I’m back for a day in the Southern Tier of Western New York, where my mom grew up. I’ve visited every so often since I was a kid, and more often since I moved to Toronto. It’s lovely lush rolling hilly country with no straight roads, and the Southern Tier Expressway (New York Route 17, now also Interstate 86) snaking through it like a dead anaconda dried into pitted concrete. For me, it is a land of family mythos and childhood memories, of the smells and sights I associated with visits to my grandmother and great-grandparents. And it is a land of towns and counties with names quite unlike any I knew in Alberta.

The Southern Tier is Chautauqua /ʃəˈtɑkwə/ (“sha-tok-wa”), Cattaraugus /ˌkætəˈrɑgəs/ (cat-a-raw-gus”), and Allegany /ˈæləˌgeni/ (“al-a-gay-nee”) counties. Towns that we passed through or heard of on the way to West…

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