Bourjaily: Canadian Hospitality

When you hunt the prairie provinces of Canada, you go back in time to what the Midwest must have been … Continued

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When you hunt the prairie provinces of Canada, you go back in time to what the Midwest must have been like in the 50s: a land full of birds and welcoming, hunter-friendly farmers.

A few years ago I joined a big group of writers on a waterfowl/upland hunt hosted by D.U. Canada in southern Manitoba. Mornings, we shot ducks in potholes or geese in fields. Afternoons, we hunted sharptails, caravanning around in three or four vehicles from field to field. Late the first afternoon I got turned around and was the last one back to the meeting place, only to find the rest of the party had miscounted heads, piled into the trucks and driven off without me to hunt the next spot. This was back before everyone had cell phones. All I could do was wait for them to realize I was missing. They never did.

The bed and breakfast where we were staying was two hours away. There was nothing to do but hike down the road, gun broken over my shoulder, until I came to a farmhouse. I explained to the woman who answered the door what had happened.

Confronted by an armed stranger, she said, without an instant’s hesitation: “Get in the pickup, we’ll go find your friends.” We drove the sections, looking, but my group was long gone. We stopped to pick her husband up off the combine and she radioed home to her daughter: “Becky, set another place. We’ve got a hungry American staying for dinner.”

Back at the house I learned that:

Becky looked like the farmer’s daughter of farmer’s daughter joke fame.

Her parents owned 1600 acres of prime sharptail ground.

They also owned plenty of Molson Ale.

There was a bed in the basement I was welcome to if no one came back for me.

After a Molson or two my first, fleeting thought was to phone my wife in Iowa and say “Honey, ship the dog to Manitoba. I’ll be home at the end of sharptail season,” but I called the B&B instead, where they relayed my message to rest of the party when they pulled in:

“Some guy named Phil called. He says you left him behind.”

They came back for me late that night, falling all over themselves to apologize. I was just finishing my coffee, pie and ice cream and, to be honest, I was kind of sorry they found me.