Sara the Snowy Owl 2001

On the Iron Highway
Sara the Snowy Owl parade
photo by Andy Flynn

Sara The Snowy Owl Fable - 2001

On the Iron Highway

Sara the Snowy Owl was on her way to Saranac Lake. It was 1908 and she knew there were no plans for a Winter Carnival that year, but she was feeling a bit lonesome for the sight of some of her friends from the mountain town. She figured that she would fly down for a couple weeks for a visit before returning to her winter retreat in northern Canada.

In recent years, finding Saranac Lake had become easier. Railroad tracks formed pathways to towns and village around the North East. Just as it was easier for travelers to travel to Saranac lake, it was easier for Sara to find her way back to her adopted home. As long as the trains were running she could find her way by following the 'ribbons of steel.'

Even with the railroad lines to follow, it was still a long trip. Sara would stop from time to time to catch her breath and admire the beauty of winter.

Flying over Mont Tremblant, in Quebec, she was a bit tired, so she swooped down to a tiny little village.

The small town of Sainte-Agathe-des-Mont reminded here of some place so familiar. The air was pure and fresh and the folks in the town seemed friendlier than most. It reminded her of Saranac Lake.

Sara had landed on a hillside that overlooked the French-Canadian town of Ste.-Agathe which offered a beautiful view. The same kind of view she had when she sat on the mountain tops of Mt. Baker or Mt. Pisgah on the edges of Saranac Lake.

As her thoughts drifted to Saranac Lake, she realized it was time to move on. She thought of returning on her way back, but now her focus was more on flying on.

The skies were near pristine and she followed one train line to another finally connecting with the Delaware & Hudson Railroad Line over Plattsburgh.

As luck would have it, there was a train pulling out of the station. Sara flew down onto the caboose that brought up the rear of the train leaving the station. With her strong feet, she was able to hold on and hitch a ride on the train all the way to Saranac Lake. She had rode the train several times. The first time she had hitched a ride it was known as the Chateaugay Railroad.

She knew in the train below there would be many people on their way to Saranac Lake to seek out the great Dr. E. L. Trudeau for treatment of tuberculosis. He was well known for the work he did, just as Saranac Lake was known for it's convalescing properties. Sara was blessed to have not contracted the lung disease. She always reasoned that a lot of her luck had to do with visiting Saranac Lake and breathing the fresh air. Regardless of the air, just being in Saranac Lake made her feel better and she attributed her good health to happiness that exuded in the village.

While the rhythm of the train rambled through the wilderness of the Adirondacks, Sara was lulled into a nap. When she woke, the train was pulling into the station. It was the Union Depot, a station that was just four years old and served two rail lines.

As always, Sara made her way to the Trudeau Sanitarium to visit Dr. Trudeau. She found out that he was doing his rounds. When she caught up with him, the doctor was talking to one of his patients. From the conversation, she guessed the patient was fairly new to the hospital. Like many patients, he was wishing he could be home. It wasn't that he didn't like the care he was receiving, he just missed his family.

Sara introduced herself, which startled the gentleman. He stepped out of bed, part because he was very formal and part out of fear of seeing a giant snowy owl in his hospital room.

Dr. Trudeau introduced Sara to the gentleman, Douglas Lorne McGibbon. McGibbon was a big man, who could look Sara in the eye. She found his enthusiasm to be inviting. It was clear though, that McGibbon was suffering from TB and needed to return to bed.

Sara was quite surprised that McGibbon was actually from the town she had rested in only a few hours earlier. When Sara commented on how fresh the air was and friendly the people were, McGibbon responded with his own comparison of Saranac Lake.

Instantly Sara and McGibbon knew they were of like minds. The two friends would have several more conversations in the years to come, but their introduction was interrupted by nurse France Gareau. France made it her job to ensure patients got their rest, she was kind, but you didn't want to disagree with her, so Sara said good-bye.

Sara heard McGibbon comment to a patient next to him, who by coincidence was also from Canada, that the two of them should start a cure hospital in Ste.-Agathe.

Sara knew there would be a passenger on the train back to Ste.-Agathe before too long, looking for a sanitarium site. In fact, the very next year, she visited McGibbon in Saranac Lake and he was excited to tell her that not only was his health improving, but should he have problems again, there would soon be a cure center in Ste.-Agathe.

Their friendship firmly cemented, like the villages of Ste.-Agathe and Saranac Lake, Sara and McGibbon went to the 1909 Masquerade Ball together in the Village. The two of them also watched the parade, with 50 floats.

From then on, Sara would always make a stop in Ste.-Agathe as she traveled to Saranac Lake to visit McGibbon and eventually a town full of friends. The communities would forever be linked, regardless if there was a train junction to connect them, there would always be a connection of history that would hold them together.

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2016-12-02 - Applications for vendors and parade performers participating during the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival are now available online at www.saranaclakewintercarnival.com. Applications can also be picked up at the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce at 193 River Street.
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