An Ogema trip that took three hours, throw in some Nazi dioramas and voila: Saskatchewan!
One fine Saturday, in the month of ‘I don’t remember’, three of us took a wonderfully bumpy ride down (or up or sideways) to a little place called Ogema, SK.
So, off we went merrily down the highway with the windows rolled somewhat down and a Fleetwood Mac cassette turned up all the way. I sat in the back, trying to make out which song we were enjoying through all the reverberations of the road and “wap wap wap-ing” of the wind. Quite quickly we headed down the first of many grid roads, and then the window had to come up… or else succumb to death by dust (for me anyhow).
I don’t remember much of the drive, except that it seemed as though we were in the same place the whole time. Even if I had a map, I don’t think I’d be able to remember where I’d been or how I got there — it’s also great you can’t get mobile service on the ‘grid’, it’s more like ‘off the grid’. If we ever broke down, or died, who would know? Who would come save us? Nobody, we’d be found days or maybe even weeks later deAd.
Three hours later: here we are in Ogema, town of not that many. Surprisingly, it’s bigger than Alma (ON)… how is that possible? Here’s how I figured it out — not by counting the number of people on the “Welcome to Ogema/Alma” sign, mostly because Alma’s says “population growing” and I don’t know how to convert that into numerals.
OGEMA vs. ALMA — who is bigger?
O: I saw maybe three churches on the ‘tour d’Ogema’.
A: Two churches, maybe?
O: There was a big building that looked like things were made in it, a manufacturing-type establishment.
A: A similar looking building exists, but there are a lot of gutted cars surrounded by tall grass in its backyard… trashy?
O: Surprisingly there were two grocery-market-like stores, and when it’s not after 4 p.m. on a Saturday, I’m sure they’re pretty busy. The main street is also lined with other businesses.
A: There’s one corner store, sells all you need: ice cream, chocolate, chips, the basic foods, movies, smokes and fireworks. If you want real groceries, go to Fergus.
O: One school, can’t recall if it was K-8 or K-12.
A: One school, K-8 most likely. For 9-12 it’s WDHS, have fun on the bus!
O: There’s a bar!
A: Marj’s Kitchen is the only eat-out place in town, no bar.
O: They have an indoor ice rink, in a proper building with bathrooms and food and framed pictures!
A: One, small outdoor ice rink with boards, right beside the jungle gym in the park. No pictures.
In conclusion, after a critical analysis of the ‘facts’ the answer is: Ogema. Ogema is bigger, better even, than Alma.
Back to the main story, and the reason I am still kicking myself for declining to take photographs of such sights, we now travel into the indoor ice rink turned fair — and those Nazi dioramas. Inside, split the rink in half: one side for random kids activities with bubbles and such, the other half lined with tables by the boards and a set up in a square in the middle. On top of these tables lay artwork, flower arrangements, weird dolls’ clothing (on even weirder dolls), essays and poems from third and fourth graders, and (drum roll): Nazi dioramas! Each item has a first, second or third place ribbon attached. There’s even a category for best packed lunch — I assume the winner made the healthiest lunch, but I would be picking the one with a pudding cup. So, we walk along the tables looking at the lunches, noodle art, crochet work, and then we are stopped — four or five dioramas have clay people wearing swastika bands on their arms. None of these ‘winners’ have any explanations behind the works… especially the written and diorama’d works. My first thought is, “these kids must have read Anne Frank or something,” but the scene is not a familiar one. In every child’s display, the Nazi characters appear to be walking a sort of dog creature by means of pipe cleaner leash, some in a red and white candy cane style. So, that happened, and as we continued through Nazi diorama after Nazi diorama they became odder and odder — and we became more puzzled.
Outside the rink, in a corral not too far away, a horse skills competition was in progress. Now, I like horses — even though I sometimes feel extremely paranoid one will kill me with it’s back legs — but it seemed like a lot of work (transporting the horses via hose trailer) for just a couple minutes of ring time in which the riders walked, trotted and stopped their horses. I suppose they’re demonstrating obedience… but I would have liked something more exciting, like races or jumps.
Next came a tour of Ogema. It’s quite a cute place, everybody has a good sized yard and the streets are generally empty. There’s an antique gas station, still in tact, right in the middle of it. Nothing works, of course, and they’ve chained it off — but it’s kitschy just the same (and not in a bad way, I like kitschy).
And then the day began winding down, the sun said it’s goodbyes and we headed out to an old farm house in another ‘middle of nowhere’.