Drinking With Rodents

Here’s to Prairie Dog: an authoritative alternative for 25 years

25 The Last Word | by Dave Margoshes

About 20 years ago, I wrote a biography of Tommy Douglas. After it was published, I found that I now had the status of “authority” on the subject. When I was a newspaper reporter, I often became an overnight authority on a certain subject after delving into it on a Monday, say, for a Tuesday story, and by Wednesday had promptly forgotten all about it. In the Douglas case, though, the “authority” stuck. I was interviewed by various media, including radio and TV. Even John Gormley had me on his show to rake me (and Tommy) over the coals. Steve Whitworth at the then-still fledgling Prairie Dog also came calling, asking me to write something on Douglas. And over the following years, in addition to several hundred restaurant reviews, I wrote a number of stories for the ’dog and Planet S on Douglas, the CCF, the NDP, the doctor’s strike and sundry related topics. I was “an authority,” after all.

I mention all this not to blow my own battered and muted horn, but because the occasion of Prairie Dog’s 25th anniversary has reminded me what a valuable contribution to the cultural, political and social life of Regina and Saskatoon the two sister papers have played.

They don’t call papers like the ’dog and its many fellows, including Vancouver’s Georgia Straight and Toronto’s Now, the alternative press for nothing. They provide something — many things, actually — the mainstream papers either can’t be bothered with or overlook.

I mean, come on: John Conway on domestic politics, Gwynne Dyer on international politics, David Suzuki on the environment, Jorge Ignacio Castillo on film — these guys really are authorities, and they’re in the ’dog, not that other so-called paper. Along with Regina’s best city hall coverage (Paul Dechene), best arts coverage (the polymath Greg Beatty and others), best labour movement coverage, best restaurant reviews (irrepressibly witty Aidan Morgan, carrying on in my skeptical tradition) — and, let’s be honest — the best rants, many of them coming from the vinegar-tipped pen of the Chief himself, editor Steve Whitworth. And all for the exorbitant but affordable price of, as the BBC says, absolutely nothing.

Over the years (25 of them, holy cow!) there’s been a string of other writers happy and proud to hang their bylines on a Prairie Dog page. I was and am glad to have been among them, not to mention the Friday afternoon beer and nachos gatherings at O’Hanlon’s, Buskwakker and other favourite watering holes. Not exactly Dorothy Parker and the Vicious Circle crowd at the Algonquin, but, by Saskatchewan standards, a pretty reasonable facsimile. Plenty to talk about: books, movies, art, music, politics. Out of that heady ferment sprang many of the ideas that would soon enough materialize in Prairie Dog pages.

25 years! An amazingly long time or just the blink of an eye. Either way, here’s hoping for another quarter century of quality alt press in Regina.

Every other Thursday just wouldn’t be the same without the ’dog nipping at our heels.

Dave Margoshes is a Saskatchewan poet and author of several books including Wiseman’s Wager, God Telling A Joke And Other Stories and I’m Frankie Stern. His new book of poetry, A Calendar of Reckoning, will be published this May by Coteau Books.