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Opinion

7 great things about Saskatchewan

From tiny melons to medicare to a whole bunch of Kiveses

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/9/2011 (2295 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In any other September, it would be impossible to resist the opportunity to make cheap shots about the watermelon-wearing weirdos who live in the great big rectangle of empty space between Manitoba and eastern Alberta.

The annual home-and-home series between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offers less magnanimous Manitobans a chance to poke fun at the great city of Regina and the wonderful people who call it home.

But not this year. With the Riders sitting at 1-7 going into today's Labour Day Classic battle with the 7-1 Bombers, it just doesn't seem right to add insult to the psychological injury inflicted all season upon Saskatchewan fans.

No matter what happens on the field today, Winnipeggers ought to consider what's great about the genuinely kind and generous potash miners and canola farmers to the west.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/9/2011 (2295 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In any other September, it would be impossible to resist the opportunity to make cheap shots about the watermelon-wearing weirdos who live in the great big rectangle of empty space between Manitoba and eastern Alberta.

The annual home-and-home series between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offers less magnanimous Manitobans a chance to poke fun at the great city of Regina and the wonderful people who call it home.

But not this year. With the Riders sitting at 1-7 going into today's Labour Day Classic battle with the 7-1 Bombers, it just doesn't seem right to add insult to the psychological injury inflicted all season upon Saskatchewan fans.

No matter what happens on the field today, Winnipeggers ought to consider what's great about the genuinely kind and generous potash miners and canola farmers to the west.

Saskatchewan has given Canada far more than the late Leslie Nielsen, the lamentable Little Mosque On The Prairie and the lovely gentlemen in The Sheepdogs. It's more than Saskatoon berries, which are not berries at all, and a training ground for the likes of Bryan Trottier.

In the spirit of sportsmanship, and perhaps a little pity, here are seven great things about Saskatchewan — one for each of the Riders' losses to date:

 

1. GRASSLANDS NATIONAL PARK

 

TUCKED into southern Saskatchewan, nestled against the U.S. border, lies one of Canada's newest and least visited national parks.

The two units that comprise Grasslands encompasses provide habitat for reintroduced plains bison, the endangered black-footed ferret and the rare black-tailed prairie dog — which is an actual prairie dog, not the ground squirrels commonly given this incorrect name.

Even more importantly, Grasslands National Park is one of the few places backpackers can go to experience what the Canadian Prairies looked like before Europeans broke the land. The rolling hills and wide-open vistas are attractive enough, but camping in this underpopulated corner of the continent affords an unusual chance to glimpse a night sky unfettered by light pollution.

The park is developing more formal trails in order to boost attendance, so go now before others do.

 

2. MEDICARE

 

IN 1946, Saskatchewan became the first Canadian province to provide health care for anyone who happened to live there, regardless of whether they could foot the bill.

Today, universal health care is one of Canada's most cherished institutions and the envy of many Americans, in spite of the idiosyncrasies of the imperfect system. So we owe Saskatchewan a debt.

And you better enjoy medicare while it lasts, because Canada's aging population is beginning to undermine the system financially. So if you have any illnesses or injuries to get out of the way, now is the time.

 

3. CREAM OF SASKATCHEWAN

 

NO, this isn't a dairy product, but an heirloom variety of watermelon with a very sweet, entirely white flesh.

Russian immigrants are believed to have brought this smallish, perfectly round melon to the Prairies, where it flourished in the cool climate.

The Cream of Saskatchewan takes less than three months to ripen, which makes it perfect for the Prairies. While it's impossible to find outside of farmers markets and roadside stands, seeds are available online.

And although it has a green rind, it's only about 30 centimetres in diameter, which means Rider fans can't turn it into headgear, no matter how hard they try.

 

4. OUNGRE, SASK.

 

BACK in the 1920s, two Kives brothers left western Turkey with their families to take advantage of a Canadian offer of Prairie land. They settled on a homestead near the tiny southeastern Saskatchewan community of Oungre, which is the origin of every Kives in Winnipeg, Toronto, New York City, Los Angeles and anywhere else in North America my relatives may be found.

In other words, I owe my existence to Oungre, so it gets to be on this list — and if you don't like it, too bad.

 

5. ROASTED FLAX SEED

 

EVER since Canadians realized they needed to eat something other than bacon to prevent their arteries from hardening, the food-processing industry has been adding flax seed to everything from muffins to, well, muffins.

Flax seed just isn't that convenient to consume, seeing as it must be roasted and milled in order for you to derive all the health benefits from the supposed wonder food.

Happily, Regina's CanMar Grain Products roasts and mills flax seed that comes in a resealable 425-gram bag. Not only is this stuff easy to add to cereal and granola, its nutty flavour improves your breakfast. Bags retail for $7.75.

 

6. PSYCHEDELIA

 

NOT too far from Oungre lies the larger town of Weyburn. In the 1950s, a British psychiatrist named Humphry Osmond started treating Weyburn Mental Hospital schizophrenia patients with the hallucinogenic drug mescaline, which comes from the peyote cactus.

While the treatment wasn't successful, the experiments led Osmond to coin the term "psychedelic" to describe hallucinogens. Osmond also gave Brave New World author Aldous Huxley his first dose of mescaline, setting off a chain of events that led to the creation of 1960s counterculture, really bad hairdos for the Beatles and a mainstream 1970s culture dominated by polyester bell bottoms.

 

7. THE BILL OF RIGHTS

 

IN 1947, Saskatchewan became the first province to extend fundamental rights and freedoms to all its citizens. Prince Albert-born prime minister John Diefenbaker extended these rights to all Canadians in 1960.

So without Saskatchewan, we'd all be living in a sort of Syria, with Tim Hortons instead of tabouli. Think about that the next time you diss the neighbours next door, watermelon heads and all.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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