Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Prairie Solitude

St. John’s Protestant Separate School Division #9 

As I travelled home from British Columbia on Sunday, I tired very quickly of the Trans Canada Highway and turned off onto Highway 21 to take the back roads home to Saskatoon. Grain fields stretched to the horizon with very few interruptions from human settlements.

South of Leader, I was surprised to come across a deserted school with a sign inviting me to stop and visit. According to the write-ups in the classroom, the Lutheran church came first and quickly became a hub for the far-flung community of farming families. The minister started a school in the church, but it outgrew the space, and the community built a separate school building.

The one-room schoolhouse is on the honour system. Just lift the latch and enter through the cloakroom. The wooden desks are still in place, as if the students left just yesterday. 

The original church is no longer standing, but there is a half-size replica. Even at twice the size, the church would have been very tiny.

Further down the road is the church cemetery. Life and death within a few feet of each other.

There was very little traffic on Highway 21 – a few large trucks hauling grain, a few farmers. But as I travelled north towards Leader, I passed through Liebenthal. At the crossroads was what looked like a large, modern church. There were plenty of cars in the parking lot and more arriving on the crossroad. Obviously, the church is still a central part of this rural community.

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