Down Canadian Roads Part 8: Prairies

Field of Canola, Manitoba

Field of Canola, Manitoba

Nothing really sticks out.  Not much begs your undivided attention. Everything blends into everything else. There is a blessed homogeneity, a vertically unified landscape, a carpeted velvet green and yellow mosaic rolling horizontally, unscrolling  westward. Going west from Winnipeg, the serpentine Trans Canada of northwestern Ontario straightens out and the pull of the destination takes over. This is the time in the journey to make time. There is not a lot of distractions to slow you down. Only fuel stops, rest room breaks and roadside snacks interrupt  the constant soporific hum of tires on asphalt. Head for the hills, Calgary is 1400 kms. away!

Passing Winnipeg in the morning there is no temptation to stop. There is, however, an inclination to find some way beyond the obligatory if tired cliché of winterpeg at the corner of Portage and Main, to relate to this most  important hub of culture and transportation west of Ontario. I recall that a decade before, in 1959, I had spent a week in a dormitory at Winnipeg’s St. Johns Ravencourt School reading, between games, the parts of D. H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover which had been underlined by other team members of the team representing Ontario in an interprovincial youth cricket tournament. While there, we had been introduced to Stephen Juba, (link) Winnipeg’s long term Mayor who would be distinguished for his long and effective service to Manitobans. Before leaving the Winnipeg cityscape I also acknowledge the prowess of Ken Ploen, Dave Rainey and Ernie Pitts, three illustrious professional football players of Winnipeg’s CFL (Canadian Football League) Blue Bombers of the nineteen sixties.

 Road fatigue and the dust and grime of 3 days of travel in the cramped quarters of a mid-size sedan with an infant can cause the accelerator foot to gain weight. Past Winnipeg at more than 70 miles per hour we skim on the black outline between a beautifully textured unified fabric of undulating yellow rapeseed* interspersed with  light blue and green fields of flax. At times we have the impression that we are gliding at high speed on a cushion of air through an immense mobile garden crowned with a vibrant blue which unfolds continuously. A few momentary breaks, a hedge row, a grove of shrubs give way quickly to a renewal of the fleeting riot of crowded yellow headed stalks, a psychedelic trip within a trip.

Field of Canola, Manitoba

Brandon to Regina, early afternoon we glide into Saskatchewan. I attempt to find something to connect personally to Saskatchewan and find little except the contributions of John George Diefenbaker in Federal politics and the promise of a relatively new voice from Tommy Douglas who has one leg in Manitoba and the other in Saskatchewan. Tommy Douglas over the next few decades will leave an indelible mark on our Nation.

Mercenaries, professionals football players from the South, Ron Lancaster, George Reed and Hugh Campbell of the CFL Saskatchewan Roughriders also make an appearance in the the frames of my mind as we move through Saskatchewan. Nearing the Alberta border we decide to reward ourselves and our long suffering Baby with a night in a motel. Supper in a restaurant is a pleasant change from Klik or Kam or Puritan Irish Stew.

Post Scriptum:*Agricultural research in the Prairies will create “canola” from rapeseed its unfortunately named parent stock in the mid 1970s.

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