Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What is a Mountie?

Follow my mountie exploits this week at #MountieLand

I don't remember when I first heard of mounties, or wanted one of their red serge tunics and carefully pressed, flat-brim Stetson hats. It was definitely before Canada Day when I was 9. That's when my gerbil Steve bit my finger, I bled, I fainted, then flew to Calgary for a family vacation to Banff and Jasper. I never got the hat.

Today I'm off to Regina, Saskatchewan to make a Lonely Planet video on how one becomes a mountie. From the inside. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police "Depot" has trained mounties there since the late 1800s. Recently I asked about joining as a cadet for a '24-hour immersion.' And they surprisingly agreed. One official told me, 'They WON'T go easy on you.'


Meanwhile, a few things to consider about mounties:

  1. They may be mounties, but they don't mount horses in Regina. Horse riding hasn't been part of the six-month training since 1966.
  2. Women are mounties too. Since 1974.
  3. Americans were once mounties. In the early 20th century, most mounties were recruited from elsewhere -- chiefly England but also the US. Canadians took over after the Depression. And now you have to be a Canadian citizen to qualify.
  4. Mounties aren't for show. They're Canada's full municipal and federal police, akin to 'Canada's equivalent to the FBI,' per the New York Times.
  5. Mounties still wear the red serge tunic and Stetson (yay!), but only in special occasions, like the daily 'Noon Parade' in Regina, at graduation.
  6. Dudley Do-Right was invented by a couple blokes from Berkeley, California, and animated in Mexico. And, yes, it IS the same voice behind Bullwinkle, George of the Jungle and Dudley (Bill Scott).
So I go. Very scared. Stayed tuned for more.

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