Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
The sign on Highway 6 on the way to Manitoba’s Interlake reads: "Perogies 50 Miles," — meaning this is surely God’s country.
We passed Deerhorn. We passed Moosehorn. We passed Watchorn. I’m writing to the horn people. That western Manitoba town, Elkhorn, should get with the plan.
To avoid house-painting last year, I had said to my wife, Margie, "We’ve never been to Steep Rock. How can a Manitoba rock be steep?"
She replied, "Let’s see that rock!"
Off Highway 6, we drove west on corrugated Highway 239. Perhaps in the 1960s, it was paved. Now I know how to swerve.
There we discovered a remote jumble of grey kilns, silos, and stacks spewing big clouds — the startling coal-fired Graymont limestone factory. Until then, I thought a lime plant made little green fruit.
Minutes later we hiked many steep rocks. The Lake Manitoba shoreline boasts wave-shaped limestone contours along light blue-green waters — near whimsical all-season palm trees.
Fishflies attacked. Thousands. Perhaps my bright, really lime shirt attracted them. I told Margie, "Keep your mouth shut. And your eyes." We laughed them off. I have a catchy line from Grade 2 for Steep Rock to snare tourists: "See a Fish Fly!"
Not yet enthused about duties at home, I insisted we drive aimlessly westward through the Narrows. We squeezed through just fine.
We ended the day in the crisp air at Clear Lake in a cottage of vintage logs. Someone had wedged an electric heater into the stone fireplace. The wedging effort was almost redeemed when Margie crouched into another update: the world’s smallest bathtub.
A diligent student served us drinks at the golf course’s lakeview restaurant, also made of vintage logs. We discovered North America’s biggest movie theatre of vintage logs. We enjoyed a decorative pizza at an Italian eatery, gaelically called TR McKoys, of vintage logs. For breakfast, the student from the golf course served yummy grilled cinnamon buns and hash browns at the Whitehouse Bakery. One suggestion: vintage logs.
Homeward, I coaxed Margie to detour to Arden so we could marvel at the world’s biggest metal crocus. I asked, "How could you pass on that?" After, I remarked, "They obviously don’t mind the big stigma."
I then exclaimed, "We were away just one night. What a province! More people should know."
Margie said, "In your ear — is that a fish fly?
Manitoba has grabbed me, right into this month.
Like the assuring perogy sign on Highway 6, fluorescent messages now adorn roads and turn heads in southern Manitoba, notably at Winkler.
We saw: Stay strong; stay well; stay, think and be positive.
Also: Stay home; stay safe.
Others proclaim: Stronger together; together we shall find our footing & strength & overcome; and have courage.
Plus: Wash your hands!
Joining the permanent: Will U be in heaven?; and praying for safety and stay healthy.
I pondered: Get ready. Jesus is coming back soon.
Some have lovely advice like "Be the reason someone smiles today," and "Life is about moments. Don’t wait for them. Create them."
Folks might interpret these signs as apocalyptic. But faith communities and firms, including Impact Signs of Winkler and Friesens Printers of Altona, share hopeful words to hearten despairing families.
Sheryl Loewen, co-owner of Impact Signs explains, "We realized every person is in this together and wondered how we could impact our community." She adds, "We’re in the communications business, so with a goal to spread optimism, we put up simple words of encouragement."
Loewen reports the biggest reaction is from their giant billboard between Winkler and Morden, which pleads: Be Grateful.
These signs urge us to consider what is important, to find purpose. They remind all that we understand. It is assuring.
OK, I saw one urging life insurance.
While the outward signs elsewhere largely signal "closed," in these parts they signal open hearts. And offer another signal of a special province where, outshining anger and complaint, crises affirm our best.
The windblown sign of Dominion Outdoors on Highway 32 does offer relief from the profoundness: 0 different firearms in stock. The next sign coincidentally reads: Thank you for keeping a smile on your face.
Yes, more people should know about Manitoba.
While in public office, I saw a lot of the province and met many of its folks. I grew keen to truly discover a place that convinced me was weirdly wonderful — another Canadian distinct society. I yearned to tease out what we don’t always see, and have fun with the familiar.
That was even before I saw that Tobans at Melita built the world’s biggest banana. His name is Sunny. Or that Tobans at Gimli built tiny elf houses for Huldufolk.
Margie and I walked unknown paths and steered onto back streets and long dusty roads. I saw more dirt than all my years in politics. She described a route to family — "We went up and across, over and down."
The finding: Manitoba is Canada’s best province. I have proof, of course on a balance of probabilities.
For its 150th, let’s give Manitoba a fresh look.
Gord Mackintosh, a retired politician, will be offering a humourous spin on what makes Manitoba special and endearingly quirky. This is his first column.
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