Notes for Prairie Ostrich

A reader asked me for some background on the events of Prairie Ostrich. Was 1974 so far away? In any case here are some helpful notes – I will add more as the need arises.

Anne Frank was a diarist and writer. She wrote a wartime diary The Diary of a Young Girl as she hid from the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. Anne’s diary survived the war although she herself did not. She died in Bergen Belsen concentration camp just a few weeks before the liberation of the camp. She was fifteen years old.

Badlands are desert terrain that have been created by extensive erosion by wind and water. They are characterized by steep slopes and minimal vegetation. Canyons, ravines, gullies, hoodoos are common in badlands. Some badlands have bands of colours through sedimentary deposits and some have dinosaur bones. The harsh landscape is otherworldly.

A hoodoo is a tall, thin column of rock that has a hard “cap.” Made by erosion.

Coulee is a canyon with steep slopes formed by erosion. “Coulee” comes from the Canadian French coulée, from French word couler “to flow.”

The Six Million Dollar Man is an American television series about an astronaut (Steve Austin) who survives a horrific test plane crash. Outfitted with bionic implants (an eye, an arm and legs), he goes to work for a benevolent secret government organization.

The Six Million Dollar Man action figure is super cool. The Big Jim action figure is not so cool. Big Jim did not have a television series but he did have a sports camper.

 Evel Knievel was a daredevil and American icon who attempted more than 75 motorcycle jumps. In 1974, he attempted to jump across the Snake River Canyon his his Skycycle X-2 (it was actually a rocket this time). He suffered more than 433 bone fractures in his career. The Guinness Book of World Records lists him as the survivor of “most bones broken in a lifetime.”

The boy in the plastic bubble suffered from a hereditary disease that  weakened his immune system.  David Vetter spend most of his life in a plastic germ-free environment.  His story was made into a film.

The Indian residential schools were a network of boarding schools for First Nations children, funded by the Canadian government, and administered by Christian churches, (the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church). Many children were subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse by the staff of these institutions. The aim of the residential system was to remove First Nations children from their families and culture and assimilate them into the white Canadian culture. Approximately 150,000 First Nations children passed through the residential school system, with 4,000 of them dying while attending the schools. This was essentially cultural genocide, another blow along with the “stolen children,” forced sterilization, inadequate housing, and broken treaties. There still has not been appropriate redress from the Canadian government.

Skylab was the United States’ first space station, orbiting the Earth from 1973 to 1979, launched and operated by NASA. Three manned missions made it to Skylab. There was much hubbub about Skylab’s disintegration and trajectory. It was abandoned after February 1974.

American Bandstand was a music show that ran from the 50s to the late 80s. Hosted the perennially young Dick Clark, it featured performances of popular musical acts, tending towards sanitized white middle American groups.

Soul Train was the black, stylish version of American Bandstand.  Soul Train evokes the spirit of the seventies.

The $10,000 Pyramid is an American television game show which featured two contestants, each with a celebrity helper, who would try and guess words or phrases based on clues given by their teammates. There was a pyramid shaped gameboard with prizes that accumulated as you climbed the pyramid.

 The Buck Shot Show was a children’s television series in Calgary, Alberta, that ran from the late 60s to the late 90s. A local affair, it aired at lunch time. The host was clad in a cowboy hat. There were puppets.

Rubber ice is ice in a pond or a pool that has not yet melted. It floats and you can run across it but you will fall and get wet if you are not careful.

In 1963, a monk, Thich Quang Duc burned himself to death at an intersection in Saigon to protest the treatment of Buddhists under American-backed Diem. It is an image taken as a rebuke to American imperialism.

Watergate – a political scandal in the 1970s.  It began as a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters and  Nixon’s administration’s attempted a cover up, as well as other illegal activities. Richard Nixon resigned as the President of the United States on August 9, 1974 because of this.

Japanese Canadian Internment – the detainment of Japanese Canadians following Canada’s entry into World War II.  Many Japanese Canadians on the west coast were forced into camps in the interior of BC, lost jobs and property, subjected to curfews and interrogations due to racism and despite evidence that such action was unwarranted.