bales

Only on the prairies would you see photos like these supplied by my kids on a day out, back home on the prairies.

When you live on the prairies … life is hard. You make due with what you have. You do. If you lived in Essex there is a wonderful maze there with lovely green shrubs and waterfalls and statues. You would take a picnic lunch and drive through the lovely countryside and talk about the royal courts that used to frolic in these mazes while a stringed quartet gently played and men in satin and lace fed grapes and dainty pastries to women in incredible corseted gowns with heaving breasts.

Geese and deer would stroll through the scene, perfectly mannered and well behaved.

On the prairies, they throw the kids into the back of a beat up old pick up truck and drive down a dirt road to the wheat field. There someone has thrown a bunch of straw bales around that they are too lazy to pick up. Someone makes a hole in the barb wire fence where people can drive through and John Boy sits there with his hunters cap, missing teeth, a rifle and a tin can, and charges each car load $25.00 to come and wander in the straw. They give people maps so they won’t get lost cause God knows, if dad should fall and a herd of cows trample him into the dirt and then a tornado  comes up and it whips both the cows and the dirt into a frenzy … dad just might not be able to find his way out of the bale maze.

That happens all the time on the prairies … it is actually where the term “baled” comes from. They changed the spelling to “bail” later on to allow for more kids to pass their English tests by giving them an edge on the question “name 3 more 4 letter words that end in “ail.” All over the countryside you will find the sad legacy of the bale mazes where the tombstones read,”dad bailed 1942″ etc. “Bale Maze Loss” support groups are everywhere to address this serious problem. At these meetings you hear things like,”the last time I ever saw my dad he was standing next to the one bale, he turned and smiled and waved . . . and then the tornado hit. I heard a bunch of mooing and then silence … and dad was gone.”
And then, other people go and stand by that person and hold their hand and sing them soft prairie wheat songs like “Oklahoma,” “America the Beautiful,” and the theme song from the commercial for WeetBix. They just want to help them learn to love wheat again ….

Back at the wheat field there is no stringed quartet. We make due with a trio. Someone turns the car radio up to the “Kingston Trio” hour with a special appearance and dance sequence number by Anne Murray. The men are mostly in coveralls or hunting gear but a couple of the women have their square dancing skirts on only because they are getting dropped off later for practice at the curling rink. Every fall, prairie people gather to prepare for the big Curling Bonspiel pageant where they have extravagant displays and dance numbers like the square dancing on skates dance-o-rama set to the music of “Jimmy Crack Corn..” No grapes, but someone pulls out something resembling raisins out of the crack in the back seat of the truck. Basically the rest of the meal is coffee in a thermos, even for the toddlers, and gopher on a stick … roasted …with ketchup  of course.

As for the geese and the deer wandering through … no. Doesn’t happen. Cows, rabid skunks, the occasional lost Hutterite . . . that is it. And they don’t really know anything about manners or behaving.

jackolantern

Oh look and here we have evidence of how the prairies incorporate important social reform with community wholesomeness. These recent rehabilitation programs that have been a huge success. Grafitti on straw rolls is wayyy down now that the local teens regularly attend the fields and put their energy into creative community minded art projects like this wonderful Halloween themed roll seen here. Instead of scrawling gang epitaphs like “the oilers suck” or swear words like “Armed Forces” they have channeled that into gosh darned wholesomeness. Golly gee. Won’t the younger prairie kids be scared when they are out wandering the wheat fields this year, to come upon this frightening … toll … of … straw? Um ya …

And don’t forget the pumpkin throwing contest. There is a reason Canada placed 8th in the Olympic shot putting this past season. Mmhmm … pumpkin tossing! Bigggg competition everyone looks forward to for the fall each year. There are just so many many things to do in a wheat field once the crops are off. Mattel should seriously look into finding a way to package this and make it available to every child in the world.

corn maze

And finally … the corn maze. This is an adult ride and they are very strict about qualifying people before they are allowed to wander willy nilly in the corn. This is a lot like the straw maze, only much cornier. Every person has to go through a crash course on survival in the corn, like ” brown corn … do not eat it,” “how to out run a fire,” “surviving in a corn field all through winter until the spring thaw,” and 200 recipes for snow and frozen corn to delight you by the other idiots who insisted they knew the way out of the corn maze.” You have to sign a waiver to go on this ride.

We came up with the idea and called it a “corn maze” because we didn’t get Spanish people, we got French people. They thought we were saying “corn maize” and they wanted it to be called “corn blé.” That would have been “corn corn” which is ridiculous and proves, once again, that the English are far superior, at least when it comes to knowing how to come up with a serious name for wandering around in dead corn stalks. I am pretty sure we had some kind of war or major spelling bee with the French over it, and we won, and it started a whole national past time of ignoring the French. So now, every Autumn, along with all the other frivolity and fun, we all remember the whole debacle and we roll our eyes and laugh and laugh as we eat escargot, éclairs, and sip champagne.

But as you can see, there is no end of fun and excitement on the prairies. No wonder my people are so darn polite. After years of jostling with the huge crowds in the wheat and corn fields, and boy these venues are absolutely packed …. you have to learn to share the land, to get along with everyone, to give peace a chance, to group hug … or no-one would have any fun. The way of the field is the way of the gentleman. You will hear all over the field things like “excuse me ma’am I think you have a bit of gopher in your teeth,” and “excuse me, you go first, eh?” and, “would you like to share this corrogated iron sheet  with me? There is a tornado coming and I think I just felt the first cow fly by.”

So next time you come to Canada, forget the mountains, come to the prairies ! Come in the fall when everything is dead and brown and the road kill has stopped attracting all the flies …and join with the polite Canadians wandering the wheat fields. It will be the holiday of a lifetime.

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