake, so he ignored them.
With considerable effort, Justin manfully bit off another hunk of the unpleasant dessert and chewed interminably, finally adding a bite of his bacon sandwich to the mix in an effort to work it down his throat. He had noticed, oddly enough, that, although malleable, the basic components of the stuff never changed. Both texture and size remained the same no matter how he attacked it. In the end, he was forced to apply his entire mug of tea to the lumpish mass, swallowing noisily.
Finally, the deed was done and wiping his mouth with a sleeve, he heard the host clear his throat to speak.
“Yup,” the man said, as he looked meaningfully at Justin. “That beeswax has been collecting dust for 12 years. It’s high time I got rid of it. It’s great for preventing rust on steel though.”
Justin looked down at the empty wrapper in his hand with that sinking feeling you get when you know you’ve just ingested a filthy lump of wax that’s sat in a machine shop for the past 12 years.
“I’m sorry,’ he said politely, “but do you have another? I’ve eaten mine.”
Helen was born and raised near Marshall, SK. on the family farm. She is a writer and works in education. To order books or contact her, please go to myprairiewool.com or write PO Box 55, Marshall, SK. S0M1R0.