Buffalo Symbol in Manitoba

Manitoba Buffalo Road Sign
Manitoba Buffalo Road Sign

Buffaloes Are Everywhere

The Canadian province of Manitoba has adopted the animal silhouette of the American bison as its official symbol. All across the prairie province, visitors and travelers will find signs like this. If perhaps you are wondering why the use of this symbol came about, then perhaps a short look into the survival and near-extinction of this large grazing animal is in order.

Electrical towers now cover parts of the Manitoba prairie.
Electrical towers now cover parts of the Manitoba prairie.

Prairie History

While its true that the Southern Canadian prairie was once covered with large herds of Buffalo, today the large herbivores are also gone and in their place visitors will find large areas of agricultural growth or sometimes, just a long stretching network of metal towers. However, since the Winnipeg area did once support one of the few surviving herds of bison, the symbol of the animal on the highway signs are definitely apropos. During the 1870’s large hunts nearly wiped out the prairie bison. According to General Sheridan, the attrition was a premeditated effort to bring the Plains Indian onto reservations and civilize him.  So successful were the buffalo hunters that by 1870s only a few score of the once populous animal remained. One of these places was Winnipeg, where two ranchers, James McKay and Charles Alloway maintained a small heard. As it turned out this group of rescued calves turned out to be one of the major surviving gene pools.

Manitoba Today

Today agriculture is more important than ranching in Manitoba. Traditionally, wheat and other grains have been grown here, but a new product, canola beans has come into its own. All across the southern end of the province,the yellow flower comes out during the summer months and turns the fields to a brilliant hue of yellow. At first glance, the plants appear to be mustard, but it is the legume from which a cheap oil is made that provides the bright hue.

Canola fields in Manitoba
Canola fields in Manitoba

High Water In Winnipeg

High water in Winnipeg
High water in Winnipeg

Red River

Here’s a picture of the Red River as in flows northward through the city of Winnipeg on its way north to Lake Winnipeg and eventually the Hudson Bay. This picture was taken at the beginning of August and as you can see the river is quite high. FYI the Red River flows north from western Minnesota, North Dakota and even bits of South Dakota, where its watershed butts up against that of the Mississippi and Missouri. By the way this not the same Red River that forms the boundary between Oklahoma and Texas. That river flows south into the Atchafalaya Basin of southern Louisiana.

Why So High

Actually, this is the remnants of spring flooding that occurred back in March and April of this year. The excess water seems to be the result of intense and early spring rain that came on top of a heavy winter snowpack. And the Red River is not the only part of the province to be worried about excess water. Excess water at the edge of Lake Manitoba is still high and scientist expect this situation to remain in this state right up until winter arrives and freezes the lake. Major problems could occur if events unfold in this manner. When I departed the prairie city, Provincial officials were considering building a drainage ditch to relieve water pressure.

Glass reflection in downtown Winnipeg
Glass reflection in downtown Winnipeg

Here’s a reflection on a glass building that just happens to look a lot like water.

Winnipeg, the City

The city of Winnipeg does not attract a lot of foreign visitors, though the downtown area is quite modern and visually appearing. Trees grow in many places, though once you leave the city, the prairie predominates. Most visitors to the provincial capitol, use the place as a rest stop on their cross-country journey, especially those headed west for the Canadian Rockies. Still the library is very nice and anyone who enjoys modern architecture or public parks can enjoy a day or two within the city limits. As you can see in this mural, the popularity of the old Brtain waxes a little bit here.

Winnipeg Wall for Britons
Winnipeg Wall for Britons

And finally the night life of the city helps make the place more liveable.

Sonus Musica
Sonus Musica

The Colors of Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay Urban Scene

Thunder Bay used to be called Port Arthur, but now goes by a more colorful handle (my opinion) that owes a lot to the natural forces of nature, which for some reason put on fantastic thermo-electrical displays, when they pass over the rocky harbor and bay. I was witness to one such event and it was quite impressive. It also seems to be a slight deference to the ever-present Native American community, which is quite prevalent in this Ontario town.

Shadows Cast On a Red Door
Red Pattern On Red Door

For me, Thunder Bay was a great place to take pictures, mostly because it was a city in need of repair. I love the old, functional architecture in need of small repair and a fresh coat of paint, as well as the towering grain elevators that lined the edge of Lake Superior, a  body of water that the locals affectionately refer to as Gitchee Gumee.  Along with this post are a few of my favorite results from my photographic efforts.

Yellow Night Light

The above is twilight shot taken while a deep blue afterglow remained in the night sky. For me this brief period when photocell operated lights come on and cast contrasting shadows against a slowly darkening sky, are amongst my favorite times of day. Here’s one more picture.

Twilight Parking Garage
Twilight Parking Garage

Visiting Canada with Will and Kate

Wall painting in Niagara Falls, Ontario
Wall painting in Niagara Falls, Ontario

Canada is a nice place to visit even if you you happen to be traversing the country at  the same time as the royal couple’s visit. By coincidence my leisurely three-week journey from Montreal to Thunder Bay, just to happened to occur at the same time that Will and Kate made their nine-day visit to the former British colony. When they first landed in Ottawa, I was making the rounds in Montreal. This included sampling a smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s and then sipping a tasty pale ale at a nearby microbrewery.

Colors of the Plateau, Montreal
Colors of the Plateau, Montreal

But by the time they had left the country, I was anchored down in Thunder Bay, a colorful town located near the western end of Lake Superior. In the mean time Will and Kate, made it to Montreal, Quebec City, Prince Edward Island, Yellowknife and the Calgary Stampede. All in all it was a small cross-section of Canada, but most people up here glad that the famous duo spent so much time in the country.

Canadian Greyhound Bus
My main means of crossing the province of Ontario

What really impressed me about the visit of the royal couple was first of all how much time was spent in the country and secondly what a large cross-section of the country they were able to visit. Of special fascination was the trip to Yellowknife, where they received a chance to paddle a canoe and explore the backcountry.

Bus station graphic, Schreibner, Ontario
Bus station graphic, Schreibner, Ontario

The only missing thing was a chance to visit Niagara Falls, but I’m sure they’ll hit that natural wonder on their next visit.

MY Empty McDonald's Sundae Dish, Toronto
MY Empty McDonald's Sundae Dish, Toronto

Next stop on the royal couple’s North American tour is the good ole USA, where I will be arriving in the near future. Not to be outdone the two visitors from the UK will spend nine days in the former colony. Though the history between the US and Great Britain differs significantly from that of Canada, I’m sure they will have a busy and eventful journey across the states. By the way this is the first British royal visit to the US since 1939.

Tainted Cup of Tea

K2 is a mountain on the China-Pakistan border, from Wkikpedia
K2 is a mountain on the China-Pakistan border, from Wikipedia

Fiction Or Non-fiction

As of late, 60 minutes is becoming a regular visitor on the literary scene. Their latest excursion into the literary world occurred this Sunday night and concerned one of the best-selling non-fiction writers in the English language.  The writer of concern is Greg Mortenson who has written the best-seller, Three Cups of Tea. If just some of the things that Mortenson’s critics claim are true, Mortenson might have to re-classify his popular travel and humanitarian story as fiction. Does anybody remember James Fry and the controversy that erupted over A Million Little Pieces? Seems that Greg Mortenson might have problems of a similar nature.

Add Fraud

Unfortunately, Mortenson’s problem may not be limited to telling a few tall tales in a non-fiction venue. You see Mortenson has developed a whole network of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan that are operated from funds provided by philanthropists from around the world. Some of the more notable benefactors include Jon Krakauer and Barrack Obama, both of whom are successful authors in their own right. According to the reporters at CBS 60 minutes, Mortenson has participated in several questionable practices with his fundraising activities. These include misuse of non-profit status to promote a private enterprise, funding schools that don’t exist or are no longer in service and fabricating facts.

Deeper Problems

Just for stretching the facts in his memoir,  James Fry in conjunction with his publisher had to refund dissatisfied customers, plus give large sums of money to several deserving charities. Still, Fry was able to complete and sell a follow-up novel that has enjoyed good sales. So when all is said and done, the inaccuracies in “Million Pieces” may boil down to some very expensive advertising for the next novel. Events may not turn out so well for the author of “Three Cups of Tea”.For even if only half of what 60 Minutes reports is true, Mortenson could be in much deeper trouble.

Brief History of St. Patrick Day

Irish Clover
An Seamrog is e seamair Eireannach

Today is Saint Patrick Day, which is a feast day that celebrates his memory and is observed on the day of his death, sometime in the fifth century. Although born in Britain and/or Wales, most of his life is associated with Ireland and the Christian Church.

Croagh Patrick is a mountain in Ireland

Croagh Mountain is a coastal mountain in Ireland, where it is believed the popular saint fasted for forty days during Lent. Currently, pilgrims gather at the summit on the last Sunday of July to honor the Irish Saint. The mountain is located in County Mayo and is just over 2500 feet high. The chapel at the summit is referred to as the Croagh Patrick Oratory. By the way the gaelic word, croagh, is similar to the English stack.

 

Slemish in County Antrim as seen from Buckna. Photo by Albert Bridge.
Slemish in County Antrim as seen from Buckna. Photo by Albert Bridge.

Saint Patrick first came to Ireland after being captured by raiders. It is believed he spent his first six years on the island herding sheep near a place called slemish. During this time he was able to learn the Gaelic language.

 

Happy St Patrick's Day
Happy St Patrick's Day

So long for know. Happy St. Patrick’s day.

Old Venice

Footbridge In Venice
Footbridge In Venice

Today is Mardi Gras, also known at Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday. All around the world Mardi Gras celebrations are taking place. Since I am pretty much in seclusion here in the Mid-Atlantic region, I thought I would post some photos from a two-day stopover I made in Venice, not too long ago, while I was touring the continent. These images were made in October, but it might be of interest to see what an old world city looks like after the party is over.

Venice Doorway
Venice Doorway

Venice is a place of constant decay. It is unavoidable, especially if you consider the old city sits just a few feet above sea level. I love the many visual possibilities that the old architectural decay can create. In my short time that I was there I spent many hours wandering the back alleys and side streets searching for places like this.

Storefront Window in Venice, Italy
Storefront Window in Venice, Italy

From what I’ve read Carnival celebrations in Venice are not the wild street party that occurs in so places around the western hemisphere, such as Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans and Trinidad. Instead, it is a more formal and controlled masquerade involving elaborate costuming and masks that hides the identity of the participate. Perhaps, this storefront picture made in October carries that spirit with it.

Boats in a Canal, Venice
Boats in a Canal, Venice
Gondolas on a Venice canal
Gondolas on a Venice canal

Venice is all about the water. The canals run everywhere and crisscross each other in a network of waterways. A few are quite large, while others are just narrow backwater alleys.

Truck Transport in Venice
Truck Transport in Venice

Cars and trucks are not allowed in old Venice. So merchants must bring in their goods and produce by water transport. This is the most efficient way of transporting a large amount of freight to anyplace located in the canal district. There is also a newer portion of Venice that is located old solid ground. Lacking are the vast network of canals and the throngs of tourists that characterize the tourist zone.

 

Sunset in Venice Italy
Sunset in Venice Italy

For some sunset is not an end but a beginning. The nights in Venice are often warm and full of activity. Restaurants are busy and the humid atmosphere created by the moist sea air waits to be explored and enjoyed by all who wish to partake in a leisurely stroll.