Suddenly it was the end of Summer. Back-to-school sales blossomed in the stores. Teams of adolescent athletes arrived by bus at our hotel, ready to play the first games of the season. It wasn't yet Labor Day, but Autumn was in the air. We keep learning the same lesson: Canada is so immense, both from West to East and from North to South, that temperature and weather vary greatly. We can't count on observing the weather forecasts, as we do in Texas to figure out when to head north. But we do begin to see one tree branch in a forest burst into scarlet and Crowd around the horse barn gold, we have spotted flights of birds in migrating formation. When we booked our Puffin cruise, we were told we were catching sight of the last, tardy birds whose chicks had been born most recently.
There are some very nice end-of-season experiences for the watchful tourist. Some of them are the country fairs. We find the local fairs more fun that the very large ones. In Truro, Nova Scotia, we happened upon a fair starring horses - The Nova Scotia Provincial Exposition, or EX - and spent most of a day watching a succession of riders demonstrate their mastery of gaits like trot and canter and lope and walk and stop and back up. A beer wagon and team Around and around the ring they went, first the youngest riders, some of whose legs were so short that their feet stood out straight from the horse's belly. Then older riders did the same thing for the ever-patient judge.
Finally we had the carriage horses. There was only one entrant for an event in which a team of draft horses pulled a gaily decorated cart; the hard-working judge, who sat just next to us on a wooden bleacher bench, studied the team with Buggies the same intensity he had showed for the youngsters, offering the contestant the same detailed performance analysis he had given the others.
There were sulkies and plain square wagons, and, we think, a couple of dog-carts. The competition finished with a larger group of riders and their two-wheeled carts. One of the drivers appeared to be about 90 years old, having a grand time driving the cart, with a beautifully groomed chestnut colored horse. It was elegant. One unexpected pleasure was seeing the many different kinds of horses pulling the wagons, including the giant Belgian and Clydesdale draft horses, just like the ones in the Budweiser commercials. Bob watches the cooper
Leaving the horse barns, we found the midway and the food tents, with all the locals sitting and enjoying fair food and ice cream, and even a cooper from a local tourist stop was showing how barrels could be made without any iron at all. Bob watched in fascination as the man dextrously notched the soaked piece of birch, slid it around the barrel staves and hooked the two notches together, then pounded the hoop down the sloped sides of the barrel until the hoop was quite tightly bound to the barrel. Families with their goats
Of course, we always enjoy seeing the animals raised by the young people: cows, goats, rabbits and the like. And as always, it was an event designed for and animated by families who live on the Nova Scotia farms and ranches. It was not highly publicized --just a couple of signs at dirt roads to point visitors to the parking lots for the EX. Not even a listing in the tourist literature -- probably the Chamber of Commerce thought tourists wouldn't be interested in a regional agricultural fair. But we are very happy that we found it! A wonderful day at the end of summer for them and for us.