A week ago my Dad passed away from complications due to his cancer treatments. I last saw him in person 3 weeks ago on Labour Day Sunday, and he seemed to be doing about as well as anyone who has been through months of chemotherapy. Earlier in the week my Godmother, Betty Klein, also passed away from cancer. Prior to that, my friend Dawn lost her husband to cancer too.
Then I had to move some furniture around in my condo. All this after a thousand kilometers of driving in the past few days. A couple muted birthday celebrations in the middle of that too. I did enjoy seeing my extended family, although many noted we all wished it was under happier circumstances. We’re getting to the older side of life where more often we all meet during a funeral than a wedding or holiday.
When I was ten, my family picked up an exchange student from the Regina airport. It was Winter. As the South American boy rode with me on the van bench, across an open prairie between Regina and Moose Jaw, he asked how many people lived in Wood Mountain. I replied proudly, “Forty people live in Wood Mountain.” I knew, because I could count every one by going through each home in my mind, up and down the three streets, and three avenues. “Forty thousand?” he prompted for more details. “No, forty people.”
The school closed about three years later. The second last elevator burned in 1997 due to lightning strikes. The last wooden elevator in the village was demolished in 2014. There’s still a Community Hall, a rural post office and RM/Village office, a fire hall, a church, and Department of Highways buildings, and there are 21 people who live right in the village. More than a few live on the farms and ranches nearby. It’s still a community, and it still matters. Now, it’s Population 21.
It’s not even the second time Wood Mountain has been featured in a National Film Board documentary, but it is the first with my parents.
I brushed the snow off my solar panels a couple times on the weekend, and it helped with their production a fair bit. The full sun came out, and melted the remaining flakes off too.
We watched Star Wars episode IV [8/10] and Empire Strikes Back [9/10] (Have them both on VHS), and several Star Trek The Next Generation episodes. On Friday we were at the Southland Mall to get a photo with Santa.
My family saw the RCMP Heritage Centre for the first time. It’s priced like a tourist trap, especially compared to the admission-by-donation Royal Saskatchewan Museum. It was fun overall. Naturally my Dad and I weren’t entirely pleased with the total lack of mention about one of the first two semi-permanent NWMP presences in southern Saskatchewan, at Wood Mountain. They’ve a Sitting Bull artifact, mention Little Big Horn, and mention Walsh, but I don’t think you could find the words “Wood Mountain” if you tried. That’s a shame. It was the site of one of Canada’s first successful peace keeping missions, assigned to Walsh of the NWMP.
I was an 8 year old awash in fossils, so I was a tad more generous than this former 9 year old PEI lad with his much more valuable fossil. I donated a lower mandible piece from a ~12,000,000 year old Saskatchewan rhino to the Sask. Natural History (now Royal Sask.) Museum in the 1980s. I too used plastic bristle brushes (AKA tooth brushes) to dust off fossils I collected from the surface of a gravel pit near Wood Mountain, SK. Many more fossils and fossil fragments from that pit have since ended up in cement in the area.
Wood Mountain is one of two locations in Saskatchewan which weren’t significantly affected by glaciers from the last two ice ages. This left glacially tilled soil, rock, and fossil bits in the gravel pits of the area. When I was a boy, I’d sometimes play on the gravel pile my parents had brought in to make cement for our garage floor. I noticed odd rocks, and one that looked like it had teeth, so I set it aside, beside the south wall of the house. A year or two later, we took the biggest fossil to the RSM for them to look at it. They identified it, provided me with a copy of the ROM’s scientific description of the extinct animal, and accepted the fossil into their collection.
A few years later I found a larger fossil from an older rhino, and they assembled it for me.
I was too young in 1991 to put the news I was hearing into context. My family had worked for months on my Dad’s campaign for the Sask Liberals in Moose Jaw, and he’d come away in second place. Roy Romanow was the new Premier of Saskatchewan, and Grant Devine would soon fade into political obscurity as some of his cabinet and other MLAs would go to jail, and in the sad case of Jack Wolfe an early grave. Future Lieutenant Governor Linda Haverstock was the only Sask Liberal MLA in the Saskatchewan Legislature.
Soon, the new hospital in Lafleche was turned into a band-aid centre; babies no longer permitted to be born there. In the next four years, my school was closed despite it costing more to bus kids to other towns than it did to run the entire school in Wood Mountain. The railway was closed and ripped out everywhere near my hometown (but not through it, because of a clean-up bylaw imposed by the Village council). Rural Saskatchewan was both dying, and being killed. The NDP were in charge, and their eyes turned to urban Saskatchewan, as they shunned their rural roots.
In 2007, The Saskatchewan Party came to power. Brad Wall was the new Premier. The NDP faded from the scene, and wherever there was big industry, private or public, they got the support of the government. Our huge resource revenues were utterly spent. There was nothing put away into a savings account, and now that oil has come crashing down, there is nothing in the tank.
Suncor, known for its huge presence in Alberta's oilsands, cuts 1,000 jobs amid oil rout http://t.co/ebuHaBsWQm
Another provincial election is coming, Wall’s 2nd as Premier. Will the oil crash of 2014/15 expose how badly the province is being managed? Is Wall’s extended honeymoon over? Probably not, but now there’s a chance of him reaping what he’s sown.
Meanwhile, Premier Wall tweets about music. #skpoli
There are not a lot of rattlesnakes around the park, especially the East Block of the park where Wood Mountain is. Nick, who is with Brenda showing off the snake skin, almost stepped on one by accident last week and it didn’t even try to bite him.
The snakes are mostly interested in these guys
Watch these videos, as the numbers get bigger at the end of the titles.
Deer at a gravel pit. Fossils in this pit go back to at least 13 Million years ago, and contain horse, rhino, and other animals from ancient Saskatchewan well before ice ages scraped much of the province flat like it is around Regina.