Saskatchewan is not Flat, by Michelle Kopp

Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, the autumn was always a time of family and community. . . . 

. . . as a child, I remember harvesting wheat with Dad in the Combine, canning peaches and pears with Mom and Grandma, and playing hide-and-seek with my sister and cousins — back then, we’d hide in the corn fields, where the corn stalks seemed to grow six-feet-tall.  It seems that the traditional ‘Autumn Equinox activities’ are those our parents and grandparents passed down through the generations.  As a financially-challenged student, I still plant seeds in the spring, gather vegetables from the garden in the summer, and learnt how to can peaches and pears by the case in the autumn.  This creative non-fiction piece embraces common-place Saskatchewan idioms and aspects of rural-living that are as specific to the ‘flat’ province as gopher hunting; it embraces a Saskatchewanian’s sense of community, both rural and provincial.

Saskatchewan is not Flat

When you are told, “Saskatchewan is not flat!” by a Saskatchewanian, you’ll pause in confusion.  You’ll stare at the thin line in the distance, where the bright-blue sky meets acres of golden-yellow canola fields, and open your mouth to disagree.  But the glaring eyes from the Saskatchewanian will stop you.  You’ll remember the fields, where there are large rocks sitting by the water-filled sloughs that you can see from kilometres away, and still–“Saskatchewan is not flat!” and glaring, mouth-silencing stares.

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But even as you walk through the trail cutting alongside the river, the land sloping downward to the water, you will still claim that Saskatchewan is flat.  When you drive down Highway 11 to Regina, you will wonder if the winter season finds Saskatchewanians spending ten seconds snowboarding or skiing down Mount Blackstrap.  You will claim that Blackstrap is little more than a man-made anthill with world-dominating ambitions.  Saskatchewanian will claim that you can never understand its beauty when comparing it to the majestic Rockies.

You will drive to Battleford through North Battleford and still claim Saskatchewan is flat.  Your argument will waver, but only for a second, as you are cruising 80 km an hour down the gravel road of the Scott Coulee.  Saskatchewanian will point to sand hills alongside the prairie road and claim that they are the Pyramids of Saskatchewan.  Wheat and barley fields surround you as you drive to Revenue, where you will contemplate going gopher hunting.  In the Scott Coulee that is–according to you–part of the flatness of Saskatchewan.

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You will hear about the -50’C weather and laugh, thinking that the Saskatchewanian is joking.  In the dead of January, when the sun has only risen at 9:30am, you will then realise that they were not.  You will walk to the bus stop in the dark, waiting for a bus which is an hour late, and return home in the dark.  As you wade through knee-deep snow, the lamppost above you will flicker and die, and a small part of you will look around for Dumbledore.

In -10’C weather, it is snow-covered spring and Saskatchewanians will wear shorts and a bunnyhug.  You will argue that they are called hoodies.  They will smile and nod, and end each sentence with ‘eh’.  But by Halloween, after the first snowfall, you will be wearing a ‘bunny hug’.

When a stranger asks to buy a cigarette for a Loonie, you will look around for the aquatic bird; you will claim that Canada’s currency is little more than monopoly money as you extinguish your cigarette underfoot.  Retrieving the pack from your back pocket, you’ll pass one to the Saskatchewanian–who is in the process of telling you about the time when they had to walk to school uphill, both ways.  They offer you a Toonie and you will sigh in exasperation and ask how a coin with a polar bear could ever be called a ‘Toonie’.

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They will smile and thank you for the cigarette.  You will say that Saskatchewan’s provincial bird is the mosquito and that your dog ran away.  Saskatchewanian will reply with, “It took three days.”  They smirk.  “Right.  Like I haven’t heard that one before.”

But still . . . you will never understand how Saskatchewan is not flat when you can see the horizon behind a sea of golden-yellow canola.

Michelle Kopp

is an overworked graduate student and part-time writer in Saskatchewan, Canada.  She resides with a collection of zoo animals and is practising a type of Reconstructionism, which is not really reconstructionism-by-definition.  Her work has recently appeared in The Diverse Arts Project and Yesteryear Fiction, and ‘Saskatchewan is not Flat’ has been previously published in Upon The Prairies (link).

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