Click pic and poof!
“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
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.
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.
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.
COLLOQUIA RENTS A ROOM
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.”
“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.”
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.
Colloquia Grindel Cheyenne
CHEY AND MANDY
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.”
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
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.
Plink! Grindel’s right eye opened, staring. The left followed shortly, staring in the dark.
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.
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.
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.
Pictures by Reid Dickie
Watch my 4:39 video report on the 2014 Medieval Festival
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. 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.
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 workshop 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.
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.
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!!
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.
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 email@example.com
Stay tuned. Stay dry.
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!!
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.