The old man is running. The grass is whipping at his legs; the ground so flat feels uneven. Like his breathing. It is harder and harder to breathe. But he is listening, his ears all out ahead of him. He is close, surely they will be there. It is a hot day, he told them to stay away from cars. They would not have gone to a car. The older ones knew why. It was just hot. They had left the yard to go to the slough to swim. But he couldn't hear them.
The old man has to stop. He can't breathe. Sweat is running down his face. His worn hands on his knees, his gasping loud in the summer air. But otherwise, silence. Are they hiding on him, playing a game? He pulls in deep breaths. He calls their names. His seven beautiful grandchildren. All their names carry away on the wind. They would not have gone to a car. The older ones knew why.
The slough is calm, empty, the ground around it untrammelled by bare feet. A robin looks at him. He heads toward the coulee. Perhaps they are playing hide and seek in the cool of the ravine. It is farther away. Farther than they would have gone without telling him. The old man tries to keep running, but his breath will not let him. He sets a steady pace and goes to the coulee. They are not there.
The silence of the afternoon hurts his ears after the sounds of their laughter in his yard. His children trusted him with their children.
The old man looks at the sun, then at the horizon. He must go for help. The RCMP detachment is nine miles away. The old man starts to walk. He is hungry, the wind dries the sweat of his running onto his body. He walks. He reaches the highway and hopes a passing car will give him a lift. He sees no one. He walks. Finally he reaches the detachment.
The tall blond RCMP officer has kind blue eyes. He is concerned about the children. Could they be playing a trick? Perhaps they had gone to a neighbour's farm. He helps the old man into his van and they drive to the nearby farms. No one has seen the children. They go back to the slough, the coulee. It is dark now. They call in the darkness. They do not find the children.
Much later, when some of the children come home, the grandfather is told what happened. It wasn't a car. It was a van. They had never seen one like that. The tall blue eyed RCMP officer let them get inside. It was only when he shut the doors that they realized. It was only when the doors of the residential school closed on them that they knew.
A the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Saskatchewan some of the stories that are told are to be repeated. I have repeated one here. It was told to the Commission by an old man who was the youngest child taken that day in the Qu'Appelle area. He was five years old at the time. He did not go home again for two years.