Every prairie town touts a claim to fame. Hodgeville, Saskatchewan brags about two – Coyote Capital of Canada and Home of the Saskatchewan Flag. We cooked al fresco on the museum’s fire pump. Coyotes didn’t bother us.
Officially the green on Saskatchewan’s flag represents the northern forests of the province and the gold symbolizes the southern grain fields. Having travelled through south Saskatchewan in June and September this year, we’ve witnessed its field’s green to gold transformation. Either interpretation, the flag’s color bars are appropriate.
Prairie people are proud of their history. You’ll encounter museums of every genre. Just south of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan the Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village & Museum showcases the ship built in the middle of the prairie by Tom Sukanen who intended to sail it back to Europe.
We traveled the Red Coat Trail, the path taken in 1874 by the North-West Mounted Police to Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills.
Further west along the Red Coat Trail at Etzikom, Alberta antique windmills are displayed with the claim that “it wasn’t the gun that won the West – it was the windmill.” Harnessing the wind to grind grain, saw wood or churn butter had been long established in Europe and the British Isles. But on the North American prairies windmills would provide the means to pump water from underground aquifers. Windmill pumps worked 24-7 and were cheap to both build and operate.
Water and irrigation made prosperity possible in the arid Palliser Triangle thanks to the hard work of Mormon Church members. Without water, early settlers weren’t interested in farming a virtual desert. Irrigation canals would be the solution and no one knew more about irrigation than the Latter-Day Saints who had already transformed the landscape in Utah. Gravity would pull water from the St. Mary’s River to the Mormon settlement at Stirling, Alberta.
Just as settlers needed water, soapweed needs the yucca moth. “Neither species can survive on a long-term basis without the other. Moth larvae feed only on soapweed seeds and soapweed can only produce seeds if pollinated by yucca moths.”
Free-living soapweed is known to occur in only two populations in southeastern Alberta. A horticultural display at the Etzikom Museum brought this Native American medicinal plant to our attention.
“Walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.”