About 16 years ago, quite by accident, I wandered into Eastend, Saskatchewan. The tiny farm town in Saskatchewan’s southwest didn’t seem of much interest — until I noticed the T-Rex Laboratory in the middle of town. Intrigued, I visited the lab, where paleontologists were hard at work preparing the fossil bones of the most massive T-Rex ever discovered.
Eastend was apparently more than it seemed at first look, so I began to walk around the town.
In two blocks I realized the “accidental” visit was a classic Jungian synchronicity. A sign on the main street pointed toward a modest home on a quiet street near the Frenchman River was “Wallace Stegner’s Boyhood Home.” Stegner, who spent his boyhood years here, was profoundly influenced by George R. Stewart. Stegner wrote a fine essay about Stewart, included in Stegner’s WHERE THE BLUEBIRD SINGS TO THE LEMONADE SPRINGS. In the George Rippey Stewart Papers at the Bancroft Library (See link in the header of this page) there are several wonderful letters from “Wally” Stegner to Stewart; in the Stegner Papers at the University of Utah, there are replies from Stewart.
Later, researching a chapter on the friendship between Stewart and Stegner, I found the website for the Boyhood Home. It had become a residence for writers and artists. They accepted my application; so I had the rare honor of living in Stegner House for several weeks over three visits. And the pleasure of getting the chance to know Eastend and its wonderful people. Some, like Charlie Goulet, are now gone; but I know if I drove into town tomorrow I’d soon run into Ken and Ethel Wills, Dick and Clora Banford, Tim and Jacquie Tokaryk, the Websters, and the others who have helped bring that community back into vibrant life. It’s now home to one of the finest small enlightenments in the world today. Good cheeseburgers at Charlie’s Lunch, good meals at Jack’s, several b&b’s; and a new T-Rex Discovery Centre that would do justice to the Smithsonian, and that interdisciplinary marriage of art and science – STEAM – that characterize Enlightenments or Renaissances.
It was an inspiring place to work on the biography. And, as things turned out, it was the place — in the living room of the Stegner House — where I found the key to the George R. Stewart biography.
The other highlight was being honored with a presentation of a Saskatchewan supporters of the arts pin, by Lieutenant Governor Lynda Haverstock.
Visit Eastend. And give it some time. Good campground, adequate motels, not far from a CAA approved motel in Shaunavon if you prefer a “larger” town.
With the Stegner House, the T-Rex Discovery Centre, a fine pottery, and other art locations, Eastend is a highly recommended place to visit. Also recommended is Stegner’s book about Eastend, Wolf Willow, and his collection of essays described above, WHERE THE BLUEBIRD SINGS TO THE LEMONADE SPRINGS. The collection of essays, which includes the essay about George R. Stewart, begins with his memories of Eastend.