Who has seen the wind?

Who has seen the wind? Linda Aksomitis near Carlyle, Saskatchewan.

Who has seen the wind? asks Weyburn, Saskatchewan, author, W. O. Mitchell, in his classic Saskatchewan novel written in 1947. Poet, Christina Rossetti, asked the same question some seventy years earlier, in her children’s poem by the same title.

Rossetti’s poem answers with the line, “Neither you nor I.”

But I have seen the wind where it blows here over the Southeast Saskatchewan fall landscape that W. O. Mitchell knew and loved. And felt it too.

Here,  we celebrate Saskatchewan Library Week near the end of October, when the landscape has turned to gold–my favorite season. Most years I set up my own tour of library visits through the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild Readings Program, but this year I was lucky and Pam Foy, from the South East Readings Council, did all the organizing and scheduling.

October 21 – Wapella and Moosomin

I live around 150 km west of Wapella, a small town of just over 400 people. The smiling faces of 40 or so Wapella School students in Kindergarten to Grade 6 made for a great start to the tour. After some delicious Subway buns and cookies, it was on to Moosomin for the afternoon and evening.

Erin Skulmoski and Linda Aksomitis

Erin Skulmoski and Linda Aksomitis in the library at MacLeod Elementary School in Moosomin.

The Trans-Canada Highway used to go right through Moosomin–I well remember a midnight speeding ticket pulling the trailer home after a snowmobile race in Beausejour, Manitoba–and not getting the speed down fast enough for the town limit. Now, however, the four-lane highway goes around Moosomin and there’s a whole new growth of services for travelers that has popped up.

I didn’t need a hotel, since I was a guest of the Moosomin Library Board. From a private suite in Gord and Claudia’s home, to the receptive audience at the evening reading in the Moosomin Branch Public Library, and I couldn’t have felt more welcome.

Dano's Lounge at the Red Barn

Chicken Bryan served at Dano’s Lounge at the Red Barn.

One surprise I found, though, was Dano’s Lounge, at the Red Barn, which could have easily been a city spot instead of a roadside option with its original menu, efficient service, and delicious meal.

My picks from the menu started with a Citrus Zinger Caesar, but you may want to check out the other five types of Caesars or even the wine or beer list. Selecting an entrée was tougher, as there’s a lot to choose from.

I finally settled on Chicken Bryan with its unique combination of flavors: barbequed grilled chicken (tender and juicy!), goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and the hand-prepared basil lemon butter sauce. This one could go up against any chicken dinner I’ve ever eaten and come out as a top selection.

October 22 – Moosomin to Wawota

I often tell teachers and librarians that middle years kids are some of my favorite audiences. Moosomin’s McNaughton High School was no exception, as I read from Run, one of my historical novels and a snowmobile book. It was a hit with this crowd of 150 avid snowmobilers (it seemed like there was a real sea of hands raised when I asked who snowmobiled!) who enjoy some of the province’s great trails, since there’s always some of the best southern snowfalls through Moosomin and a little further North.

From Moosomin, it was on to Wawota School, where school principal, Josh Risling, divided the students into enthusiastic groups for two shorter presentations.

Home Sweet Home Gift Shop in Fairlight, Saskatchewan.

Home Sweet Home Gift Shop in Fairlight, Saskatchewan.

After the school visits, it was only a hop-step-and-jump to Fairlight, to meet up with Pam and another author/illustrator for some tea and lemon cheesecake dessert (loving the food!) at the Home Sweet Home Tea Room and Gift Shoppe.

Once again I was surprised at my findings in the very, very small town (40 people!) of Fairlight, with the Tea Room’s unique Gift Shoppe.

Across the street from the Tea Room, the gift shop filled an old character building with an eclectic assortment of original artistic pieces ranging from photos to antique tables to the giant clock you see in the photo! If you’re looking for an “interesting” piece for your home, do stop in.

This time I was overnight at Lori’s Bed and Breakfast in Wawota, with Lori as my hostess. Providing an enormous spacious basement suite and an delicious breakfast of fresh fruit cup, homemade muffins, jellies, and more, keep this one in mind if you’re traveling through.

October 23 – Maryfield to Carlyle

The Maryfield School, I had discovered the night before when I stopped in Maryfield at the Maryfield’s Arlington Hotel for wing night–foregoing the tempting smell of steaks grilling indoors at Saskatchewan’s first steak pit–had put my name up as a visiting guest on the billboard.

Maryfield School

Maryfield School with my name on the billboard!

I’ve been in newspapers and magazines, on radio and television, but never on a billboard! Woo-hoo!

At Maryfield School, I had two great groups of kids, first Grades 3 through 6, then Grades 7 to 12, to share my writing with. There was no extra time to visit though, as my next appearance was scheduled for Manor, an hour or so away.

My heavy gas-pedal foot did help me make up enough time to pull over on Highway #13 to take a shot of the Redvers giant Mountie statue outside its Visitor Centre. The statue commemorates the founding of the Red Coat Trail from back when the Mounties first came to the prairies.

Manor School also had two groups of students for shorter presentations, bringing my day’s tally up to four readings by 1:30 in the afternoon. I must admit it was getting hard to remember which group I’d already told what to!

Mountie statue at Redvers

Mountie statue at Redvers on the Red Coat Trail along Highway #13 in Saskatchewan.

Luckily, it really was only a 15 minute drive from Manor to Carlyle, where I presented to Gordon F. Kells High School for the last period of the afternoon.

Getting around Carlyle should have been easy, however I discovered that the GPS in my new 2014 Buick didn’t include older sections of the town–nor did the Garmin I had tucked away in the glove compartment. I did, however, fumble my way across town by using a combination of the GPS map and luck.

I didn’t need any luck with the middle years students I presented to though, as they were interested listeners.

However, I will freely admit I was really ready for the amazing room I’d been given at the new Ramada Carlyle Hotel. I flopped onto the amazing duvet, amazing comfort mattress, really amazing pillows, and nibbled on just one of the endless supply of amazing cookies I’d discovered in the lobby along with the always-full pot of decaf coffee.

Once again, this wasn’t what I expected in small town Saskatchewan. While hospitality is found everywhere, the hotel facility and staff provided everything you’d expect from a Ramada, no matter where in the world you found it.

My new South East Reading Council contact, Joan Bue, met me for supper and a relaxing evening visit before I returned to the hotel to climb into bed for the night.

October 24 – Carlyle to Arcola

The last day!


Cookies at the Ramada Carlyle

While I thought about more cookies for breakfast (Really–I’d earned them!), I went with the waffles from the free breakfast laid out from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m. at the Ramada. Then, it was off to find my way around town again with a GPS missing addresses…it took awhile even though I thought I’d figured out how to get to the Carlyle Elementary School the day before.

So, on arrival I parked, leapt out of the car, and rushed in to make my presentation. This time, however, technology failed us all, and we eventually ended up in a cozy classroom with me, 125 kids, and a handful of teachers taking my PowerPoint Badlands tour using a smartboard instead of a data projector.

My best guess is that I was flustered by that point. At any rate, when asked where I’d left my car, I had to answer that I had absolutely no idea. Now yes, I normally try to keep track of such things, but this hadn’t been a normal morning. So, three very helpful teachers and ten minutes later, I did eventually end up right where I’d started–the dew on the car mixed with a liberal coating of dust had turned my new, very shiny black car to a very dull shade of dark grey that had cloaked it in the parking lot. Well, that’s my story anyway.

Historic Arcola

Historic Arcola, Saskatchewan. Photo by Linda Aksomitis.

Just one more school to go–Arcola School in the historic community of Arcola.

With only a twenty minute drive between Carlyle and Arcola, I ended up with lots of time to walk around town and take photos before heading to the school to present two short sessions to my last two groups of students.

And then I was done and heading home into one of the fall’s windiest days.

I stopped to take the photo at the top of the page, and before I had even aimed my cell phone at the golden field, a truck had pulled over to see if I needed help. So I can guarantee that some of the things you’ll find in Southeast Saskatchewan are friendly people and a wind you can see.