As a kid growing up on the north side, I loved going on bike rides so I could explore every nook and cranny. It felt like there was no limit as to where my bike could take me, and as long as I was home by curfew, my folks didn’t seem to care where I ended up.
One fall evening after supper, I met up with my friend, Christina, and we decided to take our bikes down into the coulees. We began our ride from the red-shale bike path that used to be at the end of Stafford Drive North. From there, we took the gravel road that lead to the entrance of Peenaquim Park, past the tall, buzzing power lines, and pedaled down the roadway into the coulee. The steep slope forced us to ride our brakes most of the way. We also had to be mindful of other cars since there wasn’t a bike path at the time. The best part of our descent was when you had a straight stretch of road you could coast down until you were forced to brake for another curve.
It took some time, but we finally made it to the bottom. Suddenly, it was as though the skies had opened up, and instead of seeing coulee hills to our immediate left and right, we saw large fields of prairie grass stretch out in front of us. The road stretched out even further, disappearing into a fine line in the distance with the high level bridge as it’s backdrop. Crickets chirped in the grass around us, and a soft breeze grazed our faces. We continued on at a slower pace, taking in the scenery as we pedaled along.
The paved portion of the road ended just after we passed the shooting range and softball fields. We were feeling adventurous, so we decided to keep going. Suddenly, the air began to sour with the smell of sewage. That’s when I realized that the plant up ahead was the sewage treatment plant. We continued until we reached a fork in the road, where if we went to the right, we would end up inside the chain-link fence of the plant, or to the left where we would start heading up the coulee again. By this time, it was getting dark, so we decided to go left and head back up the coulee. But just as we started to make it up the steep incline, the chain on Christina’s bike fell off. She said it had been happening a lot recently, but she thought she had finally fixed it. She got off her bike, put down the kickstand, and tried to put it back on in the quickly fading light. Unfortunately, she just couldn’t get it back on. The thought of walking up the hill in the dark did not appeal to us at all for the fear of the snakes in the grass around us, so we decided to walk our bikes to the plant to see if we could use their phone.
We parked our bikes in front of the main door to the plant and tested the door, which opened without a problem. We were worried that it might have been locked. We slowly made our way inside. We could hear the whirring of machines and smell the ever-present odour of sewage, but saw no one. As we cautiously made our way further into the hallways of the plant, I called out ‘Hello?’ a few times, hoping that whoever was in the plant that night would hear us. We made our way past another hallway and continued on. The one hallway we were in led to a door that had was propped open, leading outside to service trucks in a fenced-in parking lot. I didn’t think we would find anyone outside, so I turned around with Christina following close behind me.
Suddenly, I heard the clicking of paws on the hallway floor, the jingle of a dog chain, and the deafening sound of barking echoing off the walls. My eyes widened in horror as I saw an angry rottweiler start to chase after us. We both screamed in horror, quickly turned in the other direction, and ran outside again. We were in the open air, surrounded by the service trucks, forced back further and further out of fear as the plant’s guard dog continued to ferociously bark at us. I can remember yelping and crying out in fear, but I cannot remember what Christina was doing since my brain was running a mile a minute. My eyes darted from the door to the plant, the barking guard dog, the service trucks, the flood lights, the coulees, and back again. My legs trembled, and I cried out for help. I feared that we were stuck this way until morning.
To be continued…