February 19th, 2006: Winter finally arrived! The temperature dropped down to –35° mid-week and stayed in that range for the rest of the week. It was sunny, though, and not too windy, so we don’t complain. The forecast is for moderate temperatures next week. It’s too bad the cold weather had to come while the kids were on their mid-winter break, but by Friday the snowmobiles were out in full force again. What’s a little cold to a snowmobiler?
We were in Prince Albert Tuesday and Wednesday. Before we left, we went to the Prince Albert Art Gallery at the Rawlinson Centre - part of the Winter Festival was a juried art show, and Rose Steadman had two works entered. They were hung where you couldn’t miss them when you went through the door into the main gallery. Pretty impressive! We gave her our votes for popular choice.
Friday morning, there was a magpie in our bird feeder (which is just a low table on the deck) and a rabbit on the ground beneath it, nibbling seeds. A few minutes later, they were gone and there was a ruffed grouse on the deck and a few evening grosbeaks in the feeder.
We haven’t had birds in any great number this year, possibly because we are a bit unreliable when it comes to filling the feeders. Merv tells me he has hundreds of evening grosbeaks and a few pine grosbeaks. That white headed evening grosbeak that was around last year is back at Merv’s, and Laurel Steiestol told Doreen she has seen it at her place, four miles east of here.
Back in 1978, a farmer found a very young calf moose at the edge of the field he was working in. Assuming it was either orphaned or abandoned, he took it to the Park and turned it over to the staff there. They called it Rita. Gordy Foster had a dairy at the time and would bring a gallon or so of milk every day; Floyd Thompson would feed it with a whisky bottle and nipple. When they thought it was old enough to make it on its own, they took it to the far side of the lake and turned it loose. No sign of it for months, so they assumed it was either dead or had adapted.
Then one day Merv and Floyd were out in a truck and saw a good-sized young moose by the side of the road. It showed no fear of them, so Floyd called “Here, Rita!” and it came to them. After that, it hung around the Park, wrecking gardens, chasing Jim Swift, and generally making a nuisance of itself.
We made its acquaintance in January of 1979, when we were staying at the cottage for some post-New Year R + R. Al Megaffin and I met it on a narrow snowy path and it ran towards us. Rita ignored me and took after Al, chasing him through the deep snow around a bush. Finally, Al faced her, gave a holler and flapped his arms at her, and she left. Next morning, Al opened the door of our cottage, and Rita was on the deck, nose to nose with him. I guess she wanted him to come out and play some more.
Later in the spring, Paul Welgan took exception to her wrecking his garden and tried to chase her with a broom. He got a good cut on the head for his efforts. After close encounters with some more people, Vivian Broberg among them, Rita had to go, so the Park staff arranged for the Moose Jaw Zoo to pick her up.
A truck turned up towing a one-horse trailer; Merv lured her into the trailer by feeding her slices of bread (she loved sliced bread!). Once her forequarters were in, Steve Chaykowski and Floyd boosted her the rest of the way in, and Merv escaped through a hatch at the front of the trailer. Problem solved! Goodbye Rita!
Not so fast. Before the truck and trailer got to the highway, Rita managed to turn herself around, demolish the end gate of the trailer and escape. Well, they went to work and rebuilt the end gate, this time reinforcing it with bands of steel. Rita didn’t show them any ill will but they didn’t think she would fall for the bread trick a second time, so this time they tranquilized her good and dragged her into the trailer. The veterinary staff at Moose Jaw was alerted, and were on hand to check her when they got to Moose Jaw. They said she slept all the way to Moose Jaw, was fit and healthy, and she lived there for several years. I did hear that they had to reinforce their moose fence though, as she escaped at least once.