Volume 8, Number 45, 2005

Thanks Charlie
By Jane Hebden

“Cause I’m from Louisiana,” Nga replied confidently, as if that statement was the answer to every predicament in the universe. Noticing the lack of an awed response she continued. “You know, Louisiana, fried catfish an’ all?” Then throwing the car door open she bolted toward her prize. “Just take my picture Jane!” she yelled over her shoulder. Reluctantly I retrieved the camera from the trunk, taking time to swat horseflies with my free hand. Strange how they always seem to know when you can’t fully defend yourself.

“Come on girl!” she bellowed. Yeah, I thought, like it’s going to get away from you.

So there I was. A hot summer day wasted as I stood in Selkirk, Manitoba snapping shots of Charlie the fiberglass catfish. Oh joy!

Once back in the car Nga bounced up and down like a sugar filled three year old. “I’ll be the envy of Shreveport when I get home!” she squealed.

“This is nothing,” I droned, swatting another horsefly. “You should see the snakes at Narcisse.” As soon as the words left my lips I knew a can of worms, or more aptly put, a pit of snakes, had definitely been opened. Perhaps she’d been wallowing too deeply in pride to hear me? But alas the comment had not escaped her.
“More like this?” she squeaked with delight.

“Well, not more catfish,” I replied, hoping to quell her enthusiasm. “Almost every town in the province has a statue of something.”

“Then that’s what we’ll do,” she stated. Her eyes were glazed and staring as if receiving a message from beyond. “I’ll make it my mission to see ‘em all.”

What was I to do? After coming all this way if that is what her heart is set on, well....

Next morning at six a.m. we started what was to become our ritual for the next week. Nga and I rose, jammed the mini cooler with egg salad sandwiches, diet colas and Little Debbie cakes for energy boosters. Armed with our map, that had been strategically marked like one of Patton’s war maneuvers, we ventured out, leaving with the scent of dew soaked grass in our nostrils and not returning till the mosquito infested cool of the evening.

An idea that had started out as a chore to me ended up becoming an obsession. How many could we see in a day? What short cuts were possible?

Racing down gravel roads, windows open and dust in our teeth, we giggled like teenagers. We sped from the majestic mallard at Petersfield to the ominous mosquito of Komarno. Not only did our determination grow but also the comradery between us. In that week of photo foraging we saw more of the province than I thought possible.

Many of those destinations became favourite spots for picnics and day trips. Sometimes on a dusty summer day I’ll head out, for old time sake. But before I tuck into my egg salad sandwich I hold it aloft offering a silent toast to my absent companion and to Charlie, the fiberglass catfish who started it all.