Waylaid Walking*, North Railway St., Medicine Hat, Alberta
The other side of the tracks. Every tree was planted, every brick was formed with clay and fired with gas. Old hotel signs still in place to catch the eye of long-gone train travelers. Windows bricked up or boarded over, but the buildings still stand. The trees still stand. Polished railway tracks still cut through town. The road stays in place as its uses change and decline. Small odd businesses in between empty buildings: arts and crafts, bars, car parts, repair, cleaning, fueling. The flour mill just a historic monument beside the overpass, as the real business now seems to be moving people to the big stores up the hill. Steamer trunk / tree trunk: imagined journey from Europe by boat, by wagon, by train, unpacking in the surprising prairie wind and staying for a hundred years. The railway tracks link to a colonial past that still haunts this street. Moving natural and unnatural resources, settlers and curiosities, indentured labour, buffalo death, grain and fuel, bricks and dishes. The tracks are a direct, if limited, line through time and space.
* "Waylaid Walking (inspired by Walter Benjamin's practice)" proposed by Charlie Fox is Walk 49 from the book ways to wander edited by Clare Qualmann and Claire Hind (Axminster, England: Triarchy Press, 2015). This international walk was one of a series organized by Blake Morris of A Wander is Not a Slog; it was walked on the same day in Manchester, England by the Loiterer's Resistance Movement, among others.
Location: Medicine Hat, Alberta
Length: 3 km
Date: 2 December, 2018
Sandra Cowan likes to walk on trails, paths, and city streets. She is based in southern Alberta, Canada, as a visitor in the land of the Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy).