Time has a funny way of obscuring memories. It smacks you in the head, blurring the distinction between now and then, often in favour of the now.
When I started at the Nanton News more than a decade ago, it was as a stranger in a familiar land. Nanton was a small town, its hockey rink was the hub of all activity and the curling rink or the local feed store were often where city policy were set. The locals were wary but welcoming and being the local reporter of the local newspaper was a privilege wasted on my younger self.
I showed up in Nanton to work for the News in October and Greg Dawson died at about Thanksgiving.
Dawson was a good-looking young kid, an all-around athlete liked by everyone. He had the guts, the looks and the charisma to make an impact. But when that truck crashed, it took away everything.
And it left me with a strange kinship to a young man I’ll never meet.
Greg’s amazing but short life was my way into the structure of Nanton. The outpouring of love for this kid made people want to talk about him, to praise him.
My interviews allowed his friends and his family to eulogize him. The editorial space of the paper was there to promote donations to the Greg Dawson Memorial Scholarship and a chance for people to share their grief at losing him. And, because Greg was such a likeable kid, people needed to talk about him. They wanted to tell his stories — some printable, some not — and I was often the guy they’d talk to.
He helped me fit in, helped me see I could do this job, and yet I’ve never thanked him for it.
A couple of months after Greg died, Nanton’s J.T Foster and Claresholm’s Willow Creek Composite schools played the first Greg Dawson Memorial Hockey Game. I was there, wearing a white “JT” jersey I had bought because, well, I never did get a chance to thank the kid.
A lot of the people I met in Nanton are familiar to me only as silhouetted memories. Their names are usually bouncing away from me, even though it was only a decade ago. In that time, I’ve been married, had two more children and watched the other one grow up.
When I heard Amy Gillespie was getting the old gang together for the final edition of the Greg Dawson Memorial Hockey Game Dec. 16 at the Stavely Arena at 8 p.m., I didn’t remember her.
“She used to be Amy Bozyk,” my buddy said. After about an hour and a half of thinking, I remembered little Amy and her short hair which flipped up at the ends. She was a rodeo kid, a classmate of Dawson’s. Good talker, too, from what I remember. I bet she’s a fantastic teacher, even if it is in Claresholm.
But I definitely remember Greg Dawson. I know his face. I know the picture in his obituary, the one laid down on the side of the road where he died. I know his haircut, and I can guarantee I’d spot him in a crowd, if only I’d had the chance.
I remember his friends saying he was a wise-ass, a troublemaker, a prankster and a ball-buster without equal. He was loud and fun and loyal. He was a good son, but not so good he wouldn’t stand up for himself or his friends. He was a kid, just a young guy having fun while it was still OK to do so. He pushed the limits of what was funny and what wasn’t. My kind of kid.
He was an athlete, but he didn’t take things so seriously. His nickname, after all, was Keg. He was the most popular kid in class, and it wasn’t even close.
I didn’t have to ask Amy Bozyk — sorry, Gillespie — any of this. Because I remember Greg very, very well.
I wrote a story about the Greg Dawson-Mike Marshall Memorial Hockey Game, allowing Amy to talk about her friend one more time. But I wanted to write my own story about Greg Dawson, too.
Because I’m a sports editor now, not a timid weekly news reporter. I’ve got a career and a family thanks to this industry.
And I’d like to thank Greg for helping me get started. Because without his nature, his friends, his hometown, and his memorial hockey game, I might not be here today.
Thanks, Greg, I’ll always remember you.