Day 664: Narrows West

When Laetitia and her group left Riverton, they passed the former railway station and Lundi Moose. The juxtaposition of the two, and the consideration that moose rhymes with goose, led the group to burst spontaneously into a song called Passengers Will Please Refrain, from the days when the toilets in passenger cars flushed directly onto the track. The lyrics, sung to the tune of Dvorak’s Humoresque, were modified slightly to fit the local situation, replacing Sherman’s horse with Lundi Moose.

Passengers will please refrain
From flushing toilets while the train
Is standing in the station, I love you!
We encourage constipation
While the train is in the station
Moonlight always makes me think of you.

So, if you have to pass some water
Kindly call the pullman porter
He’ll place a vessel in the vestibule.
If the porter isn’t here
Try the platform in the rear
The one in front is likely to be cool.

If the ladies’ room be taken
Do not feel the least forsaken
Do not breathe a sigh of sad defeat.
But, try the men’s room in the hall
And if some gent has had the call
He’ll graciously relinquish you his seat.

If all these efforts prove in vain
Break the nearest window pane
This novel method’s used by very few.
And we’ll go strolling through the park
Goosing statues in the dark
If Lundi Moose can take it, why can’t you?

The group headed west on Manitoba Highway 68. They stopped for the evening at Lake Manitoba Narrows West. After a lakeshore hike, Laetitia helped her guests check in to the lodge and found a rustic drinking establishment. Sport fishing draws large numbers of visitors to Narrows West every year, so it was no surprise when Laetitia found the bar filled with fisherman. She had the misfortune of being near a table of fishermen who had caught nothing that day and were drinking heavily. They were complaining loudly and blaming a tall, awkward man in their party for their bad luck. Other parties did well on the lake, often catching their limits. Laetitia thought this group probably didn’t know the lake and were too cheap to hire a local guide to take them to the good spots. She usually enjoyed her bar sojourns, but today she was pleased when it was time to join her group. Just before she left, she wrote the limerick of the day.

The fishermen chided the tall guy
Who was cast in the role of a fall guy
But it was rather lame
To give him the blame
For their lack of prowess catching walleye.

Day 663: Eclipse and Thrips

Laetitia and her group left Winnipeg and headed north. Their destination was Hecia/Grindstone Provincial Park on the western shore of Lake Winnipeg. There they hiked and canoed among the park’s several islands. After spending much of the day there, they headed for Riverton, their destination for the evening.

Not to be out done by Darwin, Minnesota, made famous by being the subject of Weird Al Yankovic’s Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, Riverton claims to have the “largest moose in Manitoba,” based on a fourteen-foot-high statue of this bovine animal, known as “Lundi Moose,” prominently displayed in a small park in its downtown.  The town also has 800 residents, a part-time mayor and a heritage museum, housed in the town’s former railroad station.  In 1979, the area attracted numerous astronomers and other interested parties who came to view the solar eclipse from its point of maximum totality.

Commercial fishing on nearby Lake Winnipeg is a major occupation in the town.  Laetitia made a reservation at a restaurant that featured fish and chips from the days catch, dropped off her guests at their lodging, and found a nearby bar.  Not much happens in Riverton, so even though the eclipse occurred before many of the people in the bar were born, it was still a topic of conversation.  Sitting next to Laetitia at the bar was a man who said he was a former government entomologist.  He visited the town on a number of occasions in connection with his job and had decided to retire here.  He happened to be here on the day of the eclipse.  His boss in Winnipeg, who was clueless when it came to astronomical phenomena, sent him here to investigate a reported outbreak of thrips.  He couldn’t conduct his investigation in the dark, so he spent the afternoon in the bar with a gaggle of eclipse aficionados followed by a fish and chips dinner before going to a motel.  On the next day he conducted his investigation and returned to Winnipeg.  Thrips, those small cigar-shaped insects, can devastate crops if present in sufficient numbers, but he found that this infestation was not sufficient to warrant intervention.  Laetitia turned the entomologist’s story into the limerick of the day.

It’s hard to investigate thrips
In the midst of a total eclipse
So be of good cheer
Treat yourself to a beer
And a dinner of fresh fish and chips.

Day 662: Velvet Glove

Kenora is on the western edge of Ontario.  Indeed, it was once considered to be in Manitoba until a border dispute was resolved.  After crossing the provincial border, Laetitia and her group made an excursion north to hike in Whiteshell Provincial Park before proceeding on to Winnipeg, the capital and largest city in Manitoba.  Located at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, its name comes from a Cree word meaning “muddy waters.”  Winnipeg has a lively arts and music scene with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and the Manitoba Opera, but Laetitia chose to take her group to several museums instead:  the Manitoba Museum and the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Traditionally, a visitor to Winnipeg would be advised that dining on Lake Winnipeg Gold Eye was a must.  However, when the group arrived and Laetitia asked around for a recommendation, she found this local fish delicacy offered by only one restaurant, The Velvet Glove, at the Fairmont Winnipeg Hotel.  Apparently, low populations of the fish in Lake Winnipeg have driven its price beyond the reach of most dining establishments.  Having made dinner reservations, Laetitia dismissed her group to have some down time or to explore Winnipeg on their own.

The expression “Iron hand (or fist) in a velvet glove” has been attributed to Napoléon Bonaparte.  It has a meaning similar to that of Teddy Roosevelt when he said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  The term has acquired other meanings as well.  It’s a high priced shiraz.  It has several sexual slang meanings, though there is no doubt that they weren’t what prompted the restaurant’s name choice.  Laetitia was pondering these thoughts when she penned the limerick of the day.

In his coined phrase about “velvet glove”
Bonaparte wasn’t thinking of love
He meant being tough
Without being gruff –
Tenacious when push comes to shove.

Day 661: Kenora Gomorrah

Leaving Thunder Bay, the Mind’s Eye group headed northwest along the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 17).  The day’s destination was Kenora, but they made a stop at Sandbar Lake Provincial Park for canoeing and wildlife viewing.  Afterward they resumed their journey as their road took them through the igneous rock outcrops of the Canadian Shield, that 3 million square mile worn-down mountain range that covers more than half of Canada.  On arrival they did a walkabout viewing among other things, Husky, the Muskie, a forty-foot-high statue of a muskellunge, featured in McLeod Park.  Apparently, Kenora didn’t want to be outdone by Wawa’s Canada Goose, and Frazee’s (Minnesota) turkey.

Kenora is a small city of 15,000 residents on the shores of Lake of the Woods.  Today, it’s mostly a tourist town, but it began life as “Rat Portage” in 1878 when the Hudson’s Bay Company surveyed lots for a permanent settlement.  The name came not from an association with pests of the genus Rattus, but rather from the muskrat, an abundant species in the area.  In the early days, Rat Portage was a rail and gold mining center known for its brothels.  In 1905, the town took a step toward improving its image by discarding “Rat Portage” and choosing its present name although it kept the brothels until the end of World War II.

When Laetitia found a local bar that afternoon, she arrived before most of the crowd and for a while was alone at the bar.  Her chat with the bartender about the town’s history was mostly about its prostitution during the first half of the twentieth century.  He prefaced what he told her by saying that the stories that circulated around town about the local brothels were always given as second- or third-hand accounts obtained from unnamed sources about unspecified people.  It seems that somehow these businesses thrived without anyone in town going there or knowing anyone who did.  One of the town’s famous madams was Anna Ethan.  Her occupation was listed on official documents as “Social Evil Keeper.”  She shared the house with six other women, each listed as a “Social Evil Inmate,” plus a cook and housekeeper.  Later, the house was owned and operated by a woman named “Big Ethel” who was known for her colorful language.  Using a bit of license in the pronunciation of “plethora,” Laetitia distilled the bartender’s talk into the limerick of the day.

The bartender had a plethora
Of stories about old Kenora
With dames like Big Ethel
It wasn’t a Bethel
More like that old city, Gomorrah.