Calgary on Tuesday and reconnected with relatives from both sides of my family. I may never have mentioned that both my parents were from Western Canada. On Wednesday, I drove to the tiny town of Viking, the home of the famous hockey-playing Sutter brothers, the birthplace of my mother and the cemetery where we were going to bury her ashes.Tiny prairie towns look very different from those in Quebec and Ontario.The main streets are much wider, and there's a noticeable absence of brick on store fronts.
Alberta has many coulees, or small valleys, and sloughs, which are shallow pools of water that reflect the deep blue of the sky. The countryside is punctuated with oil wells, abandoned homesteads (See picture below), farm equipment and a lot of modern Cargill grain elevators. I also saw a lot of horses, buffalo and deer, obviously on farms. But let's get to the heart of the matter. About 80% of what you see on the prairies is sky, a spectacular panoramic sky. As we drove further east towards Saskatchewan, the terrain became flatter, and the clouds seemed to travel at the same speed, giving the impression that we weren't moving forward. This frozen-in-space feeling explains why the drive across Canada seems endless when you hit the prairies. I told this to my uncle.
"After a few hours of driving on flat prairie, you want to get out and push up and down on the bumper of the car," he said.
"Sorry?" I said, every bit the daft Easterner.
"To make sure that something is moving," he said with a laugh.
I walked away scratching my head.
Today, we are going to the Badlands, about an hour and a half east of Calgary, where the prairie opens up into canyons.