Monthly Archives: June 2012

Short Westbound CNR Fast Freight Out of Winnipeg

Attention armchair locomotive engineers!

Today you are operating a short Canadian National fast freight westbound out of Winnipeg with an assorted yet precious cargo. Get your striped cap on and click the pic to ride. Chug, chug, chug!

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Email from Another Old Friend

Hello Moister,

My gooseberry jam fan friend, they squandered the excess Shriekback audial benefits (even though the insurance was paid up), contrived some 21st century weaning of Herman’s Hermits from the celestial Gomer Weave (except for Sentimental Friend) and beknighted the glowing, though preposterous, remains of Brian Jones, Jim Jones and Clooty Hardddddrive Jones mixed in one shaker of cremationism and sprinkled it all over The Remaining World, that being us, as in you and me, you and I, we’ens, today, now, itzzzus.

Thusly, the spawn and regurg of our very generation will result, not in beneficial human offsprings, but in ill-begotten genetically modified humanoidals strafed with bee-salmon-and-God-knows-whose-DNA who succumb to Neo-Cro-Magnum potentials despite the fluoride in the water! I’m just gettin real wit cha! Calm down, can ya? Take a beta-blocker or three, okay!!

Let me remind you of one of the great quotes from Clooty Hardddddrive Jones, Clooty who got us through the Feral Bankster Rape-outs, the very same Clooty who survived the Insect Drone Cleansing that Harper (He sees no Light) ordered in his desperation to become proxy for God, Clooty who said, “Ummm, fuck you clutch hammer bygone shrivel hookha. If you don’t understand me, then fuck you doubly and may Spirit lay you fuckin’ flat.” Amen, Clooty!

The hive is tainted

The seeds are dumb

The spawn dims

Laying awake

Every night

Love,  Alice

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Stockton Ferry 2012 Update

Reid Dickie

Last year at this time the Assiniboine River was in full flood, threatening wide areas of Manitoba. The surging water had already taken out the infrastructure for the Stockton Ferry, a small pull ferry that spans the Assiniboine linking two gravel roads. Watch last year’s video report.

At one time there were 150 river ferries operating in Manitoba, most of them like the Stockton Ferry – able to carry one or two car/buggy passenger loads and still remain more economical than bridge building. Operating since 1887, the Stockton Ferry was the last river ferry in Manitoba. 

As you can see in the picture and my 2012 video report, the ferry is still beached. Flood damage was substantial but work is underway to reconstruct the system. No word on when the service might be operating again.

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Filed under Flood, Manitoba Heritage, Roadside Attractions

Carberry Gingerbread House Video

Reid Dickie

I shot some footage of one of Carberry’s finest old heritage piles: the White House aka Gingerbread House. Read a previous post about this house and its history. Now part of Carberry Plains Museum, which you will also see in the video, the gingerbread house performs charismatically and unabashedly to some “original” sound I created by combining noises from freesound.org. Just click the pic above and it all unfolds for you.

See more heritage guff and such on my YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/DickToolCo/videos

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Filed under Carberry, Heritage Buildings, Houses, Humour, Manitoba Heritage, Roadside Attractions

What is an alluvial fan?

Reid Dickie

I was never quite sure what an alluvial fan was until I visited one. The last remaining alluvial fan around Riding Mountain National Park is located off Hwy #5. The site is well signed right from the highway. Specific directions to alluvial fan: it is off Hwy #5 between Ochre River and junction of Hwys #5 & 10, turn south on Road 104W (there is a sign in the ditch along Hwy #5 that says Alluvial fan with an arrow, also watch for small signs at mile roads for their numbers), drive 4.8 km (3 miles) to Road 137N, turn east for 1.6 km (1 mile), turn south on Road 103W for 1.6 km (1 mile), east on Road 136N for .8 km. Watch for large sign at Crawford Creek. Follow the boardwalk to viewing deck. Now I know what an alluvial fan is and you can too. I made a short video about my visit.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Earth Phenomena, Natural Places, Parks

World Collage Week – Day Seven

Reid Dickie

After the Sunday service at the Squishy Church for Everybody and communal Sacrificing of Common Sense, it’s the Pulp and Pancake Breakfast in the Bally Crawlspaces presented by the International Forestry Industry (their motto is “Do we look oriented?”) who are introducing a new line of edible tree products, basically poorly-disguised sawdust – oak oats, elm nuts, cedar wheat, aspen aspic (yuck, first; and second, who needs or craves or can even be sold fucking aspic in the 21st century? They’ve been smoking their bibles at the Big Tree Club!), pine sugar, willow eggs, teak Tylenol, unknown nanotree additives for cereals, potato chips and anything that fizzes at any time during its processing and/or consumption and yew yogurt. The pancakes are actually irradiated plumped birch bark, plumped ground pulp, and acidophilus infused with the genes of a panther and a ring-tailed chubhyct. What will those wacky biogeneticists think of next?! The syrup is maple, of course. Collage festival week concludes, as usual, with regression: smiting, keening, ulullating, bisoning, quailing, shaling, stoning, and sexual frolic. Hope you can come at least once. These are the last two collages (I could be swayed by public opinion…) of the week.

THEREA’S BLIND TASTE TEST

Her men gathered in the kitchen, each eager to be blindfolded, spun around and fed pot roast with extra pot.

SQUARE ONE

“And this is how you were conceived, son. Do you understand?”

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Art Actions, BEAUTY, DickToolery, Humour, Love

Royal Canadian Legion, 25 Main Street, Carberry, MB

Reid Dickie

Here’s part three of our jaunt back in time on Carberry’s Main Street.

Modest, sturdy and practical, one-storey brick buildings sprang up in most growing Manitoba towns, supporting a variety of commercial and social uses. Built in the 1890s as two separate long narrow buildings, Carberry has an excellent example of utilitarian town building. The business roles of the two buildings changed frequently until they were merged in the mid-1950s and became the Royal Canadian Legion, a hub of social interaction in the little town. Pa Tuckett has fond memories of “bending a few with the old boys” at the Legion.

Though primarily functional, this little one-storey has a few elements of interest. The buildings are both wider than usual, have flat roofs, brick walls and stone and brick foundations. A shallow pilaster indicates the original border between the two spaces. Their interiors are deep and open and now connected with a partial opening in the separating wall.

In this picture from Carberry’s early days, the Legion is the second building in. It had lovely brick corbelling along the cornice and well-defined indented entrances. It’s possible some of that brickwork still exists behind the blue cladding above the entrance.

Today the little buildings, now united behind a single facade, sport the bright red Royal Canadian Legion signage and the Canadian flag flying above. My picture doesn’t do it justice. It inspires a disproportionate amount of awe for its size. Nestled between the Charlie Sear Building and the Murphy Block (the next post in this series), perhaps its role bringing continuity to the heritage ambience of the street accounts for some of that.

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Filed under Carberry, Day Tripping, Heritage Buildings, Manitoba Heritage

World Collage Week – Day Six

Reid Dickie

The traditional Saturday morning Rock Paper Scissors Parade kicks off today’s collagic festivities. Four thousand floats are entered in this year’s parade; most are mere inches high, made of paper with paper motors and will likely be stepped on and crushed. Parade tip: listen for the pitiful thrashing of the broken floats’ near-spent springs, their limbs shredding away against unforgiving concrete. In the afternoon, watch a paper-making demonstration using lard, chard and Right Guard in the Cataclysmic Centre’s FU Fate Room. It’s amazing! Saturday night is the all-night street dance. The exact street has yet to be decided but Fido’s Dog Bowl, Fiddle and Ligament Band (non-housebroken line-up) will perform, as promised on the poster. Oh, we forgot to do a poster. Anyway, they are an all-dog band, a must see! The Shagging Feral Inbreds were booked. I hear they are spectacular too, dog upon dog upon dog. Elsewise, see this now!

AWAITING

Cassius thought he recognized the waitress. She smelled familiar when she bent toward him clearing away the drugged imps that sometimes come unglued from the bottoms of the tables. Her name tag said Veronica in fake rhinestones.

MUDDIED

Television works so well due to its predictability. Television says money supplants skills. Television delivers people. Television is a tranquilizer that evens things out. Television allows us to be happily stupid.

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Filed under Art Actions, BEAUTY, Blog Life, dicktool co, Humour, Linda, Love

World Collage Week – Day Five

Reid Dickie

It’s a big day! Keep your energy up, collagers!! Extinct hunting will happen this afternoon, despite it being controversial and all over the Big Head’s face gobs. The hunters vote on which extinct specie they’d like to kill most, a simple majority of votes decides the beast and off they go, an afternoon of complete futility, chasing something they know is non-existent, armed with weapons ranging from slingshots, bows and arrows and atlatls to submachine guns, grenade launchers and small nuclear tasers that zipline a custom hole in anything or anybody of desire. After a few hopeless, vain, senseless hours, many hunters will weep for the first time in their lives. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Tonight is the elegant ball in the elegant ballroom of the Bally Theme Hotel, Inn, Suites, Closets and Crawlspaces. The ball’s theme is Balls. “No yellow” is the ball’s only law. If you wear yellow, you’ll get kicked in the balls and/or equivalent. Should be a ball! Party on, specie!

NEXT WATER

After sitting through a long dinner with adults, little Whispa was glad to be off to her room. With her rubber stamp set, scissors and glue she assembled this poster of her daddy. She presented the little gift to her father at the table, much to the delight of the dinner guests. Whispa blushed as Daddy pulled her close to his warm smooth suit that smelled like cinnamon and exotic wind.

DESTINY

Umber Aja swims next to his dolphin brother, Climie, through the Gulf of Boredom as they try for the world title in tandem flexing at 8:30 every time it comes around which for the boys is just about often enough as they catch their combined breaths gulping the sewage-spoiled water. Climie almost swallowed an eyeball about an hour ago but spit it out at the last second.

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Filed under Art Actions, Blog Life, dicktool co, Family, Humour, Linda

Charlie Sear Building, 19-21 Main Street, Carberry, MB

Reid Dickie

This is part two of our stroll up one side and down the other of Carberry’s Main Street, Manitoba’s only Heritage District.

When he began working at Sear’s Garage in Carberry, Pa Tuckett was just a lad of eighteen. He started out as a “mechanically-inclined grease monkey” and wound up being “the best mechanic for fifty miles.” Pa always said one of the best parts of the job was going to work in the great building that local contractor and entrepreneur James White had built between 1903 and 1905.

Located prominently on a double lot on Carberry’s Main Street, the Romanesque Revival style Charlie Sear Building makes a striking contribution to Manitoba’s only Heritage District. Large and elegantly imposing, the brick two-storey building on a stone foundation was designed specifically to distribute and service farm machinery and vehicles and provide commercial space to other businesses. Besides Sear’s Garage, several businesses and agencies have inhabited the place over the decades including Reilly’s Hardware, Plumbing and Electrical Supplies, Spirit Sands Support Service, Home Hardware and Central Garage. 

The place sports many attractive exterior elements, not the least of which is a gorgeous street elevation. The front facade’s symmetrical second floor features several defining elements of Romanesque Revival style. These include the three large arched openings with keystones surmounting pairs of windows, the corbelled and arcaded cornice with a central arcaded pediment, the corner pilasters with raised capitals and the horizontal banding accentuated by rusticated stone window sills. The tiny off-centre window is a curious anomaly to the otherwise balanced facade.

Unfortunately the appearance of the Sear Building we see today is a muted phantom of its original grandeur. Somewhere in its 110 year history the workmanship and decorative detailing of the brickwork was severely obscured by a covering of plaster. This archival picture of the building shows its original design and beautiful detailing. Instead of sharp-edged brick elements that jump out, today we get an almost adobe feeling from the place, fuzzy and bulbous. In my picture of the front and side of the building, you can see some covering is falling off revealing red bricks beneath.

Nonetheless, the Charlie Sear Building is one more reason for heritage buffs to visit Carberry this year. The living, changing history of Carberry is written large and lovingly, not just on Main Street, but all over the little town and its outskirts.  I have posted often about the area’s heritage aspects which you can access on this blog by selecting Carberry from my Categories menu. Happy heritaging!

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Filed under Carberry, Day Tripping, Heritage Buildings, Manitoba Heritage

World Collage Week – Day Four

Reid Dickie

I know, I know, we’re all hungover and edgy after the Shred-A-Thon but we need to focus, keep pretending we are actually in control of something/anything and move on. Are you with me on that? Good. It’s more or less a relaxing day today except for those who have opted for the voluntary public flogging which starts at noon at The Forks. I have a low tolerance for paper cuts so shant be attending. Instead I’m spending the afternoon at the forum of people who’ve been struck by lightning more than ten times. The things they say…and wear! It’s an entertainment you won’t soon forget, bluntly said. I haven’t been struck by lightning yet. Have you? Suck up these images, will ya! 

FAB FOUR

Groober wasn’t sure what happened to the previous drummer in the band but he had his suspicions.

BABY’S FIRST VACCINATION

“Time for your DTaP-IPV baby. This’ll keep you healthy and happy with never a disease capsizing your future aromas,” said nurse Guido while injecting Little Ricky with the wrong vaccine. Within minutes Little Ricky saw his whole little life flash before his little eyes: biting grandma’s foot, the hydrogen filled inflatable pool and Glufus, the maniacally-jealous family dog, trying to drown him in the lake.

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Filed under Art Actions, BEAUTY, Blog Life, dicktool co, Humour, Linda

World Collage Week – Day Three

Reid Dickie

Today’s big event is the International Shred-a-thon which began at 2:00 this morning worldwide and runs for 24 hours. It’s Cloud Nine for paper fetishists. Due to the Miracle of Technology, the whirring and chewing of millions of paper shredders of all sizes will be heard echoing without stint through the ancient octagonal drums of Our Lady of Ouch Ouch Grotto, one of the area’s major tourist attractions. Here are today’s celebratory collages. Yummy!

TOP TEN CHARTS

She watched the fuzzy dice sway gently back and forth from the rearview as the Chiffons sang “He’s So Fine.” He was large and hot, increased his pace inside her, did a few dick tricks and groaned. She told him to bark like a dog and he always did which made her even hotter and hornier. His face and shoulders were getting red. He was just about to come when…

CAFFEINE PATCH

No time for coffee? Need the caffeine anyway? Try the new Caffeine Patch from Maulco. Slap one on first thing every morning and you are caffeinated for the day. Convenient, non-allergenic, contains no peanuts. Side effects include jitters, shitters and quitters. Extreme but rare side effects include machete-wielding serial killing, exploding penis, taserable panic attacks and/or death.

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Filed under Art Actions, BEAUTY, dicktool co, DickToolery, Humour, Linda

World Collage Week – Day Two

Reid Dickie

Collage week celebrations continue! At noon today, join me and the gang down at the Fussy Eaters Clubroom at Sunshine and Suchness. We’ll be chowing down on lymph burgers and yamato juice. Later is the hike through the Recanted PVC Forest, a rebuilt plastic imitation of a forest that once stood there, tree for tree, tick for tick. It’s a remarkable accomplishment in simulacra. Experience it before it’s against the law! Meanwhile, enjoy today’s collages.

NEW WORLD ORDER

“Of course we can convince them that one plus one equals three. They are sheep. They believe what their television tells them to believe. They sit or stand at the touch of a button. They think they are who they are told they are. Of course we can convince them…”

MEDUSA 

While Jack and his drinking buddies watched the game in the living room, Michelle, in the guise of painting the bathroom, was actually communing with Medusa.

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Celebrating World Collage Week – Day One

Reid Dickie

Come join me for a week of collage festivities on readreidread! June 18 to 24, 2012 has been deemed World Collage Week by the International Collagists Enclave (ICE), meeting in Brussels. The designating motion, seconded by the secretive Dry and Darkists, proclaimed that, during this week, the entire planet be recognized as a collage in its own right. The proclamation is lengthy, detailed, merciless tho housebroken and available for consumption on the ICE website at www.thisisajoke.com

Inspired and required by the ICE, I will post two collages daily this week, one colour, one black and white. These are selected from paper collages Linda and I created back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Each will be accompanied by a brief story suggesting possibilities for the image. Do not be limited by the stories. They are merely suggestions. Enjoy!

TRIPLISTS ABOUND

We who divide everything by three, who must divide everything by three, we are the triplists of the world – our vision is pure, our ways quaint and our power unfathomable.

UNFORGOTTEN ECHO

I am smiling down on you from Great Heaven helping you remember something you have forgotten. Have you remembered it yet? Keep trying. Be still. Look inside. It’s there.

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Nelson Hotel, 9 Main Street, Carberry, MB

Reid Dickie

As promised, here is the first post in my series about buildings in Carberry’s Heritage District – two blocks of the town’s Main Street.

Pa Tuckett remembers stepping off the westbound CPR Night Flier in Carberry at three in the morning in 1912, the sky speckled with constellations and, there, across the street from the station, glowing huge in the full moon, a welcoming site – the Nelson Hotel.

Today, the Carberry railway station is gone, freight trains still ply the line regularily, passenger trains don’t, but the hotel is still there. Now it’s called the Carberry Motor Inn. A three-storey brick anchor in a prominent location at the south end of Main Street, the Nelson Hotel was the most hospitable place in town after it was built  in 1909. Set flush to the Main Street sidewalk, the Nelson maintains an air of security with its flat roof, symmetrical facades and imposing bulk. Study the placement of the windows for a moment to get a sense of their unusual rhythm. The lone front entrance flanked by large awninged windows interacts playfully with the upper windows.

Somewhere between being called the Nelson Hotel and Carberry Motor Inn, the place was known as the Royal Alexander Hotel. Travel has changed from trains to personal vehicles and so did the hotel. Today Carberry Motor Inn also includes a one-storey, L-shaped motel next to the old place.

As part of Manitoba’s first Heritage District, the Nelson Hotel remains a conspicuous reminder of the hope and change early pioneers brought with them. And it’s just one of dozens of reasons for heritage buffs to visit Carberry.

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Filed under Accommodations, Carberry, Day Tripping, Heritage Buildings, Manitoba Heritage, Pioneers

Along the Road with Reid

Reid Dickie

I’ve traveled in three different directions from Winnipeg in the past week. First I headed northwest of Winnipeg toward Dauphin, one of my instinctual homes, a  familiar haunt. Along Hwy #5 east of Riding Mountain National Park the clear view stretched for miles. I passed through two towns I’d never visited before, Laurier and Makinak, both on the northeastern edge of RMNP. In Makinak, in addition to a couple of old no-name churches, I found this storefront with living quarters above and to the side and a picket fence balcony, rather New Orleans style.

My trips included a days loop through several communities that I had never visited north of Dauphin. On a mission of heritage recon, my cousin Vonda and I set out, first to Gilbert Plains to get a peek at an old building that housed an interesting method of supplying beef to families before electricity. Then north to the Negrych Pioneer Homestead, one of the best preserved and complete Ukrainian homesteads in North America. The site includes this rare handmade clay bake-oven or peech.  The oven is located in an extremely rare Canadian example of a traditional long-shingle Eastern-European style roof. Vonda commented on it looking very Hobbitt, very medieval. The gable end covering forms a protective porch over the entrance. Well-tended and obviously loved, we were a bit ahead of the July/August season and realized it would be much enriched by a tour guide. I’ll return with video camera in hand for that!

Northward we went to Garland (pop. under two dozen) in search of a designated heritage site,  Andrew Kowalewich General Store from 1913. Alas, it was gone, torn down about ten years back by a subsequent generation. This is what it looked like.

Frank, at Garland’s current general store, showed us the artifacts he and his brother had collected in the area. Arrowheads, pounders, scrappers, fire spinners, dozens of curiosities from the past. We found Garland Airport – a real jet next to the street – and here you can see lovely flight attendant Vonda welcoming you aboard AC flight 620 from Garland to Rome non-stop.

After a picnic lunch in quiet Garland, we backtracked a bit and went to Winnipegosis. Onward to Sifton looking for Holy Resurrection Church with its squat onion domes and vertical massing. Alas, also gone, eaten by fire in September 2010. Here is what it looked like.

We finished off our day trip by revisiting the giant sinkhole near Keld that occurred at this time last year. I created a short video update on the site. Despite two of the sites I went seeking being gone, the trip was a success for the accidental discoveries like the two old churches in Garland that I’ll be featuring soon along with all the sites mentioned here.

Along Hwy #10 Vonda pointed out this old bridge with concrete balusters that was probably where the original Hwy #10 crossed Garland Creek. There is a tree growing out of the centre of the bridge. Vonda knows of other heritage gems north of Dauphin so we’ll be embarking on another heritage recon mission soon. Stay posted to this blog. Thanks for that, by the way, that staying-posted thing. Much appreciated.

The next morning I took this shot of a healthy and keenly green hemp crop that stretched for acres behind my Dauphin hotel, the Super 8.

In Ladywood I saw this retired store right along Hwy #12 that is now a family home. The flexing and rolling grey clouds, beggingly bright blue patches of sky and silky mists of rain were the perfect palette for its yellow roadside declaration of independence.

Next week is shaping up to be somewhat more relaxing with a day trip or two to quell the wanderlust. Have you ever been hit by lightning? What was it like?

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Filed under Accommodations, Blog Life, Churches, Day Tripping, Fires, Manitoba Heritage, Spirit

Giant Manitoba Sinkhole 2012 Update

Reid Dickie

It was almost exactly a year ago that several acres of a timothy field turned into a huge sinkhole on the north boundary of Riding Mountain National Park as you can see in the picture. My reports and video footage of it remain some of the most-frequented posts on this blog and my YouTube channel. I returned to the site this week and shot a short video update about the sinkhole.

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Filed under Blog Life, Day Tripping, Earth Phenomena, Flood

Carberry – Manitoba Heritage Gem!

Reid Dickie

Most prairie towns in Manitoba have experienced ongoing physical renewal over the last 130 years with older commercial and residential buildings burned or torn down and replaced with new structures. The faces of Main Streets all over the province are in continuous flux. Exceptions to this process are rare and precious and one in particular stands out – Carberry, Manitoba

Located 42 kms east of Brandon and three kms south of the Trans Canada Highway, Carberry bucked the typical raze-and-build trend of most small towns and proudly retained most of its original brick and mortar architecture from its formative years in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Because of this, Carberry has garnered the distinction of having Manitoba’s first and, so far, only Heritage District. Designated by the provincial heritage people, two blocks of the town’s Main Street comprise the district, which includes 28 buildings, all of them deemed significant for their architectural and historical value. It’s a little slice of heritage heaven.

As a bit of a teaser, this shot shows one section of Carberry’s Main Street – a continuous row of original brick buildings sporting the elaborate decorative brickwork of the era. Though the first floor facades have been changed over the decades to accommodate various tenants and owners, the second floors remain mostly original, an exceedingly rare example of an early small town Manitoba streetscape.

Here’s my plan: I have photographed all the buildings in the Heritage District and plan to develop written descriptions for each, posting them individually on this blog over the summer. With my trusty JVC Everio I have shot video of the district which I will edit and post on my YouTube channel soon along with this series.

Its central location makes Carberry a great destination for daytrippers all over southern Manitoba. Besides its amazing Main Street, Carberry has several other heritage gems. I have blogged about their White house, Lyon house, agricultural display building, octagonal siloSt. Agnes Anglican Church, Carberry United Church Be sure to check out the Carberry Plains Museum and the building it is housed in.

I have spent a lot of time in and around Carberry over the past few years. Spruce Woods Park is just 28 kms south of Carberry, Criddle/Vane Homestead and Camp Hughes are nearby. 

For clarity, this project is of my own volition and I have no connection, financial or otherwise, to Carberry or any business in the area. I do have an appreciation of its architectural uniqueness and its location in the world, both of which motivate this series. My first post will be in a few days. As ever, I welcome all feedback.

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Filed under Carberry, Heritage Buildings, Manitoba Heritage, Pioneers

Linda’s Things

Reid Dickie

Today, among Linda’s things, I found this picture she had taken of Teedy, our lovely cat that lived with Linda and me for seventeen years. Clipped to the picture was a little piece of paper with this quote from one of Linda’s favourite authors written on it. “The slow petting of the beloved cat is the increasingly complicated heart speaking with the hand.” – Barry Lopez.

I just needed to share this with you.

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Gathering Moonlight at Spruce Woods Park

Reid Dickie

“The moon’s a harsh mistress, it’s hard to love her well,

The moon’s a harsh mistress, the sky is made of stone,

The moon’s a harsh mistress, she’s hard to call your own.”

– Jimmy Webb

These are the buttery days of a new ancient summer. In their fluttering perfection, butterflies dot the world. Their true colours range from solid black through red, orange, yellow to iridescent blues, always stoned on some intoxicating nectar or other. Dragonflies have started to appear; mosquitoes aren’t far behind. Such was the world I entered Monday when I checked into Yurt #4 at Spruce Woods Provincial Park for a two-day stay.

Ensconced on my deck facing WNW, the temperature around 28 degree C, I have found a little Eden. The late afternoon breeze plucks music from the oaks and cottonwoods along the Assiniboine River, which I can see shining below. A dozen kinds of birds twitter in the trees, their songs striving to capture the counterpoint of the afternoon. They are successful every moment.

A huge yellow butterfly with blue trimmed wings dances above my glass of wine. Unable to resist, it lands on the rim, sips delicately and does a backward somersault off the glass into its fluttery world. My plan is to await dusk then hike out on Spirit Sands to watch the full moon rise over the dunes.

The day is cooling perfectly as I head out to Spirit Sands about 9:30. The golden sky deepens to red then crimson then purple and darker as I surmount the log ladder up the dune face. Arriving at the place on the dunes Linda and I always visited, I hear voices among the trees below. The last of the humans are clearing off the trails. I am alone.

As I await moonrise, coyotes howl in the west and are answered by others in the east. The flies and mosquitoes find me extra attractive with my coating of sweat from the hike. As a slight evening breeze cools my skin, a pale glow on the northeastern horizon heralds the full moon. It swells into view bulbous and red, and I am filled with bliss and gratitude for this witnessing.

I spend an hour watching the night deepen and the moon whiten. Hiking back during the very last moments of twilight, the shadows are flecked with occasional fireflies. After decades of gathering moonlight, the long-fallen bodies of blown-down trees shine like silver. Standing armies of wolf willow glow eerily in the moonlight.

Back at my yurt I light a fire and watch the stars come out. Hundreds of fireflies flicker on and off in the trees around my yurtyard. Fireflies are a positive sign of a healthy habitat. Crickets and choruses of frogs, the small cries of night birds, crackle of the fire and rustle of the constellations harmonize around me.

After a long sound sleep I awoke Tuesday to another perfect day! I took a drive to the nearby Criddle/Vane homestead (blog post to follow), toured the area a bit, lunched at the Robin’s Nest in Carberry where I see the temperature to be even hotter tomorrow. The Robin’s Nest is a quaint little restaurant and motel along the TCH. I recommend it for its good country food, friendly staff and it’s now licensed.

Back at Yurt #4, the drone of a bumblebee intoxicates me in the heat. A red-headed woodpecker taps out a secret message on the trunk of a gnarly old oak. The park is still and quiet today with just the warbles and sighs of the denizens. The day wears away and night captures the land. Like stars, the fireflies are continuous tonight. Everywhere I look I see them, flitting through the treetops or winking shyly from the pitch-black understory.  As I stand, a firefly zips by my face exploding like a tiny flashbulb.

Crickets and frogs keep time with the pulse of the night and, later, dozens of coyotes in all directions create an exhilarating aural experience making it sound like the whole world is composed of nothing but coyotes and their haunting theories. Another thoroughly restful sleep ensues.

Crews continue working to bring Spruce Woods Park up to its standard before last summer’s flood. Today as I was pulling out I noticed the road to Spirit Sands was cut and a large culvert was being inserted under the road. The ditch along the highway is being worked to remove some of the flood cake that still coats parts of the park. Daily horse-drawn covered wagon rides to the dunes and punch bowl begin in July and summer nature programs are scheduled. So whether you are gathering sunlight or moonlight, the park’s numerous trails await your hiking boots and your curiosity. (Take water. Do a tick check.)

Two other things to mention about Spruce Woods:

  • Turkey Vultures: from my deck I saw several large black birds soaring high on the thermals when I arrived on Monday. I took them to be ravens due to their size. Later they soared lower and I saw they were turkey vultures with their stubby necks and bright red heads.  Abandoned farm buildings around the park make excellent nesting places. I also saw turkey vultures perched on the roof of the ruins of the Lyon’s mansion just outside Carberry north of the park. The old house would be a perfect site to raise their bulky young. I will keep an eye on both locations to see where they are actually nesting. I have blogged about turkey vultures and the Lyons house before;
  • Sundance: a large sign at the Epinette Creek turnoff pointed toward a sundance being held this week in the park. Sundance is a days-long ritual of sacrifice and transcendence where prayer, piercing and offerings of flesh open the path to personal healing. The public is welcome, however, please remember, no drugs, no alcohol at sundance. A step-by-step guide to the daily ceremonies for this particular sundance are here.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Birds, Carberry, Day Tripping, Natural Places, Parks, spirit sands