Dot’s Café

Small towns attract, comfort, and amuse me with their often plain spoken and unsophisticated ways.

On a recent car journey to the West Coast, we stopped in Cut Knife, Saskatchewan. This tiny town, eighty miles southwest of Saskatoon, has become a bit of a joke with a couple we know. Her mother comes from this small spot on the map, so Glenna occasionally returns with her aged Mom to this prairie village whose only claim to fame is the installation of the world’s largest tomahawk. This monument to an Indian battle was erected by the Department of Indian Affairs. A Cree friend of ours represented the Minister at the inauguration ceremony, so our interest was aroused.

With these two ideas in mind, we stopped our western progress for a look and coincidentally a morning cup of coffee at the local Chinese restaurant, the local coffee spot. Clearly the only strangers in town, we were quickly approached by several of the regulars. “Why are you here?” Obviously this is not the sort of place where tourists stop, so we must have a reason for our visit. Not knowing Glenna’s mother’s maiden name, we were placed in an embarrassing situation.

We were not queried when we stopped for lunch at Dot’s Café in Arrowood, Alberta. This Chinese restaurant was tiny, on a rutted road bisecting a village of two dozen houses. We noted with interest as four young men occupied a booth near us. These roughnecks wearing grimy clothes arrived on a filthy pickup. Their lunch quickly dispatched without any chat, they all tilted their caps, slid forward on the bench seats and went to sleep.

Direct speech was the style in a pub in the small village of Frittenden, Kent. We had just arrived to spend a dream vacation of four months in a rented 17th century cottage at the edge of the village which was only two miles from the fabled Sissinghurst Gardens. Showing great restraint, I waited for the second day to visit the charming, tile-hung pub just over the road. This foreigner’s presence turned heads as I entered the low-doored establishment. After a pint or two, the publican enquired as to where I was staying because I had walked, not driven, to the pub. I was delighted to explain our situation, Canadian artist, four months, rented cottage and car … the lot. “You mean,” he said incredulously, “that you could have holidayed anywhere and you chose here?”