Wednesday, July 13, 2016


            To some, this is a pretty exciting time of the year. They’ve waited and waited and waited and they have scouted out all of the good spots and now it’s time to gather up the pails, the bug spray, the picnic baskets, the iced tea, (or beverage of choice), and head for the bushes…the Saskatoon bushes, that is.
Yup, it’s berry picking time again and I’m so excited for all you berry pickers. Be careful and have fun out there. You know, I’d sure like to join you but I’ve got this sore toe. You go ahead…knock yourselves out.
Like so many things it really depends on how you were raised, I suppose. Take my wife for instance. Her family made berry picking a whole day family outing. Not just one small family, either, many family members would gather and travel to the best berry bushes they knew of and they would pick and play and picnic and have loads of fun. They would even make picking through the full pails of berries and washing them up after they got home loads of fun, if you can imagine.
Mind you, Debbie and her siblings sometimes accompanied their grandmothers in to the pastures and surrounding fields of the family farm picking various wild fruits and flowers and making it a great bonding and learning experience. An enjoyable experience, if you will.
My recollections of the berry picking experience were a little different. My Mom packed a lunch and cool beverages and she tried to make it fun for everyone, too, but ten-year-old wired up boys are not the best people to take to the berry patch. I was bored to near-death in about three-and-a-half minutes and I was more than happy to share that information with anyone…a lot. The constant bizzzz, bizzzz, bizzzz, of the mosquitoes, horseflies and black flies combined with the oppressive heat and the clock moving backwards only reinforced in me that berry picking is barely this side of torture. You know what my behaviour got me, though, don’t you? That’s right. It got me the first available ticket to every berry picking tour we ever went on again. Snivel and whine all you want but you’re coming along!!
Now, with today’s U-Pick-Em orchard farms the all-day picnic-type events are fewer and far between. In fact, for a miniscule fee the U-Pick-Ems will even pick ‘em for you so all of that tortuous labour has been removed. How nice is that? Delicious berries without the purple fingers or the odd worm in your mouth or the boredom or the mosquito bites or the sunstroke…
If you’re interested, I know that Tom and Maxine Sugden have a U-Pick ‘Em farm right on the western outskirts of Kipling and Drew and Pat Balfour also have an orchard off of the 711 grid near #9 highway. To name a couple.
No matter how the little purple berries end up in your fridge, freezer or pie they are just about the tastiest wild berry there is, don’t you think? The plant we call the Saskatoon is an Amelanchier alnifolia, and it’s native to North America from Alaska across most of western Canada and in the western and north-central United States.
There are so many things to like about a Saskatchewan July but the unique tastes provided us through the various products produced from somebody’s Saskatoon berry picking labour are a welcome reminder of so many summers past.
“I like to do things quickly because I’m easily bored.” Karl Lagerfeld (1933-).


            In this weekly column I quite often lament the swiftness of the passage of time. In fact, I’m sure that I have even described science’s interpretation of how time actually slows down and speeds up and why it really seems to speed up as we age. It’s all in the perception, I believe, but regardless the reasoning…time flies! All too quickly.

            For example I cannot believe that it was already twelve months ago when we were sitting on a beach in Peachland, BC on Canada Day, 2015, watching an unbelievable fireworks display over Okanagan Lake. Where the heck did that year go?

            It is truly unfathomable, as well, that we are approaching the 4th anniversary of the untimely passing of Bobby Vargo. Four years already? Wow. The family has just wrapped up the fourth edition of the Bobby Vargo Memorial Slo-Pitch Tournament and what a success it was. Combining all of the things that Bobby loved into one event is a great way to honour his too-short lived life. He loved family, he loved friends, he loved sports and he loved community and this event brings them all together. And on top of that the tournament’s events helped many community organizations raise some much needed funds for their groups. Over $16,000.00 in total, I’m told! What a great legacy. Congratulations Vargo family.

            Again, overstating the obvious, but it was a decade ago that Kyle MacDonald made the last of his fourteen trades from One Red Paperclip to a house in Kipling! Ten years! How come it seems such a short time ago?

            Mind you, the whole summer of 2006 was full of excitement around Kipling. Among other events, that was the year that Pat Beaujot discovered the pedophile harbouring two young males in an abandoned yard near Pat’s home and it was also the summer that the Kipling Industries building north of town completely burnt down and then the momentum of the “One Red Paperclip” phenomenon led to that summer’s wrap-up with “Saskatchewan’s Biggest House Warming Party” on the Labour Day Weekend in Kipling, which led to the auditions for a part in a Corbin Bernsen movie, which our son Nolan won, by the way. What a summer to remember!

            Can you imagine that it really is forty-six years ago that Dad and Mom and their three youngest children moved to Kipling? I guess it is. What a pivotal moment in my life that turned out to be. I was thirteen years old at the time and I didn’t want to move here at all. We had lived in three other communities prior to that and I was sick of moving and finding new friends and fitting into new schools and everything.

You know what, though, it didn’t take long…mere weeks, in fact, before I had made some new friends and by the end of that first year in Kipling I was entrenched. I was home. This was it.

The friendships that I made in those first weeks in Kipling were to form a tight-knit circle of friends that remain very close to this day. Life, geography and other factors have made the visitations fewer and fewer but when we do get together the years fall away and we are transported right back to the good old days of fun, fun, fun.

The core peer group started with six friends and we expanded and contracted that number over the years but the six of us were always linked as one. One of the core members of that circle was Brian Gallagher. Brian is the first one of the six of us to have passed on after his recent battle with cancer. Another fine example of “the good die young”. This one stings. Bad.

We can lament the too-fast passing of time. We can complain that life is too short and there is never enough time to enjoy all the things we want to enjoy. If there are any positives that can be taken from losing friends and family members like Bobby and Brian it is that we have to make the time to do the important things in life. We have to make the time. I know that we pledge these things every time we lose a close personal friend or family member but we must. We must follow through because before you no it…time has slipped away.

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”- William Penn (1644-1718).


Here's a reprise of a little Christmas poem I threw together for you. Three Kings, shepherds and a babe in the manger. The E...