Marie Lake: One Thin Ice

Written by Harold McNeill on September 16th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Truck on Thin Ice

Photo (From the photo files of a High School buddy,  Guy Venne).  This logging truck when through the ice just off the waterfront from the town of Cold Lake.  It was totally submerged in about 50 feet of water.  The photo here shows the final stage of the truck being lifted back onto the ice. The following story is about my Uncle, Warren Harwood, and his step-son, Emerson Dewan, facing a life or death situation when travelling across the thin ice of Marie Lake to visit our home.

Link to Next Post: Hauling Logs
Link to Last Post: Crash on Highway 28
Link to Family Stories Index

Fall, 1948

“For God’s sake Warren, you’ve gotta jump, the car’s going under!” Emerson hollered as he began to pull the door open.  “What to hell made him think he drive on thin ice.” he thought.

Driving at 30 mph, Warren could hardly see as water sprayed across the windshield. Emerson, standing on the running board, was soaked to the skin, freezing and afraid for his life. A few seconds later the engine flooded and as the car sputtered to a halt, the ice cracked and water began to spurt up through the cracks.

Outside, Emerson could see they were going under but couldn’t jump until he helped Warren out. As he pulled, Warren pushed and when part way out, a shard of ice jammed against the door. There was no way Warren’s short, stocky body could squeeze through.  Emerson pulled with all his might as the car slowly began to sink.

(1307)

Marie Lake: Crash on Highway 28 – Chapter 7 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on September 16th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


P1030254

Family Photos via Mom’s Photo Keepsakes (July, 1948).  I always remembered this photo and by good fortune on January 2, 2016, it magically appeared in a photo album my sister Dianne McNeill had preserved.  It now stands as the lead photo in this story of this accident that nearly killed our father, Dave McNeill and injured several others.  The photo was taken in the Cold Lake Hospital just before Dad was transferred to Edmonton for emergency surgery.

Photo (by Mom): Auntie Marcia, Louise and I stand beside geese shot by Mr. Goodrich our trapper neighbour. Dad love eating fresh cooked goose, but would have a tough time savouring these birds.

Link to Next Post: Link to On Thin Ice
Link to Last Post: Link to My Best Friend
Link to Family Stories Index

 

July, 1948

In mid-July, our family made a regular visit to Cold Lake to buy groceries and other supplies. Heading into town was a big event as it meant visiting family and a chance to play with other kids, not something we had a chance to do very often. There would also be a lively party at someone’s home and while the men didn’t drink much while working in the bush, they made up for lost time when they hit town.

Dad with FiddleIt took men many decades for men to learn that when it came to getting home safely after over consuming at a party, horse drawn wagons or sleighs gave a much better bet of arriving in one piece.  Cars, in a hands of a drunk driver, were much more deadly.

Photo (mom’s files): Harold with guitar, u/k male and female, mom with frying pan, Louise in front of mom, not sure if the man is Uncle Emerson (Dewan) but also looks like Uncle Denny (Helen Pylypow’s dad), and dad with the violin.  All standing in from of our home on the West side of Marie Lake.

At 10:30 one evening, after drinking for several hours at the Grand Centre Hotel,  eight men pilled into old Chevy Coupe and headed to Cold Lake to catch the last call. Uncle Warren, man furthest to the left in the lead photo, was a front seat, right side passenger and as the car hurtled down the long hill leading into Cold Lake hollered: “Lee, for Christ sakes slow down, there’s a turn at the bottom of the hill.”  This bit of information came from Uncle Warren some time later as he had not been drinking as much as the others and had been watching the road closely as Lee (Hobbs?) always tended to drive far to fast particularly when drinking. 

(1575)

Hunting Crows in Harlan Saskatchewan

Written by Harold McNeill on September 2nd, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Crow attacks child

Photo (Web):  As most realize, crows are one of the smartest birds on the earth. They work hard to protect each other and would never hesitate to attack someone who has either hurt one of their own or is damaging their property.  Such was the fate of my cousin Stanley and I as we went about trying to destroy one of their nests.

Link to Next Post: Link to Movie
Link to Last Post:  Snakes
Link to Family Stories Index

Spring, 1949

“You better check those limbs carefully Stan or one is going to break and you’re gonna take one helluva fall.” I commented, as Stan and I climbed another ten feet up the dead poplar. A pile of dead brush and rocks circled the tree about twenty feet below.

(1293)

Harlan: The Old School House – Chapter 1 of 6

Written by Harold McNeill on September 2nd, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


harlan-school-harlan-sk.-1949

Photo (from Web): The  Harlan Shool House sits today as it did in the ’20s,’30s and ’40s. That could easily be my cousin Stan and I standing by the school.

Link to Next Post: Interesting History
Link to Last Post: A Final Farewell  (The last of Part III)
Link to Family Stories Index

Early Spring, 1949

We arrived at the school early that morning, but dad stayed in the car. Getting the kids enrolled was a job better suited to women and mom seldom choose to question dad’s decisions. As for me, there was no question I was more than a little scared, as I had never before set foot inside a schoolroom. All the kids at the school had been in class since last fall, were nearly finished for the year and were looking forward to the summer holidays. Other than Betty and Stan, Louise and I did not know a single person.

Five minutes later, my worst nightmare came to pass. I was assigned to Grade 1. “What in hell did I do to deserve this?” I am eight years old and they are putting me Grade 1 with all these little kids, even with my baby sister and she is not even supposed to be going to school yet.” This was definitely unfair.

(1983)

Marie Lake: A Winter Trip to Cold Lake – Chapter 10 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on August 25th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Shep Pulling Harold

Photo (by Mom).  Shep and I head out across Marie Lake one fine winter day, we would have to travel about 5 miles across Marie Lake, 4 miles through bush and then another 10 miles across Cold Lake before arriving at our destination.  Mom was not a happy camper when Dad told her what he needed Shep and me to do.

Link to Next Post:  A Final Farewell (The end of Part III)
Link to Last Post:  Hauling Logs
Link to Family Stories Index

January 1949

“Mush!” I hollered with all the presnce my eight your old voice could muster. At the same moment I kicked off the toboggan with one foot expecting Shep to hit the traces. Not to be!  He just stood there, his feet firmly planted in the snow, refusing to move.  The toboggan hit the back of his legs, he yelped and I fell flat on my face into the hard crusted snow. Ouch!

I looked up red faced as my trusty companion Shep turned and cocked his ears as if to say:  “Mush? Mush? What the hell are you talking about?  I’m not just some ordinary sled dog, so don’t start getting all uppity with me. The next thing you will be calling ‘gee’ and ‘haw’. Not gonna happen buddy! Now try to get this straight, ‘we-are-partners’ in this adventure, not master and slave!”

Properly chastened, I tried again: “Ok, Shep old buddy, let’s hit it!”  This time he hit the harness so quickly I nearly fell off the back of the toboggan. Not a great start, but we were off on our first solo cross country, a trip that mom vigorously opposed.

(1614)

Marie Lake: The Trapline – Chapter 5 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on August 25th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Marie Lake Harold and Louise with Wolf 1

Louise (4) and Harold (7) hold a large Silver Wolf that Mr. Goodrich (photo below) had shot earlier that fall. Wolf packs were very common in the area, but they seldom bothered any of the area residents as wild game was plentiful (Photo by Mom).

May 8, 2014.  This story is brought forward as it is the 7th birthday of our Grandson, Grayson Edward Walker.
Grayson, check out one of the things Grandpa was doing during his 7th year.

Link to Next Post: Link to My Best Friend
Link to Last Post: Link to Explosion
Link to Family Stories Index

Winter of 1948 – 1949

Suddenly Shep stopped dead in his tracks and stood perfectly still. The hair on his neck and back bristled as a soft, low growl emanated from deep within his throat. I scanned the bush – nothing. He continued to growl and slowly sniffed the air off to my right.

Suddenly I caught a wisp of two large silver-grey animals moving furtively through the trees about 100 feet off the trail. Wolves! No doubt the rest of the pack would be nearby.

Marie Lake Goodrich with Geese  by our Home2Everything Mr. Goodrich had told me about encountering a wolf or other predator flooded into my mind.

“Just keep walking and go about your business! Don’t run. Stand tall. Keep chatting – make some noise – fire a shot at a tree if you wish. The wolves have been well feed this winter so they are more afraid of you than you of them. Remember, a healthy, well fed wolf or bear will seldom attack a human.

‘Seldom attack?’ ‘Well fed?’ I certainly hoped so. At under four feet, even ‘standing tall’; I was not going to make much of an impression. As for the part ‘they are more afraid of you than you of them!’ there is no way on God’s green earth, one of those big, silver-grey wolves could possibly be more afraid of me. It probably didn’t help that mom had been reading all those ‘big bad wolf stories’ when I was a little boy.

Photo: (by mom):  I do not have any photos of Mr. Goodrich hunting big animals, but in this photo he stands holding his shotgun in front of our house. Beside him is several geese he had shot early one fall morning in 1948.

As for wolves, just the previous week Mr. Goodrich had killed a large male not many miles from my present location. He  also told us he had observed a kill site further north where the wolves had taken down a deer. Louise and I had held the skin of that large male and had to pull hard just to keep it to off the ground. It must have stretched six or seven feet from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail.

(1772)

Marie Lake: My Best Friend – Chapter 6 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on August 25th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Louise and Shep on Wagon

Photo (by Mom):  While was a good friend with who I spent considerable time exploring the wilderness around our home, by best friend was my little sister Louise. Together we spend hours building things, helping around the house and taking school lessons from mom.

Link to Next Post: Link to Crash on Highway 28
Link to Last Post: Link to The Trap Line
Link to Family Stories Index

1947 -1949

Life can be fragile, a fact our family had plenty of chances to learn – Louise nearly drying from a killer fungus, then, nearly drowning and mom’s injury from the explosion.

The coming summer, to be our last at Marie Lake, would find dad left for dead in the Cold Lake Hospital. That fall, Uncle Warren and Cousin Emerson would stare down the grim reaper on the thin ice of Marie Lake, the lake that had nearly taken Dad, Aunt Marcia, Louise and me to the bottom.

It was a time when Louise and I would be drawn more closely together than at any time in our lives, before or after. While our dog Shep played a prominent role in my young life, I would have to say that Louise grew to be my very best friend over the two short years at Marie Lake. We played, worked, studied and planned new adventures and, Shep was close by our side. It was an all too brief interlude in our lives, a time when life stood still.

(1359)

Marie Lake: Easy Come, Easy Go – Chapter 4 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on August 25th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


 Pet Mink

Harold playing with his pet mink.

Link to Next Post:  Link to The Trap Line
Link to Last Post: Link to Explosion
Link to Family Stories Index

Spring, 1947

Shortly after arriving in Marie Lake, dad told me he wanted to see me down at the mink pens.  “Damn, what have I done now?” 1 I could think of plenty, but nothing down by the mink pens. At six, I had been known to get into ‘occasional’ mischief so I was worried as I followed mom and dad toward the pens.

In the enclosure, they walked toward the pen of a mink named “Kits”, a female who always produced large litters. At the Smith Place, dad had given special attention to Kits when she became sick. He and mom helped nurse her back to health and she had become ‘friendly’ but was far from being a pet. Dad could handle her without gloves but we kids never took a chance. We could let her out of her pen and she would stay nearby waiting for the scraps of food we always kept handy.  Kits came to Marie Lake with dad’s share of the stock.

They stopped in front of Kit’s pen. Judgment Day!

(1823)

Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    March 19, 2019 |

    Hi Dave. Not that I am aware and I have a fairly comprehensive family tree for the McNeill side of the family. I will pull it up and scan. Cheers, Harold. Great chatting with you and I will give Ben a nudge.

  • Dave Cassels

    March 16, 2019 |

    Were you related to Guy McNeill who owned the Bruin Inn in St. Albert in the late 40’s or early 50’s? Guy was a close friend of my father-in-law who was the first President of the Royal Glenora Club. My phone number is 780 940 1175. Thank you.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 15, 2019 |

    So glad you found the story and enjoyed. Indeed, they were memorable times. I did a fair amount of searching but never managed to contact any of the Murffit kids. However, it was neat to make contact with the Colony and someone I knew from back in the day. I have enjoyed writing these stories from back in the 1940s and 50s and have made contact with a lot of friends from those early years. I will give you a call over the weekend. Cheers, Harold

  • Yvonne (Couture) Richardson

    March 7, 2019 |

    I enjoyed your story. I too, lived in Pibroch in 1951, as my parents owned the hotel there. I was a very close friend of Bonnie Murfitt at the time. I moved to Edmonton in 1952, however, and have not seen her since. I would like to be in touch with you to talk about your story. My email is listed above and my phone number is 780-475-3873.

  • Laureen Kosch/Patry

    March 5, 2019 |

    I grew up in Pibroch and would not trade those years for anything. “ Kids don’t know how to play anymore” Never was a truer statement made. During the summer we were out the door by 8am, home for lunch, and back when it got dark. For the most part our only toys were our bikes and maybe a baseball mitt. I will never forget the times when all the kids got together in “Finks field” for a game of scrub baseball. Everybody was welcome, kids from 8 to 18. I didn’t know it then but I guess I had a childhood most dream of. Drove thru town last summer. It all looked a lot smaller.

  • Harold McNeill

    January 13, 2019 |

    Well, my dear, it’s that time again. How the years fly by and the little ones grow but try as you may you will have a hard time catching up to your Daddy. Lots of love young lady and may your day be special
    Love, Dad

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Guess what? My response went to the Spam folder. Hmm, do you suppose the system is trying to tell me something?

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Thanks, Terrance. Your comment came through but went to the Spam folder. Have pulled it out and approved. Can you send another on this post to see if you name is now removed from Spam? I’m not sure why it does that. Cheers, Harold

  • Terrance

    January 5, 2019 |

    A VERY COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS. ALL POLITICIANS SHOULD READ THIS.

  • Harold McNeill

    December 23, 2018 |

    Thanks Sis. I will be uploading as Hi-Def so the photos can be viewed full screen. Brother