Author Archive

Harlan: Snakes and Horses – Chapter 3 of 6

Written by Harold McNeill on October 12th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Red Sided Garter Snake

Photo (Web) This red sided garter snake along with hundreds of other species can be found by the thousands across the prairies. The snakes are great for scaring people.

Link to Next Post: Hunting Crows
Link to Last Post: Interesting History
Link to Family Stories Index

Early Summer, 1949

One thing that is etched in my memory from our months in Harlan was the millions (perhaps trillions) of ‘garter snakes’ that thrived in the grass and bush land throughout the area. Most of these little snakes measured between 8” and 18” in length and although not poisonous, they could sit back, hiss and flit with the best of their forked tongue relatives.

While many people have a built in aversion to snakes (probably stemming from that incident in Garden of Eden), Stan and I had no such qualms. We took great pleasure in chasing down those slithering, twisting, hissing and flitting reptiles, grabbing them by the tail and putting them in a pail or box for ‘later’ use. That use usually involved chasing the girls at home and school.

(1825)

Harlan: A Tragic History – Chapter 2 of 6

Written by Harold McNeill on October 12th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Memorial at Frog Lake

Photo (Frog Lake Memorial):  One man who died was the John Delany, the Grandfather of my Aunt Hazel (wife of my mom’s brother Melvin Wheeler), all part of the interesting history of our family.

Link to Next Post: Snakes
Link to Last Post: Old School House (First of Part IV)
Link to Family Stories Index

Early Spring, 1949

While our home a Marie Lake, Alberta, (20 miles north of Cold Lake) was nestled within the pristine beauty of the lakes and evergreen forests dotting Northwestern Alberta, Harlan District was spread out along fields and poplar forests that gently rose from the northern banks of the North Saskatchewan River.  Situated just inside the Saskatchewan side of the border with Alberta, the community was less than ninety miles south-southeast of Cold Lake. Today it remains a small farming community not much changed from that time Louise and I lived there for a few months in 1949.

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Martineau River: Hauling Logs and Ice – Chapter 2 of 5

Written by Harold McNeill on October 10th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


 Hauling Ice and Logs

Photo (Cold Lake History on Web): Cutting, hauling and storing ice was a yearly ritual at a time when refrigerators consisted of an insulated box filled with ice.

Link to Next Post:  A Winter Dash to the Hospital
Link to Last Post: Martineau River Logging Camp (Start of Part II)
Link to Family Stories Index

Winter, 1945

My stomach was churning and my head splitting. I did not say anything to Uncle Tonnie but I could feel my stomach pushing into my throat. Suddenly, Uncle Tonnie stopped the truck. I fumbled with the door handle and as soon as it opened, I jumped out. When the cold winter air hit me I bent over and threw up on the pure white snow that lined the side of the road.

I heaved again and again and again, not even able to catch my breath. I thought I was going to choke to death. On the other side of the truck, Uncle Tonnie was bent over emptying the contents of his stomach.

Finally, after what seemed forever, my heaves began to subside and I was able to breath. I looked down and the new plaid shirt and wool breaches Santa had given me for Christmas were wet. When I saw small chunks of food stuck to the heavy, wool fabric, I stared to cry. Through my tears I told Uncle Tonnie: “I want to go home to mom.” Tonnie walked me over to the house.

(1371)

Martineau River: A Winter Dash to the Hospital – Chapter 3 of 5

Written by Harold McNeill on October 9th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Dr. E.M. Savage

Photo (Cold Lake Hospital Files).  Dr. Savage was the difference between life and death as my sister lay critically ill.

Link to Next Post:  Wolves in the Wilderness
Link to Last Post: Hauling Logs and Ice
Link to Family Stories Index

Martineau River – Deep Winter, 1945

In early February, things took a dangerous turn. Mom clearly remembered the day:

“Louise became very ill.  She was running a high fever and after a few hours was going into convulsions. She was so little and helpless. Dave and I knew we had to get her to the hospital in Cold Lake as quickly as possible. About 5:00 am, Dave talked it over with Tonnie and both were worried the roads from the Camp to the north side of Cold Lake would be blocked with drifting snow as no one had driven to town recently. They felt, however, the ice road across the lake would be OK as it was regularly ploughed. She continued:

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Fight for Survival – A Canoe Trip Turns Deadly

Written by Harold McNeill on October 2nd, 2010. Posted in Adventure


Marie Creek

Photo: The calm expanse spreading before us belied the trecherous waters that lay beyond.

Saturday, June 7, 1997

Over the roar of the surging water, I hollered to Lynn, “Drop your paddle, grab a tree root and hold on hard or we’re going over.”

In the bow, Lynn turned. She had been holding her paddle against a tree stump to keep us clear but we were broadside in the creek and rocking badly. Her face was ashen – we were in immanent danger of being thrown into the raging water.

The same direction was given to Sean who was gripping the centre yoke so tight his knuckles had turned white, “Sean, slide over, grab that root and help your mom.”

My voice must have conveyed the urgency, for as frightened he was, he did exactly as told, something he was not always prone to do. Trapped in the stern, just a few feet from the root, my paddle was less than useless. If we didn’t manage to break free and swamped, well…

(1370)

Marie Lake: A Final Farewell – Chapter 11 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on September 28th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Picnic on Marie Lake

Photo (by Mom): Mr. Goodrich (L), Louise, Dad (C) and I prepare for lunch while Dad and Mr. Goodrich were doing some work along the lake. It would be our last summer in that idyllic setting.

Link to Next Post: Old School House (The start of Part IV)
Link to Last Post: Winter Trip to Cold Lake
Link to Family Stories Index

Early Spring, 1949

On the final day, as we were about to leave in the boat, a small seaplane circled lazily overhead. Then, to our surprise, it landed in front of our home and taxied in. While I had seen a few seaplanes around Cold Lake, none had ever landed at Marie Lake and I had never been close to one. 

(1753)

McNeill Life Stories and Joomla Going their Separate Ways

Written by Harold McNeill on June 20th, 2013. Posted in Index to Posts


Dear Friends,

Due to irreconcilable differences, McNeill Life Stories and the Joomla platform upon which it was built, will be going their separate ways with the separation agreement becoming effective around the middle of July, 2013.

Since its humble beginnings in 2010, McNeill Life Stories has grown to host a collection of nearly 200 short stories, editorials, travelogues and miscellaneous posts which have attracted over 300,000 visitors.

Harold feels his way into new blogging territory.

While there was a concerted effort to work out the differences between the two parties, it became evident the two had grown apart when Joomla announced it was moving forward with Version 2.5 without providing any linkage back to Version 1.5, the platform upon which the blog was built. Many thousands of similarly affected partners were simply left in the lurch. For Joomla, it seems the ‘five year itch’ kicked in earlier than expected.

In consultation with Sean McNeill of McNeill Solutions, a decision was made to move forward with a new Word Press platform, one that Sean has been successfully using over the past few years. The staff at Media One, who created the original site, have been most helpful in facilitating the change.

While several challenges have yet to be overcome, it appears the task will be accomplished without the loss of any information currently contained on the site.

Blog post links, such as those which appear on Google and in other directories, must be manually transformed to reflect the new site parameters. This is a labour intensive task in which each link must be manually transformed to the new site parameters.

After going live, McNeill Solutions, will be tasked adding a number of new user interface options which will assist in navigating the site in order to make it more user friendly.

If, after all posts have been transferred, you notice a link that is not working, points to the wrong article or is otherwise in error, please leave a note in the comments section of the story or send an email to harold@mcneillifestories.com.

When the site goes live, a new series of detective stories, The MacLeish Chronicles, will make its debut. In the first story, A Matter of Principle, Detective Sergeant MacLeish and his partner Detective Bard, tackle a series of burglaries in which they match wits with an engaging young professional from the south-eastern United States.

We look forward to your continued engagement after the site transitions to its new home.

Harold and Lynn McNeill

(2287)

Marie Lake: Back to Hauling Logs – Chapter 9 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on September 17th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Bob sleigh with load

Photo (Cousin Helen Pylypow)  Uncle Denny Dewan with a load of logs.  During the early years many family members gained extra money by logging in the winter. My Dad did that for much of his life.  This story tells about the first experience Louise and I had in hauling logs on our own.

Link to Next Post:  Winter Trip to Cold Lake
Link to Last Post:  On Thin Ice
Link to Family Stories Index

Late Fall, 1948

Dad was behind in his work due to injuries suffered in car accident that summer. As winter was upon us, Louise and I asked if we would be allowed to cut and haul some fire wood, a job dad had usually completed by this time. The snow had arrived early that year and by mid-November, after Louise had turned five, there was nearly two feet on the ground in some places.

When we approached Dad said ‘OK’ but Mom, of course, was not all that thrilled with the idea. She had previously watched us haul manure for her garden and lumber for our playhouse, so I suppose she figured we could do it even if she did not like the idea of us heading off into the bush with the team of horses for a full day. 

(1521)

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  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.