Saturday #3: A Moose Jaw Saturday Night

“Uncle Mike, we’ve got a bit of an issue in the basement. What do you know about clogged drains?” And with those words I kicked off Saturday #3 at my nephew Andy and wife Kerri’s home in Moose Jaw, Sask.

After a quick survey of the situation it was clear the three level house had two vertical drain stacks, and since the bar sink in the basement was on the same stack as the kitchen sink, dishwasher, and master bedroom, and not the laundry room or the bedroom / en-suite that I had occupied, I felt that I was off the hook. If I had to make book on the cause, ‘Piece of Lego’ would be installed as the 9-5 favourite.

Fast forward to noon and a three-man team from Roto-Rooter had been to the house, failed in their quest to unclog the drain, and had instead passed the ball to a plumber who was summoned to break drywall and install a cleanout valve. After the plumber had completed his work the Roto-Rooter crew returned and quickly fixed the problem. No Lego was found but since they couldn’t pinpoint the problem, I declared ‘all bets off’ and no losses were incurred.

In the meantime a service technician had been summoned to install a new main spring on the automatic garage door which had refused to open that morning, effectively trapping both vehicles in the garage.

But by 1:30 the five of us were in the Highlander and on the way to Kerri’s family cottage at Buffalo Pound Lake. The twins, Julian and Henry, asked about the “shark tank” as we drove and were told that Andy and Uncle Mike would set it up as soon as we arrived.

And since trouble generally occurs in triplicate, Andy and I were fully prepared for another “issue” as we hauled the large inflatable water slide / wading pool (shark tank) out of the shed where it had been stored for the winter. To our complete surprise, the inflation device (fan?) started up with the push of a button and the 6’ tall structure started to inflate.

There was one little issue though. Well, five or six little issues to be precise.   We found some live, baby voles (similar to a mole or field mouse) that were curled up in the folds of the stored waterslide. No adult voles were found but they had left a calling card. We quickly determined that the slide wasn’t inflating properly as momma Vole had chewed through multiple folds of the rubberized material, opening half a dozen golf-ball sized holes.

I’ve watched enough episodes of Red Green to know that in such a predicament, duct tape is your friend. We were back in business within half an hour and the kids seemed to have fun on the inflatable slide, blissfully unaware that two adult voles may be trapped inside.

So just 5 hours into the day we had successfully dealt with a sewage backup in the basement bar sink, a busted garage door, and vermin in the water slide. Thankfully that was the last of the “issues” and the rest of the day was spent boating, grilling steaks, tending to a bonfire, visiting a neighbour’s miniature donkey, and driving back to Moose Jaw in time to take in a birthday party at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

Andy and Kerri’s friend Warren was hosting a surprise party for his wife Brooke and we caught the last few hours of it. I spent the evening chatting with a local police officer (just a few months on the job), a transplanted Kiwi (mechanical engineer at the local potash mine), Brooke’s husband Warren (grain buyer for an ethanol plant), and Warren’s dad, Mike, who farms near Belle Plaine, Saskatchewan.

Mike explained that he has five crops on rotation this year, which is par for the course, but then he operates “a very small farm”, as he put it. He works alone most of the time but son Warren helps out at seeding and harvest time or when needed. I asked Mike what he meant by “very small farm”, and he replied: “Oh, just 3000 acres.” “Some of my neighbours farm 10, 20 and even 50,000 acres,” he added.

I would imagine that a farmer with 50,000 acres and millions of dollars worth of equipment would go through a fair amount of duct tape in a year.

Kerri headed home after the party while Andy and I caught last call at Brown’s Socialhouse. My friends in Central and Eastern Canada may not know the upstart western bar / restaurant chain but I’m sure they will in time. At Brown’s they really put the ‘social’ in Socialhouse. I like the concept and execution and fully expect to see more of these across Canada when I return in a few years.

I’ll dedicate this week’s audio clip to nephew Andy who just might be Tom Waits’ biggest fan.  Click below for “The Heart of Saturday Night.”


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