It’s a(nother) long weekend in Canada. ‘So, is this the second to last long weekend of the summer?’ the caught-off-guard professor asked whilst driving the car. ‘I think so,’ I replied. ‘There’s Labor Day in September, but that should be it.’
We haven’t quite got the long weekend schedule down and are always surprised when another four-day-weekend rolls around.
This particular one may have something to do with ‘heritage’, judging from the preponderance of long-weekend celebrations and festivals with the word heritage in them.
Whatever the reason for the weekend, I felt somehow obligated to devise an itinerary for us. In lieu of spending another day within the confines of our home. As I tried to explain to the professor a few days ago, ‘we’re turning into hermits or possibly recluses,’ and he looked at me, nodding, as if to say, ‘you sound like that’s a bad thing.’
And I, at a loss for a better explanation, said something clever like, ‘I believe society cautions against becoming recluses or hermits.’ Because I can’t recall having ever read anything positive where either word was concerned.
So we ventured out of our crescent on Saturday morning, into the vast expanse that is Alberta. As per usual, with dubious driving directions and malfunctioning technology in tow. Because that’s the way we roll.
The first stop was the Millarville Farmer’s Market. Because it is mentioned in my Alberta guidebook. After an hour drive, prompting at least one of the Johnson boys to despair: ‘when are we going to get to the farmer’s market?’, we arrived at the entrance.
And paid $2 to park our rusty Venture in a patch of unshaded muddy grass. ‘Are you staying for the rodeo?’ one of the attendants asked. ‘When does it start?’ I asked. ‘Two o’clock’ was the answer. It was 11.41am. I had my doubts that the famille could while away two hours and 19 minutes at the Millarville Farmer’s Market.
And I was right. We made the requisite loop inspecting the various vendors’ wares. We bought a $6 ‘freshly squeezed’ lemonade that tasted suspiciously like Country Time, sampled a sliver of maple fudge, and ate some grilled cheese sandwiches.
I decided to take a poll. ‘Who wants to stay for the rodeo?’ ‘I do, I do’ Percy and the Hen clamored to experience a bit of local culture. ‘I don’t,’ the Gort refused. I asked the professor. ‘I’m just not sure the youngest two have it in them to wait another hour and a half and then sit outside in the sun for the rodeo.’
I laughed. Because that was the professor’s way of saying he didn’t have it in him to hang out at the market for ninety more minutes and then sit in the baking sun whilst watching people ride around on horses. Or whatever they do at rodeos.
So we drove to Nanton. Because I’d heard they were also celebrating their heritage.
An hour or ten later [think: no directions, no cell phone reception and an emergency potty break] we arrived in Nanton, a town we had driven through several times en route to the land of the free and the fat-free.
First we stopped at the grain elevator, because I’d read somewhere they were doing tours. And I was certain at least one of the Johnson boys would find it fascinating. After paying the $10 tour fee, and each of the boys helping themselves to a free cookie, a tour guide dressed in ‘pioneer garb’ arrived to take us on the ‘tour’. Which turned out to be an explanation of what went down at the grain elevator versus an actual ride in said grain elevator.
Very disappointing – for me, anyway. Especially when we got to watch a video clip of someone riding in the aforementioned elevator.
After learning about all things wheat, we headed to the candy store whilst the Gort wondered aloud if the candy he was about to buy would contain ‘barley’. Because the tour guide had mentioned it was an ingredient in malt candy.
I know it makes me an un-fun-mom but I don’t like going to candy stores with kids. Overwhelmed by the variety, they grab the first thing they see and insist they want it until they see the next thing and decide they want it instead, and forty minutes later, you’re still wandering around the store.
And it’s all stuff that no one past the age of 12 wants to put in their mouth: ring pops….baby bottles….super mario gummy treats that make those waxy fruit snacks look positively healthy.
After parting with an obscene amount of money, we headed back to the car. ‘Should we go to the rodeo?’ I asked the professor [who was obviously itching to get back to his crescent], because the grain elevator tour people had given us directions to the rodeo happening in Nanton.
So we drove towards the Golf Club and, when we saw a sea of pick-up trucks and horse trailers, we knew we’d found it. We were just in time for the last event which involved a person riding a horse as fast as possible towards some poles and looping around them.
The sun-averse Johnsons found a spot of shade and stared with mouths agape at this microcosm of horses and cowboy hats and trailers and enormous trucks. And people sitting in the baking sun watching other people riding on horses and swinging ropes to catch bulls.
A few minutes later, the older boys climbed back into the van. They were ready to go back to the city.
Please observe the shadow ‘family’ picture in the third row. The professor’s neck is craned back in tell-tale ‘how much longer is this going to take’ mode. And Percy is clinging to my legs, hence his shadow is not visible, making us look like a family of four.