|Flag of Saskatchewan|
We stand with one of the librarians in Rosetown, Saskatchewan, a small community 152 kilometres west of Saskatoon on Highway 14, listening to her explain that there are no real communities worth visiting east of here on Highway 7. ‘You’re only an hour from Saskatoon, so why stop at any of the towns?’ she says. We explain that our mission is to visit as many small towns on secondary roads in the prairies as possible, meet the residents and write about them and their community. She has no comment.
|Garage of the past|
Twenty kilometres east on Highway 7, we pull into the quaint and well-kept town of Zealandia. We park Big White beside a weather beaten boarded up ageing garage. It was established in the early 1900s. A few strides into our hike, we come across a cenotaph for WW1 and WW2 veterans from the local area and a beautiful playground area purchased and constructed by the Elks No. 292.
|Frank at Cenotaph|
The wide gravelled roads are flanked by trimmed grass, tall trees and a sidewalk. We get the impression that we’re in a well-maintained park. A while later, we meet a young man detailing his truck. His name is Chris. We ask about the availability of water to fill our container and he offers to help in true Saskatchewan hospitable fashion. He explains that most folks living in Zealandia work in Rosetown and have purchased homes here because they are ‘cheap’.
|Fun things in a well-tended yard|
We continue our walk and admire the new homes and the old. Each structure offers a sense of Zealandia in transition. A coiffured yard with an RV and two upscale cars could tell a tale of the people who occupy the grand house, while the property next to it reveals an empty abode covered with spider webs clinging to its broken windows and four-foot high wild flowers claiming every inch of its yard. Who lived there? What might have been their occupation? When did they move away, and why?
|Empty house is hidden behind its yard|
The crunch of gravel under my feet puts a smile on my face and slows my pace.
I catch up to Frank who is having a lively conversation with a woman laying on a hammock in her back yard. She is explaining that Zealandia has had two fires in its history. No dates are offered but she is saying that the town’s people rebuilt the community buildings after the first, only to have another devastating fire soon after. From her yard, we can see the bell atop the fire hall.
|Fire hall and Town Office|
In the early evening, we sip coffee beside our bus and are greeted several times by other locals. We feel welcome and appreciated. No one questions why we are camping in their town. Frank tells me that he could live here in a heartbeat. Location. Location. Location.
|Big White in Zealandia, Saskatchewan|