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Crossing Canada Day #6: The salt-of-the-earth

We continue our Chronicles of Crossing Canada. Welcome back!

Near Huntsville ON (2021), Jaime Lee Lightle

Jaime Lee writing ~

We were awakened by the morning sun in Saskatchewan – much earlier than any where we’ve been to date. We left camp before 8 AM, got liquid fuel for us and ice for the cooler, then we were off – destination: Gibbons Alberta, with a planned stop in Lloydminster for lunch.

The drive through the Prairies was a windy one. The truck loaded with our camper (aka Truck-house), powered through the 60 km/hr gusts but at a cost of fuel. Thank God the prices at the pumps started to go down the further west we went.

We continued North-West on the trans-Canada – Alberta-bound with some rain clouds threatening to make our drive wet. As we moved forward on our journey we continued to see combines and grain elevators. Tracking election signs, we saw a lot of Blue signs and we were introduced for the first time to the “West’s Federal Party”: the Maverick Party. So much land, so much wheat and resources; this place feeds the world and I believe that the West wants the rest of Canada to recognize that.

Photo source: Jaime Lee Lightle

Something about driving through the Prairies; you can see the rain clouds in the distance – so you’re not shocked when you get hit by inclemently weather. You can also see where the clouds end and the blue sky breaks through. It rained in Regina and Saskatoon. We listened to The Guess Who, “Running Back to Saskatoon”, our voices belted out along with the music….

“….I been hangin' around grain elevators I been learnin' 'bout food I been talkin' to soil farmers I been workin' on land Moose Jaw saw a few, Moosomin too Runnin' back to Saskatoon Red Deer, Terrace and a Medicine Hat Sing another prairie tune Sing another prairie tune…”

The Battleford Valley cut into the Plains. Small hills started dotting the landscape on either side of the highway. More and more farms and cattle, as far as the eye can see. We got to Lloydminster – the border town between Saskatchewan and Alberta around lunch time. We stopped at Arby’s and had a short rest.

The last time I was in Alberta, I was 4 years old when my mother and I flew Air Canada to visit my Aunty Jackie, my mother’s sister and her family, her husband Joey, my cousins Rob and Jeff. I remember seeing the prairies as we flew over the country (my very first plane trip). As I sat in my window seat enthralled, I remembered how the farm fields and crops below looked like a giant, patchwork quilt. This image stuck with me as a child because I remember drawing a depiction of this bird’s eye view in class after we returned from our trip.

Samuel de Champlain Park, ON (2021) Jaime Lee Lightle

We got to cousin Rob’s house in Gibbons Alberta at 6:40 PM. Gibbons is a quiet village, 25 km North of Edmonton. Rob’s house is tucked into a subdivision of newer homes. Most of Rob’s neighbours are military families, gas/oil company employees – the salt of the earth types.

Jim writing ~

We saw Moose, Deer and Bison and the two storms I drove through in Saskatchewan had me ultra-focused. After my drive I was not doing the best, but the stop at Arby’s in Llyodminster gave my head and body a well-deserved rest. I had walked to this Arby’s one day in 2003 when we were doing workup training in Wainwright. Arby’s seems to be the butt many jokes, mostly on TV shows, but as you grow up in a town that only had an Arby’s, it became a beacon of comfort and Home.

Photo source:

It was a hard push to make it to Gibbons Alberta, but we did it. My cousin was heading out to work remotely the next day, so we were lucky to catch him. I have not seen my younger cousin Rob since I saw him Graduate Military Basic Training in 2008 so I felt that there was no time like the present. When he was in the military, he was a mechanic, but he left the military for the promise land of big oil and mining. I always noticed that when people were posted to Edmonton, the temptation of the rigs and mining industry would pull them away. There were no secondary industries near Petawawa for me.

I noticed a remarkable change in my cousin since I had seen him last. He had grown so much; he was surer of himself which was good to see. He had a confidence that was struggling to come out before he joined the military. We talked about the old times in Port Hope. Old times of drinking and old times of laughing. I am proud of my cousin. We took our rest in the cul-de-sac for the night. It was good catching up with Rob and his missus.

Jaime writing ~

We were out on Rob’s deck chatting up a storm for a couple of hours before we noticed that the temperature started to descend with the sun. When James noticed that my lips were turning blue, we made our way into the warmth of the house. An hour or so later, we climbed the tailgate to our sleeping quarters in the cozy truck-house. We were parked in the cul-de-sac, between vehicle-filled laneways.

This excerpt made me think of all the hard working, salt-of-the-earth, Canadians I know:

“Work is love made visible.

And if you cannot work with love but only distaste, it is better than you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take aims of those who work with joy.

For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger” - Kahlil Gibran

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