Our imposed pause in Swift Current has its advantages. While we wait for the part to arrive from Calgary we have a chance to catch up a bit on our e-mail, visit with the motel staff, and I was even able to listen in to Tom's ongoing course on the Dynamics of Income and Wealth.
Since we don't have transportation, we are not able to explore Swift Current a great deal (an indication itself of prairie life) but we were still able to get some of the local news from the server at supper last night, the woman who served breakfast this morning, and the staff of the hotel. The server at supper was a recent addition to the community (8 months). He was invited to help rejuvenate the hotel and restaurant business. He was complaining about the lack of collaboration among the hotels along the strip - they didn't want to make deals about coupons or other arrangements for sharing breakfast facilities, for example.
There are many hotels along this strip of the road - and a casino across the highway. If our hotel is any indication, however, most of the clientele are railway or highway workers. We see many people coming and going in their orange safety jackets and working coveralls. It recalls for me the discussions I have had with my research colleagues about the importance of utility and transportation workers to the sustainability of rural areas. I expect that these hotels depend a great deal on such clients - with some travelers (like us) and perhaps some of the casino-goers.
Swift Current is located at the eastern edge of the Palliser Triangle - a huge area of southern Saskatchewan and Alberta that includes a variety of landscapes: from deserts to vast farms and grasslands. The buffalo no longer roam the grasslands of the region since farms have taken over much of the arable land, but even the farmers have experienced years of drought mixed in with the years of plenty. Much of the farming in this region is "dryland farming": farming without the benefit of irrigation, so the weather conditions (particularly the moisture) drive their fate. If we can get our van going, this will be the land we traverse on our way to Calgary.