Three Pearls from Keats “It’s messy…”

“A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore, but to be in the lake; to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out; it is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery.” – John Keats

“No such thing as the world becoming an easy place to save your soul in.” – John Keats

“Life is divine Chaos. It’s messy, and it’s supposed to be that way.” – John Keats


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Prairie Caravan Tribal Belly Dancers at 2014 Medieval Festival

Snapshot 4 (17-08-2014 12-46 PM)

Reid Dickie

Located in Winnipeg the Prairie Caravan Tribal Belly Dancers are a troupe of women of all ages who have a desire to study and expand the tribal belly dance form and to present it to modern audiences at festivals, events and fundraisers.

Snapshot 6 (17-08-2014 12-47 PM)The troupe was a high point of the afternoon’s activities at the 2014 Cooks Creek Medieval Festival. Their joyful energy and positive spirit shone through the whole performance.

I featured a short excerpt from their performance on my festival video report. Click any picture to watch my video of their entire opening dance, just over 5 minutes.

Check out their website.

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Carberry Heritage Festival A Success!


Reid Dickie

Carberry’s 2nd Annual Heritage Festival drew bigger crowds on both days and had greater community support causing organizers to deem it a huge success.

Many of the new features such as horse-drawn carriage rides around historic Carberry and musical performances were very popular.

Dates for the 2015 festival are August 7 and 8.

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What Ever Happened to the Squareaway Children – Colloquia

SQUAREAWAY0001 - Copy (3)                 Colloquia                              Grindel                              Cheyenne

Reid Dickie


    The peeling sign over the otherwise anonymous, pee-stained doorway on Clerk Street said HOTEL YESTERDAY. Underneath it read, “Our motto: Let’s get tomor.”

The few patrons Hotel Yesterday managed to attract were oblivious to the motto. Today was different.

“What’s with the sign? Let’s get a tumor?” the well-dressed young man asked jovially.

Colloquia was perched on a stool behind the hotel’s front counter, her wildly coiffed auburn hair barely an inch away from her smoldering Camel.

“The row fell off,” she replied without looking up. Muffled, like a dog barking through a wall, she heard a train whistle.

“Sorry?” he said indicating lack of understanding.

“Don’t be sorry. What do you want?”

“I’d like a room.”

“What for?”

“To sleep in, of course. Isn’t that why people rent rooms?”

Colloquia looked up from her magazine and scanned the handsome man before her. “Sometimes,” she said. “Will you be sleeping alone?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so.”

“Don’t be afraid,” Colloquia said. “However, unluckily for you, we are full up.”

If you counted the imaginary people she had written in the hotel registry herself that day then, technically, they were full up. Since all but one of those people was an illusion, there was plenty of room at the inn.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

The acrid smell of burning hair wafted through the small, dark lobby as Colloquia inadvertently touched her hair with her cigarette. She casually pinched away the ember as if it happened every few minutes. She looked into the young man’s rich brown eyes, smiled and licked her lips.

He was young. His skin was clear and clean, his eyelashes long and curved, his eyes tucked under thick black eyebrows. His lips always remembered to return to their soft sensual swoop after he spoke.

“Am I sure?” Colloquia quizzed herself. She pursed her lips and looked off into the corner of the room like some old movie star, her eyes remembering the shape and sheen of the last man she had seen naked. When she turned back to look at him, he was naked, the grimy door behind him framing his firm flesh. She blinked and he was clothed again.

Increasingly nervous under the gaze of the enigmatic woman behind the counter, the young man rocked nervously from foot to foot.

“We’ve just had a cancellation.”

His body relaxed and a smile cracked his fine-boned features. “Oh, good,” his voice full of relief.

With a deft movement of her garishly manicured fingers Colloquia spun a registration card toward the young man. “Why is it so important you stay here?”

He muttered the way people do when they are writing, especially writing personal information they want to get correct, or not. He wrote Clark as his first name.

“My father always stayed here when he traveled to the city on business about 20 years back. He often talked about Hotel Yesterday.”

“Really!” Colloquia was surprised. “What did he say about Hotel Yesterday?”

She watched closely as he wrote his last name. Chambers.


“He would tell me about the luxurious rooms and the lavish meals in your dining room. About the celebrities that he hobnobbed with in your elegant bar and…”

As he spoke, he realized there was none of this in Hotel Yesterday and, by its sheer sagginess, there never had been anything even remotely close to luxury here. His voice dwindled into uncertainty and his handsome face twisted into confusion.

Chambers! Chambers! Chambers! In disbelief, Colloquia tumbled the name over and over in her mind. She butted her Camel into an overflowing ashtray and immediately lit another to dangle precariously close to her hair.

“What was his first name?” she asked.

“Huh? Oh, Roy. Roy Chambers. Best damn fly fisherman in ten counties. Or so he’d tell you. He’d say to Mom, “Going to do a little angling honey” and off he’d go with all his fishing gear to satisfy his urges.”

Roy Chambers!

Colloquia had been familiar with Roy Chambers’ urges.

Registration card filled out, wallet in hand, Clark asked, “How much for one night?”

“Twenty.” She folded his money into her palm and held it there for a long silent moment, her eyes half-shut, trying to divine what she could from the residue of the man’s energy left on his money. This made Clark increasingly uncomfortable.

He jumped when she suddenly asked, “Is Roy Chambers your blood father?”

“My blood father?”

“Your biological father?”

“Yes, as far as I know he was. Dad passed away a few years ago. Why?” He was thinking now she’s getting more than a little creepy.

“I knew your father. He never caught a fish in his life. He meant a different kind of fly. Fly-fishing was his euphemism for getting plenty of sex. And this is where he brought his women.”

“What?” The look of astonishment on Clark’s face could not have been more complete or sincere.

“Did he ever bring home any of the fish he caught?”

The question burned a hole in Clark’s soul. “He said he always threw them back, that he didn’t fish to eat, he fished to…” Again, his words died in mid-sentence.

“And how come he never brought back any fishing equipment?”

“Dad always said he kept it at the lodge.”

“The lodge! The lodge! Hah! Come with me,” said Colloquia.

She carefully stepped off the stool and, with a few feeble, difficult leverages, straightened herself, making Clark wonder how old she was.

In fact, the stool had been her perch for the last sixty-five years. Colloquia started to help at the hotel when Harvey got sick and had to stay home. She was fresh out of high school. Her and her mother Angel ran the place spick and span. Then Angel suddenly died, leaving her to care for an ailing father and a rundown hotel. Harvey didn’t live long after Angel died. That’s when Colloquia ascended the stool behind the front desk and presided over the slow deterioration of Hotel Yesterday.

Her advanced age apparent in her slow gait, Colloquia shuffled down a hallway leading to the back of the hotel. The carpet was worn bare in patches and the lights made either a low ominous hum or sporadic crackling noises as they flickered.

“Where are we going?” Clark asked, unsure if he should follow the old woman any further. “Can I just get my room?”

“I’m taking you to your room,” she said a little impatiently.

At a brown door with an old brass number 9 hanging by one nail, Colloquia stopped and fished a large key out of her pocket. She opened the door and reached inside to flick the switch. The room filled with a wowing sound and the overhead light burst into a blinding flash that receded into a pulsating glow covering the entire ceiling.

“Welcome to the lodge,” she said waving her thin arm in a gracious welcoming gesture as she bowed ever so slightly. Clark stepped into the room. With sudden and surprising agility Colloquia moved quickly past him, loudly clicked her long fingernails on the wooden door and said, “Ring if you need anything.”

Scanning his room, Clark Chambers blinked in amazement. The décor, if that was the proper word, consisted of every conceivable kind of fly-fishing gear. Stacked in piles in corners, covering the top of the bureau and the table, leaning against the chair was enough fishing gear to fill a dozen catalogues. Tackle, fishing line, rods, reels, hip waders, rattan creels, every tool needed to outsmart a fish cluttered the room. The bed was an impenetrable thicket of rods and reels, twisted together with tangled fishing line everywhere. He stood astonished and confused.

Clark picked up one of the rod and reels leaning against the back of the chair. On its handle was a small brass plaque, elegantly engraved. It read, “To Roy with Love from Erma. Fish On!” He remembered the Christmas his mother gave this one to his dad. She gave him fishing gear every year but this year was special. It was the year of the promotion when Roy got to travel most all the time. A thick tear rolled over the apple of Clark’s cheek.

Colloquia slowly remounted her stool in the dank lobby of Hotel Yesterday, arranged her arthritic knees as comfortably as possible on its rungs and lit a Camel. She clicked her nails on the counter, turned the page of her magazine and hummed the old Elizabeth Cotten tune Freight Train.

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What Ever Happened to the Squareaway Children – Cheyenne

SQUAREAWAY0001 - Copy (3)

           Colloquia                                    Grindel                         Cheyenne

Reid Dickie


      Grey waves lapped lethargically against the earthen dyke as Cheyenne grinned with delight at what he saw before him. All lined up along the edge of the levee were an unlikely trio: an electric kettle, a pyramid of cookie boxes and a mandolin. Carefully setting his paper bag-shrouded bottles on the ground, he immediately reached for the mandolin and plucked the strings. It was perfectly in tune.

It had been decades since he’d touched a mandy, as his father called them. In their three-child household, his father, Harvey Squareaway, did all the naming: of children in order of appearance (Colloquia, Grindl, Cheyenne), pets (Cluster, Fleabag, Syphil), nicknames (Grumpy, Chunk, Wendy, Madame Roo), automobiles (Oater, Brother Buick, Tart), musical instruments (mandys, guitys and banjys). Anything that required recognition with naming fell into Harvey’s purview including the family band – the Spoon-fed Springalong String Band.

Despite decades of a serious ether addiction, Cheyenne’s fingers remembered the steps to their dance across the mandolin strings for “Kittens in the Cat,” an old bluegrass tune. The sliding and climbing notes wafted across the open water of the bay, grey and dead from the sewage and effluence of the city.

As the melody swept across the water, its drab, dangerous colour began to change to a slightly blue hue, as if part of the sky was being blended in. By the second chorus, there was a definite blueness spreading in all directions from Chey. The murkiness cleared, replaced with a luxurious turquoise colour. Blue-greens and emeralds washed against the levee, each small wave whispering along with the melody.

Just like when he was a boy Chey began having lucid thoughts, ideas flooded into his mind as the mandy chimed – their message, always and ever, be joyful. An almost unbearable effervescence of joy welled up in Chey, numinous feelings of gratitude and love pervaded his being. He felt the secret joy embedded in the music.

It was for this reason Harvey told his son, “You and mandy are symbiotic. You create each other. You inspire each other. The mandy is a perfect way for you to express all the sweetness that lives inside of you, your guileless ease as you hold the instrument, the bit of white froth that forms at the edges of your mouth after you have played her for a time. Beautiful. A perfect union.” Harvey was always frank with his son.

Cheyenne gamboled along the dyke, his fingers a blur against the almond-shape of the mandolin, the blue bay echoing with his music. A flock of inert-white terns cast reflections against the sun, their sharp cries crisp over the azure water. Chey squinted and smiled across the sky.

Ether addiction was hobo code for unrelenting reliance on one or two dreadful bottled elixirs that fall vaguely into the category of “wine.” Chey’s gullet was familiar like family with Cisco, MD (Mogen David) 20/20, Wild Irish Rose and Thunderbird and his mind on muttering terms with their deleterious effects. Chey’s current favourite got him on the train every day and took him away swiftly, directly and assuredly. All aboard the Night Train Express. A ticket costs $2.79 for 32 ounces.

Let your palate imagine the delights of a combination of cherry Kool-Aid and Clorox and you will begin to approximate the unforgettable taste experience of Night Train Express.

While its palate is barely palatable and its bouquet grimace inducing, its effect is guaranteed. It will get you to the click. And what a click it is! A weariness that feels like it is about to overtake you turns to drowsiness, detachment and eventual sleep. Don’t let the peaceful sound of this lull you into thinking it is pleasant. This sleep offers the polar opposite of rest. The dreams that erupt in Night Train Express-induced sleep are long, horrific and exhausting. The nightmares are often prolonged because the “wine” shrouds you in an immobile condition from which awakening is extremely difficult.

As you boil in the heat of the terrorizing dreams and your body tries to deal with the poisonous sway of the brew, reeking sweat pours out of you. You have rapid hot and cold flashes from the perspiration evaporating so quickly. Your bowels loosen and nervous facial tics develop, often taking days to disappear. All this in Night Train sleep.

When you do awaken, usually 12 to 15 hours after draining the bottle, your body feels utterly dried out, every cell parched and painful as it cries out for fluid. Your stomach is a tumult. At the very thought of drinking water, nausea rages though your meat and your mind. Someone is pounding nails into the back of your head. That’s just the brutal hangover headache, another of the Train’s less than desirous consequences.

Ultimately and obviously, the cure is always and only more Night Train Express. Once he stabilizes himself enough to function adequate to his needs, the cycle and Chey’s day begins anew.

Every day everything succumbs to the dreary faithfulness of Chey’s pursuit of enough panhandled cash or petty crime to score a quart of Train. Today was different. It had come together easily through luck and chance, no fuss, no bother, no crime. He found a five-dollar bill at a bus stop and a lady gave him a dollar. By ten that morning Chey had enough cash in hand to buy two Train tickets to the end of the line, which he did immediately then proceeded toward the dyke to get aboard.

Finding the mandy overwhelmed Chey’s attention and for a few moments replaced his cellular craving with a faded memory made fresh again by music. In the Spoon-fed Springalong String Band, the mandy had been his instrument, his baby. Colloquia on guity, Grindl on banjy and Chey on mandy. Just eighteen strings between them but what a glorious twang they could produce!

Add in three vocals. They all sang. Colloquia’s voice was like the old folk veteran Elizabeth Cotten, a little reedy but convincingly painful. Grindl’s range spanned four octaves in a truly undisciplined fashion that always bordered on improvisation. Yma Sumac was her inspiration.  Chey wailed in his rich baritone, infilling and grounding the aural ballet of his sisters. Their harmonies often made the hair along the spine of Syphil, the family cat, stand on end.

The repertoire of the Spoon-fed Springalong String Band consisted mainly of original material written by one of the children or their parents. Their songs sounded like ancient folk songs, field hollers or old blues numbers but in fact had recently been conjured from the imagination of one or another family member.

Chey stepped lightly, almost soberly, along the grassy edge of the dyke, dancing to his own music. Every time he plucked the strings of the mandy, a ripple shivered away from him in all directions. In the distance, he heard a train share two echoey, mournful whistles, overhead the shrill shrieks of gulls.

Tiny orange fishes kissed the surface of the glistening blue water, their bulging eyes like bright red pills. In a flash, they were gone, replaced by a school of electric green leaves or so it seemed to Chey. He smiled out across the newly blue lagoon.

The train whistle was suddenly distinct and nearing rapidly, overwhelming the mandy’s suddenly puny strings. Chey looked around for the tracks but there were none, just the lapping blue water and the turning gulls. In a headlong gust of wind, the train whistle breezed past him, lifting his long hair and loose jacket to flutter like a flag around his thin frame. For a moment he experienced himself as a mere shimmer, a vertical thought manifest as water through which the roaring train passed. Silent mandolin drooping from his chest, he stood and stared in the direction the train whistle went. There was nothing there.

The sky was a grey smudge over the skyline. The water around Chey suddenly turned the colour of bilge, sickly and foul smelling. He felt a wrenching loss, something once accessible and comforting now permanently gone. He wavered at the edge of the dyke, rebuked by his inner life for wasting away in vomit-stained clothes.

The Train coursing through his veins began to gain on Chey again. Woozy and faltering, stretching his neck and crooking his head as if listening for some distant train song, Chey took on the birdlike qualities of the ether addict. With his gaunt frame weaving against the grey sky and his legs melting beneath him, Chey slowly became a drowsy, disheveled pile of humanity.

The water was silent. Gulls gone. The mandy became a grocery bag full of fortunes from fortune cookies. Chey picked a thin strip of paper from the bag. It read,

“You can never go home again.”

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What Ever Happened to the Squareaway Children – Grindel

SQUAREAWAY0001 - Copy (3)          Colloquia                           Grindel                              Cheyenne

Reid Dickie

Grindel’s Ride Home

An icy-blue glow fell over the elongated rectangle of light that shone through the lace-curtained window of 1924 Meow Street, Kitty’s home and hearth. The snow, that only hours before had swirled in blinding spirals, now lay peaceful and serene in the suddenly harsh moonlight, special tonight, for it was Teedymas Eve.

Grindel stood in the icy-blue glow, her striped socks wet to her knees with cold slush. Clicking! Clicking! Clicking! The street was alive with clicking! She turned to see two black steeds pulling a navy blue curtained carriage speed by her, sparks flying from their hooves.

“Where’s my map?” She frantically searched her bags and her suitcase. “Where’s my map? If I’ve lost my map I’ll never find my way to S-S-S-S-S-Slooha Badooha.”

(In a small valley near the very heartland of Slooha Badooha a hen drank in her odd chickenesque way, her gullet pulsed as the cool water trickled into her belly. Overhead a flock of green-blustered rickspammers did an aerial formation that imitated the shifting pattern of the earth below.)

“S-S-S-S-S-Small s-s-s-s-stinking map. Too s-s-s-s-s-small to lose. Lost my map. And it’s Teedymas Eve.” Grindel resigned herself to a path without a map. “Have to make up my own map, find my own p-p-p-p-p-patterns, crazy-quilt it!” That was the modern version of riding the rails.

She heard the lethargic honk of the locomotive as it slowed in Walla Hebaha and knew it summoned her to ride. The purchase slips in her luggage were going to get the ride of a lifetime; a small menagerie of toy figurines comprised the rest of Grindel’s personal effects. But, never mind.

“That’s why they call them ‘p-p-p-p-p-personal’” she admonished a hobo just the other week.

A block over from Meow Street ran the railroad tracks. The train rumble, the clattering of horses and the noteworthy harmonizing on the Teedymas Eve hymn by three inebriated scuffbums lined up along the corrugated wine track all filtered through to Grindel. She opted to board away from the ruffians. Today was special. She would make her getaway to Slooha Badooha and no one’d be the wiser. That was her plan.

A woof of the engine, an irritated brake and the train stopped. She yanked back the handle, slid the boxcar door open three feet and peered inside. It was empty as far as she could tell. She tossed in her three plastics bags and her beat-up old suitcase and climbed in after them.

“This is the train to S-S-S-S-S-Slooha Badooha. I know it is. My cold feet know it. And my cranky knee is s-s-s-s-s-saying it better be.”

Grindel piled her bags into one corner of the car, leaving the door open for a bit of light and air. She plopped down, took a deep breath and relaxed. The boxcar was empty and full of shadows. The train shuddered into motion. Soon the clickety clacking of wheel and rail song lulled Grindel into a deep sleep.

Smidgens of cotton were getting up her nose.  Floating seeds from the big cottonwood tree tickled her face and brought her to the street where she grew up. That’s where Grindel awoke.

“Clark the Clerk got a Click in his Clue

Who Knew? Who Knew? His Clue!

Who knew what Clark’s Canoe

Would do?


Could do?


Should do?


Who knew? Who knew? His Click! His Clue!”

Grindel recognized that singsongy voice – it was her sister Colloquia singing a silly song they’d sung when they were kids. Grindel blinked and her sister’s face appeared before her surrounded by the sun, her mouth moving to the song, her lithe body swaying on the sidewalk on Aspradresia Street where they lived.

It wasn’t a memory.

Grindel began harmonizing with Colloquia; the sisters linked arms and did their funny shuffle down the street, singing as loud as they could. Behind them, an angelic swirl of cotton outlined their wake. The air was thick with floating seeds from the old tree, a trillion beads of hope.

Aspradresia Street was lined with elegant old maple trees that drooped lazily in the summer heat. The big cottonwood tree stood in the large front yard of the Shooshins family. They were circus folk, trapezers. They packed up their kids and stuff each spring and took off with the show, returning tanned, pumped and flush each autumn. Grindel and her siblings never spent a summer with the Shooshins children. There were no other children on their block so the three Squareaway children – Grindel, Colloquia and their brother, Cheyenne whom everyone called Chey – had to entertain each other all summer.

Their parents, Angel and Harvey, owned and operated Hotel Yesterday, its motto was “Let’s get tomorrow!” Both parents spent most of the day running the hotel, leaving the children with a nanny.

The sisters collapsed in a laughing heap of frilly skirts and pigtails as always-rambunctious Chey ran past them.


Grindel’s right eye flickered open briefly.


Flicker. Close.

Plink! Grindel’s right eye opened, staring. The left followed shortly, staring in the dark.

Plink! Plink!

She knew she wasn’t alone in the boxcar any longer.


The darkness cleared a little and she saw someone, rocking with the motion of the train, steel wheels harmonizing below.

Plink! Plink! Plinkity Plink Plank!

“Chey?” Her voice was a clothesline hung with drying question marks. “Is that you Chey?”


It was the sound a pick makes running over tight mandolin strings just below the tuning pegs.

Plinkity Plink Plank! Grindel began to make out a moving figure in the dim car, a lean shadow dancing to its own disembodied music, dancing as if the floor kept dropping two inches every few seconds.

“It is you! Cheyenne! Cheyenne!” Excited, Grindel rose to her feet with some difficulty and, arms open wide, ran toward her brother. Her face lit with impossible bliss, she threw her arms around…absolutely nothing.

This startled Grindel from her sleep. The rails crooned as the train slowed. It was morning, the sun was warm, the snow melting to skiffs and the sign said “Welcome to Slooha Badooha. You can dance here.”

“G-G-G-G-Good old train,” said Grindel, patting the rough wooden wall of the boxcar. She jumped carefully to the ground and stood among her bags, peering into the dark boxcar.

“Thanks for waking me up, Chey. Meet you by the big cottonwood,” she said. Gathering her bits and pieces, she shambled away toward Aspradresia Street.


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Carberry Heritage Festival 2014 Events

DAUPHIN OCTOBER PICTURES 124 Here’s the final line-up for the festival in Carberry. Events are free unless noted.

Friday August 8 Events  

9-5 pm Fri. & Sat. The Seton Centre, 116 Main St. open, by donation.  

1-6 pm Fri., 10-5 pm Sat. Carberry Plains Museum, 520 4th Ave., open, $5 admission includes tour inside gingerbread house.

All day Fri. & Sat. Carberry C of C contest for best heritage store window display along Main.

1:00-1:50 pm: Walking tour of Carberry Cemetery with Muriel McPhail. Meet at cemetery 1 mile north on Fanny St.

2:00-3:30 pm: Old-fashioned Strawberry Social at Drop-In Centre, 132 Main St. Sponsored by Carberry Plains Museum. $5. admission.

2:00-5:00 pm: Camp Hughes historical display in Carberry Legion, 25 Main St.

3:00-4:00 pm: Walking Tour of Main Street Heritage District with Carberry archivist Val Andrey. Meet at Heritage Park, 3rd & Main St.

7:00-11:00 pm: Old-time dance with fiddler Mark Morisseau & his band. Sponsored by Carberry Services for Seniors. Tickets $15, light refreshments included. Carberry Community Hall, 224 2nd Ave.

Saturday August 9 Events

9:00-5:00 pm: Carberry Plains Museum, 520 4th & The Seton Centre, 116 Main St. are both open, see Friday Events.

11:00 am: Tillie Harpelle, yodeller & guitarist performs at south end of Main St.

11:00-3:00 pm: Horse-drawn carriage rides through the town’s historic past, century houses & churches. Great family experience! Adults $5, Youth under 12 $3. Meet at gingerbread house, 510 4th Ave.

11:00-3:00 pm: Kid Zone activities: clay sculpture, face painting, picnic games, much more, south end of Main St.

11:00-5:00 pm: Manitoba Muzzleloaders will display their long guns, lifestyle & provide top-of-the-hour volleys. Next to old Town Hall, 122 Main St.

11:00-5:00 pm: Flea market/antiques with seven dealers. At Offbeat n Antiques, 135 Main St.

11:00-4:00 pm: Heritage breeds of live animals and birds & wool spinning with Jerry Oliver at Heritage Park, 3rd & Main. Sponsored by Rare Breeds Canada.

11:00-5:00 pm: Antique quilt show in our historic old Town Hall, 122 Main Street.

All day: Buskers, artisans, crafters, stylists and performers along Main St. Please support our vendors.

All day: Admire the vintage vehicles & machinery parked in the CVM Cafe parking lot.

11:30-1:30: Naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton’s 154th birthday party with beefalo burgers, cake, drinks & fixings at Seton Centre. Sponsored by The Seton Centre. Prices vary.

1:00-1:50 pm: Walking tour of Carberry Cemetery with Muriel McPhail. Meet at cemetery 1 mile north on Fanny St.

1:00-4:30: Laura Reeves, botanist & wild plant harvester will demo cooking with edible wild plants including free tasting. At The Seton Centre, 116 Main St.

1:00-2:00 & 3:00-4:00 pm: Walking tours of Main Street Heritage District with Carberry archivist Val Andrey. Meet at Heritage Park, 3rd & Main St.

2:00-4:00 pm: Graham Somers with WW2 display next to Legion, 25 Main.

2:30-3:15: Don’t miss this! Christina the Crazy Hooper, as seen on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, will perform followed by a hoop workshop. South Main St.

3:30-4:15 pm: A family fun workshop about songwriting with singer/songwriter Sheena Grobb. South end of Main St.

4:15-5 pm: Morgan Keachie workshop on chiptune music using sound chips from vintage computers & games, South Main.

7:00-9:30 pm: Concert by Sheena Grobb & band. Opening act Celtic music by Becky Nikolaisen & band at Carberry Community Hall, 224 2nd Ave. Tickets: $10 for adults, $6 for youth under 12. Snack at break. Sponsored by McCain Canada.

Carberry is an hour and half west of Winnipeg on the Trans Canada Highway.

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Grass of the Apocalypse 1:18

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Spruce Woods Park Update – July 24, 2014


Reid Dickie

I took this picture of flood debris pushing against the highway sign in Spruce Woods Park on July 24, 2014.

According to the Manitoba Provincial Parks website, Spruce Woods is slowly regaining accessibility and use. Hwy #5 is open with one-lane traffic through the park.

Trails are accessible now including the Spirit Sands and the wagon rides. Marsh Lake is high and its trail is closed.

The lower Kiche Manitou campground is closed as is the interpretive centre and the access road. A detour has been set up that takes you to the upper campground and yurt area. The detour is about two miles south of the park.

Looks like Spruce Woods Park will be partially open for the summer long weekend.

Watch my 2 minute video report from the park on July 24.

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Images from Cooks Creek Medieval Festival 2014

Pictures by Reid Dickie



Watch my 4:39 video report on the 2014 Medieval Festival

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Carberry Heritage Festival 2014 – Updated



Reid Dickie

Carberry celebrates its rich heritage with the Second Annual Carberry Heritage Festival Friday and Saturday August 8 and 9, 2014. This year’s all-age festival features the return of some favourites from the inaugural event and a line-up of new entertainers and experiences. mark morriseau Events are free unless noted.

Returning for the Friday night old-time dance is extraordinary fiddler Mark Morisseau (left) and his band. Dance starts 7:00 Friday evening at Carberry Community Hall, 224-2nd Ave. Tickets are $15, light refreshments served. Click his pic for a preview.

On Saturday the Manitoba Muzzleloaders will be back in their buckskins demonstrating flint-lock long guns.

Friday events include an old-fashioned Strawberry Social at Drop-In Centre, 132 Main St. Sponsored by Carberry Plains Museum. $5. admission. Also a display about local WWI training camp, Camp Hughes.  Street buskers and artisans as well as walking tours of Carberry’s unique Heritage District, the only designated one in Manitoba, happen both days.christina

Scheduled for Saturday is an 2:30 pm performance by Christina the Crazy Hooper (right) who recently won a talent contest on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. She’ll do a workshop with kids of all ages after the show. Bring your hula hoop. Other new performers on Saturday include a 3:30 pm grobbworkshop by Manitoba singer/songwriter Sheena Grobb (left).

Sheena and her band will also perform an evening concert with local Celtic musician Becky Nikolaisen as the warm-up act. Tickets are $10 adults, $6 youth under 12. At Community Hall, 7:00 pm.

New experiences on Saturday include a town tour in a carriage pulled by a team of heavy horses, a display of live heritage breed animals (chickens, swine, goats, cattle, etc.) and a display of hand-quilted treasures. Taste a variety of edible wild plants with botanist Laura Reeves at the Seton Centre.

On Saturday also expect street buskers, artisans, kids’ activities, antique flea market, Ernest Thompson Seton’s birthday party, walking tours of the town and cemetery, and much more.

To accommodate festival events, one block of Main Street will be closed to traffic. Events begin at 2:00 on Friday and 11:00 am on Saturday.

For family fun and warm country hospitality don’t miss Carberry’s Second Annual Heritage Festival Friday and Saturday August 8 and 9, 2014.

I’ll be attending both days and documenting the festival for my blog and YouTube channel. Check out my video report from last year’s festival.

Carberry is located 42 kms east of Brandon on the Trans-Canada Highway and 3 kms south on Hwy #5.

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Filed under Carberry, Festivals, Heritage Buildings, Manitoba Heritage

Medieval Festival at Cooks Creek

cooks 2014

Watch my video report from the 2012 festival.

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July 10, 2014 · 8:38 pm

Spruce Woods Park – July 9, 2014

Snapshot 1 (09-07-2014 8-13 PM)

Reid Dickie

My old buddy Terry and I went pickin’ blueberries along the TCH today and explored the current state of Spruce Woods Park. Mostly closed describes it today. The Assiniboine River rages right through the park, spilling its banks along both sides of Hwy #5 , challenging the entrance way to Spirit Sands despite the full blown work of a culvert. Then the flood travels north toward Marsh Lake which has risen noticeably since my visit there last Friday. The east side of the highway is a raging river covering fields as far as I could see. There was debris on the bridge over the Assiniboine indicating at least some water went over the bridge in the last 24 hours. The road is closed for good reason.

Kiche Manitou Campground is partially open. The lower campground and day use area are closed due to flooding or as a precaution. The upper campground and yurts are open and accessible from Hwy #2 and #5 and a gravel road detour. Watch for the signs. There is no campground access from the north.

Several trails have been closed due to flooding: Spirit Sands and Punch bowl Trails and Wagon Rides, Spring Ridge Self-guiding Trail, Isputinaw Self-guiding Trail and Canoe/Equestrian Campground #2.

Snapshot 3 (09-07-2014 8-14 PM)The Interpretive Centre, Pine Fort and beach are closed. If you go there, see campground office for programs still offered.

I shot video of the park today and on our return some of the Portage Diversion (above) on the TCH just west of Portage la Prairie. It is full!!


Filed under Flood, Parks, spirit sands

Hoop and Holler! Huh?

Reid Dickie

The Hoop and Holler Bend “last resort” release of water is spinning again in the heads of Manitoba’s disaster bureaucrats but it’s serious this time.

In 2011 a small cut was made in the bank of the Assiniboine to “take the pressure off the Assiniboine.” Less than 1000 cfs were released at the cut, making it more of a publicity stunt for a government facing reelection than flood mitigation.

The river is carrying more water this year than in 2011 and the bureaucrats are saying 5000 cfs will flow through the cut, quickly recreating Lord Selinger Lake on thousands of acres of planted cropland. The government thinks fiat flooding is better than uncontrolled flooding because it affirms the illusion they are in control of the situation. Nature still bats last.

This is from my May 15, 2011 post: The Hoop and Holler Bend, where the intentional breach was made, has an interesting history. Geographical Names of Manitoba says it was named for the “wild parties” held there. At one time back in pioneer days, a school sat near the site. It had an accompanying barn for the ponies and horses of students. The school was closed and moved but the barn remained and was used for barn dances and such. Often fights broke out between drunks at these dances and the neighbours could hear them “whooping and hollering,” thus the name. The barn was torn down or burned in the 1950s.

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Filed under Flood

Spruce Woods Park Flood Report July 2 to 4, 2014

FLOOD JULY 2 to 4 2014 pics 043

Reid Dickie


Just back from three days of flood recon with plenty to report about Spruce Woods Park. The picture above of the Hwy #5 bridge over the Assiniboine says it all, as of today.

However, this is a volatile situation with a surge of water coming down the Assiniboine River from Saskatchewan. No one is sure about the size or the speed of the surge but everyone is repairing. I spoke with parks people this afternoon and, to get this posted asap, I’ve bulleted the status points.

  • From the south Highway #5 is closed due to water over the road near the park;
  • Park access from the south is via a gravel detour off Hwy #5 that leads to the upper campgrounds and yurt area of the park, neither of which are being effected by the flood at this time. It’s the same detour used in 2011;
  • Park access from the north via Hwy #5 is open today including the road to Kiche Manitou campgrounds. This access is most likely to change if the flood is severe. The situation is rapidly developing;
  • The lower campground, bays 1 – 7, was evacuated on Wednesday morning as a precaution and remains closed at least until July 8;
  • The day use area has been closed as a precaution and some of the interpretive centre moved to the campground office;
  • The artists festival scheduled for this weekend at Spruce Woods Park has been cancelled due to uncertainty about the river;
  • The horse-drawn covered wagon rides to the dunes and punch bowl are accessible, working and in business. This is a memorable family experience;
  • Trails in the park are hikable including Spirit Sands/Punch Bowl, Hogs Back though Isputinaw, Epinette and Spring Ridge may have impassable low wet spots;
  • Marsh Lake remains at its normal level but there is water running into it from the river now. Its trail has many low-lying areas that will become very wet;
  • The Assiniboine River was measured this afternoon at the bridge in Spruce Woods and had risen somewhat in the last 24 hours;
  • If you go for a hike in the park watch for two glorious wildflowers in bloom right now. The wild rose, its pink cheeks beaming shyly from the greenery, are blooming as are the tiger-faced field lilies. Poison ivy abounds, especially around stairs and in shady spots along trails. Wear sensible shoes;
  • Everything that bites and flies is there. Protect yourself and do a full-body tick check on yourself and everyone with you after every hike.

Depending on the surge I plan to travel out to Spruce Woods next week for more recon.

I have uploaded to my YouTube channel a video report about the flooding at Spruce Woods. I’ve added a video about flooding in other Manitoba areas and a third video on the state of some of the rivers feeding the Assiniboine.

Any questions email me at

Stay tuned. Stay dry.

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Filed under Flood, Parks, spirit sands

Spruce Woods Park July 2, 2014

Reid Dickie

This is my first ever post from the road. Let’s see how difficult WordPress can make this. My intent today was to hike Spirit Sands and spend a leisurely day on the road. When I arrived at Hwy 5, the road had been closed, so the sign said. Close the deepest part of the Assiniboine valley, a barricade turned back traffic but I drove around the sign and found water eating away the asphalt and ditch, backed up like it was in the 2011 flood. I thought this is bad! Turning back down Hwy 5, I came up Hwy 340 north of Wawanesa. Though extremely high and fast, the river hadn’t flooded the road. Making the loop back to Spruce Woods via Hwys 1 and 5, I found the situation almost normal around the Marsh Lake/Spirit Sands area. One of the Conservation officers told me they evacuated the lower campground this morning, more as a precaution at this point. The upper campgrounds and yurts aren’t effected by the flood. Access is still available to the trails including Spirit Sands. I shot some footage of the park today and plan to return tomorrow to update everything. I’ll file that on Thursday evening. WordPress sucks!!

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Filed under Parks, spirit sands, Uncategorized

Heritage Lost – Criddle/Vane House Burned Down by Arsonist(s)


 Reid Dickie

It’s gone!

On June 25, 2014, about 10:00 pm the Criddle/Vane house was completely destroyed in a “suspicious” fire.

I’m feeling sad and angry right now at this loss. Sad because we have lost a significant and unique piece of Manitoba history, a place that has become very personal to me in the last four years. Angry at the sicko arsonist(s) who set the fire. RCMP are asking for help with information about the blaze but if it was someone local, odds are good the arsonist will not be found. I’m also angry at the province for their lip-service to heritage and their continuous failure to protect it.

Like the Criddle/Vane families, their house had an exceptional genesis. When the families moved here from London, England in 1882 they survived the first winter in tents. Thereafter Percy Criddle and his sons set about building a log house using trees cut and hauled from the Spruce Woods area. Not much for house-building, it was a crude affair with little insulation against the raging weather. Nonetheless, the ever-growing family lived in it for 20 years.

After much designing and re-designing, costing out and more costing out, Percy decided his dream home would finally become a reality. Luckily a local carpenter, Mr. Harms, had extraordinary ability as a builder and set about constructing the new house. According to Percy’s specs, the house was to be 39.65 feet by 37.65 feet, 1493 square feet per floor!

The main floor would have a central hallway with the stairway on the right. The first room on the right was the parlour or games and billiards room as the families called it. Behind that was a huge dining room then left and back into the hall, the kitchen on the right with a rear entrance. The front room was the library filled with Percy’s collections.

Upstairs eight bedrooms, each with its own window, accommodated the whole family, 12 people at that time. Once Norman Criddle became world renown as an entomologist, various scientists and students would stay and study on the homestead. A two-room main floor addition, called the East Annex, was added to the house to accommodate the visitors.

In the spring of 1906 the family hauled the gravel for the new foundation from the Assiniboine River, about 2 miles away, as well as doing all the spring chores and planting. With Percy in charge of the project there was bound to be disagreements, which vexed Percy no end. In his own words from his diary, Percy rued, “Wish I’d put off building that cursed house for another year, brought me nothing but troubles, bickerings, muddlings and ill luck.”

Despite Percy’s rages, threats and impatience, the new house was completed by Mr. Harms and ready to occupy on November 28, 1906. An Exodus from the log house took place that day. Though keen to get into the new, weather-proof house, Percy did express fondness for the old log house in which Elise had died and his final four children were born.

At the same time, via Eaton’s mail order, the families received all new furniture for the house, the first that wasn’t home-made. Wallpaper and pictures went up on the walls, carpet covered the floors, civilization and luxury arose at St. Albans (Percy’s name for the homestead). It was a dream come true. As Mr. Harms continued to refine the interior of the house – building cupboards, decorative flairs and storage areas as required – the families settled in. Criddles occupied the house until 1960 with Maida and Evelyn the final occupants.

In my post four days ago, after visiting the Criddle/Vane homestead, I said not having access to the house doesn’t take away from the ambiance of the site. But not having the house at all will change the place permanently. As an icon of prairie survival and home to exemplary figures in Manitoba’s history, the Criddle/Vane house has few matches.  I will miss it terribly.

For my part, I am happy to have spent so many wonderful hours at and in the house, documenting it, getting a sense of how the family lived on a daily basis, imagining Percy at the organ singing and playing while his guests merrily danced around and around through the rooms and hallway.

It’s gone. It’s not right.

You can still take my 3:55 personal tour of the interior of the house.


Filed under Architecture, Fires, Heritage Buildings, Manitoba Heritage, Pioneers

Watching the River Flow – New Fiction

Reid Dickie

Supper’s ready! Oh you’re here. Black pepper or peppercorn?

Black, black, black. You always ask me the same question and I always have the same answer.

All right all right!

The only reason you ask me that every suppertime is because in 1978 I said I had heard that fresh ground pepper was more flavorful. Since then you have asked me that same question every…

Was that 1978? Good Lord, how time flies when you’re having fun.

And since then, in the last 10,000 years, have I ever taken peppercorn? Ever?

Never. You never have.

But you keep asking and asking and…

I do. At first it was out of love so you could have a choice. Then I did it out of habit as we settled into those. Then out of spite, and now, I don’t know why I do it at all. Just for the fun of it. I haven’t a clue, really.

Here’s a clue for you. I rented the land.

You what?

I rented the land and I’m retiring from farming.

Suddenly he’s a comedian. I have a comedian in my kitchen. My thighs are sore from being slapped from the funny stuff.

I rented the land to the Broxton boys and Reg Decker.

Those assholes! You rented our land to those inbred feeble-minded Broxtons? And Decker? He’s an alky from way back. You rented our land and decided to retire without talkin to me about it?!!

It’s time.

Time for what?

I’m tired.

Tired of what?

Tired of thinking about fucking pesticides and herbicides and crop varieties that have idiot made-up names and seventeen numbers after them. Every year there are dozens of new products to “make farming easier” that I’m supposed to learn about.  I’m tired of thinking about Monsanto and all the other vultures that circle endlessly over our land. I’m sick to fucking death of dealing with overpriced machinery that doesn’t ever do what it’s supposed to do. I am tired of feeding rich fucking banksters their exorbitant interest rates. I have put in my quota of sleepless nights wondering if the weather will hold for seeding, then for combining, worrying if the prices will hold but knowing they are set by some greasy suit a hundred floors above reality in some smelly downtown. I’m tired of living the lies required of us and I’m tired of getting out of bed in the morning to keep those lies afloat. So when you get this tired the only thing to do is re-tire, get out of the way of the world and be yourself.

That’s quite a speech.

There’s more.

There always is.

I’m wanna stop thinking about satisfying corporate bullshit, about the weather forecast and the fucking survey companies calling at the height of our year.

I deal with most of those! I’ve always been polite but firm but they still call back for you, the decision maker, sometimes three or four times a day.

Don’t you see, stuff is happening to us real fast at this moment? I changed everything for us and I’m just letting you in on it now to see how you’d do. You’re doing great.

Shut the fuck up!

Oh…my…Lord! Expect brimstone, expect Armageddon on a Shetland pony, Bernice Calmchoir said the big Fucking F word for the first fucking time in her fucking life! Hooooo leeee Fuck!

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! It’s much more fun to say than to do. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!


Do you want a divorce? What?! No, I don’t want a divorce but if it’d make life simpler for you Bernie, try it. See how you like it.

Now that you’re retired then, what are you going to do all day?

Watch the river flow.

What river?

The river of life, ma dear, the river of life.

The river of life? Did someone replace the real Artie Griffin with a robot in the barn today?

You know the river I mean. You’ve watched it out the kitchen window for years and often commented on how nice it is to be able to see the passing world. The river! The TCH. The Trans Canada Highway that is exactly 342 yards from here. The river of life.

What ivory tower do you plan to watch this river from, dear?

Coy never did work for you Bernie. Too big boned for coy. The kid’s school bus shack, of course, will be my new ivory tower. It’s right out there on the highway. I plan to add a second floor, a cooler for cold beer, some flags, some girlie magazines and binoculars for wildlife, you know.

Girlie magazines! Do they still work for you?

Maybe. We’ll just have to see.

You can see. What I see is the headline: Retarded farmer arrested for masturbating on the Trans Canada Highway.

You mean, retired farmer.

Ummmm. Please say this is all a joke, Artie. Please say that.

Can’t Bernie. It’s not a joke. It’s our new reality. Retired life. No money problems, no more seasons to sow, no seasons to reap, no more there is a time for any fucking thing, Bernie. Now there is time for everything. A time for us. We’re free, free as fucking birds, Bernie. Let’s fly!

And you want to spend retirement jerking off in the bus shack in front of traffic going by at 120 kms an hour, am I right?

Let go of the masturbation theme please. Not going to happen. I just need time to reflect, to go inside myself and find out what’s actually in there after trying to avoid and deny it for so many years. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

I’d better sit down. Someone quoted Socrates in my kitchen and it was you!

Socrates belongs in the kitchen.

Hello, hello, sir, umm, who are you? Where did Artie go?

It’s the new way, Bernie. Expect the unexpected. We could travel.

We don’t travel. You remember why we don’t travel or has that fallen through your Socrates sieve?

Let’s see, dearest. We traveled in 1565 together on a ship from Belfast, which was called Pleasantville then, to the high Arctic where we ticked off several species of pink-legged gulls and horked up some tainted seal with the rest of the walruses. Of course I remember.

You truly don’t remember it. You have erased it from the blackboard of your life like so many other things, like our children. We almost killed the children the last time we traveled.

Here we go. The GD children again!

Yes, the GD children again! Don’t you think Evan and Rachel want a say in what happens to the farm they grew up on, the land that spawned their interests and their substantial abilities.

First, Evan is a dentist who makes nine hundred grand a year in Toronto, has three kids and a house he paid seven million for. Second, Rachel is married to a huge Samoan man and they live naked on a beach in the south Pacific somewhere. Do you know where Rachel lives?

I don’t, exactly.

My point being, Bernie, neither of our precious offspring, the fruits of our commingling loins, the spawn of our double-down dirt farm are remotely interested in or concerned about what happens to the five square miles of sandy loam they escaped as quickly as they could, “like a bullet from a gun,” as Tom Waits has put it.

They vanished, didn’t they? Our children just vanished.

They’ll call someday, maybe even today.

No they won’t.

You’re right, Bernie. They won’t. Fuck ‘em.


Fuck ‘em! Do you know how much our farm is worth?

In dollars?

No. In cow plop and twitchgrass. In good old lumpy Canadian dollars, of course? Take a guess.

Ummm…four hundred thousand.

Good guess dearie. Way low however. Up it.

Okay, one million and seven dollars.

Tepid. Stab again.

Two and a half million?

Your eyes are getting wider. Higher.

Don’t make me guess anymore. Just tell me. I’m not sure I’m going to believe what you are about to say.

Okay. I had Fred Oakley from Oakley Realty come out a few months back. You know Fred.

I do. He seems an honest chap. Thelma and me were in W.I. together.

Fred gave me an estimate of what we could get for the whole shebang: land, house, buildings, even the kid’s school bus shack and it blew my socks off, Bernie. We are in a prime real estate location right now, have been for years and will continue to be. Fred did a thorough walkabout of the property, noting all its qualities and benefits. He compared land sale prices in the region and arrived at a figure. When he told me, he was very dramatic about it. You know how he is. Anyway, he had a big smile on his face when he said, “I’m going to write a number on this clipboard.” So he wrote something down and turned it toward me. I couldn’t believe it! Then he said, “That’s just a number. I could get this amount for your property tomorrow.” He wrote something again, turned it toward me.

And…what did it say?!

I’ll write it down just like Fred did. The first number was two and a half million. The second number, the real value of our farm, is this.

Oh! Oh, Artie! Oh, no! Someone will pay us five million dollars for this dump?! I don’t believe you!

Believe it, sweetie. Ask Fred.

That changes everything.

I hoped you’d see it that way. But that’s not all.


We’ve saved for our blessed retirement in various ways for years and we have a substantial nest egg growing like radiation in our futures as we speak.

We talked about it a few years back and you said it was around half a million.

That was a lot of years ago, sweets. Today our investments outside the farm total about four million bucks. We’ve been very successful savers.

So we have. Yet we have never wanted for anything, nothing.

Altogether you and I are worth about nine million bucks. You seem a little stunned dearie.

More than a little. I need to sit down.

We are rich. You are rich. I am rich. We’ve succeeded where thousands of others failed. Out here on the forever Canadian plains we ascended from green newlyweds in our late teens to multi, as in mull tie, millionaires. Let’s not tell the kids, shall we?


No, dearie. You said it, our children have vanished.

And you said, Fuck ‘em.

And I still say, Fuck ‘em. This is our money. Let’s live it up.

Then live it down?

Maybe. Or we could do good in the world.

Such as?

Such as the new church roof. They have gotten desperate to finish the fundraising and are just 12 grand short. Let’s contribute that much. We could donate it anonymously. I’ve always wanted to be Anonymous. Now you think of a way we could do good with our money. The GD kids are going to get what’s left anyway so sky’s the limit.

I’d like to give twenty five thousand to Emily’s Animal Rescue Centre in town. She’s found a new building that’s over her budget and we can make that happen for her and the animals she saves. It’ll be anonymous, too. Okay?

Okay. As much as I think Emily is a straw-for-brains flake, let’s give her the cash. Your turn.

We’ve spent 37 thousand so far.

It’s much too early to start keeping track. Be creative, pudding man.

Jesus, you haven’t called me pudding man for years.

Decades, actually.

Why did you call me that? I don’t think I ever knew.

You never knew! Really! I always called you that and you never, ever, I mean never fucking ever knew what it meant!

I shoulda thought about it, I guess. And whoa with the new word, honeybuttons.

Finally you get curious. Wanna know?


You had what I always wanted, really the only thing I wanted from you, the only thing I needed.

Really? What was that?

You’re a hoot! What you had was the pudding, the sperm, the creepy crawly ones that my little eggs needed to make the babies. The babies were all I ever wanted. I never wanted much more from you. We raised the babies and they fled us. But you were my pudding man with the sweet juice to incite my ychies into action.

You wanted me just for my precious man fluid and nothing more? Is that what you mean?

I liked to watch you naked. You were a beautiful specimen of a man, a young man. Your mother was an excellent cook and your father worked you like a slave. Your body was hard everywhere. Remember the time when we just moved onto the farm. I was big with Evan. Somehow we’d just screwed on the porch swing, God knows how, and it started to rain. You ran naked into the yard and danced in the downpour with lightning flashing all around and thunder rolling across the night sky, singing. I don’t remember the song. You sang and danced smiling at me like a wild man, your perfect body made translucent by the changing light. Do you remember that?

She shines with her own kind of light.


Kentucky Woman. She shines with her own kind of light. The song I sang in the naked rain.

Yes. That’s it. Ha!

You were a hot babe, glowing with our baby. Sometimes that night the lightning reversed the world into negative turning you into an angelic presence, hovering over my silly dangly dance but, still, you laughed.

Yes, you made me laugh. I laughed and laughed. You were beautiful, funny and in love.

Wow, Bernie, beautiful, funny and in love. I’m still all three of those after, lo, these many moons, doncha think?

As am I, syrup boy. And to prove our ever-lasting beauty, we should do something we’ve never done before. Let’s strip and eat naked!

C’mon. Bernie, stop taking your clothes off. We’re eating, for chrissake!

So! I am eating naked. We’re free now, free as fucking birds, if I remember your exact words. So I’m being free, doing something I’ve never done before. There. I am beautiful naked! See. Look at my fifty-nine year-old body. Look at my old dugs, drooping and large, sucked dry by life and gravity. Look at my belly. It cascades like pure white butter. Look at the dark hairy house of our spawn. The span of my ass is matched only by the span of my thighs and my feet hurt all day. Now you, strip down, Artie. Let’s see the ongoing beauty of your sixty-one year-old tank.

You are just crazy enough, Bernie.

Whoa, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you take your clothes off that fast! You’ve started some kind of avalanche of change for us, Artie, and I’m not going to stop it, can’t stop it.

Watch me eat naked, Bernie. Still like what you see, even without the lightning?

I do, Artie. We are both soft where we once were hard, and hard where we were soft. It all comes out in the wash. I like your little paunch as much as you like my saggy boobs. I like your empty scrotum as much as you like the expansive black bush of my vagina. I like your permanent farmer’s tan as much as you like my tasty meatloaf.

Your meatloaf hasn’t changed, honey pumpkin. It’s still as meaty and tomatoy as ever. Moist, warm, concedes to my tongue with easy grace and lofty aftertaste.

Everything tastes wonderful when you are naked.

Ha, ha, Bernie, you vixen!

We’re doing something we’ve never done before, Artie! After 10,000 years together we can still find new things to do together. It’s a miracle!

This could just be the start of doing new things together. We should reconsider traveling, just the two of us, no kids to risk death with. I’ve always wanted to see Tahiti.

We’d never have to wear any clothes in Tahiti.

With our bodies, they’d deport us!

Ha, Artie! Seriously, I’m frightened.

Don’t be scared Bernice. I promise not to jump your old bones at the dinner table despite your alluring nakedness.

That’s the last thing I’m frightened of. I’m afraid of…so much change.

Change is the only thing we can count on happening.

I wish you’d discussed all this with me before making your final decree and renting the land to those yahoos.

You resent me for making the decision.

I feel disrespected, Artie. All these years we’ve lived together, eat together, slept together, cried together, laughed together, all that stuff that makes up a life, none of that mattered to you. You just went ahead without me. Am I as irrelevant to you as the kids are, Artie?

No, you’re not. We did our jobs with the kids. We made good kids who are successful elsewhere. Our lives aren’t over because the kids are gone and we are staring at each other across the dinner table as usual…well, not quite as usual. Bernice, I respect you and I love you. It’s our turn to live, naked and free!

Okay, Artie. I hope we’re charging the Broxtons and Decker an arm and a leg to rent our land?

An arm, a leg, a knee and an elbow, too. It’ll be good cash flow for us.

So Artie, next stop Tahiti?

Watching you eat naked has given me some bedroom thoughts, Bernie so how about bedroom first then Tahiti?

Works for me.

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Filed under Fiction

Criddle/Vane House Now Off Limits


Reid Dickie

A couple of years ago I wondered when the vandalism in the Criddle/Vane house would get so bad the place would be shuttered and no longer open to the public. That time has arrived.

On my first visit of the year to the homestead yesterday I noticed the usual well-kept grounds, trails groomed and accessible, everything as expected except for one thing: the huge eight-bedroom Criddle/Vane house has been boarded up, as you can see in the picture above. All the doors and windows are now covered with plywood and there is no interior access to the house. The same is true of the second laboratory.

I have documented the interior condition of the house several times on this blog and YouTube channel. The vandalism is obvious and heart-breaking, especially so for Paul Criddle, one of the few Criddles still living in the area. (Paul is Talbot Criddle’s first born.)  Paul, who lives in Brandon, said the vandalism required the house to be better protected. The parks people concurred and it was closed up this spring. Paul would like to see a seven-foot fence erected around the house as well. 020 The picture above shows the house unshuttered and accessible.

The homestead is a provincial heritage park and thus maintained by the parks people. I commend them for their consistent work in keeping the site clean and mowed and also for the new signage around the park. By explaining the events along the trail, the signs give a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Criddle/Vanes and how exceptional these pioneers were. From the golf course to tennis courts, hybrid plant gardens to entomology labs, weather station to family cemetery, the new documentation details it all.

Although the house is inaccessible, it takes little away from the ambiance of curiosity and kindness that pervades the site. Walk the trails, relive the lives of nine children and three adults who spent their first Manitoba winter housed in two flimsy tents with little to eat, see the foundations of their first log homes, browse through the little family cemetery under the giant spruce tree and capture the essence of an era modern people find difficult to comprehend. CriddleBigHouse The above picture shows the Criddle/Vane house in a dilapidated condition when the site became a provincial heritage park in 2004.

One way to still see inside the house is to take my 3:55 personal guided tour of the interior of the Criddle/Vane house. Watch it on YouTube.

Norman painting A few miles south of the homestead in the Sipiweske Museum in Wawanesa you can see Percy Criddle’s telescope, some of the family’s elegant clothing, their home made golf clubs and balls, some of Norman’s original paintings and a raft of other memorabilia from a family worth remembering.

This painting of wild roses was done by Norman Criddle who usually painted out in the field or from memory. A replica of Norman’s entomology lab, the first in western Canada, stands at the homestead.

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Filed under Heritage Buildings, Houses, Manitoba Heritage, Museum, Pioneers

Punch Bowl at Spruce Woods Park


Reid Dickie

Linda took this picture of the punch bowl at Spruce Woods Park about 15 years ago. The hike to and from the punch bowl is rather daunting at 7 km return so we only went there twice.

Naturally forming in wet sand dunes, small eerie-coloured ponds, called punch bowls, usually display a blue-green opalescence. To exploit the rarity and strangeness of the site, propeller-head tourism bureaucrats at the province mulled and mulled. Finally, in a stroke of sheer dumb PR, the pools were deemed the Devil’s Punch Bowl. That’s a load of BS, of course, as well as being a ridiculous and, once you see the pool, disappointing demonization.


Filed under Linda, Natural Places, Parks, spirit sands