Best milkshake in the world

Central Butte, Saskatchewan, Canada Day evening. Debby-Lee's Diner in the Central Butte Hotel.When I was growing up, the best milkshakes in the world were at the Dairy Bar. Of course, when you’re a kid, everything in the world is new and every experience is the best.

The Dairy Bar was special. It was in the middle of nowhere, about as far as you’d want to ride a bike on a hot summer day. You had to ride to the end of our subdivision, across the CPR tracks, then up a long, steep hill. You’d have to travel a bit on the highway to cross over a deep ravine. Lastly, you’d have to traverse a wide, gravel-strewn field to reach the Dairy Bar, perched atop a cliff overlooking the ravine and the railway tracks and the river valley and, way off in the distance, the subdivision that we left behind.

But the milkshakes were worth the effort. There were only three flavours — vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. They were the best milkshakes in the world.

Continue reading

Canada Day at Gallery 148

Gallery 148, Elbow, Saskatchewan.

I don’t know where people get the idea that art galleries are stuffy places to be avoided. Maybe they were taken to fine art galleries on elementary school field trips, where they were admonished to keep their distance from the art. Maybe they’re reminded of movies where someone scratches their nose at an art auction and accidentally finds themselves on the hook for an expensive Picasso. Maybe they’re put off by incomprehensible artists’ statements.

Art galleries, especially the ones in Saskatchewan’s small towns, are great places to get to know a community. You find some amazing art and even more amazing people at these galleries. There’s nothing stuffy about them.

Continue reading

A very prairie parade

Canada Day Parade, Elbow, SK

We popped down to Elbow for Canada Day. It’s a fun little community. Things are pretty quiet until school gets out. But once the kids are on summer vacation and parents are free to take the family travelling, the town really comes alive. Once the doors open for the season, no one sleeps until after Labour Day, and many won’t rest until after Thanksgiving. Canada Day, July 1, is the day it all begins.

Continue reading

The friendly people you meet at Hank’s Tavern

Hank's Tavern, Bradwell Hotel

I wonder how often people take the turnoff to Bradwell, I mean, besides the people who live in the little town. Depending on which way you’re speeding down the Yellowhead Highway, Saskatoon is barely 15 minutes behind you or ahead of you. If you’re in a hurry, as most people seem to be these days, you’ll just blow by the Bradwell access sign like it’s not even there.

I like taking the turnoff. As soon as you leave Highway 16, you feel the pace of life change. The road to Bradwell is a narrow ribbon of pavement winding a quiet 6 km into town. If you’re on that stretch of road just as the last drops of a late-day summer thunderstorm sizzle on the pavement and the sun lights your way with a pristine brightness and clarity that you only find after a prairie rain, you can’t help but think to yourself,  Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Continue reading

A sunny morning in Manitou Beach

Sculpture Garden at Little Manitou Art Gallery

“Why does it always rain when we go to Manitou Beach?” Sandra asks. It doesn’t always, but when you wake up on a Saturday morning and it feels like nighttime because the skies are overcast and the rain is drizzling like a Vancouver winter, it seems like a good day for a soak in a hot mineral spa. Manitou Beach is only an hour and 20 minutes away. It’s not that it rains when we go to Manitou Beach. It’s that we go to Manitou Beach when it rains.

Last Saturday, the cat woke us up at the first light of dawn. Robins were singing outside the window and the smaller birds were making a racket in the trees and bushes around the yard. The cat was excited: time to get up, guys!

Continue reading

Seeing Saskatchewan in a different light

Meewasin Trail, opposite Bessborough Hotel downtown, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Rollei Infrared 400 120mm, 2017-05-20, Hoya R72 filter, 1/8 @ f/16.

I always wanted to try infrared photography. It seemed so mysterious. The film was expensive and hard to get, you had to keep it refrigerated, you had to load it into your camera in the dark, you needed to know how to adjust for the way your lens focused infrared light, you needed special filters to expose it, you had to process it right away, and the results were unpredictable. In a way, I guess that’s what makes it so appealing.

Ilford and Rollei are the only two manufacturers that still make infrared film, and only in black and white. Also, these are more like regular black-and-white films with increased infrared sensitivity. They aren’t as sensitive as earlier films, nor do they cover as much of the infrared end of the spectrum. But it does mean that they are easier to handle and care for, and also behave like regular films when used without a special filter to block visible light. Of the two, Rollei goes a little deeper into the infrared spectrum, and is a very fine grained film, so that’s the one I thought I’d try.

I ordered a few 120 rolls online and set about spending a day of experimentation. The manufacturer recommends making the first exposure, metered correctly, without any filters, to establish a baseline for comparing the developed images. I wandered off with a camera and tripod to a local park on a bright springtime Saturday morning just as the lilacs were coming into bloom.

Continue reading

A Found Photograph

Back when I was a kid I received a home darkroom developing kit. I remember the gift coming from a favourite aunt and uncle. I’ve been lugging that kit back and forth across the country, as I’ve moved from job to job, for probably 50 years. Last weekend, I decided to haul it up from the basement. I found a paper envelope in the kit. Inside, a black and white negative. Odd size. Definitely not 120, more like 116 or 616, film formats that Kodak manufactured for some models of Brownie cameras from 1899 to 1984. I plopped it on my scanner and pressed the button.

The image that emerged was of a scene that looked familiar, yet one I hadn’t seen for a long time.

Continue reading

Sentinels

The Gulch, Trail, BC (Darrell Noakes)

As long as I remember, these towering sentinels have stood watch over the town. At bedtime, I would gaze into the darkness to find reassurance in those patient silhouettes. Beneath them, the industry that gave the town its life and its livelihood banged and thumped and hummed hypnotically. Embraced in that lullaby, secure in the shadows of those dark sentinels, I could drift off to sleep.

It’s funny how the things we grew up with, become the familiar.  The rhythms we were born into stay with us all our lives. Continue reading

First storm of the winter

Broadway area of Saskatoon during the first heavy snowfall of the winter, November 22, 2014 (Darrell Noakes)

Broadway Bridge and downtown Saskatoon, first heavy snowfall of the winter, November 22, 2014 (Darrell Noakes)

The warnings started on Friday: Heavy snowfall, 10 – 15 cm of snow expected. After Friday’s freezing rain warnings, it would be best to listen to what Environment Canada had to say.

Snow started falling Saturday morning. Throughout the afternoon, periodically glancing at the weather radar consistently showed a large green blob, with Saskatoon dead in the centre. Well, at least it was a green blob, denoting only the lightest snowfall throughout the region. Outside the living room window, large flakes were drifting lazily toward the ground, occasionally whipped into a frenzy by gusts of strong wind. Continue reading

Ghosts

Trail, BC. (Darrell Noakes)

(Darrell Noakes)

What if you could go back in time?

What if, one day, when you were a grown-up, you went back to your old home and climbed the ladder into your parents’ attic?

And, way in back, in a dim corner, barely illuminated by the flashlight in your hand, there was a box, a trunk, a large, dusty wooden trunk, with a lock that used a skeleton key?

So you contemplate whether or not to open it, to turn the key and open the lock, carefully, because you don’t know what might be in there, and the attic was a place that you seldom entered when you were a kid, not only because it was hard to get to, but because it was a cold and dark and drafty and scary place, and only the grown-ups were allowed in there. Continue reading

Water under the bridge

Cottonwood Falls Park. (Darrell Noakes)

Cottonwood Falls Park, Nelson, BC. (Darrell Noakes)

Deep in the recesses of my mind is a distant memory of a place my parents took me to once. It was a beautiful place, a canyon with groomed pathways, a lush garden, and a long waterfall that saturated the air with a cool mist. The water seemed to flow out of the sky. It splashed over rocks into a creek and then ran under a bridge and out into a wide, deep, slow moving river that shimmered with hues of green and blue.

I doubt I could have been more than two or three years old at the time, and we spent barely an afternoon there on a hot summer day, and we never went back. The memory of that place has persisted all my life. Whenever I think of the home where I grew up, I think of that place. Sometimes it enters my dreams, where I can still see myself running up and down the pathways of the canyon.

Whenever I asked my parents where that place was, they always shrugged. Continue reading

Bike Alley

The Bike Alley is a whimsical exercise in community development from within, says its creator, Dan Haley, owner of Casa di Cioccolato in Trail, BC. The bicycles line the alley behind his chocolate and tea shop at 346 Bay Avenue. (Darrell Noakes)

(Darrell Noakes)

“You should take a walk down there,” says Bruce, pointing to the lane in back of the old Arlington Hotel, a popular watering hole where a group of us had just wrapped up lunch over beer.

“Let’s see how many you find,” he adds as he and his sister, Sandra start across a deserted street.

“We’ll meet you over at the other end in a few minutes. We’re headed for the Artisan store. See you there.”

The Bike Alley. (Darrell Noakes)

The Bike Alley. (Darrell Noakes)

So, while the rest of the group went left, I hung a right and traipsed on down the block.

It’s pretty quiet for a Saturday, especially on a holiday weekend. There’s practically no traffic. Pretty much anyone who stayed in town must be at the Arlington.

As I reach the entrance to the lane, I spy a bike tied along the guy wires of a telephone pole, then a line of bikes overhead, pinned to the building wall. Further down, more bikes. Continue reading