Letterheads Paint The Prairie
Unity, Saskatchewan
...July 11, 12 & 13
Hosted by Pat & Ruth Welter of Masterhand Signsty SK. Canada

What An Incredible Weekend I Had!
By Kelly Thorson

m9.jpg (87405 bytes)I arrived in Unity about 10:30pm Thursday Night. After introductions, Ruth came and helped me pitch my tent. We then went back to the main tent, a 40'x 60' tent that belonged to the Unity Kinsmen club. Pat had made an arrangement with them that we would paint the van they hauled it around in, in exchange for the rental.

I got to meet the first attendees. Marty Happy, Bruce Ander and Del Badry had all arrived before me. Roger MacMunn had picked up Bill Riedel and driven out. After some chatting, and a quick tour of Masterhand Signs, we went to the house to see what Pat hat in mind for the van.

Pat had chosen to put a cartoon on the van with a bear looking out of the tent and the caption "Hey! Who’s Driving this Flying Umbrella?", a play on a scene from the cartoon Robin Hood. Little did we know how eerily fitting that, and a number of other captions were to become. I retired to my tent about 12:30 after enjoying an incredible display of Northern Lights or "Aurora BOARealis". I was jarred awake about an hour later by the sound of hammering striking tent pegs. Karl Reeder and Kurt Nelson had arrived, and were busy setting up their nest, which became to be known as The American Embassy.

Friday morning dawned with the sound of more hammering tent pegs. The Van Panel had arrived and was being moved into the tent. After a few infusions of coffee, Pat put me to work pouncing out the Kinsmen logo. Meanwhile, Kurt and Karl were working on the cartoon for the side. Bernice Tornquist and her husband Torence had arrived. They joined the others in prepping the van. We kept Pat hopping, asking for this and that until we got a little more familiar with the place.

Debbie and Murray MacDonald rolled in sometime during all the confusion. By mow my head was starting to spin trying to remember all the names and faces. I'm not sure when Steve Chartrand showed, but I think it was at the same time that Duncan and Mike did.

Once Mike Meyer got there, things really picked up! After some lettering demos, and lots of laughing, Mike laid out the lettering for the van.

By this time, everyone was here with the exception of Alf Toy, a postal carrier from Saskatoon. I have no idea when he showed up, but his enthusiasm and fascination was a pleasure to see. I learned how Alf had discovered the Letterville Website and wants to learn the trade for when he retires from the postie business. Alf is a great guy and he forgave me for my insensitivity, which I shall explain later in my Alfie Toy story.

I began to realize how fortunate I was to have this meet as my first! There was a wealth of knowledge available from some very talented and experienced Letterheads. I got the full impact of what "Letterhead" really means! There were less than twenty of us, but over half of the attendees were "Masters of their Craft." I had unlimited one-on-one opportunities!

The rest of the day and the next was a flurry of activity and learning. Alf decided to stay the whole weekend and I lent him a spare tent I had brought. Because we were small in numbers, Pat got to participate in the meet much more that most hosts I am told. He was kept pretty busy m4.jpg (76067 bytes)protecting his farm buildings from being recycled into panels by Mike. Somewhere along the way, Helga was born. Us gals were all jealous about the amount of attention and fondling she was getting from the guys!

We all gathered in front of the finished van for our "GROPE" photos. Saturday evening the Kinsmen, and their wives, put on a fantastic wild boar BBQ. They seemed to be very pleased with the Van. We worked on various projects through the evening. Murray and Pat pulled out their guitars and serenaded us. Which brings us to...

The Storm

First I think it is pertinent to remind everyone of the theme Pat chose for his meet, "Paint the Prairie" and the slogan for the group project, "Hey, Who's driving this flying umbrella?"

Some people had left for the night. Things were starting to wind down a bit when the wind picked up. There was a pretty incredible lightning display going on and people were standing around watching it. I decided to run down to where my car was parked to grab a couple of bottles of paint to finish up a piece I was working on. Which brings me to the...

Alfie's Toy Story

As I mentioned earlier, Alf is a letter carrier from Saskatoon who wants to learn the craft. He was so enthusiastic and went strong all day. Just before the storm he decided to have a shower.

Pat and Ruth had built a new bathroom in their basement especially for the meet. The bathroom was accessed by an outside storm cellar door that lay horizontal on the ground with steps going down from it. When the wind and rain picked up, Pat closed the cellar door, not knowing he had trapped Alf in the basement. Ruth heard a tiny knock on the door leading from the basement to her kitchen and found a timid, embarrassed Alf standing there, apologizing because he couldn't get out. She let him out the upstairs door, and he headed down to his tent for the night.

While I was looking for the paints in my car, the wind started to pick up really fast. I contemplated making a run for the big tent, but decided to hop into the car and see what happened. All of a sudden there was a loud cracking sound and a poplar tree broke off in the wind! The tent that Alf had borrowed was flattened to the ground. Well almost.

There was a small bump in the middle. All of a sudden, the bump started attacking the tent. There were nylon wrapped arms thrashing all over the place. I called out "Alfie! Is that you?" A strangled little "Yeah!" answered back. I made a suggestion, "Alfie, I think you'd better get in the car!"

Another strangled little "Yeah" and then a full blown assault on the tent, as he tried to find the opening. Finally an arm, then a head, and then a leg, appeared from the tangled shell. Then a very wet disheveled creature scurried to my car, and clutching his bag to his chest, jumped in the back seat.

"I had to find my keys, or I'd be stuck here forever!" he gasped.

I turned the light on and looked back to see this drenched little letter carrier, sitting in my back seat in his boxers, hanging on to his bag for dear life and came completely unglued.

Here is this poor fellow, frightened half to death when the tent he is sleeping in suddenly attacks him and ties him up in knots. The car is shaking in the wind, trees around us are being snapped, and I'm killing myself laughing. Again Alf, my deepest apologies for my insensitivity. I'm glad that you can join in the laughter now.

Meanwhile back at the tent, Del in his wit has yelled "Who's, driving this flying umbrella, anyways?" They then proceed to take the tent on it's maiden voyage without us newbies! Letterheads are hugging posts trying to save the tent and it's contents. When Murray, who is a pretty big fellow, his wife Deb, and Pat's Daughter's boyfriend Mike, are literally picked up two feet off the ground, Captain Pat decided it was time to abandon ship. Everyone fled to the refuge of the house.

Now back at the car, I had finally managed to stop laughing. I informed Alf that I was going to go back to the house and suggested he get dressed and join us. By the time I walk to the house, the whole scenario is replaying in my head. I'm cracking up all over again! I get into the house, and not realizing the frightening experience the rest have been through, I manage to choke out my story. We were pretty much all laughing hysterically by this time. Poor Alf had enough! He said his goodbyes and made a hasty retreat back to Saskatoon.

We went back out to the tent when the wind died down a little. I walked around and picked up a panel Del had made me, “Holden, Holdfast, Hold on!” And another one that he had made that said “Power Out!”  The table of One Shot paints had been thrown over and the grass was strewn with brilliant patches of One Shot (“Paint the Prairie”). Sign kits were dumped out, tent posts were laying around, and stuff was everywhere. There was a surreal feeling to it when we realized how fortunate we were that no one had been hurt.

The table with the portfolios on was just like it had been left. In fact, the torn halves of the playing cards that had been used for the door prize draws, were still laying in pairs on the table, yet the food table beside it and an easel had been thrown out of the tent and the upturned One Shot paint table was a few feet to the other side. That still completely blows my mind!

All of a sudden another gust of wind and Del gets konked on the head with the tent. I had given Del a panel earlier in the evening that said Ding Dong Del, with stars all over it because he kept banging his head on the top of the storm cellar door jamb.

Pat and Ruth managed to find room in their house for everyone who had been in tents. Bruce’s tent poles had all been snapped, Kurt and Karl’s tent had a tree lying across it, and my tents were both completely drenched. I’m not sure we would have felt too safe out there that night even if the storm had quit. There was no power in the house so we went to bed with
flashlights and candles.

The next morning was tough. Not only did we have to deal with goodbyes, but the realization that our hosts who had been so fantastic to us now had a weeks worth of work to do just to clean up. We picked up what we could. A roof had been ripped off a shed and had landed within a couple of feet of the back of the tent.

What an incredible bonding experience this all was for me. Pat & Ruth, you have a beautiful family! What charming daughters! Your warm, genuine hospitality is so rare to find. Thanks from the bottom of my heart!

Bill Riedell, you stole my heart. What a warm, energetic and giving person you are. God bless! I am so glad you had the opportunity to see the Northern Lights, and take home a little piece of our living skies in your memories. For all you give, I'm glad you got something in return.

Murray. Thanks for your patience in the one on one lettering lesson you gave me. You would have made a great Kindergarten teacher!

Deb. Thanks for the laughs. I hope you weren't to traumatized by our living skies!

Roger. Thank you for the carving demo and the laughs. I'm gonna keep my eyes open for some caragana roots for you. What are you going to carve from the fallen tree?

Del. How's the head? Great to meet you, and thanks for the window tinting tips! The panel you made me is hanging on my wall!

Bruce. Thank you for the pinstriping demo. Your panel is on the wall right beside Del's. May I recommend you replace that tent with a larger one.

Bernice and Torence - It was great to meet you two. I wish you could have stayed for the full meet. I’m looking forward to the CD.

Duncan. Thanks for bailing me out on the van lettering. It was great meeting you too and I’ll know who the Dawgie is now.

Karl. What incredible airbrushing talent! I was so impressed how willing you were to spend so much of your time brushing stuff for others. You are a sweetheart!

Kurt. Glad you made it out of the tent. I loved watching you create the cartoons, and just when I was really impressed, you blew me away with your serious panel!

Stevo. Another rookie, but definitely not on the talent side! I won’t be able to look at a mosquito for a long time without thinking of that big red one shot blob on your skeeter bat Sunday morning!

Alfred Toy. Your enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge were evident. With that desire to learn you will be first rate. Thanks for the CD, the pics were great, and please don’t be embarrassed by my story. I’m laughing at the scenario, not at you!

Mike. Aha! I finally got to meet the sexiest man on the BB. You are a sweetie. It’s amazing to watch you work. Wheel be seein ya in Febrewary Laddie, woon't we!

Marty Happy. Simply a pleasure! I’ll be popping in to check out your space! Did your post mean that I was good at slinging BS and brushes when I’m frustrated?


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