Breakfast at Lebret (11.10.17)

3Ds Cafe - Lebret, SK

This past September, I once again found myself wandering down the Qu’Appelle Valley.  This is a regular affair for me.  I think of it as an affair, because I seem to have a romantic attachment to the place.  No doubt this is strongly influenced by the memories of my early childhood when I spent the summer at our cottage at Lake Katepwa with my family, but there have been other sojourns to the Qu’Appelle.  In 1998 I travelled on my motorcycle down the valley and stayed at my cousin’s cottage at the lake.  More recently, I did a couple of photographic explorations of the valley.  I’ve also met some wonderful folk in the valley over the past few years and enjoy visiting them whenever I’m there.

During my visit this September, I was up early one morning and headed out with my camera to see what the morning light did to the landscape.  When I drove through Lebret, heading east to Katepwa Beach or ‘The Point’ as we used to call it, I noticed some lights on in a building that used to be a general store in the forties.  I promised myself to stop and check it out on my way back to Fort Qu’Appelle.

As much as I tried to be creative that morning, I couldn’t find any scene that captured my feelings or imagination.  When I’ve had artistic success at a place before, any other photograph of the same or similar place never seems worthwhile.  I had my creative moments in the Qu’Appelle during the fall of 2007 and in 2008.  I have never seen the valley in quite the same state since.  On this particular morning, I finally gave up, turned around, and headed back towards the Fort.

When I pulled up in front of the old store in Lebret I saw a menu board out on the street so I went in.  The building is now a cafe called the 3 Ds and run by one of the Ds named Dave.  As I walked through the door the collection of old photographs and paraphernalia on display made me wonder if there was some history to be learned here.

The cafe service is a one-man operation.  Dave waits on tables, cooks the food, and chats up the customers.  I was surprised to find that the coffee was very good.  Coffee needs good water, and Lebret used to have some of worst water in the valley.  I guess the town must have done something to change that over the past several years.

The breakfast was great.  Dave said that he opens at 6am every day, because he wants to make it easy for people heading off for work early in the morning to drop in.  That was easy for him to do, he said, because he is up and around at that hour anyway.  He also puts on a breakfast buffet on the weekends.

As I sat staring at the collection of photographs, bric-a-brac, and household tools of yesteryear, I noticed an old wood stove pushed up against the wall.  My first flashback hit.  That stove was exactly the same make and model that we had in our cottage kitchen at Katepwa.  My dad used to let me light the stove in the morning and stoke up the fire to get water boiling for morning coffee.  Then the second and somewhat more emotional flashback hit me.  I realised that the last time I set foot in this building was in 1950 when I was six years old.  Back then the building was a general store or General Mercantile and was owned by the Decorbys.  It was the closest place for Mom to buy groceries when we were staying at the cottage.  She used to come to Lebret with me in tow and I would wait for her on the front steps, watching the steam engines and trains travelling through the town.  The climb out of the valley from Lebret on the CN rail line to Melville and Yorkton was the steepest climb CN had on any of its track, the mountains included.  Because of this, I was usually able to see one of the pusher engines waiting to help a north bound train climb the hill.

When I mentioned this bit of my history to Dave, he came over and we talked about past times in the valley.  What a wonderful way to start my day.  I left feeling very good, realising that there was still a thread of connection to the valley from my past of long ago.