But our Saskatchewan thing goes deeper than that. Politically the province has always been a dynamic place: The Dirty Thirties hit there as hard as anywhere, and Saskatchewan became part of the great North American Dustbowl. Partly in response, Saskathewan elected North America's first social-democrat government, back in 1944.
|"Elevators, Woodrow, Sask." Alex Emond ©2011|
Autoliterate loves to drive, and prefers empty western roads, big skies, powerful light, and towns you've never heard of. We've mentioned it before, but Hwy 13 across south Saskatchewan, "The Redcoat Trail" is one of our favorite motor trips in the world. Don't do it unless you like huge skies and rolling grassland. And bring along Wallace Stegner's Wolf Willow; also, novelist Sharon Butala's nonfiction picture book, Old Man on His Back, done with photographer Courtney Milne. Butala writes about The Old Man On His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area (OMB) a 13,OOO-acre grasslands preserve established by the Nature Conservancy in cooperation with a number of partners, among them the land donors, Peter and Sharon Butala. Make sure you stop at Woodrow, Sask., artist Graeme Patterson's home town, and the inspiration for his Woodrow installation.
When we were last there, a few years back, Jack's Cafe in Eastend, Sask was a wonderful place for breakfast: several notches above average road food. Motoring across this sort of wide-open country, we usually like to pull over at some point, get out, and run a few miles. And we usually pack a picnic lunch to eat by the side of the (empty) road. Love the noise of the wind out there. Which reminds us of a line ("the thin whine of Montana fence wire") in a poem, "Whitman", by Larry Levis, one of the late great American poets (died in 1996, aged 49) and included in his astonishing collection Winter Stars.
“I say we had better look our nation searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease.”
“Look for me under your bootsoles.”
On Long Island, they moved my clapboard house
Across a turnpike, & then felt so guilty they
Named a shopping center after me!
Now that I’m required reading in your high schools,
Teenagers call me a fool.
Now what I sang stops breathing.
It was only when everyone stopped believing in me
That I began to live again—
First in the thin whine of Montana fence wire,
Then in the transparent, cast-off garments hung
In the windows of the poorest families,
Then in the glad music of Charlie Parker.
At time now,
I even come back t watch you
From the eyes of a taciturn boy at Malibu.
Across the counter at the beach concession stand,
I see you hot dogs, Pepsis, cigarettes-
My blond hair long, greasy, & swept back
In a vain old ducktail, deliciously
Out of style. And no one notices.
Once I even came back as me,
An aging homosexual who the Tilt-a-Whirl
At county fairs, the chilled paint on each gondola
Changing color as it picked up speed,
And a Mardi Gras tattoo on my left shoulder.
A few of you must have seen my photographs,
For when I looked back,
I thought you caught the meaning of my stare:
A Kosmos. One of the roughs.
And Charlie Parker’s grave outside Kansas City
Covered with weeds.
Leave me alone.
A father who’s outlived his only child.
To find me now will cost you everything.
If Autoliterate helps a few more readers discover the work of this American poet--well, we're delighted.
And now, 2 truck photos. First from our man in South Saskatchewan, Alex Emond of Ponteix, who found this pair of Jimmies near Pennant, Sask.
|photo Alex Emond ©2011|
And from the other end of the province--where the trees and lakes are--Ragnar Robinson of La Ronge just bought this machine--looks like a late 90's GMC?-- for his firewood business. First truck, I believe? Firewood is $220/cord in downeast Maine this year: maple mixed with some birch. I expect a bit cheaper in north Saskatchewan.
|photo Hilary Johnstone ©2011|