Manitoba Long Underwear

by John Fera from Mississauga, ON

Fifty years have passed since I arrived in the small prairie community of Russell Manitoba. Life was wonderfully simple then. At the time, television in the area was none existent, roads were unpaved and the winter weather conditions tended to create a feeling of isolation, of oneness, in the community. 

This isolation, which in retrospect was more of the mind then reality, created a social environment conducive to the organization of fowl suppers, Saturday night dances, and invariably the game of CURLING. 

My tenure in Russell was prompted by my employment. I was a rookie RCMP Constable. In those days our clothing issue as it was referred to, included numerous suits of exceptionally good quality long woolen underwear. Since I didn't wear his type of apparel the stuff piled up and crowded out the limited bureau space available in our barracks. 

One evening while my partner and I were having supper at the home of friends, this surplus underwear issue became part of the dinner conversation. 

The lady of the house, an avid curler immediately provided a solution to my dilemma. She and her teammates, who were invariably chilled during their games would in future, keep warm by donning my surplus "LongJohns". Shortly after that dinner, our hostess and her curling partners were each awarded a pair of the "Unmentionables". All that is except one. 

For some reason, now obscured by time, Olga Des Champs the final member of the curling quorum, and the wife of my close friend Darcy, had not received her pair of the 100% , regulation issue pure woolen RCMP LongJohns. As time went on, Olga would hurl pointed barbs at me for my neglect. Finally on a given afternoon I decided that if I was to ever partake of Olga’s succulent cabbage rolls & pirogues again, the apparel in question had to be delivered. 

I arrived on Olga's doorstep just as the pastor was about to make his annual visit. We exchanged greetings before he wrapped gently on the door. The good man, with myself in tow, entered the house in response to "its open". Poor Olga, seeing the Pastor and then myself in uniform, stared at us in wide eyed shock, contemplating I'm sure, a family tragedy or crisis. She obviously had not been apprised of the Minister's intended visit. 

The moment and the circumstances were too opportunistic to let slip away. I tossed the underwear, which had been folded unobtrusively in my hand at the poor woman. It settled across her shoulders unmistatably revealing the nature of the garment. "Olga", I said, "you left these in the barracks."

Beating a hasty retreat, I reached my car door before doubling over in convulsions of laughter. The Minister, I learned much later, delicately, but firmly, outlined the weaknesses of the flesh and the rewards of virtue. Needles to say, it was some time before I could, with any assurance of safety, again visit the Des Champs household.