My daughter spent a week in Palm Springs this winter and my son just got back from a week in Hawaii. My get-away in early April? An overnighter in Eastend, Saskatchewan.
I’m not being smart about this. It really was great to spend some time in Eastend. I’ve heard the community name often, but don’t believe I have been there before. This trip, I was on a mission to check out a day in the life at Bar 4 Bar Ranches — Eastend was the destination. The community of about 500 hearty souls is located in southwest Saskatchewan, on Highway 13 about an hour south of Maple Creek, in the valley of the Frenchman River. You all remember the flood of 1951, which wiped out most of the town? Well me neither… I’m not sure I was even born yet when that happened, but the town was rebuilt and a dike built to keep the water under control.
While I was raised in a rural Eastern Ontario community, I have been a city dweller for many years, so spending some time these days in a small town is verging pretty close to a thrill.
As a little kid raised on the farm, making the 10-mile trip by car to the village of Chesterville was a pretty big deal for me — I could see there was life outside the dairy barn. The trip to Chesterville (population of about 1,200 and it hasn’t changed too much) was an event, until I got my licence a few years later and a trip to the “ville” just wasn’t doing it. It was on to the seemingly brighter lights of nearby Winchester or south to Morrisburg or east to the really big city of Cornwall, along the St. Lawrence River.
Since moving out west more than 40 years ago I have been primarily a city person. I get out into the country a fair bit, and still appreciate small-town hospitality.
Eastend was quiet on my April visit. It doesn’t take too long to cover the downtown core, built along main street called Red Coat Drive. With a name like that you can figure the Mounties, back in the day, at nearby Fort Walsh had something to do with community. The Red Coats established a satellite detachment near the present town site in 1870, then later named the community that sprung up as East End because it was on the east end of the Cypress Hills.
I stayed at the Riverside Motel, which I believe is the only motel in the area, although you can also get a room at the Cypress Hotel and there are guest houses in the community as well. And for dining I had choices too.
I had supper at Jack’s Cafe and the next day an excellent lunch at Charlie’s lunch counter — some of the crispest french fries I can recall and a tasty beef burger supplied by a local rancher.
Along with the Eastend Historical Museum and Streambank Golf Course, other notable mentions at Eastend: it is the home of the 2019 Provincial Champion Bantam Hockey Jets and league champion Atom Jets. And if you’re into really old stuff, it is also the final resting place of the largest T. Rex dinosaur in the world. Nicknamed Scotty, its 65-million-year-old fossil remains were discovered along the Frenchman River Valley, by high school teacher Robert Gebhardt in 1991. A reconstructed model of Scotty can be found inside the T. Rex Discovery Centre, a satellite facility of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina — the discovery centre is built into a hillside that overlooks the Eastend community.
And speaking of the dinosaur era which eventually lead to the petroleum industry I was reading in one of the local news services apparently there is a guy in Eastend who is addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop anytime. (Don’t blame me, that is totally a southwest Saskatchewan joke.)