After weeks of diligently searching for a moose, we finally bagged one in Moose Jaw. Never mind that it also happened to be the largest statue of a moose, anywhere. Rising thirty-two feet from his wrought iron pen, it’s hard to miss Mac the Moose while cruising the Trans Canada Highway through Saskatchewan.
Travelers will also have little trouble spotting the adjacent art deco-styled Visitor Center, inspired by the city’s famed Temple Garden Dance Hall of 1921.
Moose Jaw has invested heavily in the nostalgia business, and it seems to have paid off. Today, its fortunes rest on the folklore surrounding Al Capone’s involvement in Prohibition bootlegging, and the town’s willingness to capitalize on a network of underground tunnels used in 1908 to shelter Chinese railway workers from racial persecution, and years later, to enable a black market of whiskey and women.
Downtown Moose Jaw showcases its notorious history on the exterior of it vintage buildings,
and through its fascination of all things Scarface.
The Tunnels of Moose Jaw opened in 2000, and remains a top pick of Moose Jaw tourist attractions. Naturally, Leah and I had to check it out for ourselves.
At first, we thought we’d be exploring the catacombs under the city streets, but soon learned after arriving at the Tunnels storefront that we’d be participating in a theatrical presentation of The Chicago Connection, featuring guns, gals, and gangsters.
Actors in period costumes encouraged us to turn back the clock to 1927 by exploring the collection of memorabilia from a by-gone era of Victorian virtues, political corruption, and criminal greed. This was the story of Al Capone’s alleged underground bootlegging connection to Moose Jaw, and everyone in our group was assigned to play a part in the bootleg operations of America’s richest man, and Public Enemy Number One.
We crossed the street to a bakery cafe where heaven-scented cinnamon buns mingled with the essence of caffeine. We reassembled one flight up, waiting for Miss Fanny, a floozy who ran the town’s most popular speakeasy. Acting as history teacher and social commentator, Fanny chaperoned us through a variety of theatrical sets to give us a taste of the Twenties. We followed her through recreations of Capone’s office and bedroom, eventually taking stairs hidden behind his clothes closet to a tunnel beneath the street.
Role-play continued with Gus, Capone’s second-in-command, who led us through the bookkeeper’s office,
the keg storage, the gun room, and the game room–always one step ahead of the police blitz and machine gun sound effects. After 50 minutes of mayhem, we evacuated through the storefront basement and we transported back to 2017.
Fahgettaboudit!! It was silly fun for the audience, and good training for our thespian plebes.
The following day, we took a 30-minute ride north to Buffalo Pound Provincial Park with every intention of seeing bison, even though we’d been spoiled by close encounters in other parks (see Cavfefe). With “Buffalo” taking first billing in the park name, how could there not be a bison sighting?
Although the park is so much more than a paddock of tagged bison, the herd was not playing hard to get.
They were very accommodating–lounging in a pasture along the road within sight of their future breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
We bid them goodbye, and moseyed to the marsh flats…
where we wandered down a pontoon boardwalk that cut through wetlands of cattails and reeds.
The prairie was peaceful, and we had it all to ourselves. The hillside of the Qu’Appelle Valley was aglow with golden grass shimmering in the gentle breeze.
Afterwards, the calm cool waters of Buffalo Pound Lake provided the perfect relief from a searing summer sun.
Moose Jaw reminds us of a time when lawlessness and corruption was the new order of the day. Yet, sometimes it’s hard to judge how far we’ve come from Wild West ways, when it’s still troublesome telling the good guys apart from the bad guys.
Fortunately, Buffalo Pound reminds us of what we can accomplishment–by rescuing the bison from near extinction–and that we can always count on nature to give us perspective.
4 thoughts on “Moose Jaw”
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Uh, not exactly.
Hmmmm. A moose see on your journey?
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