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Ghostown Blues, Maple Creek
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Ghostown Blues—Sheepherder's Wagon
The carefully restored, and very cozy, sheepherder's wagon where Ghostown guests can lay their head.
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Ghostown Blues—Sheepherder's Wagon Bed
From the outside, the sheepherder's wagon may not look as if it could hold such a comfortable place to rest.
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Ghostown Blues—Wagon Locker
Greg Hisey, owner of Ghostown Blues Bed & Breakfast, has restored many wagons down to fine details like this footlocker.
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Ghostown Blues—Dump Wagon
One of the restored wagons at Ghostown Blues is this dump wagon.
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Evening at Ghostown Blues is a time for fireside storytelling.
It was cool outside and a strong wind brought the scent of nearby meadows into the courtyard at Greg Hisey’s Ghostown Blues Bed and Breakfast. We crowded around an open fire and found jackets to wear. Falling asleep in a canvas-covered wagon, while novel and intriguing, seemed to promise a chilly night.
The lights of Maple Creek were just visible through the trees and the horizon was saturated with the last light of the sun. Inside the sheepherder’s wagon, one of three options for sleeping at Ghostown Blues, the wind was hardly noticeable—unlike a tent where it can feel like you’re in a drum.
Finely detailed woodwork and attention to historical detail compelled a longer look even late at night by lamplight. Hisey resurrected both his guest wagons from dereliction to create a unique sleeping experience. The origin of the wagon was, in fact, the necessity for sheepherders to spend nights out on the open range with the flock. What could be more suitable than fully equipped living quarters on wheels? Turns out that it works nicely for non-sheepherders, too.
The two wagons were originally built in 1915 and 1930 respectively. Such wagons are still being reproduced and can be purchased from a US company starting at $25,000. Hisey took the harder route and restored his own.
Like most bed and breakfasts, Ghostown Blues is an expression of its owner and host. Hisey presides over the fire pit with a sagacious and amicable demeanour, his recall of ranchers and epic tales from the American and Canadian frontier is as impressive as it is entertaining. The energy he has put into manifesting that knowledge inspires a bit of awe.
The lodge, a former Lutheran church, has been patiently restored, very likely well beyond the detail that it originally displayed. Artifacts packed with history, belonging both to Hisey and to the Great Plains generally, cover walls and stand on every level surface.
“My friends can’t believe I have a church,” Hisey laughs. “I throw my hat in the door every morning and it hasn’t been struck by lightning yet, so I guess I’m okay.”
In fact, Hisey does not describe the lodge as a church anymore. It is for musical performances, large gatherings, weddings, eating with guests and, when both wagons and the Homestead Cabin are full, setting out more places to sleep.
His personal experience as a range rider and ranch hand have brought Hisey a curious form of fame. He acted as John Voigt’s double when the actor starred in the remake of the Lonesome Dove television series. From a short distance away, there is no doubt Hisey could pass for the famous actor.
Ghostown Blues and Hisey represent something that has overtaken the Maple Creek area in the last few years: a very big vision in a time of trouble. The floods that devastated the town and set the area’s tourism economy back seem to have inspired local people.
Hisey’s big vision for Ghostown Blues is attached to the larger vision that other business operators in Maple Creek are pursuing. Restaurants, historic attractions, and other lodging operators feel that Saskatchewan’s time to blossom as a tourist destination is upon us—and in particular that means the southwest corner of the province.
Hisey’s persuasive personality seems to drive that big vision. An obvious fan of country/blues music and cowboy poetry, he is not hesitant to imagine some of the industry’s biggest names making Maple Creek, and Ghostown Blues, a stop on their circuit. The summer and fall of 2011 have been the first experiments down this path and the results have been promising. Ukulele bluesman Manitoba Hal visited in July 2011 on his cross-Canada tour and in September up-and-coming cowboy singer Tim Hus performed.
Ghostown Blues is a “retirement” project for Hisey and he seems to take naturally to the role. The hard work that has gone into the project is disguised by the relaxed pace he takes with guests. With a career as a ranch hand, range rider, and oilfield contractor behind him, he seems ready to share all that history.
No surprise, the cool nights will not be a factor if you choose the wagon. Sheepherders, it seems, spent cozy nights on the range.
Ghostown Blues Bed & Breakfast is located at Maple Creek. Call (306) 662-4522 or visit www.ghostownblues.com