By Kaare Askildt
(Formerly known as the Farmer in Training)
Anywhere but here!
We have all heard that phrase spoken, and for many varied reasons. As a matter of fact, I have uttered this phrase a few times myself. I’m originally from Norway, and when I had come of age and was ready for the work force, I realized that there were not too many opportunities for a young married chap of my calibre, so when my father-in-law asked me where my wife and I would settle, I said: “Anywhere but here!” and we landed in Vancouver at the height of the “hippie era.”
Vancouver was very inviting in late August, with half-naked barefoot girls congregating on Robson Street, singing peace songs. With a population of just over 500,000 at the time or about two million if you included the metro areas, and described as a very diverse ethnic population, I seemed to ﬁ t right in. The history of this area includes the gold rush in 1858. A trading post was established in Gastown in 1867 and the City of Vancouver was incorporated in 1886. Being European seemed to be an asset rather than a hindrance in my effort to integrate with the population and also in my search for employment. But I did have a few run-ins with biased people, and surprisingly enough, these idiots were also European immigrants, who in a misguided way, were trying to protect their jobs from us “newbies.”
After four wet winters, I recall a period when it actually rained continually for six weeks. During this period I suggested to my wife that we should consider living somewhere else.
“Where?” she asked.
“Anywhere but here,” I answered. An opportunity arose at work, and I accepted a transfer to Winnipeg.
I was looking out of the window as the plane was approaching the Winnipeg airport, and I thought to myself that Columbus was actually right. The world is indeed ﬂat! It is so ﬂat that when a Swede got lost just outside of Winnipeg, six days later you could still see him! Winnipeg’s history includes the ﬁrst fort and trading post being established in 1738, the area was settled in 1812 and the City of Winnipeg was incorporated in 1873. Winnipeg is also known as the “Windy City,” a moniker that I can attest to, having been standing at the corner of Portage and Main, and only had to take one step to cross the intersection!
It was in Winnipeg that I was introduced to what we Canadians refer to as football. The sport called football in Europe, we call soccer here. Why it is called football is a bit of a puzzle for me, as the ball only connects to a foot on kick off, ﬁeld goals and the point after. Other than that, the players all use their hands! I was fascinated by the one player standing behind the guy in the middle of the lineup, and it seemed to me that he had his thumb up the other guy’s rear end to make sure he got the ball when it was snapped! Anyway I have learned to love this sport, although I do have some questions about a few of the terms used in the sport, compared to other sports. Like the term “touchdown” which is used to describe what would be called a goal in hockey or soccer. Or the term “sacking” used to describe what would be called a tackle in hockey or soccer.
Oh well, I suppose these terms are what makes the sport unique. Winnipeg is guaranteed to get at least three city shutdown snowstorms each winter, and after the third winter I again suggested to my wife that we should live somewhere else.
“Where?” she inquired.
“Anywhere but here!” I said ﬁrmly. Again an opportunity arose at work, and I accepted a transfer to Edmonton.
Edmonton is also known as the Festival City. Fort Edmonton was established as a trading post in 1795. Edmonton was incorporated as a town in 1892. The Klondike Gold Rush saw a lot of people travelling through the area and some settled in Edmonton as well. The City of Edmonton was incorporated in 1904, and became the capital of Alberta in 1905. I am glad that I had the opportunity to experience the emergence of the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Team and the ensuing golden years with Gretzky, Messier, Kurri and Tikkanen and of course, Grant Fuhr.
I changed wives as well as careers while in Edmonton, and we started our own business on the south side. We sold the business when we were getting close to retirement age, and I asked my wife where she would like to live in her golden years.
She said: “Anywhere but here!”
We discussed that for a while, and agreed that we should be somewhat close to family. The choices were Newfoundland, which would be about halfway between my family in Norway and her family in Nipawin.
We moved to Preeceville and bought a 272acre farm with the idea of becoming hobby farmers and to live off the land, so to speak. We had a lot of fun doing this, although we had to eventually downsize quite a bit as we realized that our bodies were not as young as our minds thought they were. When we accepted an offer from another Albertan to buy our big farm, I asked my wife where we would live.
She said: “Anywhere but here” and so we bought a smaller 70acre farm near Hazel Dell.
Saskatchewan is an old western province. The capital Regina was founded in 1882 and was given the name by Princess Louise in honour of her mother, Queen Victoria. Saskatoon, which is the largest city in Saskatchewan, has history as far back as 1754, though it was formally founded in 1903. The province boasts of more than 250 museums, science centres, art galleries, mineral spas, river cruises and dinosaur digs, just to name a few. Its two major music festivals are the world famous Craven Country Jamboree and the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival. We don’t have an NHL hockey team, but we do have one of the best teams in the CFL. Go Riders go!
Of course, the province is known worldwide for the ﬁshing in the northern lakes and the abundance of big game for the hunters. The western heritage is celebrated in the province with powwows, western days and rodeos. Of course, there are “dude ranches” available for those who would like to experience the cowboy life of the “olden days.”
I know of one such outfit that also had a gift shop selling western items. A middleaged couple from Toronto was staying there and the wife was admiring the cowhides that were on display in the gift shop. A trusty old cowboy was on hand to answer any questions that the patrons may have had. The woman asked him what the cowhides were used for.
The old cowboy hitched up his pants, shifted the tobacco in his mouth and said with a drawl: “Well maam, we keep cows in ’em during the day….”
The time came when we realized that we were advancing in age, and for me, feeding hay to a couple of horses and pushing snow with my nocab 4020 JD tractor at minus 40 weather was getting harder and harder. My wife had given up on overwintering laying hens. I again looked at my wife and asked where she would want to live, and she said: “Anywhere but here!”
So we sold our little farm and moved to Wilkie to be close to the latest addition to the Askildt family, our cute-as-a-button granddaughter Casey!
The Town of Wilkie is located 150 km west of Saskatoon and 60 km south of North Battleford on Highway No. 29, along the CPR rail line, with a population of about 1,400. Settlers began to arrive in Wilkie late in the year 1905. The Town of Wilkie was incorporated in 1911 and is named after Mr. Daniel Robert Wilkie, the then president of the Imperial Bank. The area around Wilkie is rich in agriculture with many rather large grain farms and ranches.
As the story goes, three cowboys were hanging out in the bunkhouse.
“I know that smart aleck Tex,” said the ﬁ rst cowboy, “He’s going to start bragging about that new foreign car he went to Saskatoon to buy, just mark my words.”
“Not Tex,” replied the second cowboy, “He’ll always be just a good old boy. When he walks in, I’m sure he’ll just say hello!”
“I know Tex better than either of you,” said the third cowboy, “He’s so smart, he’ll figure out a way to both brag and greet us. Here he comes now.”
Tex swaggered up to the bunkhouse and swung open the door while shouting: “Audi pardners!”