Tag Archives: miniota

Bricks, Stones and So On Along Reid’s Road

Reid Dickie

“Speed River, take me away, Speed River, take me away.” – Gord Downie

“Life is a journey and where you are going is HERE and when you arrive is NOW.” – Ram Dass

The Arcades of Hartney

In downtown Hartney, MB, prominent on a corner, stands this lovely old two-storey brick building. The series of arches formed by the brickwork under the cornice is called an arcade and Hartney has several arcades that attracted my heritage geekeye. You know the one.

Anyway, this is a particularly precise arcade, mixed and measured into the corbelled brickwork which continues along the exposed side of the place. The craftsmanship of the masonry overall on the building is exceptional, the crown on the end pilasters an excellent example.

Today its broad showroom windows light the Hart (ney) – Cam (eron RM) Museum. Incidentally, this building served as the bank location in an entertaining little movie called The Lookout Try to watch it.

Just down the block from the museum is another arcade. Cruelly painted and indulging itself in mid-peel mode, the brickwork still shines through. If you click and zoom the pic you can see that the original intent of the artisan who laid this arcade cannot be diminished by mere paint and hue.

Right next to the museum is another fine brick structure prompting awe with its deft and detailed design and execution. The three arches over the rounded windows form a sweeping, open arcade that gives the facade breath and life, “articulating and disambiguating the fenestration of the ground floor.” The main floor is a whole other study in arches, dominant and submissive, abetted by alluring brickwork. That’s another post for another late night.

Corbelling, dentils and aviated keystones enhance the arcade, the quality of the craftsmanship still evident and whole, a century after construction.

Wooden trestle bridge from abandoned rail line next to Hwy #23 just east of Elgin, MB with sunflowers as far as you can see. August 2012

No, it’s the family name.

Miniota Main Street Brickwork 

I am always attracted to exceptional brickwork, especially when it contrasts with the metal cladding favoured in many towns. The skyline of Miniota has a few shapes that resonate back to its birth and subsequent enterprise, its boomtown moment, a worthy endeavour and one to be encouraged elsewhere. 

One side of Miniota’s main drag has a series of facade rooflines that are replicated in brick. As in this picture, there are pointed and rounded shapes using header dentils and cornice, soft corbelling and interesting finishes and colour choices.

Just down the block two more one-storey  brick commercial buildings constructed around the same time with the rounded brickwork and again interesting finishes.

Down the street is this official looking building with the pointed facade and the infrequent double dentil, the corner stepped-brick brackets, again infrequent and the American bond of the bricks inside the surmounting pediment, contrasting with the running bond of the rest of the pile. It has a story or two to tell, I would say.

Yup, usta be Uno. Just one house and this sign now.

Out there, lonesome, Mansard roof tumbledown, howling wind, rotting, swallows, lightning-ready, the rods, gulps, stones, falling away, sunken, sunk. Find it along MB Hwy 21 south of Hartney. Expect more visually inspired stuff from this place…all hush, hush for now!

No clue! You?

More restoration work happening in Spruce Woods Park after last summer’s devastating flood. These are straw mats held down with webbing meant to restore some green growth along the road to stabilize the ditches. The thick grey floodcake that covered large areas of the park left by last year’s floodwaters has been hauled away and these mats secured in place.

 Some growth is already occurring. I’ll report later in summer on the progress of this method.

I’m always on the road, passing back and forth through the vanishing point, getting out of the mighty Avenger, smelling the fresh prairie breezes, feeling the hot sun on my flesh, always curious about what’s around the next corner, ever seeking the ‘what was that?!’ moment and often finding it. Every mile a safe mile.

1 Comment

Filed under Day Tripping, Heritage Buildings, Manitoba Heritage, Roadside Attractions

Two Trains Running, Two Trestles Standing

Reid Dickie

The trestle bridge in the picture above is outside Uno in western Manitoba. The bridge spans Minnewashtack Creek just before it joins the Assiniboine River. The surrounding valley of the two rivers is spectacular this year with lush green growth everywhere.  The Uno bridge, 1533 feet long, is supported by steel trestles. On average one train an hour crosses it. Access to the Uno bridge is off MB Hwy #83. On K Hill Road, drive two miles west of Beulah, MB, turn south for 1.5 miles, turn west for about a mile. In Uno, cross the tracks and turn left. In a kilometre or so the trestle bridge will arise on your left. There appears to be one occupied house left in Uno, appropriate I’d say.

This much more modest trestle bridge spans the CNR mainline about five miles east of the steel trestle, again off Hwy #83 outside of Miniota, MB. Made entirely of wood,  this bridge gives access to farms, the Silver Bend Trail and the Wakpa Tanka Lookout site. The driving surface, also wooden, is basically two ramps and a flat joining section. This trestle bridge is located west of MB Hwy #83 north of Miniota. Watch for the Wakpa Tanka site signs by the highway. Click on either picture to watch my video of trains passing over and under both trestle bridges.

I filmed another freight train going under the trestle bridge from on top of the bridge. Watch the 3:40 video here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bridges, Day Tripping, Local History, Manitoba Heritage, Trains

Wakpa Tanka Lookout – Miniota

Reid Dickie

For thousands of years the valley of the Assiniboine River provided food, water and shelter. Along its banks are numerous known and unknown former campsites where evidence of habitation can be found.

In 1992, pipeline crews discovered a rare campsite on the banks of the Assiniboine near Miniota, MB, rare because the site was used only once before it was covered with river sediment from flooding. The archies thoroughly dug the site and preserved dozens of artifacts dating back 1000 years to the Avonlea people. Today a viewing platform and information board perched high above the river offer access to a millennium of river history.

Called Wakpa Tanka Lookout, the site provides a panoramic view of the river valley, which includes an oxbow of the Assiniboine. Translated from Dakota, Wakpa Tanka means “great river.” A sturdy well-constructed kiosk provides written and pictoral background on the site’s history and details about the grand valley view before you.

Also at the site is the trailhead for the Silver Bend Trail, a trail with exceptional vistas of the Assiniboine valley. Signage along the trail speaks of aboriginal peoples and settlers offering insight into their daily lives. Steamboats plied the river delivering supplies to settlements along the banks.

The site is easy to find. Access to the trailhead and Wakpa Tanka Lookout is off Hwy #83 about a mile and a half north of Miniota. By the highway is a sign for Silver Bend Trail. Turn west onto a good gravel road, drive over a small wooden trestle bridge and into the site. This trestle bridge, which spans CNR tracks, is a rarity in Manitoba as it is completely constructed of wood, even the driving surface.

2 Comments

Filed under Day Tripping, Local History, Manitoba Heritage, Natural Places, Prairie People, Roadside Attractions

Manitoba Flood – Phase Two

Reid Dickie

WHAT A DAY!

After a week of heavy rain and high winds, we have arrived at phase two of the 2011 “high water event” with new flooding in many parts of the province, new states of emergency and new evacuations. Deloraine, Ochre River RM and Miniota RM have all declared states of emergency due to overland flooding, Brandon and several other RMs have extended their states of emergency, Ste Rose du Lac has closed its ring dike against water from the Turtle River for the first time in 25 years, Brandon just received another three-quarters of an inch of rain in 45 minutes this morning, golf-ball size hail pounded southwestern Manitoba today, dozens of roads are closed due to new washouts, inundations stretch more than a kilometer inland from the shore of Lake Manitoba around St. Laurent, the Souris River is rising quickly and residents around much of Lake Manitoba’s south basin have been evacuated while their homes and cottages are eaten away by the rising water. The surging water and waves swamped dikes, tossed debris and even broke some cottages in half on Tuesday. Sixteen people had to be rescued by boat and one resident had to be pulled out by helicopter. Lake Manitoba is still two weeks away from its crest so many residents around the lake probably won’t be able to return to their properties this summer.

Meanwhile, our head-in-the-sand provincial government still pretends that the Portage Diversion, which today is releasing 16,000 cubic feet of water per second into Lake Manitoba, did not cause this vast lakeshore destruction. Manitoba Water Stewardship and their “minister” are claiming the natural flows from the Whitemud and Waterhen Rivers are causing the high water levels in Lake Manitoba, thus the flood is due to “natural causes.” The government’s own water flow numbers don’t support this ridiculous claim. The amount of water supplied to the lake by these two streams is small compared to the Diversion’s contribution. In fact, the outflow from Lake Manitoba is about equal to the inflow of both rivers thus cancelling out their effect. Add in the man-made Portage Diversion and you have current conditions. Politicians unable to tell the truth who spend their day covering their asses abound here now. The NDP faces an election this fall so they will go to any length to shift blame but, unlucky for them, there aren’t any other places where the blame can land except on their heads.

On that note, let me expound a bit on the events at Hoop and Holler Bend last month. First the opening of the dike was touted as essential to save hundreds of properties between Portage and Winnipeg, then it was demoted to a just-in-case measure and then they closed it after a few days when they realized people had caught on to what it was all about. In retrospect Hoop and Holler was nothing more than a desperate publicity stunt to make Selinger look like he saved the province. The puny amounts of water that flowed through the cut made an insignificant difference in the Assiniboine’s flow but caused major inconvenience for the affected properties. Part two of the Hoop and Holler plan was the compensation package where the government appears completely benevolent covering 100% of costs. What a great guy Selinger is, eh? The photo op of Charleton Selinger parting the Red River has been put on a back burner, for now.

As I write this today in Winnipeg, thunderstorms have been passing overhead with some rain and lots of wind tossing the fully-leafed elms around. The unstable weather is predicted to continue into next week over southern Manitoba. We have entered phase two of our flood and approach the heart of darkness.

Leave a comment

Filed under Flood, Local History, Natural Places

BE HAPPY! Reid’s 2010 Year-End Review

           I begin my year-end review with a picture taken New Year’s Eve 2009, one week after Linda died. Snapped by dear Kenny at his celebration, people who saw the picture thought Leonard Cohen had attended the party.

         Alas, it is I, the horrors of the recent past inscribed on my face, a small attempted smile, sad eyes.  Since Leonard Cohen is 14 years my senior, I guess I got a little behind in my Fountain of Youthersize. I will conclude my year-end review with a picture from New Year’s Eve 2010.

TRAVIS

            When a good person dies, their benevolent energy is released into the world. It hovers nearby, surrounds those the deceased loved and provides angels to ease their grief. Evident angels bring casseroles and pies. More subtle angels appear seemingly by coincidence. You can recognize them because they always turn up in a timely fashion and they always know what to do. Travis was one of Linda’s angels.

            A licensed massage therapist, Travis was recommended to me in early January to iron out the tension and kinks my body had accumulated over the past few months. The moment I saw Travis I knew he was an angel, an Old Soul come to help. That day I received the best massage of my life. He knew what to do, what I needed. The subsequent seven massages he gave me became increasingly healing. While I tried to come to some kind of reckoning with my state of shock after Linda’s death, Travis kneaded and stroked grief out of my body with kindness, compassion and love. His hands found the pain of grieving my body held and gently, with coordinated breathing, released it, leaving me more relaxed than I’d been in months, unbound, at home in my skin again.

             It is a luxury to be understood. Not only did Travis recognize the needs of my body by relieving its tension, he realized my mental condition and offered solace of the most intense kind. Soul to soul, a bond formed between Travis and me that silently acknowledged the pain and the process required to survive it. In that bond, hope took root, was nurtured, grew and helped me immensely with proactively processing my grief for Linda.

Travis. Can you see the light behind his eyes?                    Click any picture to enlarge.

           Travis showed me grief wasn’t new to me. I had grieved for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and pets in this life and others. Death is necessary. We are all tomorrow’s food. Grief ensues. I knew the territory and I knew the steps. I printed off the 10 steps of grieving, tacked them up at my desk and used the list as a map to figure out how to get through this.

            Travis returned to Vancouver in late March to his family and to pursue his career there. We have kept in touch in many ways. I have a feeling Travis and I will be reunited soon and he will again act as a catalyst to propel me fully into my new life.

THE DISTANCE

      The distance: just over 27,000 kilometres in 6 months from mid-May to mid-November, averaging 150 kms a day all over southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The vehicle: The Mighty Dodge Avenger.

The Mighty Avenger

      I am proud to report that at age 61 I have never owned a car or any motor vehicle in my life. I drive but choose not to. I am independent. This summer I needed to be mobile, to escape this hive and haunt the blue dome that nurtured and inspired me growing up in little Shoal Lake. I needed the elbowroom, the mental room to deal with my grief over Linda’s death, to run the grieving steps in a wide-open space that I knew and that knew me. Enterprise offered me a great deal on a month-to-month rental with plenty of free kilometres. I could not resist and didn’t. The Mighty Avenger arrived in my life. A little sporty, a little daddy, peppy and utterly reliable for the ensuing thousands of kilometres we spent together. We were a team.

   The Mighty Avenger at Pine Cree Park, SK, the farthest west we traveled this summer.   

            At the end of July, Mother Enterprise decided the 2009 Avenger had reached it rentability zenith and was ready to be sold, put out to pasture. Just like me! A lovely irony! I will always cherish and admire how the Mighty Avenger easily contributed to my personal mythology as I created a new life for myself, how every mile it accommodated Linda’s spirit and all the wild spirits we found along the road.

      We’d been comrades in kilometres from Bannock Point Petroforms in the east to The Convent B&B in Val Marie, SK in the west. We’d driven PLP to Wpg during the Once In Fifty Year rainstorm in late May, basked in the heat next to an ancient dancing ground at the top of the highest hill around, maneuvered the blind hills and vales of the Missouri Coteau and the sharp curves of the Canadian Shield with aplomb and dodged most of the gophers we encountered. After traveling 1800 km with me in the Avenger and driving part of the way, my friend Chris can attest that the Avenger is a most amicable driving machine. The Avenger is a mighty sweet ride! Arriving at Enterprise, I turned in my reliable friend, anxious about its replacement.  

The Mighty Avenger and I stopped on a tablerock on the Canadian Shield. 

      Little wheel spin and spin, big wheel turn round and round – it was another Avenger! Same design, same colour but a year younger, fewer kilometres, just a kid really. I would more than double the 14,000 km it had already gone. The myth of the Mighty Avenger lived on as we prowled the prairie hill and dale together.    Our adventures are recounted in most of the 12 Sacred Places reports 

      However, after six months and one week, it was time to say adios for good to the Mighty Avenger. I had extended the rental for three extra months and never regretted a mile of it. Over the summer, I kept all the gas receipts from the Avenger but never totaled them. I waited til just before I gave it back to add them up. Not to say it was hard on gas, it wasn’t but the whopping total made our parting much easier!

      My friends keep asking if I miss the Avenger but I don’t. I enjoy the slower lifestyle, the pace of walking, being patient, it’s familiar. I do miss one thing about it though: hearing the great break in “I’ve Got You under My Skin” by Frank Sinatra, arranged by Nelson Riddle, really loud going 110 kms an hour down a perfect highway aimed at the vanishing point.

ON THE ROAD

CHRIS

      When traveling any path, it is essential to have as many allies as possible in as many different worlds. I am blessed to have my young friend Chris as a spiritual ally. We’ve been friends for 12 years, grown together spiritually, traveled together, aided and abetted each other’s development and personal evolution. We are Old Souls, the ones who find each other in times of need and know what to do.

      If you have followed 12 Sacred Places, you have heard of Chris often enough to make you curious about him. In addition to being an effective and respected therapeutic drummer, imaginative musician, Old Soul and a fine writer, Chris is a deeply spiritual man. He is an embodiment of Universal Love. It shines from his eyes. Time and again when we talk of our lives and our challenges, Chris distills everything to Love for which he is a positive change agent and future attractor. His smile inspires hope.

     Over the years we’d discussed traveling together to the sacred places I told him about. This was our year. Starting solstice sunrise in June (Day 6 of 12 Sacred Places) we spent five blissful days together on the road, traveling through southwestern Manitoba into southern Saskatchewan visiting a dozen ancient places, contacting local spirits and getting grounded. Total kms of shared driving:1867 kms.

      To have an intent then watch for both the intended and unintended to occur is the heart of every sacred journey. Chris and I began our June journey with a simple intent: to humbly visit sacred places seeking grounding and discovery. Although I had driven this path many times, the journey was new to Chris, but being Old Souls, together we cleared the path to our intent. The journey gave both of us the clarity, courage and strength necessary to deal with our life changes.

        Sometimes Chris liked to get out and run along side the Avenger. I always waited for him to catch up when I left him in the dust.

All Mod Cons

       The town of Boissevain, MB in the southwestern part of the province is served by twin water towers, the tallest things in town. Of course, one is hot, the other cold, as you can see.

  BEST HIGHWAY: MB Hwy #68 west of The Narrows 

         Manitoba highways are still superior to Saskatchewan in some areas. The best road was MB Highway #68 west of the Lake Manitoba Narrows. Smooth and easy, no patching and few winter lumps. Infrastructure cash flowed like water this summer with highway construction around every corner of my travels. Brand-new sections of TCH between Portage and Brandon are so smooth they resemble runways and flight feels inevitable.

WORST HIGHWAY:  SK Hwy #18

          The worst is easily SK Highway #18 which I drove three times this summer. Seemingly, I just couldn’t get enough of it. Along the US border west of Estevan the highway dissolves into something the road map calls “thin membrane surface.” It means 100 yards of gravel, 100 yards of broken pavement, 100 yards, of not so bad pavement, back to gravel, no gravel and so on for miles and miles. Some of the most spectacular scenery in Saskatchewan, a dozen ancient holy places, constantly changing landscapes and geology and a broad assortment of rural eccentrics can all be found along Hwy #18 but I still don’t recommend driving it. You can deek in and out of many of these places from much better, more drivable Hwy #13 to the north.

      Curious Cowboy Picture

      On my second visit to Val Marie, SK in August 2001 I met a local woman named Lise Perrault.  Besides collecting original volumes of western writer Will James and offering interesting well off the beaten path tours of the mysterious Frenchman Valley, Lise was a painter with a unique folk art style. Her depictions of the prairie she saw every day and the critters who roamed it brim with simple honesty both in subject and style. Lise is in a personal care home now and her paintings have largely disappeared or been sold by her family.

      Today the Val Marie Museum retains two of Lise Perrault’s most evocative works. Painted in 1982, one is a hilly and treed vista that may have been the lowlands of the Cypress Hills just west of here.

           The other, from 1998, depicts two cowboys shaking hands in the middle of the prairie. Nothing in the picture suggests the men’s motive or meaning, no points of reference. There is amicability between them but mystery as well.

           It made me think of Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx’s well-spun cowboy story. Proulx writes mainly about Wyoming and Wild Westerners, so Val Marie, with its similar landscapes and lifestyles, could well have been a place she visited, saw Lise’s picture and got the notion for Brokeback Mountain. I asked several people in Val Marie if they knew of a visit by Annie Proulx. No one had. I’m probably just adding on here.

 Best Accommodations of the Summer

       I stayed in 30 different hotels, motels and inns over five months this summer, returning to a few of them several times. Quickly I realized there are two completely different business plans going on in hostelry. Most of them rent rooms for people to sleep in. Sounds right, what they do. A few others, the really good ones, sell sleep. They rent rooms too, but they also sell sleep. Big difference. That accounts for the hundred-dollar price gap between the Ramada Inn in Weyburn and Barney’s Motel in Brandon.  

       Ramada in Weyburn is Best Accommodation of the Summer thanks to their $4000 Simmons industrial mattresses that feel like you are being held in the hands of God, stylish and sophisticated décor, pool and hot tub, great continental breakfast, tremendous highway and railway view and a good night’s sleep.

      Also in Weyburn, the Canalta Inn is a runner-up. Next door and related somehow to the Ramada, Canalta Inns, an Alberta company with hotels in the three western provinces, offers almost comparable accommodation including a hot tub and wonderful wet steam room. They, too, are selling sleep.

       Adding charm to the mix, I recommend The Convent Country Inn in Val Marie, SK. An actual convent, saved from demolition at the last minute, is now a serene yet playful bed and breakfast run by wonderful people. I first met Robert and Mette Ducan over ten years ago not long after they had opened their venture. With years of experience behind them, they are expert hoteliers now. Here is a hot tip for recent empty nesters ready to take on a new adventure: The Convent is for sale! The all-in price is reasonable and the location exceptional. This is a Do Not Miss opportunity. Investigate.

The front entrance of The Convent Country Inn. The red brick has a beautiful patina, the renovations retained the serenity of the building and most of the interior design including the chapel. It’s for sale! (The building isn’t tilted, my picture is)

 

Worst Accommodations of the Summer

       A shoo-in, a hands-down winner for Worst Accommodation of the Summer: Miniota Inn, Miniota, MB, a shrinking village at Highways #83 and 24. What makes it a winning loser? Let me count the reasons. Comprised of either six or eight seedy rooms, the joint is just an excuse to have a pub to service the eight local alcoholics all of whom howled late into the evening. The room reeked of cigarette smoke and when I asked the guy at the desk, so to speak, for non-smoking, he said, “Oh, everybody smokes.” Ah, I was in the wrong town.

      Nonetheless, I stayed the stinking night on a flat saggy mattress below a rendering of Michaelangelo’s Creation on black velvet (truly) which was not bolted to the wall yet survived pilfering, that’s how bad it was. Adam appeared to be wearing jockey shorts. I wondered what velvet delights haunted the other rooms of Miniota Inn and shivered.

      Wait! There’s more. Miniota Inn wins again! A double winner! Add in Worst Restaurant Service of the Summer! My evening meal in their restaurant was reasonably easy and edible, breakfast more of a challenge. A hobbling, elderly man, I guessed in his mid 80s, was the morning waiter and cook, again so to speak. Morning clientele consisted exclusively of working and retired guys getting away from the wife and kids early to spend a few minutes of mindless camaraderie with men of similar destiny. The demands of the morning men were simple: coffee, cream, sugar. Luckily, for the waiter coffee is self-serve at the Miniota Inn giving him time to sit and wheeze. When I ordered toast, a completely new order of expectation, confusion and amusement kicked in. I eventually made my own toast when he brought out the toaster for me to use. This is somewhat of a default win for Worst Service since I thought the toast I made was just fine and I smiled when I brought it to my table.

      Wait! Even more? Yes! Miniota Inn is a triple winner! Not only was the inside ambience and décor of my room toxic in so many ways, the view out my window was Worst View Out a Hotel Window of the Summer. Here it is.

 Any guesses?

      Strangely, the lawn surrounding Miniota Inn is actually a miniature golf course. This structure suspends a swinging pole over the hole (Par 3) as its challenge. I shivered imagining the view out other windows here. Nutshell: Miniota Inn – don’t stay there.

          Runners-up: Barney’s Motel, Brandon, MB for the red ants in my room (Day 8 of 12 Sacred Places has the scoop on Barney’s); and Whitewood Inn, Whitewood, SK for dilapidation. The room was rumpled and over medicated. Their hot tub had a foot of what looked liked creamed corn in the bottom of it and nothing else. Their pool was jittery and toxic but alas, their dry sauna worked up a sweet sweat for a travel-weary Joe. Still, don’t stay at either of these joints.

Big Beaver, SK

            Situated SSE of Regina about 10 miles from the Montana border, Big Beaver claims a population of 20 people. At its height in the 1920s, Big Beaver boasted 300 people, a six-room schoolhouse and four grain elevators, including, in 1925, the biggest inland grain terminal in the British Empire. Today, serving the hamlet and area is Aust’s, a classic country general store. Their motto is “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” Aust’s, one of two businesses in Big Beaver, offers the full gamut of merchandise. Groceries, farm supplies, stationery, clothing, garden supplies and a myriad of merchandise fill three large joined wooden buildings. Each room has its own distinctive odour, rich and rural. There is even a “coffee shop” with classic advertising and a few locals who love to jaw with strangers.

             My first of three visits to Big Beaver was in June with Chris. As we pulled up, I commented we would buy something completely unexpected and we did. See us sporting our new Big Beaver t-shirts.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Texaco Sign 

      This sign has a nostalgic meaning for me. My dad was a Texaco consignee (he delivered gas to farms and stations) for 10 years in Shoal Lake, MB. I grew up there and worked with him, even delivering fuel myself when I got my license. Dad wore a Texaco uniform and cap that featured the big red star with the green T emblazoned on the white circular background. The slogan of the day was, “Texaco. You can trust your car to the man who wears the star.” I saw this perfectly restored sign in front of a business on the outskirts of Dauphin, MB with the threatening sky beyond.

Best Music On The Road

Dave Matthews

Big Whisky & the Groo Grux King is Dave’s best music in 5 years.

Tom Waits

Joni

Frank Sinatra

Van Morrison

Martin Sexton

The Hip

Chris Scholl

CELEBRATION OF LIGHT AND LINDA

Leonard Cohen

Classic Country Vols. 1 – 4

CLASSIC COUNTRY

CLASSIC COUNTRY 2

CLASSIC COUNTRY 3

CLASSIC COUNTRY 4

 

Traveling Companions

      No matter who or if anyone sat in the passenger seat, Linda rode with me every mile this summer. We developed a loving contraction, for lack of a better term, where she watched over me, softened my loneliness, understood what I needed to do and believed it would be done.

      Webbed Flight, my spirit helper and guide, traveled most of those miles with me as guardian, less for me than for deer on the road. If I was approaching a deer, Webbed Flight gave subtle but firm notice of it. I dodged three deer that way this year. Sometimes he even predicted roadkill deer. Some of the sacred places resonated deeply for him.

      In addition to Chris, I was blessed to have several other organic beings share the road with me this year. Old friends joined me on some of my jaunts about this summer, like Terry, dear friend from my hometown. Together we explored eastern Manitoba in the Whiteshell and Pinawa area. I have known Terry for 50 years, both of us are mostly retired and we “pick blueberries,” our name for driving around, getting out of the car, exploring and just generally living. Easy company, fine sense of humour and long shared history make Terry a welcome passenger anytime. This is Terry’s picture of a metal sculpture in Pinawa.

 

      My good buddy Mitch comes from Emerson, MB (named for Ralph Waldo Emerson), which I had never visited til this summer when he gave me the guided tour one hot August afternoon. With his great memory for detail, I got the inside scoop on Mitch’s youth in his little town. It felt very similar to my upbringing in a similar environment, familiar, friendly and warm. We visited historic site Fort Dufferin, or the remains of it, just north of Emerson on the banks of the Red River. The site resonated strongly for both of us. Mitch’s diverse background meant he had a story about something along the way nearly every mile. We explored north as well, venturing out to Hecla Island, which was new to both of us. Very enjoyable company with fascinating stories. 

      Another friend from my youth, Susan, met me for lunch several times in Minnedosa, MB this summer. We ventured into Brandon one Sunday for lunch then toured around south of Brandon where I first lived. Sharing comparable life situations, it was terrific to have her company, familiar and easy, comforting and true. 

Working Up an Appetite

Off by itself under a tree in Rounthwaite Cemetery southeast of Brandon I found this simple epitaph.

 KEN WILBER

    No, this isn’t Ken Wilber. It’s a large knot on a tree bending toward the trail around Marsh Lake, an oxbow of the Assiniboine River in Spruce Woods Park, MB . Linda and I discovered this on our first hike there years ago. Pucker your imagination a little and it looks like a face, the North Wind in fact blowing down the trail! I just couldn’t review the year without mentioning Ken Wilber. Done. You can watch Ken stop his brainwaves on my blogroll. You really can. Similar reason to mention: Bill Hicks.

HONOURING LINDA

 

            Honouring and memorializing my beautiful Linda took three significant forms this year, all of them tremendously satisfying and healing for her friends and me.

 The DickTool Kit

             Thirty-five years in the making, nine months in production, The DickTool Kit, a compilation of Super 8 film, video and audio created between 1976 and 1984 by Linda Tooley and Reid Dickie, became reality this year. Linda and I had often talked about putting the old video art we did in our youth onto a DVD and giving it to friends. The actual DickTool Kit turned out to be more comprehensive. The limited edition of 100 Kits wound up consisting of four DVDs, one CD, a 64-page book I wrote describing The Kit’s content and some memorabilia from IF…, our vintage clothing store, all tucked into a metal box. Over six hours of DickToolery!

            Operating both as an archival project and homage to beautiful Linda, The DickTool Kit celebrates us when we first fell in love and how we used the enormous creative energy our union ignited. As it says in the accompanying book, “These are the images we chiseled onto the cave wall and lit with a tiny flickering fire.” How wonderful to be able to share them with our friends and family decades after they were created!

          I first approached Video Pool, the Winnipeg artist-run video production studio, about converting our analog video tapes into digital files on February 3, 2010. Rick Fisher, technical head of Video Pool, was open and very responsive to the idea. My good fortune continued when a young technician named Nicole Shimonek offered to work on the project. Together Nicole and I spent 73 hours in the studio over the next five months viewing, deciding, tweaking and digitizing the DickToolery on the tapes.

            After we created master copies, the DVDs and CD in your Kit were printed and duplicated by Ironstone Technologies who came highly recommended by local musicians and artists. I was not disappointed. Bryan Buchalter and his crew did a fine job.

 The whole kit and kaboodle.  The DickTool Kit and all its components: metal box, book, fours DVDs, one CD, IF…memorabilia

            I had considered various materials and styles as the Kit’s container but it was love at first sight when I saw the windowed metal box at Mayer’s Packaging. Although slightly larger than I needed, the metal box eventually offered a snug fit for the DVDs, CD and book with the addition of the soft foam insert. The metal box gave me the name for the compilation, as it resembled a tool kit. 

            After several months researching through the vast files Linda and I kept about our art endeavours, I wrote the 64-page book in the Kit. The book contains details about all the individual works on the DVDs and overviews of the CD and IF you have to get dressed in the morning, our vintage clothing store. In the envelope at the bottom of your Kit you will find several pieces of memorabilia from IF… which I discovered while researching the book. The introduction to the book gives a feel for the times and the lifestyles we were pursuing.

            I hired June Derksen of Junebug Designs to design the book. She did a great job of retaining the aesthetic of the video works in printed form. Admiral Printing completed the book. All production services and materials for the Kit were purchased in Winnipeg. After gathering all its bits and pieces, I assembled each Kit myself by hand, numbering and signing each one.

           A gift to family and friends, The DickTool Kit cannot be purchased but you can see 22 of the videos from the Kit on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/DickToolCo More videos will be added in January.

The Dust Blows Forward and the Dust Blows Back

             Linda’s favourite place was the Spirit Sands in Sprucewoods Provincial Park. We hiked there dozens of times over the years and discovered our special place at the top of the dunes overlooking the spruce forest below and the prairie beyond – a grand vista. This is where Linda requested her ashes be scattered. She gave me a short list of people she wanted to attend and all but three were able to come.

            It was hot and windy on Sunday, August 22 when we trekked out to Spruce Woods, our convoy of three Winnipeg cars meeting Linda’s cousin from Regina at the site. At the Spirit Sands, I had hired a private horse-drawn covered wagon and driver to carry us all out to the base of the dunes, below our special place. The private wagon left the parking lot of the Spirit Sands at noon and waited for us at the dunes while we did the ceremony.

Covered wagon ride out to the dunes.

            Chris and I had done several recon missions to discover the path of least resistance up the dunes to the site. We found several routes to the top depending on abilities; some of the angles are quite steep. Usually the Sands are 5 to 10 degrees hotter than the lowlands around them. Today it’s 30 degree C with a south wind blowing, the opposite of the prevailing northwesterlies that usually shape the dunes. In spite of that, everyone made it up the dune just fine.

            Our special place has a 360-degree panorama that encompasses three different types of prairie terrain. To the east and below the high dune is a green aspen forest against the rich dark green of the dense spruce. To the south, the forest opens into savannah with the distinct wagon trail disappearing in the distance. Behind us, to the north and west, stretches the desert, red and changing, muscular and soothing. 

            Once at the top of the dune, each of us spoke of Linda, remembering her, letting her go. Each of us spread some of her ashes in a shallow trough in the sand. Fittingly, I added the ashes of our dear old cat Teedy in with Linda’s. The light wind that blows almost constantly across the sand will do the rest. I intend to join them someday. A fine place to spend eternity.

The ever-changing vista. Late autumn view from our special place of the aspens, now bare and white, against the deep green of the spruce.

            My plan offered two possibilities to get back to the trailhead/parking lot. Riding on the covered wagon was a popular option in the heat.  Linda’s cousin, our dear neighbour and I hiked the trail back. It was an enjoyable and familiar walk for me, made special by the company and the occasion. The hike is mainly through mixed forest and savannah with a few moderate climbs and quite enjoyable.

            Our return to Winnipeg featured a stop at the Summer Shack in Carberry, just north of the Spirit Sands. Linda and I feasted on their chicken burgers and chocolate milkshakes after most of our Sands hikes. The traditional was well upheld as we all had some form of chicken. For details on Spirit Sands and Summer Shack, see Day 12 of 12 Sacred Places.

A Celebration of Light and Linda

“From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

            Kenny suggested last January that I have an event honouring Linda. “Rent the Park Theatre,” he said. The idea appealed to me but seemed a daunting and hazy affair in my state of shock. I filed it on my mental priority list for future consideration where it waited until one day in late August while driving out there somewhere when it all came together in my head. Even the name, A Celebration of Light and Linda, came to me though I didn’t know what the light part would be.

            On September 11, I booked the Park Theatre, an innovative conversion from movie theatre to popular multi-purpose venue, for the evening of Tuesday, November 9 for the Celebration, giving me two months to plan it. Suddenly I was an impresario!

             I had the first part of the evening: a screening of Stadium Trash, a 50-minute sampler of DickTool videos from the Kit edited into fast television format and shown on the big screen at the Park. Nicole and I had come up with the new Stadium Trash. The original was half as long, submitted to Video Culture Festival in Toronto in 1983 and was one of three finalists in the General category. What to do for a second half?

            I knew of Wild Fire, a local fire dance troupe, through Chris who does live drumming for their performances at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. He said they had a blacklight show that would work for the event. I connected with Stacy from the troupe, she “got it” and our show was on the road! Wild Fire worked up a completely original 31-minute all-blacklight show to mostly original music by Chris. I never attended their rehearsals. Instead, I tried to be a mystical muse, evoking, believing. My basic direction to Wild Fire was: create a sense of wonder and send them home talking to themselves. No pressure, kids. Using a jungle theme – minimum clothing, maximum body paint – the five-member troupe excelled. I had a show.

 

    Images of Wild Fire’s performance at the Celebration

         Invitations went out to about 140 people, in Winnipeg and elsewhere. It was a hard one to turn down as we had about 110 of our closest friends at the Park for A Celebration of Light and Linda. I greeted each one personally, did a 15 minute monologue on stage (which I secretly enjoyed much too much) and presented an evening of unique entertainment, something wild, retro cool and future primitive all at once.

photo

 Detail of Wild Fire performance (time exposure)      

     My wonderful creative friends came together and made it possible for me to enjoy the event and my guests worry-free. Our friends enjoyed seeing Linda and I as young people, in our late 20s and early 30s, in Stadium Trash. For the Wild Fire performance, loud recorded music accompanied live by Chris and two other drummers throbbed through the Park, the darkness glowed with mystical figures inhabiting an arcane unknowable place where they held us transfixed for half an hour. Now and then during their show, I could hear Linda laughing in my head. She was having a ball, as was everyone else in the room. I know for a fact they did send some people home talking to themselves.

Five old buddies from high school around me at A Celebration of Light and Linda. “First you’re green, then you’re grey.” – Joni Mitchell

            At the Celebration, I reconnected with old friends I hadn’t seen in decades, had my picture taken with no less than FIVE of my high school friends who came to the Celebration, made new friends, young friends who keep me alive and interested and, best of all, Linda was well celebrated. The response afterwards was often astonishing. Here are a few quotes from emails I received.

“Great commemoration of Linda and your creative project.
Dancers were a marvelous addition and reflection on the novelty and creativity of your video art.”

“Thank you for the wonderful party last night. Suddenly I feel 25 years younger!”

“What a fabulous tribute to your wonderful lady and we could
all feel the unique love the two of you shared, through your videos and through your commentating.  We certainly felt her spirit there and you did a wonderful job of arranging that whole scenario at the Park Theatre.”

 “It was a wonderful experience. You could feel the love you had for each other, as you created your life together. I felt so energized by the end of the evening. I found it very inspirational. Linda would have loved it.”

 “Her memory will live forever in the hearts of us ‘peggers and hearing that she loved Winnipeg so much has made me open my eyes to the idea to try and appreciate our city and see it the way Linda may have.”

 “I always knew that Linda and you were quirky.”

            Quirky, indeed! That we were.

Wild Fire dancers and drummers pose with me after the performance. I’m the one in the suit. More photographs from the Celebration  http://www.flickr.com/photos/56088356@N02/sets/72157625302256879/

             The Celebration was an amazing emotional high all evening for me, buoyed by the love and respect of so many friends gathered in one room for one purpose. The high lasted for days. Linda and I had often imagined the party that unites our diverse group of friends and here it was happening around me! Well documented in both still photos and video, the Celebration will soon be distilled into YouTube format. More vintage DickTool videos will be added as well.

         When our videographer for the Celebration took ill, we lucked into Scott Carnegie of MediaCircus.TV who documented the event superbly. Here’s how Scott described the night on his website which includes a testimonial I did for him http://mediacircus.tv/2010/12/a-surprise-night-of-tribute/?utm_source=MediaCircus.TV+List&utm_campaign=4de10bf03f-MediaCircus_TV_Newsletter_November_2010&utm_medium=email

KENNY

              You’ve seen his name pop up here and there in my year-end review. Kenny worked with Linda for 15 years in retail and in the City of Winnipeg Film Office. They were an accomplished and amazing team. Kenny loved Linda beyond how best friends love each other. He loved her like family. It was a beautiful relationship. Loss has made Kenny and I true brothers. We have grieved together, understood and loved each other and always tried to find be happy in the warm afterglow of Linda’s life and love. Kenny is yet another Old Soul in my life. I am so blessed.  

 TAKE TODAY

           Okay. After a year of consciously driving my grief process over Linda’s death and reporting it willfully and honestly here and face to face with many friends, where do I stand in the big picture? Am I floundering at the deep end of the pool or floating blissfully on the the sunny surface?

          A fine friend sent me a quote by Gail Caldwell telling a friend about not knowing what to do or how to do it after the death of her partner. She writes, “He was quiet for a minute, and then he said something of such consolation that I will hear him saying it forever.  ‘You know, Gail,’ he said, ‘We’ve been doing this as a species for a long time.  And it’s almost as if – it’s like the body just knows what to do.’

           We do know what to do. Grief was not new to me, as Travis pointed out and, though intensely personal, I was able to put my grief for Linda into a larger context, follow the 10 steps of grieving and push push push it all summer. Although I have found much acceptance, I have not fully resolved some of the steps but at least I’m aware of them and how they effect me.

        I have never been alone on this journey. Never! I have found enormous clarity and inner strength from the shamanic work I have practised for 16 years, from the spirits I am connected with, from my wonderful extended family (The Four – they know who they are and that I love them all dearly), from old friends and new and all of Linda’s many angels. Thanks to all of you, I am doing well.

         Most of all, my dear Linda watches over me. always near. Her message to me in our many communications this year has always and ever been simple and direct, though sometimes not particularily easy – be happy! Be happy! I try to live that.

         On Boxing Day last year, the day after Linda died, in my journal where I’d written thousands of words about the past two months, all I wrote was that old 1960s nugget: Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Its truth rang loud and clear for me every day this year.

            Be happy!

                  Reid

As promised, Kenny’s picture of me New Year’s Eve 2010

         

1 Comment

Filed under dicktool co, grief, ken wilber, Saskatchewan, spirit sands, Year-End Review 2010

12 SACRED PLACES

12 SACRED PLACES

DAY 1

MEDICINE ROCK

 August 19, 2010

“I am afraid to touch it”

             I’m not sure how I first learned of Medicine Rock but I’ve been drawn to it in the past without success finding it. Four fruitless searches for the site – twice on my own, once with Linda a couple of years back, once earlier this summer – turned up nothing. I was beginning to think Medicine Rock didn’t want me to find it. That happens. But this time – aha! Fifth time is the charm. I have help this time. After four failed attempts, I find someone who actually knows where it is and can direct me.

Medicine Rock festooned with foliage and the offerings of countless generations.

            Harry Harris at the Alonsa Conservation District gives me immaculate directions to Medicine Rock, which deliver me there lickity splickly. I’m good at following good directions. East of Riding Mountain and south of St Amelie, MB I drive on good gravel that becomes not so good gravel that becomes no gravel at all, just dirt. The Mighty Avenger gets a good prairie trail workout heading into the bush then further into the bush then just a little further into the bush then a bit more bush, all the while churning up a fine black dust behind us. Next to a rough hand-painted sign leaning up against two oak trees, a path leads into the bush. Medicine Rock, at last!

            I smudge with sweetgrass in the car, get out and stand in the wonderful silence.  I wait in the warm afternoon for a slight loosening of the contraction of being we all have and can feel as tightness just behind our eyes. Until I feel the knot loosen a bit, I’m unsure if I am welcome. I wait.

            Turning, I see, 40 feet down the road I came in on, a half-grown black bear. It stops, looks at me and sits down. I say, “Holy shit, there’s Bear.” Bear is one of my power animals. Then another half-grown bear comes out of the woods, yawns, sits down and paws the air next to the first. I get into the car and wait for mama bear to show up. The two cubs eventually amble across the road and into the woods away from Medicine Rock and me. A few minutes later mama bear bounds across the road after the cubs, paying no attention to me but certainly knowing I am here.

            I am thrilled to see one of my power animals as guardian of Medicine Rock. The powers of courage and strength radiate from Bear, appropriate since many of the travelers and hunters who left offerings here over millennia sought those same powers. I wait in the car, alert, quickened by the knowledge I am not at the top of the food chain, a situation that occurs about frequently enough. In a while, I re-smudge and emerge into the afternoon to wait for the welcome. I feel a prickle down my spine and my face tightens into a big smile. I am welcome. Everything feels fine. I walk the short path to Medicine Rock singing my power song.

            Medicine Rock is a huge boulder, six feet high, ten feet across and eight feet deep, nestled in an aspen and oak glen twenty steps off the road. It is thickly garnished with verdant and wild foliage that grows from tiny cracks and narrows shelves on the rock. Encircled by dense growth, riff with elemental forest spirits and tangled in the music of aspen, oak and lark, the old stone is alive, its heart beats once every century. Content, it radiates power. Immediately I am brought fully into the moment, humbled, in awe of the ancient stone. I am afraid to touch it. I tremble.

            Walking around the stone on a recently mowed area, I hear a red-tailed hawk overhead, ever-present frequent guardian of sacred places. When I ask the old stone if I can take a few pictures, there is subtle acquiesce from Medicine Rock that escapes the grasp of language. Most inner events at sacred sites are state-specific, that is they exist only in one state and cannot be translated easily or at all into another. At this moment, my physical sensations are shivery and lightness, emotionally I feel very balanced with little bliss currents pulsing through my awareness.

            One of the on-site signs explains the Ojibway legend of the mischievous little people who inhabit both the material and spirit worlds. Medicine Rock is thought to be a gateway between realms. To keep the little spirits from becoming malevolent, tobacco offerings are left on the cracks and crevices of Medicine Rock. I leave one of my hand-made feather flyaways on a bush near the old stone, sing my power song again and thank Spirit for getting me here.

            Medicine Rock gives me a little gift. Just as I am about to get in the car to leave, I look down and there is a round piece of chert on the ground, about the size of a loonie and covered in little black polka dots. I pick it up and it’s a small scraper with evident chipping along one edge to make it sharp. It is small enough for a child’s hand, perhaps learning the life skills. I ask the scrapper to travel with me and it agrees. Thank you Medicine Rock.

             (Over the past few hours while researching and writing this report, I have wondered where the little scrapper might be. I have lost track of it. Searching for something unrelated just a few minutes ago, I accidentally picked up my briefcase by the bottom, spilling its contents all over the floor, scrapper included. Wonder spawns wonder.)

Side view of Medicine Rock

             I drive away elated and fulfilled. Since this is my first visit, I came with no intent other than to discover and explore. My experience at Medicine Rock is worth all the attempts and now becomes another useful part of my personal mythology. As a shamanic resource for me, Medicine Rock generates enormous strength, which I can now access to augment Bear’s contribution. When I need to return, alone or with a spiritual ally, Medicine Rock is an easy site to reach in dry weather, impassable when wet. The road leading into the bush just past the bush through more bush is black dirt, zero gravel.

 DAY TRIPPING

ASSINIBOINE VALLEY ARBORETUM

 July 28, 2010

            On this warm July evening along Highway 83, the wide Assiniboine Valley a few kilometers south of Miniota, MB offers its beautiful vista including several fields flooded by the river. At the south end of the valley, just off the highway, I discover the Assiniboine Riparian Forest Centre, an endeavour of Manitoba Hydro’s Forest Enhancement Program.

             Situated on the high banks of the Assiniboine and not flooded, the Centre covers several acres with dozens of varieties of trees and bushes, all well planted, mulched with straw and very healthy. Over 600 trees were planted in 2008 with more added this fall. Each variety has a written description and picture of it when mature, easily read from the winding well-maintained pathway among the flora. Along with Manitoba’s familiar coniferous and deciduous trees, the arboretum features many fruit trees, berry bushes and some hybrids.

            A maintained pathway, accessible from the arboretum, offers a pleasant stroll through the forest along the banks of the Assiniboine, a river with many secrets along its wide valley. The trail has benches and picnic tables, school and public tours are offered. The Riparian Forest’s grand opening is set for Spring 2011.

           

Leave a comment

Filed under Parks, Sacred Places, shaman, shamanism