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A snapshot of the Battlefords

Since I was making my first-ever venture onto the stage Feb. 15, my mom and best friend, Ivana, drove all the way from Calgary to see their budding actress perform (awwwww!).

Since I was making my first-ever venture onto the stage Feb. 15, my mom and best friend, Ivana, drove all the way from Calgary to see their budding actress perform (awwwww!).

Not wanting to book too much time off work, they planned to drive in Tuesday and leave Thursday morning, giving them only one full day to explore the Battlefords.

Tuesday, they arrived just in time to see the play at the Western Development Museum, thus making it the first stop on a whirlwind tour of the Battlefords.

Since the play didn't end until shortly before 10 p.m., after the North Battleford liquor store closed, the second stop on the tour was the Drive-Thru liquor store in the Windsor Hotel. Calgary may have many amenities, but drive-through liquor stores are not among them, so the sign generated much laughter, especially since there was a truck with "Hillbilly Deluxe" across the back window parked outside.

Unfortunately, they didn't have any red wine (we're snobs), so the third stop was the Queen's Hotel. Mom and Ivana were impressed by the outside doorways, which look as though they were stolen from the set of Beetlejuice.

If any North West Historical Society members are reading, you will be happy to know all the useful information I've gleaned from the interesting newsletters you send me every month came in handy. I pointed out sites of interest, like the post office and town hall/opera house, while dutifully recounting key points in the history of the former capital of the Northwest Territories (1910 - Battleford incorporated as a town, 2010 - Tara moves to the Battlefords, etc).

Then we headed back to my house, which became more and more of a tourist attraction the more we drank. My cat chasing the laser pointer was probably the highlight of the night.

The next morning I had to cover an event, so my mom patiently waited for me to return while Ivana slept. She did get up at one point, mumbled something about hating the world, used the washroom and fell back asleep. Ivana doesn't drink coffee, which is the explanation I give for many of her odd mannerisms, like hating mornings. What kind of freak doesn't enjoy springing out of a warm bed on a cold morning to embrace the day?

When I got back, we all went for breakfast together. Since I was just in a play and I had company (lame excuses, I know), I didn't just fall, I swan-dived off the get-fit wagon, shoveling back pancakes and bacon like it was Shrove Tuesday.

I also didn't make it to the gym for the rest of the week, but nobody needs to know that. (Editor: "Tara, you know this is going in the newspaper, don't you?" Me: "People read this?!!?")

After breakfast, Mom and Ivana had a personal tour of my office, including a detailed lesson on how newspapers are made, start to finish, and a peek in the archives.

We grabbed lattes (I told you we were snobs) and headed down to the library, where I had to take photos of Mary-Ann Kirkby, Saskatchewan-based author of I Am Hutterite, who was making a guest appearance.

Then we went to the dog park for all of 5.6 seconds before jumping back in the vehicle to escape the piercing wind. Harley was much happier sleeping off the breakfast leftovers than running them off.

A drive-by tour of the Saskatchewan Hospital was a hit, with both Ivana and Mom agreeing a horror movie should be filmed on location.

Later, we perused the Allan Sapp Gallery, while I gushed about having met the artist in person and danced to his drumming. While we were looking at the postcards in the gift shop area, we saw a postcard for the crooked bush near Speers.

Since I had been meaning to check this out, being a fan of conspiracy-inducing freaks of nature, I decided to make it a stop on the tour. We asked the friendly gallery employee how to get there and she gave us slightly wrong directions, although, in her defense, she did repeatedly make statements such as: "I haven't been there in so long," and "I'm not sure, but " This is widely accepted code for "get better directions," or, more recently, "Google it." But we were going on an adventure, dang nabbit, and besides, my mom filled my tank with gas (awwww!) so I could afford to get lost, which, surprisingly, we didn't.

Somehow, we managed to spot the microscopic signs on the side of the road. We also managed not to get stuck in the drifts of snow, although I did almost flip the vehicle hitting the first drift. The metallic taste of pure fear was enough to make me drive 40 km/h the rest of the way there and back to the highway.

The crooked bush is a grove of aspen trees that, for some mysterious reason, are all growing crooked. Not even 50 feet away, there is another grove of trees, all growing straight.

A sign at the site explains no one knows the reason for the crooked trees, but many theories abound, including a flying saucer passing over the area and changing the chemistry of the soil. I liked this theory. I even came up with my own, based on my favourite subtitled movie, Pan's Labyrinth - that an evil, giant toad lives beneath the grove. Don't ask - just go rent it.

The lack of leaves on the trees made the grove all the more spooky, as the branches seemed to be extending their claws to swallow us into the earth. There was too much snow to see the boardwalk, which signs instructed visitors not to stray from, but I could tell when I stepped off, because suddenly I was knee-deep in snow and screaming to Ivana that the toad was going to get me. Thankfully, I was able to pull myself back onto the boardwalk before I was dragged into the depths of the crooked roots.

The bitter wind ensured a short visit, and it wasn't too long before we were all back in the vehicle, including Harley, who somehow suckered my mom into carrying her for the last little bit. My mom's probably resigned herself to Harley being the closest thing to grandchildren she'll get from me.

Instead of heading straight back to town, we drove to Hafford, because my editor, whom I had called before we left, said there was a restaurant called the Sword and Challis that was supposed to be pretty good.

Breakfast was long past, so our stomachs were grumbling by the time we pulled up to see the restaurant was closed.

I got out to see if there was a sign indicating the hours of operation, but there wasn't. That's when a man opened the door and let me in out of the wind. The restaurant smelled like food, good food, and I started to get excited. I explained we'd driven all the way from North Battleford to dine at his fine establishment, to which he replied, "We're closed Wednesdays."

When he suggested we come back the next day, I explained my mother and friend were leaving the next morning and would likely never return to the Battlefords. Then I said we'd made the trip specifically to eat at the Sword and Challis (I left the crooked bush out of it) because we'd heard it was the best in Saskatchewan.

Flattery didn't get me anywhere.

The guy started talking about all the wonderful food they make, even pulling out some newspaper articles written on the restaurant, but he would not cook for us on a Wednesday.

"Don't tell me about good food you're not going to let me eat!" I wanted to scream.

Instead, I thanked him for the imaginary food and left, with my stomach gnawing on my backbone.

I then had to wipe the hopeful looks off the faces of Mom and Ivana, who were positive my persuasive skills would do the trick. I should've sent Harley in to talk to the man.

However, it turns out we were lucky the Sword and Challis was closed, because just up the road was Happy Ron's Cozy Corner Café, where the three of us stuffed our faces for $15. Where else can you get three meals and two coffees and one cookie for $15?

Happy Ron's Cozy Corner Café is actually just the Cozy Corner Café, but the person Ron asked to paint the outside was more than a little creative. He also painted a quote from the Twilight Zone, which was fitting for our crooked bush expedition.

Inside, knick knacks of all sizes and types lined the shelves. I love antique shops, holding items in my hand and imagining what conversations took place over them, if a mother purchased it for her daughter's wedding, who lost it and who found it.

If I hadn't lived in Nepal, the washroom might have scared me, but with perfect food, perfect décor, perfect price and perfect service, it was a minor flaw.

I told Mom and Ivana it was good they enjoyed their meals, because they'd need their energy for a little surprise I had in store for them.

"It wouldn't involve square dancing, would it?"

"No yes."

You just can't pull the wool over my mother's eyes.

I had to field off a myriad of excuses, from "my knee hurts" to "I'm tired."

Finally, I was able to herd everyone into the vehicle, including my roommate, Rob, who didn't need any coaxing to come square dancing again, saying, "I wouldn't let the ladies down."

Upon arriving, my mother whispered in my ear, "you're grounded."

But after sashaying and promenading their way through the square, Mom and Ivana reluctantly admitted that I was right, square dancing is fun.

Then it was back to my place for an ultra-cool jam session. As with all good nights, it ended with fireworks in the eyes of Ivana and Rob.