I used to live, between the ages of 5 and 10, in Moosonee, just across the Moose River from Moose Factory. The two towns are both the same size -- about a thousand people -- but Moose Factory was exotic to me. To get there, you had to take a 20-minute ride in a freighter canoe in summer, or in winter drive across the frozen Moose River on a road the towns would plow every winter. Moose Factory had a different Hudson's Bay store; as the only big store in each town, that was a huge deal. It had the hospital and the dentist -- so when I nearly broke my leg, and when I did a face plant after wiping out on my bike, I went over to see them both. It was about three hundred years old, and a lot older than Moosonee. The last thing I remember is that the Anglican Church there had plugs about three inches across all around its walls, so that in case of a flood (threatened yearly, never seen while I was there) they could just pull the plug and let the water drain out.

Mostly, though, it was just the same: gravel roads, small houses, kids riding bikes and chewing Hubba-Bubba bubble gum (was it every kid that had this massive jones for sugar, or just where I grew up?), hand-made tamarac geese, soapstone carvings and handmade moccasins for sale, and tamarack and spruce trees everywhere.

In retrospect, this is the same sort of wonder at a new small town, indistinguishable to the outsider from the last small town, that I always associated with the American Midwest; I think that's because I'm Canadian.

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