Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Heading west in Manitoba

So we continued our trip westward across Canada. We made two stops in Saskatchewan. One was in Moose Jaw which we thought must be a  a trail-marker from the British/Scottish explorers. However, we learned it was a Native Cree word for 'warm breezes', that is pronounced more like moo-segh- a -wah. However there is a huge statue of a moose to attract tourists in to the town and off of the Highway #1 of the Trans-Canada trail.

The English language wins again. I did learn that this little valley along the river was a favourite traditional spot for the local indigenous folk as it had good fishing/hunting and protected spots to hunker down in huts, during the winter. Warmer Chinook winds every once in a while helped them to get through the harsh Canadian winters.

Moose Jaw was a good spot to stop to camp for showers and to do laundry and see the old town's Underground Tunnels where

History Goes Underground. The tunnels are all under the streets in the old part of town under Main Street, down by the railway


Al Capone, Public Enemy Number One in the USA and his goons and his guns and his gals, had a secret world under the streets of Moose Jaw during Liquor Prohibition in the States. They did rum-running by trains here and over the border to Chicago. He died of syphillis and endured a long prison sentence mainly for tax evasion, but that is another story.

That was a good slice of history to experience but the poignant history for me personally, was of the Chinese immigrants.  It was the most amazing tour around the maze of underground spaces under the Main

Street businesses area. The racism above up on the streets kept them to themselves, basically slaves for the white supreme-owners that had bought their indentures from the 'coolie' traders, who asked thousands to even consider taking a "coolie" to North America. 

Those Chinese immigrants hid under the Main Street, enduring intolerable conditions, to finally realize their dreams after saving a few pennies a day. They suffered from major depression down in those tunnels, which led to opium abuse, which was cheap then but also drained the few pennies they earned.  It was really a form of slavery and oppression.  However, a few saved for years and eventually started their own businesses.  Their great-grandchildren are now our doctors and cancer research scientists.  We must honour that tenacity and our common human drive for justice. 

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in their favor several times in the last 50 years but we still read in the newspapers about discrimination. The Passage to Fortune tour was the better tour with the wonderful actors making the history come to life. The Chinese history on the prairies of Canada is a blot on our history of Human Rights.

And then a few days ago, I heard on the news : 2 asian workers brought in to work in the northern parts of Canada, died because they could not understand our safety rules and posted signs. They were being paid $600 a month personally but their wages were going to the worker-broker (coolie-trader) and were closer to $5000 a month. It is so much like what happened to blot our Canadian Human Rights record during the building of the cross-Canada railway.  The 'Celestials" lives were considered to be expendable.

The other stop in Saskatchewan that we recorded was at the Pioneer Cemetery in Swift Current.

My Irish homesteader-ancestors have a plot there. So we pulled in to have lunch and so I could clean up my parents' area, while Old-Man-Watching had a nap.  Above is my paternal mother's headstone.  She died at 29 from spinal bone cancer. 

My parents' china urns, which had red roses painted on them by my artist sister, are under this plaque that needed a good cleaning.  The mud moves inward and the grass grows on the top of the slab of Audrey (Sutton) Fee and Roland Alonzo Burr Fee.  Sigh and double sigh....as I will probably never get to clean this site again or sit here to meditate on a trip across Canada.  Cemeteries are very peaceful places to have a prayer-time and or a nap.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Crossing the Prairies for a week

We are home and well, but resting, after the long-haul back across Canada and over the Rocky Mountains.  We settled in at our favorite lake and the fishing was good.  It was a good time to rest and relax.  Being in your home area is always a good thing.  We like the arid climate here.  But.....I have been negligent with the blogging.  Well we couldn't get an Internet connection up at the lake so I have an excuse.

So I will go back over our prairie travels and choose some highlights from those two weeks.  First we crossed through Manitoba and skirted Winnipeg to go slightly north of it to Selkirk.  Manitoba is #7 on the map.  I wanted to visit Lower Fort Garry and find out more about the Selkirk settlers.  I knew they mostly immigrated from Great Britain and many married local First Nations after settling on a homestead.  The Fort was originally a fur trading place of commerce with stone walls built as protection from the Americans who kept trying to invade and liberate the loyalists (who didn't want to be liberated, thank you very much).  This is the River Gate open to visitors.  The British Factors who ran the forts insisted on stone buildings as they were stronger and did not need as much upkeep as wooden buildings.  So the big-shots got to live in a lovely "Big House".  It was also in the middle of the fort in the most protected spot.

Canadians still call the main house on a ranch the "Big House", even if it is a modest house, it is the boss'.  Across the buggy road was the general trading post that is now a museum.  I was interested in all the different barrels of grog shipped in from England.  Glass beads and liquor were valued trading goods.  They shipped in china dinner sets floating in barrels of molasses.  What a chore that must have been to clean your china when it finally arrived. 

The York boats were of a design that worked well on the Red River for transporting workers, goods and furs.  What I didn't understand was that these Selkirk Settlers did not come down the St. Lawrence through Ontario and the Great Lakes as most of the immigrants did. 

All the rivers here flow north which discombobulates my British Columbia (#10) brain.  The British ships brought the indentured servants though Hudsons Bay above Ontario, to work here.  They rowed UP the rivers from the north to the south to fur trading forts such as Lower Fort Garry.  It was a lovely autumn day for touring on foot and doing self-guided tours.  Some features had been closed for the winter, but they still had many actors wandering around in period dress who were very friendly and trained to share important information as if you had been transported back to those tough times.  They talked like they were living there at that pioneering time.  It is weird to try to talk to someone who is living in the past.

We are cheap folk so we had an inexpensive lunch prepared in our little galley in our RV.  We then skirted around Winnipeg and took a highway north of the Trans-Canada #1 to the small town of Stonewall to camp for the night. 

The camp was by an historic quarry that supplied the rock-works for many of the buildings and for the Selkirk Settlers for miles around.  It was all fascinating to me.  Old Man is not so impressed  by history unless it is about cowboys and ranching.  He is history himself now so I let it pass and just enjoy myself.  He usually only sees half of what I want to see before he leaves to go have a nap in the RV.  It is a great way to travel for older folk.  I am skipping a lot of interesting places and people now, but just want to get caught up to our present days.

The next stop is at Moose Jaw in the province of Saskatchewan.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Finally leaving Ontario

We left the top side of Lake Superior at Thunder Bay and headed inland through the rocky Canadian Shield.  (#6 above in periwinkle blue)

We crossed the Manitoba Border eventually,   11  days after we left #1 son's house south of Ottawa.  The first night in Manitoba province (#7 above in grey) we stayed at West Hawk Lake that was created by a meteor many eons ago.  The park had some interesting trails.

The deer in the park were too friendly.  Hunting season will open soon and they are not afraid of  humans.                                                                     We left this provincial park with the lovely eco-friendly shower house and headed out onto the prairies.  Turtle Island is a First Nations' symbol for Mother Earth.  At first it is rolling farmland but soon it becomes very flat.  The roads in Manitoba are terrible.  A sign at one business said, "Visitors, Sorry About the Crappy Roads".  We finally left the secondary roads as we tired of the bumping, but even the Trans-Canada was a disgrace.  The Federal government needs to do something about the poor impression this gives tourists.
Most of the harvesting was finished.We drifted along and went around the north side of Winnipeg to see the Selkirk area.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Following the north shores of Lake Huron and Superior

We drifted along the freeways of the Trans-Canada Highway admiring the wonders of the fall colours in Ontario.  I counted 18 different shades that I labelled with mostly food names: tangerine, grape, cranberry, cherry, lime, orange, pumpkin, lemon, butter, celery, yams, blackberry, raspberry and so many of them had an almost florescent glow.  We stopped for 2 days at Batchawana Bay on Lake Superior just to walk and admire the green-blue shallow bay and the fall colours.  We can now claim to have camped on the shores of all the Great Lakes of North America and walked their best beaches.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Westward Ho

We began our westward trip  home to the Pacific side of the continent by taking a 4 hour drive to the homestead of our niece and her family.  We stayed there for a few day's rest on the way east. The first day it was raining but the temperature rose to 14 C. so when everybody was off the property I took a shower outside in the rain.  The water is hot so it was a sheer delight.  Some of the low bushes were starting to turn red at the end of the field. 

It was a busy weekend.  #1 son drove up with his family, for a visit with cousins and to take in the hike and Farmer's Market and Art in the Forest and a concert one evening with the group Whitehorse.  They were all impressed with the music, and I got children to play with all by myself.  The first afternoon we were taken on a tour on ATVs around the second, new homestead they bought, and stopped at one of the small chain of lakes to see the wood duck boxes and beaver lodges.

The Art in the Forest walk is always a delight on a sunny Autumn day.
The ruby high-heeled slipper made out of glass beads fascinated Jacklyn.
On Saturday we went to Minden to take in an art installation actually about the 4 horsemen of the Apocolypse, but it started with 4 horse rides for a quarter a turn.  We used to ride these as children whenever possible when we went shopping with boring parents.
They even insisted that I do it again and it was good for a laugh.  Silly old lady.

Dave and Cheryl led one of the 31 hikes going on around the area that weekend.  Their hike took 2 hours and toured only their own two homesteads which are much larger than the original settlers land grants.  They have cleared trails with a bush hog as their land is also used by a local dog sledding group and a cross-country ski group.  The property has an interesting history for the hikers to stop and talk about.  Irish/Scottish/English/European peasants were so happy to be given their own chunk of land to till and keep a cow and fowl to help them survive.  Now all that is left of most of them is rock walls between fields, holes where the basements and wells were, and a few implements rotting in the severe weather.  It is rocky soil with some field patches and a hardscrabble way to stay alive, even if better than what they left in Europe.  Most moved on eventually to the richer soil of the prairies or to jobs in local villages

Dana and her third cousin, Ayla, had a great time together for 3 days.  The last evening Dana was a little sad, knowing this was her last campout with us for a long time.  Here she is trying to be brave but I had little tears forming too. 

The next day we drove away with Willie Nelson blasting out our RV windows as we crawled down the gravel drive, "On the Road Again".   We camped that night about 5 hours drive away at Nippissing Lake.  I captured a rainbow after a rainstorm.  I hoped that is a good omen for our trip home.