Day 668: Tramp-Oline

Uncle Milt’s party had been a great success. Accompanied by Cousin Sharon on guitar, Laetitia had performed Eleanor Rigby, Not. After that, she was joined by Cousins Luciano and Bryn and accompanied by Cousin Alicia on piano for two other songs: A Toast to Tom Lehrer and The Ballad of Mae West. For the former, she set the lyrics to an eighteenth century Halifax tune, The Unfortunate Miss Bailey. For the latter, she chose Dvořák’s Humoresque No. 7 in G-Flat Major, inspired by her tour group’s rendition of Passengers Will Please Refrain a few days earlier at Narrows West.

The Mind’s Eye group began the day by driving the short distance from Swan River to Manitoba’s Duck Mountain Provincial Park for some wildlife viewing. The park is home to a variety of large mammals, including moose, elk, black bear, gray wolf, and lynx. Historically, the grizzly bear range extended into the park, but the bears are no longer seen here. Then the group headed west, crossing the border to Saskatchewan’s Provincial Park, where they went canoeing. Afterward, they moved on west to Kamsack, a picturesque town located at the confluence of the Assiniboine and Whitesand Rivers. The day’s gossip overheard by Laetitia during her happy hour sojourn was about a female fitness freak whose talk to the local women’s club about creative ways to stay in shape raised a few eyebrows. It became Laetitia’s limerick of the day.

The women’s group thought it obscene
When that athletic woman named Jean
Who lived in Kamsack
Said she loved bouncing back
When she made love on the trampoline.

Day 667: I’ll Swan

Laetitia always felt a sense of anticipation when she neared the Emerald Victorian each morning. She had come to believe that when she walked through the front door, she was entering a place where serendipity was the rule rather than the exception. There was always the packet of coffee beans, often from some exotic place. Then there was the library. Today on the table next to the overstuffed chair where she usually worked was a book and a CD. She put the CD into the player and pressed the start button. It was Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, the ballet about the thwarted romance of Prince Siegfried and Odette, the Swan Queen. She settled back in the chair as the strains of music wafted over her and picked up the book. It was a slim illustrated volume of poems by William Butler Yeats, including his sonnet, Leda and the Swan. The poem tells the story of the seduction of Leda—the mother of Helen of Troy—by Zeus, in the guise of a swan. As Laetitia reached the last line of verse, she noticed that a half hour had passed and she needed to plan the day’s tour.

Laetitia decided she and her group would drive the 203-kilometer (143 mile) distance south from The Pas to Swan River, Manitoba. The latter town was named for its river and nearby Swan Lake and the trumpeter swans often seen there. A giant swan statue graces one of Swan River’s roadsides.

The gossip at the local bar where Laetitia went for her late afternoon libation was about a local lothario who went off to college in Toronto and spent most of his short academic career going to parties. Inspired by lectures on mythology in a humanities class, he planned to seduce a coed named Leda at a Halloween costume party dressed as a swan. His fantasy was that, as Zeus, he would be irresistible. The flaw in his plan was that the costume he bought on eBay had no zipper in front. The gossip inspired Laetitia’s limerick for the day.

When a local Swan River Don Juan
Tried to woo Leda dressed as a swan
His plan went awry
For his suit had no fly
And he couldn’t succeed with it on.

Day 666: Faux Pas

Shortly after invitations were sent out for another of Uncle Milt’s famous parties, Laeitia received requests for new party songs like those she had done at the previous gathering at Uncle Milt’s. Granny wanted a song about Tom Lehrer, and Uncle Ralph wanted a song about Mae West.

Laetitia and her group boarded floatplanes on a lake near Sainte Rose du Lac and flew north to a lake near The Pas (thuh paw), Manitoba. Then they drove in a rented van to Clearwater Lake Provincial Park, where they spent most of the day canoeing. Clearwater Lake is so pristine that one can see the bottom at depths in excess of 100 feet. They returned to The Pas in the evening and did a walkabout, viewing its historic buildings. Especially interesting was the Lido Theatre, built in 1930, one of Canada’s oldest movie houses, no doubt very popular on long winter nights. The mean daily temperature in January in The Pas is -5° F (-20° C). So Laetitia was not surprised to find that its cold winters were a frequent topic in the local bar gossip, including a story about a local woman named Tess that morphed into the limerick of the day.

The habit of Tess from The Pas
To walk around town with no bra
Neath her parka just fails
To attract many males
‘Til she takes it off after the thaw.

Day 665: Lo, How a Rose

Laetitia and her group left Narrows West, heading for Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park. On arrival they entered through the ornate rustic gate constructed during the 1930s as part of Canada’s Depression Relief Program. Their primary purpose was wildlife viewing, and the park is a great location for this activity. It serves as home for many large mammal species, such as black bear, moose, bison, and elk, and is a summer residence for trumpeter swans. After spending most of the day in the park, they drove north and east to Sainte Rose du Lac, their evening’s destination.

Saint Rose of Lima was a Peruvian woman born in the sixteenth century who was beatified by Pope Clement IX in 1667. She was the first American Catholic to become a saint. Focusing on its economy rather than its religious heritage, Sainte Rose du Lac bills itself as the Cattle Capital of Manitoba, Canada. It has 1200 residents and is located on the banks of the Turtle River. When pioneers arrived to settle the area in 1889, they were baffled to find no turtles in the vicinity of the Turtle River. They concluded that the name originally given by French trappers, “Tortueux,” meaning tortuous rapids, with mispronunciation over time morphed into “Tortue,” meaning turtle.

Sipping a Canadian blended whiskey at a local bar, Laetitia was having difficulty coming up with a limerick. Sainte Rose du Lac’s self-acclaimed position as “cattle capital” provided no inspiration, nor did the Turtle River. Then Rose walked in. She wasn’t a saint like the town’s namesake. According to the bartender, she went off to college in Winnipeg but came back here to work when she finished because her mother was ill. She obviously learned a few things that weren’t part of the college curriculum. Laetitia marveled as the delicious creature deftly defused the barrage of self-aggrandizing lies and specious logic put forth as bait by trolling males in the bar. Laetitia transformed the scene into the limerick of the day.

T’was a wonder to watch canny Rose
As each gambit she moved to dispose
From the boys in the bar
For they didn’t get far
With attempts to lead her by the nose.