Saskatchewan in October

Once upon a time, “back in the days” (last year, in October) when the Greyhound bus still existed, a garter snake slithered out of the way, a pronghorn bounced over a fence, and I happened to step into cactus. This is the beginning of a most auspicious tale …

In the days of the Greyhound, it was still easy to end up almost anywhere in rural Canada by just boarding a bus in downtown Whitehorse. In the accompanying photos, you will see some beautiful sites, in rural southern and central Saskatchewan, that I came upon in October 2017. Yes, they had a freak snowstorm in early October that actually closed highways in southern Alberta. Towards the end of October, the weather was significantly warmer than it would be in Whitehorse at that time of year. I caught up with the snow geese that were coming all the way from the Far North. It was an incredible spectacle to hear and see.

Now, you might know that I like to go on hikes. “Hiking in Saskatchewan?” my friend asked. “Why don’t we go to one of the beautiful museums they have in Saskatoon or Regina, where we can view local art?” My friend was thinking of, for example, the sometimes humorous (often life-size) cow sculptures of Joe Fafard.

I do like Saskatchewan art; I am always surprised by its quality. But, as it turned out, the museum in Saskatoon was closed on the days we planned our trip. A hike, or at least a walk into the prairie, it would have to be. Having secured a key to a cabin from another friend, we drove out to cottages on the lake country. The owner of the cabin warned us, “Do not climb fences, the farmers do not like that.” That did make it kind of tricky for hiking, as on one side of the cabin there was the lake; and on the other side, the farmer’s fence. Nevertheless, we figured we would just follow a gravel road and see where we would get to.

As we tried to leave, that morning, for our adventure, my friend’s mood became increasingly somber. To me, it seemed she was stalling as we tried to get out the door. Maybe she didn’t want to walk, after all. A heated argument ensued.

I do have to give credit to my friend for resolving the argument and changing the mood swiftly. I found it hard, then, to just go on the hike and be happy. But, with forgiveness and joy she quickly pulled me into a state of mind that was “as if nothing had happened.”

First, we followed the gravel road (on foot), which we had driven in on, out into the prairies. There was a nice wide berm and a sun-exposed incline in the otherwise flat landscape. I was determined to find a cactus there, but did not. Saskatchewan is the proud owner of three species of wild cacti. Prairie roads are pretty straight, and straightforward; yet, it was a pleasant enough walk with the wide expanse of prairie and with enough interesting sites like some old barns, pockets of trees and an old graveyard.

Alas, this road we were on came to an end. At the end of the road, there was a farmhouse. It appeared we had to go back the same way we came. We were not able to walk around a loop, in the prairies (the loop was a square), because of all the township and range roads in farm country). We did not see, but sensed we were very close to the lake again, having walked three sides of the square. How wonderful it would be, we thought, to just cross the farmer’s field and walk back to the cottage along the beach.

We decided to enter the farmyard and knock on the door to ask if we could cross the field towards the lake. A man that looked like a farmer came out of the adjacent barn. We asked and chatted some with the man we still thought of as the farmer. He offered to take us to the beach or even bring us to the cabin through the fields, on his quad, and show us some cacti, to boot.

We looked at each other and I said, “Yes! We would like that … Thank you very much.”

He said, “Let me just get my other boots in the house,” and added, “Why don’t you come in for a minute. You might like to look around.”

We had said nothing about our initial plan to go look at the work of Joe Fafard. As we walked into the hallway, a “calf” (instantly recognized as one of Joe Fafard’s) greeted us. Our “farmer” turned out to be an art collector, the proud owner of many high-quality art pieces from famous Saskatchewan artists. This was better (or at least more art) than we would have seen in a museum. Every room, including the bathrooms, was full of the most-beautiful pieces of art.

(The real-life snake was spotted elsewhere in Saskatchewan; the pronghorns were in the snow; and it was a deer that bounced over the fence later that evening in the sunset. I did not step on a cactus, but we did find them on the side hill of the coulee on the art collector’s property, where real cows would come to drink water.)

I do believe our love and my friend’s ability to turn adversity into joy, created exquisite synchronicity—an event so fantastical—beyond even our craziest dreams.

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