Wednesday, 28 November 2012 17:00

Black eyes and Black Fridays in the U.S.A.

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Some grain farmers from Alberta head to the deep south in winter, to see a little sunshine and experience warmth in our Canadian winter bones.


My grandparents and their friends head south too, only not quite as far across the border as others.
Great Falls, Montana seems to scream their names, and the deals on Black Friday have been no exception to this calling.  We have travelled with neighbours in the past to hit up Great Falls, and some might scoff heading to a ‘smaller’ city to shop.
Alas,  Albertans love a good deal as much as they love a good cut of beef.
Young ones burn down in two-tone trucks, different shades of dust,  all gussied up with teased  hair and made up ivory skin to haul back cheap beer and Wranglers. Throw 15 years on their lives and they will be buying cheap shampoo and Shasta, with car seats pinched in the back of the ‘burb.’ 
Mommas buy snow suits, carefully-planned Christmas gifts, and stock up on brands of baby gear you can’t find at home.
A mighty whoop whoop would be hollered at the Big R and a small hallelujah at Target. Cross-border shopping is no stranger to some and Albertans know which hotel has the nicest pool, which will squirrel up the most packages ordered in, and hands down which facility has the finest continental breakfast.
For the rural Prairie-ites who don’t get to town a lot, gracing the streets of Great Falls is as much a holiday as heading to Cancun, only the souvenirs brought home aren’t little trinkets and seashells. Border guards are used to trucks full of Ivomec, cheap fabric, and Carhartts stacked to the hilt. I’m always just a little afraid they think we are hauling stuff home for a 125-person mixed farming operation, and they are a bit confused my name isn’t Dorothy and my husband’s isn’t Jake on our passports.
Now, although I have never experienced Black Friday in the U.S., the stories of people roaming the streets at the oddest hours have always struck me as a little wild. The day following a calendar day that is supposed to honour gratitude for what you have, people seem to just plumb lose their minds and race into the cities to haul more. stuff. home.
I had heard stories of people getting trampled in these American cities, all pushing and shoving for the best deals that might be pinched in the back of the store.
When my Grandma came home from a trip to the U.S. on this blessed day, she was sporting a big, black shiner and glasses that were taped together and our concern hit a high note. Learning she took a tumble on the curb at the border lessened our worries of Grandma shopping in the States.
Really, I don’t know why we should ever worry about this Grandma. She is able to carry more bags than my sister and I combined and is generally referred to as our mom, not our Grandmother. She would never wake up like those ‘crazy people who line up at 3 a.m.’ but at 4 a.m. she had said the lines were thinning as she sidled up to get the best deal on boots in town. Energy flows in this lady’s blood and sometimes I wish it had somehow flowed down to me.
Grandma and her possé stay in the same hotel year after year on this weekend and would book far in advance, looking for that deal that was out there.
Coolers were packed in their trucks alongside their suitcases, to bring back steaks that were cut an inch thick and cheese that was cheap as chips. It wasn’t uncommon for there to be 10 cake mixes tucked in the vehicle, and it was then I realized some things might be coming home that wouldn’t always get used, but the fact they were basement bargains placed them at home in Grandma’s pantry.
Now, these folks who would travel down together were bargain savvy. After a full day of shopping for ingredients to make the finest Christmas crackers around (that of course couldn’t be found in Canada), these gals would make their own meals in the evening. They wouldn’t just cook to save cash, but because you could bet your bottom dollar they could whip up something better than most restaurants in town. Cards were played in the evenings and the clock would tick until it was time to get up and hit repeat on their day.
The woman who put on miles with Grandma, who have a few decades on me, make me long for a small fraction of their energy, their incredible deal shopping ways and hey, if we’re making wishes that aren’t worth a plugged nickel, you might as well throw me some cooking skills too. 
For Black Friday next year, Montana watch out! Grandma is coming for you and I might just be along in her shadow, puffing away to try and keep up.
We’ll eat you out of your deals and drink up your southern hospitality — feel free to head north for Boxing Day to probably pay twice what you do for your jeans in the south, but you’d be welcome just the same.
(Cheyenne Stapley helps operate her mixed farm in Central Alta. with her husband and family. Her column Rural Route will appear monthly in Prairie Post and is also on our website at www.prairiepost.com)

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