Flat prime prairie stretches out for uncountable miles in the area of Saskatchewan. Here and there in ever diminishing size and intensity small clumps of farm buildings break the skyline. This is a place where if your dog runs away you can watch his departure for days. Reports in the newspaper headline stories such as “Local veterinarian charged with luring deer onto his property with grain” or “A recent ruling by Saskatchewan courts may soon outlaw any expression of the Christian faith”. As a pick-up speeds along straight country roads, a plume of dust rises like the tail on a dog.
As part of our preparation for a new book of my paintings from across Canada, we spent an enjoyable interlude in the Jasper area. We did a needed visit to a laundromat in Hinton, Alberta, just east of Jasper National Park on our journey to Vancouver Island. I was surprised to find an Internet hook-up ($1 for 10 minutes). This busy place also had a bulletin board that I perused while waiting for the laundry.
The Kicking Horse Pass was first mentioned in the report of the Palliser expedition in 1860. This team was investigating various routes for the C.P.R. between what became Lake Louise and Golden, B.C. Dramatic scenery draws armies of tourists today. Although the spiral tunnel (that engineering wonder that eased the gradient for train traffic) is much talked about, I found myself more impressed by the natural wonder of the pass itself.
I suppose, like most taxpayers, I get a little steamed when I see the amount of money that the government wastes on various boondoggles. I do not know how much money our fearless leaders in Ottawa spend on Parks Canada, but I’m sure that within any large organization there is some waste. I am pleased, however, to realize that some of the money that this government department receives actually makes its way into projects that restore these sites to a living state.
On a recent visit to the Canadian West, we noticed that buffalo meat was frequently offered on restaurant menus. I was fortunate as we drove across the gentle undulating prairies to see the source of those steaks so strongly recommended in these dining rooms. I had the opportunity to chat with a farmhand seated on a tractor near a herd of buffalo scattered across a large fenced field.
Almost forty years ago when I decided to turn my attention to paintings of the Mennonites, I found, to my naïve surprise, that many of our friends and acquaintances thought the idea a poor idea. Now it is hard to remember a time when this genre of art work was non existent.
SPOOM is an organization that has an interest in the preservation of old mills. As a member of their Ontario chapter, I was saddened to read in their newsletter of the sale of milling equipment from a local landmark. The Blair Mills Corn Mills, which operated until September 2002, is selling its equipment and real estate. This historic mill is offering for sale corn grinders, shakers and cleaners that date from the early 30’s. It is inevitable that changes like this take place, but it makes me sad.
Growing up in Waterloo in the 40’s and 50’s, my exposure to North American Indians was minimal. The closest that I got was the occasional black athlete who came here to play for the Waterloo baseball club. My exposure to race was limited to stories and to Tonto (Jay Silverheels) who came from the Six Nations Reserve at Brantford.
This view of Wells, B.C. shows only seven of the two hundred buildings that their website claims are being restored. That works out to one building per person in this 1930’s village, 66 kilometers northeast of Vancouver. Picturesque and quixotic are two words that come to mind when I think about this village just three miles down the road from the legendary gold mining village of Barkerville.