Category Archives: Parks

12 Days of Christmas 2015 – Day Ten Houses

My Houses page features 41 classic Manitoba homes in 21 communities. There are a few instances where prairie houses overlap with artistic vision creating an entirely new way of seeing the architecture and the land. Today I feature two such sites, both of which succumbed to fire for very different reasons. 

Criddle/Vane Homestead

Reid Dickie

The Criddle/Vane story is unique among prairie settlement. Eccentric Percy Criddle loaded his wife, mistress and nine children up and moved them from the finery of London to the bald Canadian landscape in 1882. Years of hardship ensued. Four more children were born on the homestead. The family had wide and varied interests – music, art, sports, astronomy, entomology – and pursued them all with vigor making the site a hotbed of artistic and scientific activity for decades. About 1900 Percy built a huge two story wooden house with eight bedrooms on the second floor. It stood for 115 years on what is now Criddle/Vane Provincial Park. Alas, arsonists set the old pile on fire in June 2014 and nothing remains of the structure. Luckily I had shot several videos of the houses. This report is a tour of the house’s interior. Four a more complete tour of the park check out this report.

The Doll House by Heather Benning

Reid Dickie

As a succinct statement on the collapse of the family farm Saskatchewan artist Heather Benning created The Doll House in 2007. She modified a long abandoned wooden frame farm house on Highway #2 just east of the Saskatchewan border. This report provides detail on the project along with its destiny.

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Filed under 12 days of christmas 2015, Architecture, Art, Art Actions, Houses, Parks

12 Days of Christmas 2015 – Day Six Day Tripper

There are 51 day trips on my Day Tripper page, all in Manitoba, several that can be stretched to two or three days. Spruce Woods Provincial Park about 2 hours west of Winnipeg offers diverse experiences communing with nature in all seasons. More of a night trip my post called Gathering Moonlight at Spruce Woods Park reports on one of my many all-night hikes to Spirit Sands, this one on June 2012.

Gathering Moonlight at Spruce Woods Park from Day Tripper page


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.

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Filed under 12 days of christmas 2015, Day Tripping, Natural Places, Parks, spirit sands

Down the Road Apiece, Late Summer 2015


Reid Dickie

Just back from a four day jaunt into western Manitoba that began with a productive heritage meeting in Carberry where the potato harvest is underway. Hundreds of people are involved this year, potato trucks abound on the highways and caterers are kept busying feeding the crews. Over 20,000 acres of potatoes are grown in the the area, much of the crop processed at the McCain Canada plant south of town. Odds are good that an order of french fries at a McDonald’s from here through the Mid West into Texas was grown and processed near Carberry. I followed a potato truck whose model was a Spudnik.

North on Highway #5 got me to Dauphin and the Vondarosa, my cousin’s piece of paradise on the edge of Riding Mountain. The picture at the top is of Riding Mountain and the big Manitoba sky taken from her grid road. It’s a different crop around Dauphin. Thousands of acres sport lush green hemp fields that will be harvested in October for both the fibre and the seed. The fibre will be processed at Plains Hemp in near-by Gilbert Plains. The company is North America’s leading provider of industrial hemp fibre and hurd products which are used for everything from horse bedding to hempcrete (building material). Much of the hemp seed will be processed by Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers in Dauphin.


Although apparently it’s been grown in the area since 1992, I saw my first crop of quinoa SEPT DAY 042growing across the road from a hemp field on this trip. The above picture is of the massive field of the stubby stalks loaded with seeds. NorQuin operates out of Saskatoon, SK and supplies stores with quinoa in numerous forms. Products made from hemp seeds and quinoa seeds are available at Sobey’s, Co-Op and elsewhere. The picture on the left is a close-up of quinoa plants.

The Dauphin Humane Society held a sold-out fundraiser on Saturday night featuring three comedians and a band. All the comedians were edgy and richly entertained the largely 30s and 40s-aged crowd.  Dan Glasswick from Winnipeg and Sterling green mScott from Edmonton were the headliners but I was most entertained by young Winnipegger Mike Green (right) whose spontaneous style humourously involved the audience, playing off members of the crowd. Scott will represent Canada at the World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas this week. The band called Revolving Door – possibly a joke – was raw, rockin’ and ragged.

As combines do the final harvesting both south and north of RMNP, the fall palette of colours is starting to emerge, especially beautiful through the Park. This is a picture of me at a ford crossing of the Vermilion River with the lush colours all around.SEPT DAY 050

The federal election has spawned a temporary blight of politician’s signs on the landscape. In a field along the highway outside Dauphin these hopeful words:


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View from Atop a Manitoba Sand Dune

JULY 005

Reid Dickie

Click the pic to watch my 2 minute video of a 360 degree panorama from one of the tallest dunes at Spirit Sands in Spruce Woods Park.

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Filed under Death and Dying, Earth Phenomena, Hope, Natural Places, Parks, spirit sands

First 2015 Spirit Sands Hike


Reid Dickie

The temperature soared to 26 degrees today with clear skies and slight breeze – perfect hiking weather. I enjoyed the 2 hour drive out Highway #2 today with a few fields already being seeded. I had the whole Spirit Sands to myself when I arrived about 12:30. Stripped down to hiking boots and shorts I headed out on the new beginning to the old familiar trail that I’ve hiked at least 200 times in my life.

The new trail begins with a set of stairs to the top of a ridge. In the picture above you can see the top of the new stairs on the left and a bit of the old sand trail on the right.In the foreground is the newly ground trail. Long time hikers will recognize the split spruce tree as The Sentinel.

Many nice views along the ridge and, due to the heat and the freshly hewn brush, the air was redolent with the rich aroma of juniper and spruce. Mauve crocuses poked out of theIMG_2263 dun understory on south slopes. Not much bird song and no bugs at all, not even wood ticks…yet. I watched two young chipmunks tussle over a cashew I threw them at the first shelter.

The dunes were as welcoming as ever today. I hiked to our spot and sat on the balcony for awhile. Linda and I used to sit on this little ridge on the edge of the dune face that overlooks the spruce and aspen forest which we called the balcony. It was perfect there today.

On the way back a park interpreter was taking a group of high school students on a guided tour. At the trailhead I talked to Max, the interpreter, saying how I liked the new trail route. We chatted about the changes. Lucky guy gets to live in the park all summer! I find all the staff at Spruce Woods Park friendly and always helpful plus it is among the best maintained provincial parks. It’s one of the best day trips in Manitoba with some of our most interesting hiking trails and unique attractions.

The reason for the new trail route relates to the covered wagon rides offered in the summer. A team of heavy horses pulls a covered wagon seating about 24 to the dune face where you can de-wagon and climb to the top of the open sand. The wagon proceeds to the punch bowl, a pond of eerie emerald water, then returns through savanna and mixed spruce forest. The previous wagon route was cutting precariously close to the eroding escarpment above the Assiniboine River. For safety the new route uses some of the old trail and veers off into the bush eventually meeting up with the old route. The wagon ride is a memorable family experience that reveals several of Manitoba’s hidden gem attractions. Plus you’ll get to meet Larry Robinson, a real cowboy, who operates the wagon rides. He’s a terrific guy!

There! Have I convinced you to hop in the car and find Spruce Woods Park yet? No! Here’s six other posts and videos about the park plus a map of how to get there:

September hike post

Moonlight hike on Spirit Sands post

Yurting at Spruce Woods post

Yurt #4 Spruce Woods video

Dog Day Harvest Flies on Spirit Sands trail  video

Spirit Sands hike video

How about now? Great! See you on the dunes!

Here’s a map to help you get there.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Earth Phenomena, Linda, Natural Places, Parks, spirit sands

Spruce Woods Park Spring 2015


Reid Dickie

I made my first foray to my favourite park over the last two days. The Assiniboine River is staying within its banks in the park. I saw no flooding anywhere at Spruce Woods. Further upstream there is some typical flooding of low lying areas around Brandon but the park is dry.

The south facing slopes are dotted with shy purple crocuses these days. I saw flocks of blackbirds along the road and even a few raptors have returned.

IMG_2294The big change in Spruce Woods Park is a reconfiguration of the hiking trail to Spirit Sands. Heavy equipment was cutting a swath through the bush around the trailhead when I was there yesterday. I asked the operator what was happening. Apparently the route the horse-drawn wagon rides take cuts close to the river bank and there is significant erosion so the wagon trail has to be rerouted. It was a surprise to see the pristine area around the trailhead broken and busted up to create the new route. The picture above shows the junction where the trail to the punch bowl goes left, the dunes trail right.

Subsequently the hiking trail to Spirit Sands has been redesigned starting with a new set ofIMG_2295 stairs that takes you straight to the top of a tall dune a little to the east of the original trail. The picture on the right shows the new structure. Though rather vague on the ground, the new trail is marked with direction signs. I only hiked the first few hundred yards of the new trail so I’m not sure where or whether it rejoins the original trail. The bit I hiked felt more strenuous than the original route. I’ll report fully on the new design when I hike the trail, hopefully next week.

The view below is from the top of the new stairway looking down on the buildings at the trailhead with a glimpse of the Assiniboine at the top of the picture.


Other trails in the park appear to be open and in good condition. I couldn’t tell if the lower campground and day use areas will be open or not this summer. The park office is still located at the upper campground and yurts area.

On Monday there were no cars in the Spirit Sands parking lot, yesterday there were four when I arrived. It’s still $5 daily to use the park facilities. The 2015 annual park passes are available now, $40 for the year. MLCC locations now sell the annual passes. IMG_2292

The first activity at Spruce Woods Park happens on April 25. The poster above about the Seton hike appears on the bulletin board at the trailhead. Carberry has a museum devoted to Ernest Thompson Seton and his work in the area. Check out The Seton Centre for more on the man. Carberry is 28 kms north of Spruce Woods Park on Hwy #5.


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

Whorls and The Unraveling – Fiction

Reid Dickie

“The ego is just the dream of the Witness, the film the Witness creates out of  its own infinite plentitude, simply so it will have something to watch at the movies.”

Ken Wilber One Taste

 “The self-contraction is a feeling of interior tension, often localized behind the eyes, and anchored in a slight muscle tension throughout the bodymind. It is an effort and a sensation of contracting in the face of the world. It is a subtle whole-body tension. Simply notice this tension.”

Ken Wilber One Taste

The stops on the westbound Corydon #18 bus route to Assiniboine Park are:






Lilac – where I get on, one gets off.

Wentworth – does not stop.

Stafford – two get off, one gets on.

I am sitting alone in a two-seater half way down the curb side of the bus. It is a hot day and the windows are bent open for the breeze. In front of me is a man with close-cropped hair. Nestled between the hairs, tiny beads of sweat glisten on his scalp. I am reflected…

Harrow – one gets off.

Guelph – does not stop.

…in every shiny bead. His hair is recently cut, the scalp is almost white. The black hair, stark against the pale skin, swirls out of a central place at the back of the man’s head. The whorl is not centred directly on the back of his head but slightly off to the upper left. Three beads at the edge of his hairline merge to form a drop of sweat that runs slowly down the back of his tanned neck and soaks into his t-shirt. I am…

Wilton – three get on.

Rockwood – one gets off.

Thurso – does not stop.

…staring into the whorl as it begins to spin. I let the spiral of black hair drag me into its vortex. It trips a mindful switch in my awareness. The force of the spin from the whorl is bringing my own self-contraction painfully to the surface, so obvious I cannot…

Cambridge E. – one gets off, two get on.

Cambridge W. – two get on.

Waverly – one gets on, one gets off.

… ignore it.  The evidence is so plain. I am fully wet, the waves have subsided and I rest now simply, here, as the wetness, evolving through and incarnated in all things. The spin from the whorl feels like electric prickles on my fingertips. My living whorls are torn from my fingertips by small tornadoes. I am…

Elm – does not stop.

Ash – does not stop.

Niagara – one gets off.

Brock – stops but wrong stop for passenger.

… who? A slow elegant wave washes behind my eyes, a massage from inside. I am prone. I am….

Campbell – two get off.

… a beach. The contraction is loosening. I am fluid as submerged sand. Tiny vortexes shuffle me along the sandy bottom. I am…

Lindsay – does not stop.

Lanark – two get off, two get on.

… an illusion between witnesses. I am…

Centennial – does not stop.

Lockwood – does not stop.

Kenaston – two get one, one gets off.

… watching. Balance gone now. Does not matter. The world is releasing me. No. I am releasing myself. No. Releasing is happening anyway and I am just tuning into it for now. And now. And now. I am…

Ubique – does not stop.

Doncaster – does not stop.

Edgeland – does not stop.

…floating. There is only Emptiness. A sense of Freedom. And  here…

Southport – does not stop.

Handsart – does not stop.

Park – one gets off.

Kelvin – does not stop.

Laidlaw – does not stop.

…another arising. Just let it arise, abide for its time then recede back into the Emptiness. That is it, just allow your uncontracted self to kick off its shoes and feel the sand between its toes. Oozing up through…

Shaftesbury – two get off.

Shaftesbury W. – one gets off.

…the sand are fresh blades of green grass that…

Zoo – everyone but me gets off.

…spread like a stain across the land, turning the dark earth into the colour of…

Zoo Loop – this is where I get off.  One gets on.


Out the back door of the bus onto the asphalt pavement, I take two steps before reaching the green grass. I take off my shoes and the earth begins to meld with me. I am rapidly dissolved up to my heart in the green shimmer of the grass. There I pause, appearing like a store display torso for a moment, before finishing my resolve to dissolve. Accomplished.

I love going to the park.


Filed under Fiction, Parks, Winnipeg

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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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

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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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

First Spirit Sands Hike 2014

yellow hoary puccoons and mauve avens

Reid Dickie

The humidity drove the temperature above 30 degrees today which proved perfect weather for a sauna-like hike on the Spirit Sands in Spruce Woods Park. As I arrived the horse-drawn covered wagon ride was just ending for a group of enthusiastic elementary school kids from the Cartwright/Mather area.

Because of our late spring all the wildflowers along the trail are a month behind. Usually in bloom by late April, the hoary puccoon and three-fingered avens (bright yellow puccoons and pale mauve avens in pic above) are just now coming into blossom. Lots of colour among the emerging grass from field and shade violets, anemone  and white velvets, colloquial names for lovely little blooms. Out on the dunes the odd sand dock offered its shy colours. The trees were full of birdsong tempered by the occasional welcome breeze to cool the skin. As usual, today the sands were at least 5 degrees hotter than the lowland around them.

The last few days, as I tweak a screenplay to complete its second draft, I’ve had the nagging feeling I should be doing something I’m not. Not something in the future, but right now. The drive to Spruce Woods and the hike to the sands cured that feeling. I found my antidote yet again along the sandy trail among the old spruce and on the hot sand.

There is talk of plowing up the overgrowth on the sand dunes to give them more of a WOW factor. Today I got the idea to create a video of the areas that could be de-forested, so to speak, to return the sands to a pre-growth condition. I’ll shot it on my next visit.

Thank you Great Spirit for another perfect day.

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Spruce Woods Park Flood Update – April 23, 2014

SPIRIT SANDS 2011 #1 017

Reid Dickie

The picture above shows some of the trees swept away by the flooding Assiniboine River that piled up against the bridge in Spruce Woods Park after the 2011 flood.

This year, other than a couple of days when the Assiniboine River covered Highway #5 through the park, the river is generally treating Spruce Woods Park well. The water receded and the highway is open again. There was no damage to any area in the park reported.

Latest flood reports say the Assiniboine will likely stay within its banks, however, weather is always the wild card. Manitoba and Saskatchewan are expecting heavy rains for the next couple of days. Headwaters of the Assiniboine and Souris Rivers are in eastern Saskatchewan where the rains, along with ice melt and run-off,  will have an impact that will be sent downstream to Manitoba.

Many Manitoba lakes are still mostly iced over and a lot of melting remains to be done. Near-normal temperatures this week have advanced the thaw creating plenty of free flowing ice on the rivers to jam and cause overland flooding. Residents near Petersfield north of Winnipeg have been evacuated today due to the rising Red River.

For now, Spruce Woods Park has escaped the river’s wrath. If there is any change in that I will update with an on-site report.

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Spruce Woods Park Is Flooding…

Reid Dickie


Today the province released its second daily flood update and little Spruce Woods Park appears to be flooding again.

An ice jam upstream from the park caused the Assiniboine River to rise seven feet overnight. Its waters now overflow Highway 5 which is closed for 2 kms in both directions from the bridge. The update says, “Maintenance crews have been dispatched to investigate where the ice jam is located, if it is in an accessible location ice jam mitigation action may be undertaken.” Let’s hope so.

If its flowing over the highway the water is also making its way along the ditches toward the access road into the Spirit Sands trail head and Marsh Lake north of the river and the oxbows to the south. Hopefully it won’t spill over into the lower campground as it did in 2011’s flood. The campground has been repaired over the past two years and just reopened last summer.

If I can get out there next week I’ll report from the park. Below is a picture of how Highway 5 looked after the 2011 flood in Spruce Woods Park. JULY 2011 YURT PICTURES 084

Several secondary roads have been closed due to flooding. You can find current information at

Otherwise the province has issued a High Water Advisory meaning ice jams along Manitoba rivers, which are just starting to break up, could cause sudden overland flooding. Be especially alert if you live near the Assiniboine or Whitemud.

People living near Whitewater Lake in southwestern Manitoba should know the lake is at a record high level this spring. Provincial hydrologists are monitoring the lake’s outflow carefully. Be alert for possible overland flooding near the lake.

Southern Manitoba received a heavy wet snowfall today. Thankfully it didn’t amount to the 10 cms predicted but there is a fresh coat of snow itching to melt and drain. Areas around Riding Mountain received more snow than southern regions.

The daily flood updates can be accessed at

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Filed under Bridges, Flood, Natural Places, Parks

Reid’s 2013 Year-End Review


Reid Dickie

The mighty Avenger (actually two different ones from Enterprise) and I logged over 25,000 kms again this summer, almost all of it in Manitoba. I got around and I’m so lucky to have an outlet to report what I saw, did and wondered along the road. The picture above, called Oh Susanna The Covered Wagon by R. Atkinson Fox, I found in the Carberry Plains Museum.

I drove a diversity of Manitoba highways this summer and can attest to the fact that there was a lot of highway infrastructure work being BRANDON 067done in all areas of the province.  Some of the work was more major ranging from seal coating to total reconstruction to replacement of bridges. Overall the condition and driveability of rural roads in summer is far superior to the streets of Winnipeg whose condition now approaches third-world status in all seasons.

In my travels this year, I was struck by the resilience of people and Nature to repair and recover from the 2011 flood, by the importance of local heritage which was celebrated in several places this summer but disdained or denied in others, by the generosity of people in sharing their stories, ideas and images with me and by the jolt a double homicide caused in a small village. For the view from Reid, read on…

Fresh Events

Carberry Heritage Festival


On this blog I have long touted the glorious heritage examples that still exist in Carberry, MB, posting 51 times about some aspect of the town’s past. When I heard Carberry was organizing its first ever heritage festival I wanted to play a part. I met with the organizers, created and distributed a media release to help promote the event and documented all the days’ events. This is a picture of an old Linotype typesetter in the office of the Carberry News Express. Below members of the Manitoba Muzzleloaders show their weaponry at the Carberry Heritage Festival.


Though the weather was cool, the festival drew a sizable crowd, enough to convince the organizers and business people of Carberry to make it an annual event. I am glad Carberry took the initiative and expanded on their unique heritage status. They have much to be proud of.

I did several reports on the heritage festival, a video of the events plus this post about how to load and fire muzzleloaders and the new video below of classic cars, trucks and farm implements at the festival. Heritage comes in many forms. I always love it when a new/old song enters my awareness. This happened on the Friday afternoon at the Carberry Heritage Festival when I was taping the events. An elderly lady sang and played guitar on the sidewalk for festival goers. I caught a snippet of her singing a great old song called Waltz Across Texas which I included in my video of the festival. The song echoed

tubbvery dimly in my memory but I couldn’t recall the original singer. Ernest Tubb was a 20-year country music veteran when he recorded this wistful, sentimental song in 1965. There is some confusion as to who wrote it. Ernest’s nephew B. Talmadge Tubb is usually credited sometimes with his uncle Ernest, sometimes not. Watch Ernest perform Waltz Across Texas, basically defining a whole generation of country music, one that even as the song rode the charts was passing from the public mind.

Yardfringe, Dauphin

YF 2

After I heard the term “Yardfringe” for the first time I went to Google and discovered the only reference to it was in Dauphin, MB. Something was abubble in Dauphin! Yardfringe is a variation on fringe festivals but the wrinkle is people bike from venue to venue which are in people’s backyards, people who have developed some sort of entertainment for the fringers to watch at no cost.  It’s an idea whose time has come, can be easily and cheaply promoted via social media, can apply to small cities or even big city neighbourhoods and has virtually no infrastructure. In October I wrote extensively about Yardfringe and interviewed one of the event’s co-founders.

Garland Airplane


This is a picture of your humble scribbler posing with the Vickers Viscount aircraft parked in tiny Garland, Manitoba. The plane has been anchored there since 1982. One of the many helpful people I met this year was Don Fyk, the plane’s owner, who shared his fascinating story with me. Read the whole story and watch my video tour of the exterior of the plane.

Flood Recovery

Since I covered the 2011 Manitoba flood in depth, I feel compelled to follow-up with the latest news. This summer several of the places devastated by the flooding Assiniboine and Souris rivers made a recovery. Two stories dealt with crossing rivers but in different manners.

Stockton Ferry

stockton 2011

This is a picture of the Stockton ferry in 2011, beached by flood waters. The infrastructure for the Stockton Ferry, the last remaining river ferry in southern Manitoba, was destroyed by the flood, washed away leaving twisted metal and broken cable. This video shows what the ferry looked like after the 2011 flood. As of summer 2013 the ferry is back in operation, carrying local traffic across the Assiniboine eight hours a day.  This video shows a ride on the restored ferry this past summer. The Stockton ferry restoration is an appropriate and successful response to the flood damage, which I can’t say for the town of Souris.

Souris Swinging Bridge


Unfortunately for Souris their old swinging bridge, the main tourist attraction to the place and a significant piece of local history, has been replaced by a bridge that doesn’t swing. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t budge the bridge. Boring! Too bad the engineers who designed this thing didn’t consult with any heritage people. To continue calling it a “swinging” bridge is dishonest at the very least. Not a success. This picture is the new unswinging bridge.

Spruce Woods Park


Again this year Spruce Woods Park was one of my most frequently visited sites. I took this picture this summer from Hwy #5 in Spruce Woods Park. The row of grey dead trees in front of the verdant ones in back were drowned by the flooding Assiniboine in 2011. They stand as a stark reminder of how the park looked then. This year and last, man and nature collaborated to rebuild and renew one of Manitoba’s best parks. Visitor amenities – campgrounds, trails, services – are almost back to pre-flood standards. The covered wagon rides to the dunes are back. A new office and other buildings that were swept away still need to be replaced. Another success story. Two out of three isn’t bad, considering how much government must have been involved in all of them.

Special Places

Spirit Sands


I hiked Spirit Sands half a dozen times this year from May to October. As I reported in my posts, every hike offered plenty of subtle changes in the open meadows, deep forest and wind-shaped dunes.


Though not formally recognized as a desert, active sand dunes on the open prairie is enough of an anomaly to be called a “desert” at least as a hook to garner tourists. However, of late Nature hasn’t been playing along with this tourist game. At Spirit Sands the reverse of desertification is occurring. The dunes are becoming overgrown with native grasses, flowers and wolf willow, all hardy in dry places. The lure of open sand dunes is being rapidly dulled by the burgeoning plant growth on the sand.


When Linda and I started visiting Spirit Sands in the mid 1990s, there were large open areas of sand with moving dunes fringed by some growth. Stepping off the top rung of the log ladder and seeing a desert spread out before you was truly a Manitoba “Wow” moment, right up there with polar bears. These days there is a more muted response to the first glimpse.


While Nature proceeds apace, humans are responding rather predictably. Those for whom Spirit Sands plays a financial stake in their lives have started rattling some cages. Options being presented include a biotically-respectful plowing up of the overgrowth to open up the dunes to the prevailing north-westerlies, get the dunes moving again and restore their “Wow” value.  I expound further on this in my September hike report.  All the pictures in this item were taken on my September 2013 Spirit Sands hike showing the current state of the extensive overgrowth.

The Vondarosa

My cousin Vonda resides on her family farm on the northern edge of Riding Mountain about two miles from the park. I’ve been visiting the area since I was a child so the distinctive bulge on the horizon we call Riding Mountain is an indelible and pleasant shape threaded through my memory. I am grateful there is still close family on the land and to be a welcome visitor to the Vondarosa. Here’s an account of an early visit last spring.

An evening drive back across the rolling plains with the blue Duck Mountains bulging on the western horizon and deeper blue Riding Mountain looming in the south and growing larger as we approach. At the Vondarosa, we sat outside, drank wine and watched the five cats and three dogs at play, living their idyllic lives in the throws of a long dense valley with a spring stream that surges then trickles then disappears flowing through the yard. The throws are the wide mouths of valleys as they flatten and disappear into grain fields that stretch away. Vonda’s place is exactly at the edge of a throw, sheltered by the valley and mature trees. It feels perfect! For me, it’s one of those in-between places that shamans experience great joy inhabiting. There are several places on her land that have powerful spiritual energies, especially the plateaus above the farm yard and the vortex in her yard and on the western edge of her land.


Birds sang and fluttered, dogs barked, distant trees sang on distant breezes, the sun poured red honey over the edges of the valley then set scarlet and hopeful between two granaries. Twilight ensued at its leisurely pace; the silence deepened. Sweeping down the valley toward me I felt the glorious wildness: the muscular lope of the cougar, the gnawing spring hunger of a bear, the spray of fear from startled deer, itches under the bark of a hundred million spruce trees, all aching along as evolution persisted around me, inside me on the brink of a mountain.


Finnegan (cat) Rebel (dog) Reid (human) at the Vondarosa.

ALONG THE ROAD TO DAUPHIN 018One of my duties at the Vondarosa is gathering dead wood from the bush surrounding the yard, hauling it to the fire pit and assembling it as artistically as possible. The evening bonfire unites day and night in a ritual blaze that competes only slightly with the realms of stars overhead. Among the stars in the pitch black night travel satellites and, at dusk, when the light is just so, the International Space Station floats past. The embers glow, sleep.

Pitter Patter

Percy Criddle’s Telescope


Regular readers of my blog will recognize the name Percy Criddle as a Manitoba pioneer from England, eccentric as the day is long. Percy fathered a brood of exceptional children whose talents and efforts gave science its first serious glimpse of prairie flora and fauna, provided decades of accurate weather data and left behind a true Canadian story as yet untold but deserving of a movie.

criddle hypno

Percy had some training as a medical doctor so his talents were put to use on the virtually doctorless prairie of the late 1800s, early 1900s. I posted about Percy’s medicine chest, showing some of the foibles of early medicine. Check out the ingredients in Hypno-Sedative. Chloral was basically knock-out drops.


On a day trip with old friend Mark, we visited the Sipiweske (sip-a-whisky) Museum in Wawanesa which has many relics from the Criddle-Vane homestead. Among his fancies, Percy included astronomy. His dear friend J. A. Tulk back in England bought a telescope for Percy and shipped it to him in 1886, four years after the family arrived in Canada. Now in the collection at Sipiweske Museum, Percy’s telescope – it’s blue! – stands in a place of honour among the artifacts.

MCC Thrift Shop of the Year

I know, Mennonite Central Committee thrift stores don’t compete with each other; they all do good work making things better locally and globally. Last year was the 40th anniversary of the stores. You can read more on their background in this post.

As a veteran thrifter, I visit rural MCC stores regularly every summer. Manitoba is gifted with a dozen of them outside Winnipeg. I visited all but one of them at least once this summer, usually finding a few neat/strange things along the way.


Using the criteria of interesting and unpredictable stock, reasonable prices, friendly staff and general cleanliness of the store, I proclaim that the MCC thrift shop in Portage la Prairie is my personal MCC Thrift Store of the Year. I visited it over three dozen times last summer and walked out without buying something maybe three times. The large PLP store, which opened in 1983, is located on Saskatchewan Avenue, handy on my many visits westward.

The store is well managed in the new era sense of thrift stores. The manager, Kevin, wears a headset phone, his staff are kind, helpful and enthusiastic, the store is clean and very well organized. While jumbles are fun for a few minutes, you can’t beat a nicely presented display of similar items which the PLP store excels at. All day this store rolls out racks and racks full of their latest donations. They usually have sales on certain categories of items. They keep a large stock of costumes which are available year round plus they offer a silent auction which can be viewed in-store and online. There is a large parking at the rear of the store.


This life-size mask is a handmade, hand-painted souvenir from Venice, Italy, a city known for its elaborate masks. The Carnival of Venice which ends when Lent begins, is an annual affair where masks are worn, each mask representing a certain aspect of Venetian history. I bought this mask at the PLP MCC for $5, making it one of my best buys of the summer.

Steinbach and Brandon both have large MCC Thrifts but they are runners-up to PLP. All the MCC stores in Canada and the United States are listed here.

PLP has two other thrift stores which I occasionally stop at: United Church’s McKenzie Thrift Shop on Saskatchewan Ave, and St. Mary’s Anglican Thrift on 2nd St SW.

Clinker Bricks in Edmonton

I visited my cousin Barb and hubby Larry in Edmonton over the summer and they introduced me to a building material I had never heard of before – clinker brick! Huh? That’s what I said.


This is hundred-year-old Holy Trinity Anglican Church made with clinker bricks – misshapen bricks  cured too close to the fire. They were a trendy item in Edmonton for awhile; ritzy houses often had clinker features. Read my post all about clinker bricks.


Lyons Mansion

It’s a pile next to a busy highway whose only job is to disintegrate brick by brick, bird’s nest by bird’s nest, lath by lath into the prairie. My video tour of the inside of the old Lyons mansion near Carberry garnered plenty of YouTube views this year. So did my tour inside and out of the old stone house along Highway 21. If you haven’t seen either, click the pics to watch.


Snapshot 26 (14-11-2011 3-25 PM)


This is the big old barn caving in on itself behind the Lyons mansion.

So God Made a Farmer

Dodge Ram used part of Paul Harvey’s touching tribute to farmers in a Super Bowl ad. Originally read to a gathering of the Future Farmers of America in 1978, Harvey’s speech was edited to fit into the two-minute commercial. Here is his entire tribute to farmers including the two sections omitted in the ad.

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.

“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’” So God made a farmer.

Heritage Breakdowns

Negrych Family Homestead, north of Gilbert Plains


This building, a long-shingle bunkhouse in the vernacular style of the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, is the iconic image of Negrych Family Homestead, the best preserved, most complete Ukrainian homestead in North America. Built between 1897 and 1910 by the Negrych family using materials found on their land, the place is a heritage treasure that is tended with much local love and pride. In 2012 my cousin Vonda and I visited the homestead and were given a full tour by Madison, a knowledgeable and enthusiastic DAUPHIN AUGUST WIGO RUH 037young woman from the area. It was a summer job that she found very fulfilling. The buildings, relics and background information combined to create a unique experience. We came away with greater appreciation for how pioneers survived and thrived on the raw prairie and new respect for their resourcefulness.

This year was a much different story. For reasons I don’t know, no funds were available to hire summer students to give tours and help maintain the site. The only opportunity for a guided tour this year was if you happened to arrive when one of the volunteers was mowing the grass. It is disgraceful for a site like this not to be available which is why I uploaded an eight-minute tour of the Negrych Homestead.

Dalnavert, Winnipeg


Built in 1895 Dalnavert still stands at 61 Carlton Street as one of Winnipeg’s finest Queen Anne Revival houses in a neighbourhood once richly endowed with houses in the style. Beyond the sheer grandiosity of the building, lovingly restored, maintained and run as a museum by the Manitoba Historical Society (MHS), is the provenance of its occupants. Sir John A Macdonald’s son, Sir Hugh John Macdonald, prominent Winnipeg lawyer, lived with his family in the house giving it an aura of importance and justifying its national treasure status.

But Dalnavert is in trouble. Closed since September 2013, the house/museum has run into financial difficulties prompting the MHS, the site’s owner, to ask for sound doable proposals for the future of Dalnavert. The deadline is January 17, 2014.

Shaver House, near Killarney


I included the historic Shaver house in last year’s 12 Days of Christmas. Built in 1901 and located just north of Killarney MB it’s a unique example of prairie brickwork and style. Recently the house has been a bed and breakfast run by the personable Pam and Paul La Pierre. Sadly the house burned down on May 8, 2013. Heritage lost. Watch my short video of the Shaver house.

The Dollhouse, formerly way out MB Hwy #2


Among the most popular videos on my YouTube channel is my report on Saskatchewan artist Heather Benning’s Dollhouse, a poignant work of art out on Highway #2 almost at the Saskatchewan border. At least it was a poignant work of art until Heather decided to burn it down which she did in April 2013. Artist’s prerogative. This is heritage lost in a way but I’m sure Heather will creatively built on it so its statement did not die in the flames. Watch the video and read the updated story. 

Murder House


I grew up in a small town of about 800 people in western Manitoba. Crime of any kind, other than the occasional bootlegger, was rare and usually committed by drifters. Most small communities aim to maintain a state of grace – an often-fragile balance between people and their individual and collective needs and expectations based on fellowship, caring and tolerance. Sometimes one person can upset the balance to such an extreme the whole community falls from grace.

ETHELBERTDAUPHIN MAY 28 2013 007In August I reported on events in Ethelbert, MB (pop. 312) as a short intro to pictures of a house and yard where a double homicide occurred in January 2013.  Elsie Steppa, 81 and her nephew Clarence Thornton aka Harry Jones aka Jesus Christ, 50 died of “blunt force trauma” in a little white stucco house next to abandoned railroad tracks. For me, the event has an irresistible bouquet of surrounding elements and, as it turns out, images.ETHELBERTDAUPHIN MAY 28 2013 010

On two occasions this past summer I took video and stills of the murder house in Ethelbert which, though padlocked, hadn’t been touched since the investigation. These images comprised my August post and received a variety of responses.

Thornton aka Jones aka Jesus Christ was a violent unpredictable man who was banned from most area churches due to his erratic and threatening behavior. He couldn’t get along with anybody. Still needing a church to preach in, Jones secretly adopted as his own several long- abandoned churches out in the ETHELBERT JONESbush. He stole plastic flowers from cemeteries to decorate his church and altar. He wore vestments stolen from churches and set up his own altar lit with candles. Jones preached for hours, sometimes days from his lonely pulpit, all the time to an empty room with the prairie wind whistling between collapsing walls and roofs.

This summer the details of this story have come to me in often CARBERRY MUSEUM JONES CHURCHES PICS 027serendipitous ways. One such example is gaining access to two of the abandoned churches Jones decorated and preached in. I took dozens of pictures of the churches and evidence of Jones’s using them. Some of the pictures are quite shocking.

Combining the pictures of the house, yard and churches into a little movie I offer you Murder House in the Rain, 4:50 of visual CARBERRY MUSEUM JONES CHURCHES PICS 025reportage. I aim to creates moods, atmospheres in my videos work and Murder House in the Rain is all mood! Jones kept two large dogs to guard his paranoia. The dogs on the soundtrack fulfill their role, sudden and near. Click this pic to watch the video.

Ethelbert mayor Mitch Michaluk told me that the murder house (my terminology) and property went up for tax sale on December 9, 2013. It has back taxes of $1200 owing on it. Though it sits on a serviced lot, it’s unlikely anyone will buy it. Its fate? Probably demolition by the village.

Payton Saari, 20, of Ethelbert was arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder. He has yet to enter a plea.

Ten Manitoba Sights in Two Minutes


Though I have created several dozen videos and over 100 blog posts this year, there is still a wealth of bit and pieces that I want to share. In this new video see ten Manitoba sights in two minutes. Click the pic to start the tour.

Schools Page

This year’s best new page is my Schools page (at the top above the header picture). Included on the page are articles and pictures of ten Winnipeg schools that have been demolished, features on spiral fire escapes, the origins of junior high, my memories of attending a one-room schoolhouse, educational innovators like William Sisler and J. B. Mitchell, heritage schools in rural Manitoba and my mom’s Grade 11 exams from 1930 plus much more.


This is now-demolished Somerset School, constructed 1901, demolished 2005. I offer it because in the last few months I have met two people, both in their mid 30s, who attended Somerset when it was temporarily part of nearby Sacre Coeur School. Though I have extensive pictures of its exterior I wasn’t able to get access to photograph inside before it was torn down. A chain drugstore stands in its place on Sherbrook Street.  

I have researched and written extensively about most of Winnipeg’s grand old schools from the early 1900s, many still in use today. You can expect features on them to begin appearing on my blog in early 2014.

Culture Bound

In the final episode of Breaking Bad in the shot-up clubhouse, Walt answers dead Todd’s cellphone whose ringtone is a male voice singing, “Lydia, O Lydia, Say have you met Lydia? Lydia the tattooed lady.” It’s Groucho Marx singing a song from the Marx Brothers movie At the Circus (1939) in one of their wackier musical scenes with nuthouse choreography and Groucho the biggest ham in the room, no small feat.

groucho 4

The zany tune was written by Harold Arlen (Over the Rainbow, Stormy Weather, That Old Black Magic), with lyrics by E. Y. Harburg (Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?, April in Paris, It’s Only a Paper Moon). The lyrics are a hoot! As an example he rhymes Amazon with pajamas on. Click Groucho for the song from At the Circus.

I watched plenty of movies this year but have just two to recommend: Stoker and Let Him Be.


Stoker is South Korean writer/director Chan-wook Park’s twisting tale of changes in an American family. Mia Wasikowska gives another seamless performance. Park should be listed with the actors as his presence as a director is never far from evident. Beautifully rendered, well-crafted yarn and a perfectly tacky use of Summer Wine by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood (1967).


Let Him Be is a docudrama in which a bright young filmmaker has evidence that John Lennon is still alive and living in a village north of Toronto. He goes exploring for answers with startling results. There are two moments, including the ending, that sent shivers up my spine. That’s all I will tell you. It came out in 2009. I found it in the Winnipeg Library System. Find it.

New Friends

Michele and Larry, Karen, Don Fyk, Amber, Jeremy, Jesse, David, Jim, Sylvia, Johnny, Larry, Cathy and Pat. Great to know you!

Wrapped. Rapt.

Thank you for reading my blog. The year sailed by with joy and gratitude and, when I forgot, appropriate reminders to be joyful and thankful. Thank you Great Spirit for all this perfection in which are utterly immersed and to which we are inextricably bound. Joy and Gratitude.

I will end the year with two pictures of my namesake, Ezra Reid Scholl, who is now 14 moons old. Happy New Year!

Dec 2013 c

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Filed under Carberry, Dauphin, Death and Dying, Education, Family, Festivals, Flood, Heritage Buildings, Heritage Festival, Hope, Local History, Manitoba Heritage, Natural Places, Old Souls, Parks, Pioneers, Prairie People, Schools, Soul Building, spirit sands, video art, Year-End Review 2013

Autumn Music at Spirit Sands


Reid Dickie

Shirtless in the 20+ degree C afternoon I sat at the top of one of the park’s highest dunes yesterday and the scene above spread out before me. The bright yellows of the poplar and aspen glowed against the ever-elegant evergreens beyond accompanied by the subtle music of autumn on the prairies.

Overhead, late for the sky, Vs of migrating geese sang their urgent pleas harmonizing with the gentle clatter of changing leaves in the afternoon breeze. Atwitter with lively applause during their green days, aspens and poplars intoned a more sombre tune against the wind sighing through conifer boughs. Though most birds have flown south, blue jays squawked and an occasional chickadee punctuated the sunshine with its familiar song as crickets counted down the days til winter’s sleep.


In fall it’s striking how overgrown with various vegetation the dunes have become as you can see in the picture above. The shot below shows a new dune created by the prevailing northwesterlies.


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Filed under Birds, Day Tripping, Earth Phenomena, Natural Places, Parks, Sacred Places, spirit sands

A Salad for the Eyes!


Reid Dickie

For the eighth or ninth time this summer I took the leisurely drive home from Dauphin yesterday through Riding Mountain National Park. The day was partly cloudy. The park is spectacular this week with autumn painting the landscape with a glorious panorama of colours. Around every bend a new flourish of yellow and scarlet intertwines with subtle variations of orange, brown and red against a palette of greens.  It’s a salad for the eyes!

I always enjoy the drive through the park although in a few places the highway makes it seem like all four tires are going flat. The speed limit of 80 kph is appropriate and allows for sudden stops to view wildlife along the way. Trucks with three or more axles are not allowed to drive through the park.

The road now bypasses what was colloquially called “soapstone hill” – a short section on a steep hill near the north entrance. For decades the highway over the soapstone was unpaveable because the asphalt slid down over the slippery stone. Next to the bypass, there is now a new parking and viewing area that affords a gorgeous vista of the old lake bed below and Dauphin beyond.

This is the weekend for a day trip through the park for a full measure of Manitoba’s fall colours.

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Spruce Woods Park July 2013

Reid Dickie


I spent the last day of July hiking to Spirit Sands at Spruce Woods Park. Dog day harvests flies (similar to cicadas) were sawing the air, dragonflies danced on the updrafts and the prairie grasses were dotted with magenta and purple flowers. Plenty of rain has furred the dunes with vegetation this year.

Since the devastating flood of 2011, Spruce Woods has rebounded extremely well. Though virtually wiped out by the Assiniboine River two years ago, the lower campground is now partially restored and open for camping. The park office which stood next to the campground was destroyed by the flood. Today the park office is still in a trailer in the upper campground. All the park’s trails are open and accessible.

One of the park’s best features are the horse-drawn covered wagon rides to the dunes and the punch bowl. Operating daily at 10:00, noon and 2:00 during July and August, they offer an easy way to transport the whole family to the park’s most interesting phenomena with minimal hassle and maximum interest. The wagon, pulled by two Belgian heavy horses, stops at the base of the dunes. You can JULY 004climb the dunes, get sand between your toes and witness the spectacular views of the dunes. Back on the covered wagon to the punch bowl, an intriguing pool of blue-green water, you can explore the site then ride back to the trail head. The horses travel at a leisurely pace and cowboy Larry Robinson, who has been operating the rides for about 20 years, provides rich commentary on the history of the park and its denizens during the 90-minute ride. It’s a memorable family experience. Tickets – $14 for adults, $8 for youth – are available at the wagon office and can be reserved at 204-526-7727.

I noticed a sundance going on this weekend in the park. Sundance, a no alcohol, no drugs event, is open to the public. Access is off the Epinette Creek trail head. Watch for signs.

Twenty minutes north of the park is one of Manitoba’s heritage gems – Carberry. The first annual Carberry Heritage Festival takes place August 9 and 10 with lots of things to do and see. Check out the details here.

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Black Bear in Riding Mountain National Park

Reid Dickie

“When one thinks like a mountain, one thinks also like the black bear so that honey dribbles down your fur as you catch the bus to work.” – R. A. Roshi

Driving through the park today I saw a small black bear foraging by the side of the highway. I drive through RMNP every two weeks or so (I’m so lucky!) and have seen this bear on three trips this summer. Click the pic to spend two minutes with a bear.

Snapshot 1 (22-07-2013 7-31 PM)

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Filed under Critters, Natural Places, Parks