This week we have three Christmas stories from Keltie from North Battleford, Saskatchewan. I also answer a reader’s question about how I do research, and there is a list of stories you may have missed this week in the news.
Three Christmas stories
Just before Christmas 1960, my parents dragged the five of us into Blackie (Alberta) with the promise of hot chocolate…with marshmallows!
The small town had hired a man and his trick pony to perform sketches and keep kids entertained while the adults partook of spiked eggnog. The best part was when the pony, prone on its back, became a “motorcycle” for the rider, with him kneeling over the pony and using the pony’s legs as gears, steering and emergency brake while telling a “road story,” engaging gears, braking for ladies and racing around Southern Alberta by upsidedown pony.
Of course, as soon as we got back to the farm, every two- and four-legged animal was drafted by us kids to recreate the “wild ride”; chickens, turkeys, the collie, a calf, several piglets and a friendly sow. Dad drew the line at the milk cow and steers. However, Lassie, the collie, continued to entertain my siblings with his impression of a four-legged motorbike, only asking for 5-minute belly rubs and extra kibble.
As per tradition, we girls and our respective boyfriends and spouses gathered at our parents’ home.
Tradition also dictated that we all changed into flannel nightgowns for Christmas Eve gift exchanges. Around midnight, all twelve of us, with grandkids in tow, moved to the deck overlooking the animal paddock.
When the dog began barking near the paddock, mom bravely picked up the broom to wield while screaming, “Bad Doggggg!”.
She saw a movement and brought the broom down on a large black bear’s head.
The bear stood up.
Local, independent, in-depth.
Our Prairie stories.
Mom ran in through the walk-out.
The deck turned into a mass of flannel panic. The last of us got stuck in the sliding doors with arms and legs flailing and had to be pulled through.
The last I saw of the bruin, it was standing under the deck, looking perplexed and quite stunned.
Fish and Wildlife arrived an hour later to find a living room full of nightgowned adults, children, and my mother still holding the broom.
After taking down particulars, he turned and muttered, “What we have here is not a bear problem. It’s a people problem”.
Joe loved Christmas. His favourite gift-giving was homemade peanut brittle nestled in gift wrap in a festive tin.
To this end, he spent days preparing cookie pans and waxpaper, sourcing peanuts and getting the kettles ready.
Recipients of the sweet treat raved for months.
Ten days before Christmas, Joe spent hours carefully cooking peanut brittle, pouring it into cookie sheets, and then leaving it to cool on the picnic table. At long last, the table was full of steaming, translucent goodness.
Two hours later, love’s labour was missing.
Joe was crushed.
The police later reported sightings of flying cooking pans and peanut brittle attached to the feet of several adult ravens.
The maintenance supervisor retrieved the cookie tins from the roof of the administration building.
I received an email from a reader named Clark, who asked me how I go about reporting on the news.
When it comes to The Flatlander, for me, it’s about trying to understand the issues, so instead of chasing the daily news, I try to zoom out and look at the big picture.
For instance, I want to start looking more at the problems in health care. To do so, I started pulling up government documents. Last month, I downloaded Saskatchewan’s Health Human Resources Plan, which was released in September. And then, I looked for the Manitoba Health Human Resource Action Plan, which came out in November.
I also dug around on the Doctors Manitoba website, looked through their reports, and came across a recent one released in October called Physicians in Manitoba, about how the province stacks up against the rest of Canada when it comes to doctors. I then went over to the Saskatchewan Medical Association website and reviewed some of their recent survey results to see if there was an overlap in concerns, which there was.
I used these reports to inform the issues:
- Manitoba could lose more than 300 doctors
- What is being done to retain medical staff in the province
I look at what’s already been written in the media. I usually go back at least a year. And the Leader-Post article, the CBC article and the CTV article might be about the same issue. Still, it is worth reading all of them because there might be nuggets of information in one story that the other outlets neglected. I also verify the information in the articles and track back to the original sources to avoid repeating a possible error and to look at what might have been missed by other reporters.
Sometimes I’ll go through the archives by decades. This has gotten easier thanks to newspapers.com, and other online searchable databases.
If necessary, I’ll go to a library or a particular archive to look up certain information. Through the interlibrary loan system, I’ve ordered microfilms of newspapers, not found online or in the province. This means looking at old newspapers page by page until I find what I’m looking for.
When it comes to research, librarians and archivists are your friends.
For the first year of The Flatlander, I was like; I’ll just read the documents on as many issues as possible and share with readers what I learn along the way, with enough variation on topics to keep people interested.
Now, after a ton of reading in 2022, as I head into 2023, my goal is to start talking to people in the local communities about the issues I’ve researched to go deeper while at the same time stretching into new areas that The Flatlander hasn’t covered yet. It is very slow journalism.
Five stories from Manitoba you may have missed
- First Nations, governments working to establish Indigenous protected area in Manitoba
- Finding remains of Winnipeg homicide victims in landfill may be ‘impossible’: forensics expert
- Manitoba taking steps to stop the spread of chronic wasting disease
- Non-urgent pediatric surgeries postponed at Winnipeg children’s hospital amid unprecedented flu season
- Former high school football star killed in Winnipeg’s Millennium Library
Five stories from Saskatchewan you may have missed
- John Gregory, who guided Roughriders to 2nd Grey Cup title as head coach, dies at 84
- Sask. has highest provincial arson rate: StatsCan
- Police respond to 5 separate firearm incidents in North Battleford within 4 days
- Nurses union says too many new grads dealing with trauma patient care
- Liquid antibiotics the next drug to disappear during Sask. medication shortage
Until next week…
- Help grow The Flatlander by forwarding this email to a friend.
- Subscribe. Was this email sent to you, and do you want more? Sign up to receive this newsletter.
- Read back issues of The Flatlander.
- Ask. Is there more about this topic you’d like to learn about in a follow-up issue of The Flatlander? Just reply to this email to inquire.
- Share your part of the Prairies. Do you have a cool photo from Saskatchewan and Manitoba and want it to be featured as a Photo of the Week? Send it along by replying to this email.
- Suggest topics you think should be explored in future issues of The Flatlander by replying to this email.
- Follow The Flatlander on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for reading, and kind regards,
Important work at a critical time.
Over the last 20 years, on the Prairies and beyond, local newsrooms have shrunk, which means not much investigative journalism gets done in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Flatlander is changing this.
Will you support our work today?