dog days well entrenched

Turn south at Winnipeg and you head towards the States on Highway 75. At the border the road designation changes to I-29 but it continues to stretch…

Turn south at Winnipeg and you head towards the States on Highway 75.

At the border the road designation changes to I-29 but it continues to stretch almost due south some 1,212 kilometres to Kansas City. There it meets up with the old, more roundabout route north to Canada, once known as the Jefferson Highway.

Initially built in 1910 as part of the National Auto Trail system, the Jefferson Highway took on the nickname Palm to Pine Highway because it linked Winnipeg with New Orleans, Louisiana.

When I lived in Morris, Manitoba, in the ‘70s, Palm to Pine signs still occasionally marked out the route.

Remember Morris?

It is still famous for the Manitoba Stampede, which just wrapped up its 45th year about 10 days ago and, once upon a time, for the Gimli Goose bottlery that rail tank cars pulled up behind to empty their questionable contents into.

At Fargo, North Dakota, my Jefferson Lines bus, which takes its name from the old route, made a lunch stop.

Just a couple of blocks west of the bus terminal and north of the railway tracks a four-block section of Broadway was closed off for the annual street fair.

I had enough time to make just one circuit. The range of non-essential doodads and thingamajigs offered by vendors from as far away as California was truly impressive.

Halfway down the temporary concourse, a side street had been taken over as well. There, fair food vendors held forth. The smell of gyros, barbecue and other fare, exotic by Dakotan standards, tempted passersby.

I sampled kettle corn, the crisp, sweet treat that abounds at fairs, as well as sugared pecans. The deep-fried Oreos and Twinkies, though, were well beyond the acceptable health range of even my normally inquisitive palate.

This year given the cascading crises facing the United States, the fair seemed to take on a surreal quality. How long can people continue to act as if nothing is happening?

How long can we go on thinking that a significant price will not have to be paid to right the accumulated wrongs?

Surprisingly no Obama or McCain supporters had booths at the Fargo fair. Actually, the lawn and street signs you would expect to see were already noticeable by their absence.

Corn and soybean fields covered an appreciable amount of the roadside scenery on our way south. Sugar beets and sunflowers, at least in Manitoba and North Dakota, use to hold sway. Apparently they have succumbed to the rush to cash in on the bio-fuel boom. Nobody I talked to, though, saw these fuel crops as a way out of the current energy crunch.

The temperature as well as the general mood heated up the further south we went.

A crew of tower riggers got on in Watertown, South Dakota. In better times they would have flown home, but cutbacks put them on the bus.

Their conversation focused on the increasingly tough times they saw ahead and the first pain beginning to be felt now. I heard no solutions or even indications of a vision of a way out from them.

We arrived in Kansas City just before 4 a.m. The heat of the previous day still lingered on. Finally I had reached the summer that the Yukon has been missing out on.

Forecasts had the temperature on these ‘dog days’ reaching well into the 30s Celsius over the next few days. Since Roman days, this hot, humid weather has been seen as marking a desperate, difficult time of year. The Swedes and the Finns call this time the “rotting month.” Things go bad.

These days, according to Brady’s Clavis Calendarium, published in 1813, are responsible for “causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.”

This year the “dog days” look like they will be hanging on long after August’s heat has left.

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