That’s Pinto MACBEAN.
He flashed across our vision as we drove through the streets of Bow Island, Alberta, lost as anything. A beige and orange dollop blur that beckoned from the horizon.
PINTO, large, bold and black was stamped on the brim of his cowboy hat.
Those eyes, vast yet warm. That crescent moon smile and John Wayne-ish bandana. That lovely, pear-shaped body. His gun (a six-shooter?) hanging rakishly off his hip, his two hands impossible mittens, at once waving hello and resting just above the gun.
As if to draw?
As if to give us pause?
Et tu, Pinto?
Ceci n’est pas une pistolet, Pinto.
An information booth, itself non-descript and patient, Sorry We are Closed hanging dead centre of the window yet open for business, stood in Pinto’s wake.
Coffee mugs graced with Pinto’s likeness were on sale on the one shelf set up on the one wall that had much of anything. Stationed behind an enormous counter, the old woman inside offered us bags of free dry edible beans, her head just peaking from above a vast edge Formica.
Different kinds, assorted sizes. As much as we wanted! That was, after all, why Pinto was there; to signify the importance of the dry edible bean industry in Bow Island, Alberta, letting us know exactly, You are Here.
Bow Island, Alberta, which is not an island. Population 2,025, according to the 2011 Federal census.
Bow Island, Alberta, a place, a nearby sign reads, that remains In the Heart of the Golden West. The Last Frontier.
In case you didn’t know.
I took kidney beans and black beans.
Weeks later, when we unpacked the car, we couldn’t find them. Not anywhere! Not a bean.
Kris swears he didn’t take them, but later admitted that they were spectacular in his stew.
We’ve never said another word about it.