DATELINE: Aug 25 – Big Valley

Pandemonium! That’s the best word I can use to describe the scene when our pinkified riders converged on the train station in Big Valley.

First, for those of you who’ve not heard about the Alberta Prairie Train, it’s the one everybody calls “The Stettler Train”. Excursions originate in, and return to, Stettler and include a full course buffet dinner at Big Valley. The trains have concession areas, full beverage service, an open-air observation car, a children’s play area, the Lone Star Saloon, train robberies, gun fights, on-board entertainment and a live commentary explaining the trip. It’s something the whole family can enjoy.

Big Valley was the divisional point for the Canadian Northern Railway in the early 1900’s. In Big Valley, you’ll see a restored railway station, a round house interpretive centre, St Edmund’s Church and Jimmy Jock Boardwalk.

The locomotive pulling most trains is steam, but today’s train was pulled by a vintage diesel so as not to scare the bejabbers out of our horses. The Alberta Prairie Train people did a stellar job of pinking up their train. It flew big black flags on the front with pink breast cancer ribbons. Both sides of the locomotive sported at least 75 smaller pendant style flags with breast cancer ribbons, and each side of the locomotive had a big sign that said, “Pulling for the cure”. All the passenger cars were festooned as well. It was quite something to see.

So, as I was saying, it was pandemonium! We had something like 22 or 23 riders. They (and a vis-à-vis buggy pulled by two strapping big Percheron horses) converged on the train station. Twenty minutes before the train arrived, the sky opened up and it poured. Fortunately, our riders are sturdy stock. Those who couldn’t find a tree to stand under just sat in the rain with no complaints.

With a whopping 5 minutes to spare, it quit raining and we were ready to go. To do what, you ask? To exchange cookies with the train riders!

You see, every person on the train (and there were hundreds) was given a sugar cookie with pink icing on top. Meanwhile, every person in Big Valley, including all the Wild Pink Yonder riders, was given a sugar cookie with white icing on top. It was our job to exchange cookies with train riders. For every cookie exchanged, Alberta Prairie Train planned to give Wild Pink Yonder a dollar!

I have no idea how many cookies were exchanged, but it was a lot! Every man, woman and child on that train had a cookie! Every rider had at least 3 cookies! It was craziness there in the parking lot!

Once that was done, we all went to the big tent for lunch with the train people. Beautiful beef roast with potatoes, mixed peas and carrots and coleslaw. Then there was fresh fruit and mini cupcakes with pink frosting.

After lunch I rode around Big Valley in the vis-à-vis with my old friend, Hughie Ashwell (two time Longrider), his wife and my stepson, Kevin. It was so nice out that we put the top down on the vis-à-vis and enjoyed the sunshine.

Later in the afternoon some of the riders saddled up and went on a tour of the town. (It’s quaint.) Too bad they didn’t go when we did. We had sunshine. They got drenched … again!

We were on our own for dinner, which was fine. (Cookie [aka Carole DeSchover] always does an excellent job of that.) After dinner some of the riders went to town. It seems the local saloon keeper was offering free pool and happy hour drinks all evening in our honour.

Friday morning it was pancakes, sausages, ham and eggs in the local arena and then our riders were off like a shot. They have a date to ride the badlands of Donalda at 10:00 this morning and it’s an hour’s drive from Big Valley to Donalda.

Next stop: Donalda.


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