The Prairie Provinces, Canada

The Prairie Provinces, Canada – October 2001
Saskatchewan and Manitoba

By Sue Echlin

Sure Signs of Autumn: Ghosts, Geese and Rodeo Clowns

Fall colours on the river

Autumn colours on the river
Courtesy Tourism Saskatoon

The autumn season is one of mixed blessings on the Prairies. Amid the beauty of the dropping foliage hides the reality of winter nipping at our heels. But just because snow is inevitably on the way doesn’t mean that the Prairie Provinces slow down. The fall season brings top-notch rodeo action, more birds than you ever thought existed, and of course new stories of ghostly happenings. Who has time to worry about the weather?

Canadian Cowboy Association Finals Rodeo
Okay, I admit it. I grew up on a ranch, and own a pair (well, maybe 2) of Wrangler® jeans. So I have a certain urge to put on my cowboy hat every now and then and head off to the rodeo.

The 2001 Canadian Cowboy Association Finals Rodeo will be held October 25-28th at Saskatchewan Place, Saskatoon. The 2000 version of the rodeo attracted over 20,000 spectators. Cowboys and cowgirls qualify for the finals by finishing in the top 10 for year-end points for their event. There is, of course, the increasingly popular bull riding event, where you can watch men of either questionable intelligence or incredible bravery try and conquer a beast 10 times their body weight. Other events include the Ladies Barrel Race, Saddle Bronc, Bareback, Steer Wrestling, Calf Roping, Team Roping, and for the new kids on the block Junior Steer Riding and Barrel Racing.

This year, along with the rodeo, visitors can sample a western clothing fashion show, buy a horse at the Ranch Horse Sale, and get stumbling drunk at a couple of country music cabarets. Contact Saskatchewan Place for more information, or call 306-975-3155.

The Skies are Alive with the Sound of Honking
As anyone who has spent time on the Prairies in the fall can attest, the area is called the Northern Flyway for a reason. Every year, millions of ducks, geese, swans, cranes, and other migratory birds travel through the prairies en route from the Arctic to their wintering grounds. The sounds of honking geese and quacking ducks fill the air, wake you up from your naps, and generally create a cacophony of chaos in the sky.

Oak Hammock Marsh, just 10 minutes north of Winnipeg, is a 36 square-kilometer Wildlife Management Area that boasts a world-class interpretive center (run as a partnership between Ducks Unlimited and the Province of Manitoba). They open a special observation deck for the fall migration that gives visitors an amazing opportunity to see huge numbers of birds as they travel through. Other activities include canoe excursions, marsh walkabouts, and snowshoe walkabouts in the winter. For more information call 204-467-3300.

Lost Souls
It is not only the birds that get anxious with the coming of fall – those undead spirits that still roam the earth get a little antsy as well this time of year.

In honour of Halloween (my favorite holiday), here’s a list of some of the more famous Prairie hauntings. Visit them if you dare…

The St. Louis Lights (St. Louis, SK)
One of the most famous unexplained phenomena of the region is the St. Louis Lights. There is a ghost train here that is seen by numerous visitors to the area, including one of my former professors. Can’t argue with that. St. Louis is located approximately 70 miles NE of Saskatoon.

The Regina General Hospital (Regina, SK)
There are a number of reported spirits haunting this hospital. Some say there is an elderly nurse who hurries along the hallways in a great rush. Others report seeing a lost little boy in the old wing of the hospital that suddenly disappears.

Fort Battleford (Battleford, SK)
Fort Battleford was the sight of the largest mass hanging in Canadian history. All sorts of strange things occur around here at night, and reports from across the river claim that strange lights go on and off and native war cries are heard.

The Walker Theater (Winnipeg, MB)
So it’s a little spooky – applause from empty seats, steel doors slamming shut on their own, and sounds unheard by the human ear showing up on audiotape. After all, ghosts don’t really exist, right?

St. Andrews Church (Selkirk, MB)
Whether it is the church that is haunted or the graveyard in the back, there have been a number of disturbing reports from people who go there at night. They say you’ll see a man and a woman, a ghost car, and that a pair of red eyes will follow you. It doesn’t end after you leave – you’ll forever after have nightmares about the place.

On that note, have a great autumn and a happy Halloween!