Neighbourly Love

I live in house with two other young(ish) people. We’re all very busy, and I think we all agree that being young and busy is a good excuse for not always being on-the-ball when it comes to daily household stuff. For Halloween, we put a jack-o-lantern out on our porch. On Nov. 19 (two days ago) it was still sitting there, decomposing. I know, it’s pretty sad that between three people, none of us could get rid of this thing before everyone on our street started putting up Christmas decorations. In our defence, though, we don’t use the front door very often – out of sight, out of mind.

On the evening of Nov. 19, I noticed our jack-o-lantern was gone. Then I noticed footprints in the snow coming directly from our neighbour’s house to the spot where the jack-o-lantern was sitting. I suppose our neighbour, Jason, could have been disgusted at our inability to dispose of the jack-o-lantern, but I like to think he did it as a small-town, neighbourly gesture. That’s probably it – right?

This is what our jack-o-lantern looked like in it’s prime. The little fella behind eventually succumbed to an impatient carver.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 6.15.57 PM

Helping your neighbours by disposing of their three-week-old jack-o-lantern – just another one of those small-town things.

~Janet

Backroadin’

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When you’re sixteen and living in a small town, sometimes you have to make your own fun with things like this:

  • Backroadin’ – essentially, driving around the back roads. It may sound dull, but it often leads to some adventures.
  • Offroadin’ – backroadin’, but not on the roads. This usually requires a truck or an ATV of some sort.
  • Muddin’ – offroadin’, but in fresh mud. It often results in a situation similar to that in the Corb Lund song, Truck Got Stuck.
  • Ditch-skiing – in the springtime, there’s a short window of time when the ditches are full enough to pull out the water skis. Wearing a thermal wetsuit is recommended.

Just to be clear, I’ve never ditch-skied—it’s gross. I just sat in the box of the truck as the designated videographer.

While going about these activities with your chums, you usually throw on a country tune and sing along (off-key) like it was written about you.

~Janet

Change

Change can sometimes be difficult for small town people to accept.

I live in a growing small town. Three new housing developments have popped up in the past 10 years, and there have been rumours flying around about potential new condos. The word condominiums really seems to scare people around town, but I could write an entire post about condo fear, so I’ll leave it alone for now.

These new developments, with typical developer names like River Ridge and Prairie View, are a popular discussion topics around town. Some people don’t mind them, but some people fear we’re going to lose our small town-ness with all these new houses coming up.

It’s funny—the things people do when they don’t like change. Some of my friends have resorted to using the name “Ridgers” for people who live in River Ridge—as in, “Oh, he must be a Ridger.”

After a while though, people get used to the change. Those who refer to Ridgers as Ridgers become friends with the Ridgers. But the nickname still sticks. If you can’t tell already, I use the term Ridger, too. I may have a mild case of the small town fear of change, but I don’t have it as bad as some people do.

Nov. 7 - stop sign

A few years ago, the municipality changed a single stop sign to a three-way stop at the intersection of Lagace Drive and Schaubroeck Road. Many people thought the new three-way stop was completely unnecessary, and you wouldn’t believe the outrage. It was hilarious. Taking an extra three seconds to come to a stop on a residential street where everyone drives at a speed just above dead stop—what an outrage!

The three-way stop stayed, and I bet no one remembers that it once wasn’t there. We’re all too busy getting fired up about the latest change!

~Janet

Small Town DOs and DON’Ts

This week I’ve put together some small town DOs and DON’Ts. I’ll go more in depth with some of these points in future posts. Take a look!

Small Town DOs and DON’Ts

DOs

  • At Halloween, it’s very important to remember the houses that give out big chocolate bars so you can go back every year.
  • Make sure to come up with a funny name for the people who have just moved to the new development in your town (if your town has a new development). You’ll probably become good friends with some of them, but this is just a standard issue DO.
  • Have winter bonfires on the river—they’re the best.
  • Make fun of the towns around your town. These towns probably have a lot of similar qualities to your town, but this is just another one of those standard issue things.
  • When you’re under 18 and trying to pick up beer, go to the next town over. People will know who you are in your town and likely know your parents, too.
  • Definitely hang out at the Esso (or whatever gas station is in your town) when you’re in grade eight. It’s the cool thing to do.
  • Always be fully stocked with firewood—you must be ready for a bonfire at all times.

Oct. 17 - fire wood

DON’Ts

  • Never assume you can grab something from the grocery store in under five minutes—you can’t.
  • Try not to leave your car at the bar over night. The next day everyone will ask you, “Oh hey how was your night last night?” And they will have a stupid smile on their face. But remember not to drink and drive either! I’m sure you can figure something else out.
  • Don’t date someone you’re related to—sometimes, depending on the town, it’s a good idea to check with your parents before.
  • Never contribute store-bought pies to the fall supper—it’s disgraceful.
  • Don’t hit the ditch with your car on your way to high school—everyone takes the same road, which means everyone will see you and make fun of you.

These are just a few of the many small town DOs and DON’Ts. I hope you enjoyed them!

~Janet

Anyone seen my alpaca?

My family had a horse named Spiral when I was growing up—kind of a weird name, but hey, horses have weird names. One morning we went outside and Spiral wasn’t in his pen, so my mom did what everyone in La Salle did when they had an animal go missing, she called the Esso.

“Has anyone called to report a wandering horse?”

Luckily for us, someone did. A family from the other side of town spotted him and kept him at their place until we went to retrieve him.

Here’s a high-quality photo of Spiral and me (he was just a little guy).

Spiral

It was a recurring thing for our animals to wander outside the yard. Spiral mastered jumping the fence after his first escape, and we had an entire heard of goats get loose a couple of times. Our dogs also liked to go visiting around town, and our two young cows once swam across the river, which served as the fourth wall to their enclosure. Our animals’ tendency to escape didn’t reflect the way we treated them; they lived like royals. I think the problem was more of a containment issue—we were a little too lax.

The place to go to report a missing animal has now shifted from the local gas station to social media. My friend Paige is from Russell, Manitoba, and she showed me this Facebook post.

BLOG 1

Aside: If you’ve never seen an alpaca before, here’s one jumping with joy.

alpaca

(photo: localharvets.org)

Alpacas don’t just jump though—CLICK HERE to see one surfing.

Here’s another post Paige came across on her Facebook homepage.

BLOG 2

Poor little pony.

My aunt wrote this next Facebook post. She came across a pack of travelling pet dogs by her place near Arborg, Manitoba. If you check out the comments, you’ll see this new method of animal lost and found on Facebook is just as effective as calling the Esso.

BLOG 3

 

Good thing the “SNIFF” Gang didn’t get lost and end up in Morweena!

~Janet

 

The Pie Table

Oct. 3 - Pie

It’s the beginning of October, which means it’s fall supper season.

Every year after harvest small town folks gather at their local halls to share their garden vegetables, fill up on turkey and stuffing, and be merry.

I’ve experienced two types of fall suppers, each very different from the other.

The La Salle fall supper:

Up until this year, my hometown has hosted the fall supper at the community centre — an old, dilapidated building with low ceilings, and a smell of 40-year-old carpets (there aren’t even carpets in there). On the day of the fall supper, the doors would open at 3 pm, and the line would quickly form with busloads from senior homes in the city. A good portion of these seniors are from small towns, so their home organizers take them to the closest small town outside of the city for the “fall supper experience.”

This experience involves standing in line, sitting at a crowded table under bright fluorescent lights, scarfing down your plate, and getting the heck out of there.

This year the fall supper was different in La Salle. Last Sunday, Sept. 28, was the first fall supper in our brand new community centre — very exciting. I didn’t go.

The reason I didn’t go is mostly because I had a pile of homework, but also because I’m not a huge fan of the La Salle fall supper. The food is good, but when you’re in there it feels more like a fall supper factory, with volunteers scrambling to pump as many people through in as little time as possible so they can pump the next round of people through.

It’s a good event for the community and all, but I prefer to fall supper in a different way (yes, I just used ‘fall supper’ as a verb).

The Vidir fall supper:

Vidir is about a 15-minute drive northwest of Arborg, Manitoba. It’s not really a town; it’s more of an area with a bunch of farms. Because I have a lot of family from there, I used to attend the Vidir fall supper every year. A few years ago the community sold their hall so they don’t have the supper anymore, but I remember it well.

My family would usually arrive at my grandparents in the early afternoon. Granny would be busy roasting a turkey and baking pies. She’d take us to the hall to drop off the food for later in the evening. My cousins and I would steal sugar cubes from coffee table in the hall kitchen and eat them (gross).

Around five or six, people would start to arrive. The Vidir Hall was beautiful – old wooden floors, high ceiling, and a stage where a polka band would play after supper. Side note: older people sure know how to dance. Their footwork is incredible.

The hall was always full of people but somehow never felt crowded the way it does at the La Salle fall supper. Everyone ate around the same time, and once you were there, you would stay for the night. It wasn’t an in-and-out situation like in La Salle.  We’d fill our plates full of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, carrots, and whatever else. Then after supper, the pie table would come out.

I was talking to my mom the other day about funny small town things, and she said this:

Oh, you know what’s pretty small town – when you’re at the fall supper, and you can tell who made which pie based on the crusts.

Can you imagine that? Crusts!

I had a good chuckle over this. Crust identification isn’t a thing at the La Salle fall supper, that’s a serious small town thing.

“Oh, I know those crusts.”

“Those must be Barb’s crusts, they’re perfect – good fork impression technique around the edges.”

“What’s this?! Store-bought crusts?! Blasphemy!”

Fall supper pie crust identification – just another one of those small town things.

~Janet

After 7 pm

Sept. 25 - Closed sign

Do you like wine? Yeah, me too. One problem though—if you live in La Salle and your craving comes after 7 pm, you’ll have to substitute your Merlot for some B&J wine coolers from the La Salle River Inn vendor.

Gross. Why would you do this, you ask.

Because the local liquor/grocery/hardware store closes at 7 pm, and you never seem to remember this useful little fact until around 7:10. It’s just another one of those lovely small town things.

I really shouldn’t complain. A friend of mine, Anya McNabb (anyaknows.wordpress.com), is from Minnedosa, and the liquor store there closes at
6 pm.

I’d be screwed – screwed and drinking B&J wine coolers.

Anya told me a funny story about having the liquor store is closed realization (let’s call this the LSCR). She had just moved to Winnipeg with her sister, and the two of them were chilling at home one Saturday evening. They were planning to go out later that night. Around 7 pm, Anya checked the time and started to freak out. With her Minnedosa instincts still fresh, she had a false LSCR. Luckily, she soon realized there was no need to freak out; she was in the city, where Liquor Marts stay open past 6 pm.

Again, I don’t mean to complain. Early liquor store closing times is really a non-problem. I just wanted to give a heads up – if you’re heading out to a small town, and you prefer wine over wine coolers, hit up the liquor store before it’s too late!

~Janet

The Guy Who Knows

I know

When something big happens in small towns, everyone talks about it. When the thing that happened is something illegal, people talk about it more. They want to know about it so they can be the guy who knows about it. No one knows the exact details except the people involved, but the rumours still fly. For some reason, some people (not everyone) get a high from being that person who “knows” what’s going on.

It’s the grown-up version of the playground taunt “I know something you don’t know.” In this version, however, people tend to be a little more subtle, like this:

“Oh, so I guess you haven’t heard…”

“I know what happened. I can’t say, and I can’t tell you who told me, but I know.”

“Well… I heard this from Teresa’s brother who’s buddy’s girlfriend was actually there when it happened. So… I know.”

It’s a competition of who can sound like they know the most about a situation, based on the people they know. It’s entertaining, really. I should emphasize, however, not everyone who lives in small towns partakes in this game of being the guy who knows, but it seems to be a common trend in my experience.

Over this past summer, there was a mysterious happening in La Salle. There were a number of cop cars parked at a house on a quiet street for three days straight. As you could imagine, the rumours soared. By the third day, I was hearing everything from murder-suicide stories to grow-ops. The real story didn’t come out until months later, and it turned out to be a tragic one.

Before the truth came out in the Winnipeg Free Press sometime in late August, most of the people I talked to around town had already come to a general consensus on what happened. The consensus was wrong. Who do I blame for this misinformed idea of what happened? The guy who knows.

I think the problem is when you get too many people itching to be in the loop. The first guy who knows hears the rumour, and he runs into the next guy who knows. The first guy tells the second guy the rumour (so he can feel like a powerful guy who knows). The second guy doesn’t give the first guy the satisfaction of believing him, but then he runs into the third guy who knows, and tells him the rumour. The rumour continues to spread, and people believe it, because it’s coming from people who know. Heck, I believed it!

I’m being a little hard on the guy who knows, but I don’t hate him—he just fascinates me. I probably have a little bit of the guy who knows in me, too. When people around town came to this false conclusion about what had happened, I couldn’t help by say, “Yeah, I know,” when I heard the rumour again and again.

I think most people from small towns have a little bit of the guy who knows in them. It’s funny how that works, but it’s just another one of those small town things.

~Janet

Small Town Things

Small towns are funny—they’re all different, but in some ways, they’re all the same. I’m going to blog about these similarities, the little quirks that seem to be small town trademarks—the “five-minute” grocery shop, the farm auction, the fall supper, the local gas station.

I grew up in a small town, La Salle, Manitoba. It’s about a ten minute drive south of Winnipeg’s Perimeter Highway. It’s a different kind of small town than say, Swan River, which is a six hour drive north-west of Winnipeg. Growing up, I had easy access to “the city.”  The Bargain Shop on Main Street wasn’t my only option for bell-bottom jeans when I hit my preteens, and when I got my driver’s license, I regularly went to the movies at Silver City St. Vital. Although all the amenities of the big bad city were readily available to me, La Salle still had the little quirks of a small town.

Once a week I’ll be talking about these little quirks, and I welcome my fellow small town girls and boys, as well as city folks, to take a read, comment, and share stories!

~Janet