COLUMN: Economy hardly flat in the flatlands

Seems just about everyone has a cabin at the lake, late model trucks, trailers, quads, sleds and countless other material toys.

Getting lost is not my strong suit.

As a SAR volunteer, a good sense of direction and ability to retrace my steps, or route if in a vehicle, was always in my repertiore.

Or so I thought.

A recent visit to Saskatchewan for a wedding and to spend some time with my almost-inlaws revealed that, without the reference points of hills and ocean, my previously reliable internal compass (the one used for navigation; moral compass remains true) was haywire for more than a week.

Even the sun’s position relative to the time of day were of little use. Even when I checked and my brain told me logically, we had to be heading one direction, the needle inside my body was  screaming the opposite.

My pride was noticeably wounded when, after a couple days in the flatlands, I sheepishly asked, “So, are we heading north?”

Turns out it was east.

From then I just checked, as discreetly as possible, the compass on my iPhone.

By about Day 8 in my father’s home province, I almost had my compass recalibrated. Of course, we left on Day 11.

It didn’t make me feel any better about earlier in our trip cracking wise about the need, or lack thereof, for search and rescue in the Prairies, since if someone got lost, you’d likely be able to spot ’em simply by jumping up on the tailgate and giving the horizon one good scan.

But it turns out in northern Saskatchewan, which is actually more central geographically, but hardly anyone lives further north, there are actually some rolling hills that might even pass for elevation here in B.C., and no shortage of trees of various species.

The better-looking resident of my household has informed me of these facts throughout our relationship, but I’m more of a “believe it when I see it” kind of guy.

Our trip out for Thanksgiving last fall didn’t do anything to further her argument, as we were in Outlook, almost a straight shot (no shortage of those in that part of the world) south from Saskatoon, where there’s nothing more than gentle undulations and shade trees around residences.

But she’s right about northern Saskatchewan and its hills and forests. And she was right also that I’d like it there.

Not enough to start planning a major relocation (although it might make sense financially, more on that in a moment), but I was sad to leave (her family and three little people had a lot to do with that) and already look forward to our next excursion.

Something else I learned while in the Prairies, coming back to that financial topic mentioned earlier – Flatlanders have barely heard of the recession and its lingering effects, about which the rest of the country to the east and west (well, not immediately west in oil-rich Alberta) continue moaning.

That’s not true. They’ve heard of it, they just aren’t experiencing it.

We spent the first two days of our trip in Saskatoon and Lloydminster, literally right on the Alberta border, a region where the farmers’ fields as far as the eye can see (which is a long way) are dotted with that most ubiquitous of agrarian accessories, oil tanks.

It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did.

And you couldn’t venture anywhere without seeing trucks emblazoned with the logos of the various oil companies.

That industry has a good portion of the province booming and insulated from the lingering challenges hammering the rest of us, I learned while golfing with one of the many relatives near Prince Albert National Park.

Seems just about everyone has a cabin at the lake, late model trucks, trailers, quads, sleds and countless other material toys.

Financially, things might be anything but flat in that part of the Prairies, but my compass still pointed me west by the end of the trip – once my finally realigned compass figured out which way was west.