Archive for January 26th, 2009

Wolf Willow

Monday, January 26th, 2009

I’ve never been to Eastend, Saskatchewan.  In my mind it’s mostly been associated with Scotty the T-Rex.

However I have been to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, straddling the Saskatchewan/Alberta border a bit to the west of Eastend.  It is a fascinating area, with its lodgepole pine forests stuck in the middle of the prairies.

My perception of Eastend, Cypress Hills and southern Saskatchewan in general has been changed by the book Wolf Willow, by the American author Wallace Stegner.  It’s been on my to-read list for some time, and I finally got around to reading it during my days off around Christmas.

Wolf Willow works for me on a lot of levels.  It is a strange blend of non-fiction and short stories.  Stegner reminisces about his childhood in the village of Whitemud (Eastend) and a homestead on the Saskatchewan-Montana border, makes the history of the area breathe, and describes the natural environment in a way that makes it come alive – the shrub wolf willow (Eleagnus commutata, also known as silverberry) does indeed have a distinctive aroma.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in ecology, history, frontier attitudes, homesteading, law enforcement (North-West Mounted Police), Blackfoot/Sioux/Cree and other native peoples, Métis, Canadian vs. American attitudes, or just a good read.