Canada, oh, Canada…what memories are stirred by romantic names like Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat. My adolescent inner nerd Is on alert. Sgt. Preston of the Yukon (Find on YouTube) was an icon capturing bad guys and saving damsels in distress will great aplomb.
Imagine my delight when I realized that we would be driving to and through both towns. In fact, we spent a night in Moose Jaw a bustling river town of 35,000 residents located 643 kilometers due west of Winnipeg. The Moose Jaw River that flows through the center of town shares its moniker with this humble burg.
Did you know it is the tourist capital of Saskatchewan? Me neither. Local folklore says Al Capone, head of the Chicago mob in the early 20th Century, often summered in the town. supposedly, this has been verified by Capone’s grandniece. Why here? For some unknown reason Moose Jaw became the North American capital for distributing illegal hootch during Prohibition earning it the nickname “Little Chicago”. They say Chicago base gangsters regularly traveled to Moose Jaw to oversee the business. The hootch was stored in tunnels under the town. Today one can pay to tour the tunnels to re-live that storied past and to hear the tales of Capone.
Moose Jaw is also home to Snowbirds. Now if you are wondering why Moose Jaw is home to any Snowbirds — Canadians (like Minnesotans) usually want to escape the winter to Arizona and Florida. So what gives?
It turns out the Snowbirds are the Royal Canadian Air Force’s air performance team. This air performance team is analogous to America’s Blue Angels and they perform across Canada. By a stroke of luck we met and chatted up the wife of a Snowbird pilot during breakfast at the Wakamow Heights B&B Inn. She was new to town and in the process of finding a house.
Speaking of the Wakamow, this was our residence for one evening. The owners have sunk a ton of Loonies into the building. Work on the historic structure is ongoing. This has not fazed the proprietors Jon and Lois who were exceptional hosts. Our suite was the Balcony Room–the balcony circled the entire second floor of the inn. Our room was very cozy:
Our breakfast included a performance by a local artist. After all present had finished off their quiches, banana bread, potatoes and fruit–it was now coffee and chat time per usual in a B&B — or so we thought. From the back of the dining area one heard a low, but strong voice sing out — “before everyone leaves I want to share a poem with you.” Lois’ mother, Gladys MacDonald ambled to the front of the room to regale us with a poem. Her performance was witty, charming and ver entertaining. It was difficult to believe she was only 89 years old. We should all be so lucky (Right, Marge?)
Leaving Moose Jaw that day we drove past more fields of wheat. Something unusual did catch my eye and reduce the monotony. On the way to Medicine Hat we drove past several salt flats. It seemed very odd to see this phenomenon in the middle of lush farm land — Mother Nature is certainly full of surprises:
Though the flats are not in the same league as those in Death Valley, CA or Bonneville, UT — they were as impressive as any “quirk of nature” I’ve witnessed.
Upon reaching Medicine Hat I was dumbfounded to learn it wasn’t a lonely outpost for the Mounties. Rather it was a thriving metropolis of over 61,000 residents. Here civilization operated in all its glory: shopping centers, colleges an traffic jams. We went to a Target store — first one we had seen in Canada. Ever since Target announced its move into Canada one wondered about similarities to American based stores. I am happy to report that “Targhee” looked no different — except for the bilingual signage.
Ol’ Sgt. Preston would likely be a little shocked and perhaps even disoriented by the changes to his beloved Canada. Truthfully my pre-adolescent perspective though stirred has not been shaken.
On to Calgary!