Canada 150, Saskatchewan

Continuing the journey across the country, here are some excerpts from “Queen of the West.”

It’s game five of the Stanley Cup final and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks are leading the Ottawa Senators 4-2. We’re flying into Regina and the captain has just announced that although the seat-back television sets are normally switched off when the plane drops below ten thousand feet, he’s leaving them on so that we can enjoy the end of the game. Enjoy? There are groans from tail to executive class as the Ducks go ahead 5-2. It’s over. No way back now…

It’s 6-2 when we touch down, and the chatter around us indicates that most of the passengers have given up on the game. Still, the talk is all hockey, especially the irony of the fact that most of the people on the plane are rooting for the guys from our distant capital, despite the fact that there are more Canadians playing for Anaheim, including a hometown Regina boy, than for the Sens…Over 425 NHL players have come from Saskatchewan, more per capita than any other province, state, or European country…

It was at Battle Creek in the Cypress Hills in 1873 that drunken American whiskey traders and wolf hunters massacred at least twenty Nakota Indians, including women and children, in a dispute over a stolen horse. The slaughter prompted the government of Sir John A. Macdonald to dispatch troops of the newly formed North-West Mounted Police to the region to secure law and order.Thus began the famous, arduous Great March West by the Red Coats as they constructed a string of garrisons, including Fort Walsh, in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, from which they could chase away the whiskey traders and horse thieves, and provide protection and support for new immigrants, refugees, and the hapless First Nations people, who were struggling to survive in the wake of the slaughter of their buffalo. From 1878 to 1883, Fort Walsh was the headquarters of the NWMP…it played an important part in ensuring that, in the opening up of the Canadian west, unlike in the United States, the police arrived before most of the settlers, firmly establishing from the outset the principles of peace, order, and good government, hallmarks of Canadian political culture…

Before heading to the Cypress Hills we visit the newly opened RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina. Designed by the renowned Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson, this striking building has a sloping roof that waves like a field of wheat or barley, and walls that are largely made of glass–an ironic, although unintended, reflection of the fragility of the force today…

As we leave Regina to travel across the prairies by bus…Dot and I are glued to the windows throughout fascinated by the subtly changing character of the prairie, which sprawls to the horizon on either side of the road. Around Regina it’s flat as a pan of brownies cut into large squares, with lines of spring-green icing where the banks of tiny creeks knife across it. By the time we get to Moose Jaw the prairie is gently rolling, but the fields are still planted with grain. Shallow lakes to the south, with broad white beaches of salt, make me reach for my water bottle; it’s been a wet spring, but the menace of drought looks ever-present. Beyond Swift Current we move into cattle country; farms gradually yield to enormous ranches and homes are rarely visible. In some fields, lean young horses run with abandon in wide circles, their manes flowing behind them as if they’re long-haired hockey players warming up for a game. Clusters of cattle gather at shallow watering holes and under solitary trees. Oil wells pump rhythmically like earnest fitness fanatics working out on stationary bicycles. The sky is a mix of blue and, in the distance, grey and black, where thunderclouds, etched in gold, are gathering; it’s as if the elements are posing for a classic prairie painting.

Two young women at the front of the bus who didn’t know each other when they boarded are chatting incessantly, and we catch snatches of their conversation. It seems they work in Regina but prefer their hometown of Moose Jaw, where the pace is distinctly more placid. One of them is a close pal of the girlfriend of Ryan Getzlaf, who has just won a Stanley Cup ring playing for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. It’s clear that their whole life revolves around hockey and the team. Back to the provincial–and national–passion.

To read about all of Canada, you can purchase a copy of Roaming The Big Land: Flavours of Canada by going to: www.penumbrapress.com. Personally autographed copies are also available by contacting the author at: terdotcomm@sympatico.ca.

 

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About t. a. keenleyside

author of travel/food books and popular fiction
This entry was posted in Canada 150, Canadian travel, contemporary culture, family literature, First Nations, food literature, ice hockey, prairies, RCMP, recipes, Regina, Saskatchewan, travel books and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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