On the ever-changing landscape, there are things that seem to have disappeared.
In Saskatchewan, like in other Prairie provinces, the grain elevator is basically gone – well, at least those icon-looking ones with their wooden structures. They are being replaced with what appears to be giant blocks of cement. Of course there are still a few here and there, but one should take a selfie with the ones still standing, because they won’t be there for too much longer.
The other thing that seems to be disappearing is the clothesline. This is especially true in cities. When I was growing up, there were clotheslines all over the place. Back then, drying machines were rare and expensive. For some reason, there’s something special about driving down a Saskatchewan highway, looking over at a farm and seeing clothes gently blowing in the wind.
It’s one of those Prairies images that has stayed with me.
During the winter, my mom would hang our clothes. I would help her as she took the clothes off the line, and they would be frozen stiff. Then, within a matter of minutes, they would dry and be ready for folding. You can’t get that out of a drying machine.
But the biggest loss to the Prairies is the Chinese restaurant. It didn’t seem to matter what size the town a person drove into, there was always those flashing light bulbs with the “Chinese/Canadian cuisine” sign.
I’ve always wondered exactly what Canadian cuisine is. To me, it means moose meat and bannock. Sometimes when I fry up my moose meat, I’ll get fancy and open up a can of mushroom soup to mix with the meat. Now that is cuisine.
My favourite Chinese restaurant story comes from Outlook, south of Saskatoon. There was a car advertised as being for sale, and I was interested in seeing it. I decided to take a drive out to have a look (an outlook — sorry I couldn’t resist).
After meeting the gentleman and looking at the car, he invited me for lunch. There was only one cafe in town, and it was a Chinese restaurant — with Canadian cuisine.
When we walked in, the restaurant was empty except for an older man who appeared to be reading a newspaper that was laid in front of him.
The man I was with walked right over to the coffee pots and told me to help myself. He then told me to write down what I wanted on those bill-of-sales receipts. He took my order and went and placed it in front of the gentlemen that appeared to be reading the paper. I took a closer look and realized the man was sleeping.
The elderly Chinese man woke up, took our orders and went into the kitchen. The man with the car and I sat and talked until we heard a bell.
He got up and went into the kitchen and came out with our food. The Chinese gentlemen went back to his table and continued resting. When we were ready to leave, I was told to pay whatever I can and place it by the till. I was also informed the old man opens up his restaurant at five in the morning with the grills fired up for oilfield workers and farmers to cook their own breakfasts. They pay whatever they can at the till. Now that would never happen anywhere else but a good old Prairie town.
A drive down a country road is always refreshing. But there’s nothing like seeing that grain elevator, a flashing sign with the Chinese and Canadian cuisine and a house with those bed sheets hanging on a clothesline.