The Great Plains are hillier, greener (at the moment), and wetter than we had remembered. There's also much more variety in the use of the land, which we had thought would be wheat, wheat, and wheat. In fact there's cattle and horse ranches and hay as well as oil and gas and coal. And there's lots of ponds and marshes filled with ducks. The large white mining machine is many times bigger than the huge dump trucks that are waiting to load up with coal Coal mining near Estevan

The two main demographic facts about Canada, at least to an American, are that Canada's population is only a tenth of the U.S., even though there's lots more land, and that most Canadians live within 150 miles of the U.S. border.

Estevan is a small town in southeastern Saskatchewan where lignite is mined close to the surface, leaving piles of dirt that eventually become covered first with range grasses and then with cattle, bugs, and small birds. But at the mines the machines are as big as buildings, chewing up the earth to extract the coal which is burned right there to produce power for the farms. These machines have names like Prairie Queen and Lignite Queen.

All along the morning's drive we saw hawks, perched on piles of old railroad ties, signposts, and telephone poles. Evidently the wheatfields had been sanitized, so the mice and ground squirrels were living close to the road, and that's where the hawks gathered for breakfast.

The hawks and crows were sometimes harassed by much smaller birds. We think the larger birds were getting too close to nests. Once we thought a crow had succeeded in committing some mischief at a nest. Several birds in the field, with one male displaying for the females Ruffed grouse

We saw and identified the beautiful yellow-headed blackbird, which together with its relative the red-winged blackbird, added splashes of color.

We didn't stop to identify all the species of ducks in the ponds, but we did see more Canada geese families, and a whole lake full of great white pelicans.

Perhaps we mentioned it last year, but we don't know diddly about farming. Occasionally some farm community will put up signs telling tourists what is growing in the fields, but it's all too rare. So we think we've been seeing wheat, coming up in planted fields as green shoots. But it could be some other grain or crop, too. However we're really certain about the big grain elevators located alongside railroad tracks to store and ship the grain after the harvest.

We pulled into the "Buffalo City" of Jamestown, N.D. for the evening. Louis L'Amour was born here, and we hope to view the thirty-foot statue of a buffalo. We don't know why the Canadians call them bison. Same critter.