I came to the Peace River Country with father and mother, five brothers and one sister in 1929 from a small town in southwestern Saskatchewan. What a change in scenery it was, from a flat, treeless prairie to see miles and miles of trees in beautiful fall colours, and hills and valleys and, far away, the snowcapped mountains.
We spent our first winter in a two-roomed log house near Dawson Creek. It was rather crowded after the big house that we had left. But when friends gathered for a visit the chairs were piled on the bed, the table was pushed into a corner and, as we always had music in our home, it wasn’t long until we were square dancing and learning all the old-time dances.
We stayed near Dawson Creek until Dad and the boys had some land broke and set the logs ready on the homestead, moving there in the fall of 1932. By that time the railway was built from Hythe to Dawson Creek. What a celebration when the last spike was driven! Then to see the first train coming to town! It was a busy place — stores and other buildings being moved from the old town and many more being constructed.
One incident that happened shortly after we had moved to the homestead was when my brother was cutting brush, and had the misfortune to cut his foot quite badly. He hobbled home and we sent for Jock Close who lived about a mile and half away to come and stitch the wound. My brother fainted so he was no trouble. When I looked for some bandages my mother was to have been holding, there she was on the ground. She had fainted, too. That’s when I decided I wouldn’t be a nurse.
Time passed quickly. In 1934 Alex and I planned to be married. The date was December 26. As there were only a few phones in the district and no cars, the plans we made were final and no last-minute changes. The minister assured me he would come from where he lived about forty miles from Pouce Coupe. We had not reckoned with the weatherman, for on December 26 the temperature dropped to 60o below zero (F). Not doubting our minister’s promise, we proceeded as planned. The wedding was set for the morning at 10 a.m. and we were to drive to Kilkerran in the afternoon. I dressed about 9:30 a.m. and it was COLD in the bedroom! I was wrapped in a wool quilt with a foot-warmer going to keep my feet from freezing. Several hours passed and no minister so my brother rode horseback six miles to the nearest phone, coming back with the news that the minister was on the way and would arrive in the evening.
Now for a change in plans. I put on my going-away dress. Dinner was cooked so we ate it before the wedding. The dishes were washed, the outside chores done, the woodboxes well filled up, the musical instruments tuned up and we proceeded to pass the time. The minister arrived about 10:30 p.m. His horses were quickly put up and a hot meal served for him. We decided to get married then, so by midnight the wedding was performed, complete with wedding march and all. When all the gifts were brought out from their hiding places, it was time for lunch. We cut our wedding cake at 2:30 a.m. Soon everybody retired except dad who sat up all night, keeping the fires going. Next morning it was still 60 degrees below zero, so we were persuaded to stay one more day. I was busy packing, and the men butchered a beef, having lots of help.
December 28 it warmed up to 50 below zero and we left for Kilkerran. My brothers couldn’t find any old shoes to tie behind the cutter, so they tied the hoofs, tail, and head of the beef. We heard later that we dragged some of it for nine miles, but we didn’t know it then.
The cold weather stayed until February and the community put on a wedding dance for us on February 15. Friends came from near and far and a cake decorated with a valentine heart was cut and passed around.
As we started our new life one of the most frequently used words was “make do” if you didn’t have the money to buy it or you couldn’t get it anywhere. One time we decided to visit some friends about three miles away, going by team and democrat. After a nice evening it was time to go home. The horses were rested and when they backed away from the hitching rail, they moved too fast and crunch! went the back wheel of the democrat. Our friends didn’t have a vehicle we could borrow so it was “make do”. The men cut down a poplar tree about four inches across and ten feet long, wired one end on the front axle and the other end dragging on the ground, with the broken axle securely tied between. You’ve heard the song, “coming home on a wing and a prayer.” That night we went home on three wheels and a poplar pole and arrived safely. I will close my story with the most amusing incident in my life.
One day I wanted to make a lemon pie for dinner. When I was finished it was lovely. Being very close to dinnertime, I put the pie to cool on a shelf in a little shed we had by the back door, forgetting to close the door. I finished setting the table. From outside there was a sound like a hawk after the chickens, so I grabbed the broom and out the door. What a sight! There was a big white rooster doing a war dance in the middle of my lemon pie. He was crowing and a-stomping. The filling was flying in all directions and the hens were scrambling around to get a bite, some catching the spatters in mid-air. I don’t know what we had for dessert besides a good laugh, but I do know it wasn’t lemon pie.