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The Ruttle Report - You can always go home again

"Yes, you can go home again, and revisit cherished memories."
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They say you can always go home again.

'They', in fact, are correct.

See, I found myself walking across the mud-stained parking lot at the Conquest rink at 1:30 am on Friday and getting in my SUV when I was trying to come up with the right words, the right feelings that I was feeling right then and there and on my drive back home to Outlook.

I just couldn't quite put my finger on it, and in the days that passed, I was trying to find those right words after leaving the Shrimp Feed event in Conquest. I think the following quote just about sums it up:

"We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place. We stay there, even though we go away, and there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there." - Pascal Mercier

Pascal Mercier was the pseudonym of Swiss writer and philosopher Peter Bieri, who actually just passed away last June. Of course, such a quote leaves itself open to all kinds of interpretation, but I think it fits just perfectly when I think of my hometown of Conquest.

Knowing that this particular Shrimp Feed was marking 50 years of the legendary event, I knew that I wanted to cover it for the paper and website because it'd be a landmark moment in history. "Where were YOU on the night of the Shrimp Feed's 50th anniversary?" That kind of thing, ya know? So, away I went, armed with my pen, notepad, and my camera strapped around my neck, which went on to snap way more photos than I needed - like always.

I watched as panels were held at the front of the rink lobby, carried by MCs Jim Jones and Doug Ball and featuring players and staff with the Conquest Merchants from years gone by, who told of their favorite memories, favorite players, and the kinds of stories that stuck with them and countless others for many, many years. They were the kind of stories that could be remembered if someone just said a certain word, eliciting a memory that could either make you bow your head in embarrassing shame or make you throw your head back in laughter. Sometimes, those stories might even make you wipe away a fresh tear or two.

I remember my childhood growing up in Conquest quite fondly, and it did involve the rink in many ways. Merchants games would routinely see my mom volunteer to work the candy booth, and I can remember helping her with that as a "go fetch" boy, grabbing items for people looking to dig into a candy bar or a pack of gummies. Or it was 'Jam Can Curling' in February with the rest of my Conquest School student body, complete with those "Really Me" compilation cassette tapes, tie-dye hats that everyone wanted, and custom-made Jello pudding cups with whipped cream on top.

I remember goals being scored and people pounding on the glass of the upstairs main lobby, including Gert Clark, who never missed a home game. I remember Stan Wyatt keeping a close eye on the action, ready to call up to the sound booth with any important info. I remember sauntering over to the east side of the rink to see who may have been curling on any particular night.

All of these memories and more came flooding back to me as I attended the 50th anniversary Shrimp Feed last Thursday night. I'm 38 years old, and I was there in a work capacity, but damn, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't taken back to a time of 30 years ago; a time when the village of Conquest felt vibrant and alive. Everybody still knew everybody, the school wasn't forced to close just yet, and it felt fun growing up in such a community. It felt like nowhere else mattered to us. I'm sure those of us who grew up in fellow nearby villages such as Dinsmore, Lucky Lake, Milden and Macrorie might know what I'm talking about when I say that; when you're young and all you know is your hometown, it's the only place on Earth that truly matters, right?

But when I flip the coin around, I also have to be honest about Conquest because in 2024, after all the memories, moments and life events have come and gone, it's all too different for me today. It no longer has my dad, who passed in 2013, and it no longer has my mom, who passed in 2021. Those two people were responsible for bringing me home to Conquest and for raising me in Conquest, and now with both of them gone, I feel like as if one of my direct connections to the village has been severed.

There's also the house, AKA the 'Ruttle Family Compound', which I left in the fall of 2022 and has been listed on the real estate market for some time now. We're actually waiting to hear on a couple of offers that we have on the house, so our fingers are crossed on that. When it does sell, that'll be its own tickle trunk of memories that I'm sure will be revisited, and I know that I'll be feeling 1000 different emotions, as I'm sure my siblings will, too.

But that's the thing about growing up. You get older, you see more of the world, you go through different things, you experience hardship here and there, and your perspectives change.

Luckily, my memories are safe and secure both in my head and in my heart. Those can never be tarnished, and for that, I'm grateful.

I grew up in a community where my parents were respected. I grew up in a community that put a big importance on family. I grew up in a community where the school provided many cherished memories for generations of kids. I grew up in a community where people looked out for each other. I grew up in a community that felt like its own little world. I grew up in a community where I was allowed to be myself, have my own thoughts, make the mistakes, and learn the lessons that would eventually shape me into the man that I am today.

And there's nowhere else that I'd rather call my hometown.

I've got a feeling that some of you reading this might feel the same way about where you grew up.

And that's a good thing.

Hometown memories are important because they help to keep that vital connection alive.

Something that's maybe more important than ever in a world that seems obsessed with rapidly changing on what feels like a weekly basis.

For this week, that's been the Ruttle Report.