Grayson Chronicles: Part IV

Written by Harold McNeill on October 22nd, 2012. Posted in Adventure


Photo: Off to the Rodeo

Above is one of the many photos that Grandpa snapped as we travelled from the
Battleford Campground, through north-central Saskatchewan and finally south-west to Calgary, Alberta.
In this photo, taken at the Medicine Hat Rodeo (Chapter 43), the cowboy looking down was perhaps thinking he should rope his partner instead of the steer.  The flag (held by the other cowboy to the far right)
came down at the very moment the first cowboy had completed hog tying his partner. I’m not
sure whey the decided to change from one event to another, but, I suspect, these two will have
to work out some of the kinks in their roping routine before they try again. I bet that steer had
a good laugh as he stormed by the fallen and hog tied rider.

Introduction

Part IV of the Grayson Chronicles is now complete.  In this part we will continue our trip through Saskatchewan and back into Alberta.  Along the way we shall attempt to rescue a down and out relative from the clutches of the Saskatchewan Penitentiary, travel to Birch Hills to visit the farm where Bjorn’s father worked after emigrating to Canada, then, while on the highway back to our way campground, pass a woman just as she drove her car into her boyfriend the fled the scene.

After getting into all this trouble in PA, we head south to again follow the trail of Louis Riel to Batoche, his famous last stand. From there we head to Rosthern where we will buy Taber Corn that isn’t from Taber and BC Cherries that are not from BC.   Following this we continue south to a beautiful section of the South Saskatchewan River known as Diefenbaker Lake were we set up camp for a couple of days of R&R before heading onward to the Cyprus Hills Provincial Park, an immense section of land that straddles Saskatchewan, Alberta and the State of Montana.

After taking in a block buster rodeo in Medicine Hat, the final stop, after visiting a number of Stonehenge type monuments in the fields east of Calgary, we will drop in for a wonderful visit with a number of family members who call Calgary home.  I wonder if they know about these monuments?

We hope you will enjoy the 14 Chapters of this section.

Link Here for Part 1 of the Grayson Chronicles

Link Here for Part ii of the Grayson Chronicles

Link Here for Part III of the Grayson Chronicles

 30. Grayson Diary: My Car Seat – My second Home

As we were off and running earlier this morning, Grandpa had my clothes all set.  As soon as I opened my eyes, I could see Grandpa smiling and Bjorn busy over the stove finishing off the bacon and pancakes.  It only took me seconds to get dressed as I slid through my clothes onto the floor.  Within thirty minutes we had finished breakfast, cleaned up the dishes, hooked up the trailer and finished our last minute pre-flight checks, something Grandpa always did before every trip. I jumped in, did up my seat belt just as Grandpa added power for the take-off run.

It was about a three hour drive to Prince Albert so I just let my mind wander. I don’t know why, but I love sitting in my car seat and watching the world pass by.  I can wile away hour after hour watching the scenery, clouds and occasional farm while listening to Grandpa and Bjorn chat (well Bjorn did most of the talking except when he was driving, then it was Grandpa’s turn while Bjorn drove). Most of all, I just loved tuning into my own thoughts.  Sometimes I would talk out loud (to myself of course) or sing a song. It all just seemed to whelm up within me.

Because Grandpa wears hearing aids, he would sometimes ask me:  “What did you say Grayson.”  I would respond with “Nothing Grandpa, just singing) a song.”   Grandpa would say “Ok” then I would continue with whatever I was doing until a little later Grandpa would ask the same question and I would give the same answer.

Of course, having just left Glaslyn two days before, another thing I could not help but do was think about Krista. Oh well, that was then…

You know what’s funny? During the entire trip, I never watched television, never went to a movie and never once even thought about it even though Mom had thoughtfully packed my portable CD player and movies and they were in a bag right at my feet.

The other time that I can easily wile away an hour or two, is when I go to bed.  About 9:00 pm each evening, after I had my bowl of cereal and brushed my teeth, I would lay in bed while Grandpa and Bjorn played a game of crib and Uncle Jay had his last cigarette after his last cigarette. I would just bop around, sing songs, talk and, as Grandpa stated, “act like just like Tigger”.  Of course Grandpa should not cast any stones.

A funny thing happened one night when Grandpa was really tired and had fallen asleep beside me.  I started shaking him and asking him questions. He would wake up a little, groggily answer in a snippy way and then again fall to sleep. After a half hour of my questions he seemed to catch a second breath and then he wouldn’t let me go to sleep.  Every time I closed my eyes, he would shake me to wake me up and then ask me some silly question.  After about a half hour, even when I was getting a bit testy, he still kept asking.  I guess he finally figured I got the point so he stopped bugging me and I fell asleep.  The next evening when I was talking to mom, I told her how Grandpa wouldn’t let me go to sleep the previous evening.  She just laughed and stated she could totally understand why Grandpa might do that.

I suppose most of the time, when I am awake at least, I always have so many interesting things on my mind that I just can’t keep them all contained.  An hour later we arrived in Prince Albert and started looking for a campground. The trip seemed to take about ten minutes.

31. Grayson Diary:   Break-out – Saskatchewan Penitentiary

Our first afternoon in Prince Albert found us walking around downtown as there were a lot of bands were playing and other celebrations taking place, probably Prince Albert days or something.

Prince Albert is a nice little city with friendly people, but it does show the wear and tear of a community that has seen better days. Perhaps, with all the new found natural resources in Northern Saskatchewan, it will once again become a thriving centre.

Grandpa said he had only been here only once before and that was for only a few hours when he and his friend Aaron Pinsky had flown sister, my Auntie Louise, here to visit with Auntie Shawna who was going to school in PA at the time.  Bjorn said he had also been here only once since lived her in the 1950s, with the second time to attend a National Archeological Convention.

As we wandered around, I found a face painting booth in the town centre were the main celebrations were taking place so I asked Grandpa if he wanted a mask to match his red hair.  Of course he said “sure” and soon we were both sporting black, batman masks. We now fit right in with the other kids and even though Grandpa was older he often acted like a kid.

After having had something to eat we decided to split and as it was still early, Bjorn asked if we had ever seen the Saskatchewan Federal Penitentiary. We thought it a great idea, so we were off. I mean why not, that was probably the #I tourist destination in Prince Albert as a lot of people have paid a visit to that place (one way or another).

With Grandpa and Bjorn sitting in the front seat we made several wrong turns and became hopelessly lost (again). What’s new? Grandpa decided to ask a group of young native men for directions.  Of course Grandpa was not satisfied just asking for directions, he had to make it into a story.  When the guys came up beside the car, Grandpa, in his black mask and me in mine, asked the men:  “Hey guys, could you give us directions to the Saskatchewan Penitentiary?  My Grandson, son and friend here want to see if we can break an old buddy out of jail.” The guys looked at the old man sporting the batman mask and started laughing. They gave us the direction and left, perhaps not knowing if the old guy might be dangerous.

Ten minutes later we entered the expansive property of the Penitentiary, a forbidding building sitting on the south bank North Saskatchewan River. As Grandpa drove slowly along the public road between the river and the Pen, he occasionally stopped to snap a picture. At some point a big, black car with smoked glass windows began following and when we pulled over, the car pulled over. We figured we might be in trouble although we had not seen any signs telling us we could not drive in this area. Like that would make a big difference to Grandpa as ne never reads such signs as they might warn him he could not do something he wanted to do, but would do anyway. So why bother reading the sign.
.
When Grandpa pulled over to snap more pictures next to the river, the car pulled up much closer and stopped but no one got out. Grandpa jumped out of car, started taking pictures and when no one got out of the other car, he just walked over and knocked on the passenger window. We could see Grandpa talking and then start laughing.

When he came back to our car told us it was prison guard and that the guard told Grandpa that we were not allowed to take pictures of the Penitentiary except for the little gun emplacement where we were now parked. Grandpa said he told the guard that was OK as it was very likely there were hundreds of pictures of the Penitentiary on Google Pictures. The guard agreed, but said “rules are rules.”  I guess it takes a long time to change stupid rules.

Well fortunately Grandpa did not get arrested with his batman mask, red hair and all, so I guess the guard just decided to give the weird, old guy a free pass. Maybe Grandpa had flipped his old police badge which he had said he only “carried for little emergencies that might just pop up.” Grandpa also said it was great getting older as you can do exactly as you want, not like when you are young and have to do what everyone else tells you to do.  Funny, I have never found that to be a problem as most of the time I also do just what I like.

As for pictures of the Penitentiary, the next day when Grandpa did a Google search found a lot of pictures of Penitentiary, with many posted on Government of Canada Web sites. I wonder if Grandpa will write a letter to the Pen people and advise them they need to update their rules.

Parole Board of Canada Pictures of Canadian Penitentiary’s:  http://pbc-clcc.gc.ca/victims/photos/Prairie/sp_1-eng.shtml

Link to Photo Album  For Chapters 30 – 33

32. Grayson Chronicles: Bjorn’s First Home in Canada

Part of the reason for travelling to Prince Albert was to look at few of the places where Bjorn, when he was about 12 years, lived with his parents his family when they emigrated from Norway.  Our first stop was an older, well kept home near the centre of the city a short distance from the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River. It is now occupied by two women who have covered the entire yard with beautiful gardens. On speaking with the two women working in the yard, Bjorn learned they now owned the house which has become a landmark in the area and is a designated heritage site. They told him there are even several pictures in the Prince Albert Museum which provides the history of the house.

Photo: Sixty years earlier, the Simonsen kids, Kaare (13), Bjorn (12), Wenke (8) and Helge (4) spent many hours playing in the back yard of this house on 12th Street West. The home was built sometime in the 1920’s.

It was really neat to see Bjorn wandering around the house and gardens that was such a big part of his first experience of living in Canada.  He told us that when he arrived, he could not speak English and although there was a large, supportive Norwegian community in Prince Albert, it was still hard get used to living in another country where a another language was spoken.

When Bjorn’s parents took him to sign up for school, they put him all the way back Bjorn in Grade 1 because he could not speak English. In Norway, he had been in Grade 5. He spent the first few months working hard to learn English and by the end of that year he had been promoted to and completed Grade 2. I suppose he must have been a smart kid as the next year he was promoted back to repeat Grade 5 and by the time he graduated when living in Wally, BC, he had caught up with his age group.

The next morning we drove out to the Birch Hills farms where Bjorn’s father helped to build two grain elevators, both still owned by members of the Hesjdal family whose parents were among the early settlers in the area. Today those elevators look almost exactly as they did when Bjorn’s dad helped to build them back in the early 1950s. Unfortunately, no one was home at either farm so we could not talk to the families.

On our way back to Prince Albert, we stopped in the small community of Birch Hills to see if we could find the couple with whom Bjorn’s dad worked, but they were out somewhere and could not be reached. Instead we stopped for lunch at one of the Mom and Pop cafes you can always find in these small towns.  We had just got out of the car and into the café when a cloud burst broke that seemed like it might wash the entire town away.

Bjorn, Grandpa, Jay and I always liked going into these small places, as the people are so friendly and we could always find someone to sit with and chat with. For myself, it seems to me that older people like sitting and chatting with a five year old who is interested in what they do.  At one point, I even walked into the kitchen and talked to the chief cook and bottle washer to see what she might scare me up for lunch. I even told her about my dad being a chef in Kamloops to help break the ice. I can’t remember what she suggested for lunch, but I do remember it was very good.  That the people in these little towns are all so friendly and helpful is really neat. I like that.

Link to House and Family Photos and Elevator.

33. Grayson Diary:  Boyfriend down, but not out.

On our return to Prince Albert and while driving south on the divided highway toward our campground, we spotted a car stopped on the side of the highway at a point where high water was almost onto the roadway.  Grandpa slowed down and we watched, after seeing a man standing on the side and woman behind the wheel of the car.

After driving by Grandpa and picking up speed, Grandpa was still watching in the mirror when he suddenly exclaimed to Bjorn:  “Holly cow, the woman just ran over the guy on the road, phone 911”.  While Bjorn was phoning, Grandpa explained that as the man was starting to walk away from the car along the side of the highway, the woman suddenly sped forward, hit the man. He bounced up on the hood, hit the windshield, then slid off onto the shoulder of the road. The woman just kept driving and was soon passing us as we had slowed right down to see what would happen.

We could not go back as the road was a freeway and traffic was travelling very fast, so Grandpa just pulled in behind the woman and started to follow her while Bjorn spoke to the 911 Operator.  Grandpa said he could see the man had crawled back out of the ditch, was his feet and was limping along the edge of the highway.

A couple of kilometers down the road the woman turned left, crossed the inbound lanes to a side access road and started to drive back toward Prince Albert.  Grandpa continued to follow at a respectful distance while Bjorn spoke to first the 911 Operator and then to an RCMP member.   As we entered the city limits, Bjorn was still talking to the police trying to give our location when the woman pulled over and stopped.  Grandpa stopped behind her just as she got out and started walking back demanding to know why we were following her.

Grandpa told her it was because she ran into a man on the highway to which she responded:  “Well, he is always hitting me and when we stopped on the highway back there arguing, he took my cell phone and threw it in the slough. I was mad at him when he did that so I just ran into him with my car. I didn’t hurt him.”

About that time Bjorn handed the phone to Grandpa who then spoke briefly to the RCMP officer and then handed the phone to the woman who spoke to the officer.  As we listened the woman told a story that was pretty close to what happened and the police officer obviously told her to stay put until he arrived.  She then handed the phone back to Grandpa.   Grandpa told the officer that what the woman had told her was pretty much what happened and also that it did not appear that the woman was drunk.

Grandpa then told the officer where we were staying and that he could get hold of us if he needed anything else.  As soon as the police car arrived, we left and headed back to the campground.  The most exciting things always happen when you hang around with Grandpa and Bjorn.

Link to Photo Album  For Chapters 30 – 33

34. A Visit to the National Heritage site at Batoche 

The next morning we pulled the pin in Prince Albert and headed south. As we headed south on Highway, we noticed two of RCMP and a Canada Penitentiary car following us at a discreet distance. Grandpa guessed they just wanted to make sure we were in fact leaving town. It seems no matter where Grandpa and Bjorn travel they always seem to draw a lot of heat. Prince Albert was no different.

We had intended to camp near the National Monument at Batoche, but when we arrived found the nearest camp ground was about 70 km further south in Rosthern.  As we did not want to make a return trip to Rosther, we decided to tour around the Batoche for a few hours looking as some important points in the history of Canada, then continue south. Batoche was the last stand made my Louis Riel and his follows as the Metis and First Nations people sought to regain some control over their destiny:

Painting (from Web, link below) “Fire, in the name of the Father! Fire, in the name of the Son! Fire, in the name of the Holy Ghost!” Louis Riel, armed with a crucifix, led his followers in the Northwest Rebellion, which culminated with the Battle of Batoche from May 9-12, 1885. Fewer than 300 Métis and First Nations people led by Riel and Gabriel Dumont faced the 800-strong North West Field Force, commanded by Major-General Frederick Middleton.”  (For more of the history Link Here).

Link to Photos of Rosthern and Batoche 

35. Taber Corn and BC Cherries

Later, after finding and then registering at a campground on the outskirts of Rosthern, Grandpa and I headed into town to pick up a few supplies.  We stopped at roadside stand selling fresh “Taber” corn, a very popular item in the prairies. From this point I quote Grandpa’s conversation as he joked around with the young woman tending the stand:

Grandpa: “Taber corn eh, I heard it is really good, but I didn’t think Taber corn was yet in season!”

Woman (laughing): “Well, it isn’t. This is not Taber corn, but roadside stands always advertise it as Taber corn as it sells better. This corn is form the US. Not my idea, my boss just tells me what signs to display.”

The two of them continued to laugh and joke around as there were no other customers at that moment.

Grandpa: “BC Cherries? Hmm, I’m from BC and I’m pretty sure these cherries are not from BC!”

Woman (again laughing):  “Right again, these cherries are also from the US as the boss gets a good deal on them, calls them B.C. Cherries and  they all sell like hot cakes. You know, it’s funny, not many people even question were this produce comes from, they just buy it.”

Grandpa looked around at other items in the produce and items listed as ‘home canned’ and questioned the origin. He learned nearly all were US imports.  The young woman explained it was just her job to sell the produce, not question the boss about how he wanted it advertised. Besides, people went away happy and that was important.

Grandpa: “I bet if you started selling Yukon banana’s and Nunuvet oranges, they would become hot items.

Woman (still laughing): “Probably, people will believe anything. I’ll mention the banana and orange thing to my boss, he might like the idea.”

When a few people started to show up, Grandpa and I headed out and after filling up with gas and picking up a pack of smokes (made in the USA) for Uncle Jay, we headed back to the campground. Grandpa dropped me off near the entrance where I had noticed a number of kids playing on a long Zip Line. Grandpa told me to check it out while he parked the car and came back on his bike.

As soon as I climbed the hill and the wooden structure at the Zip Line launch, I realized I could not go down as I was too short to catch the handle bar. I thought I better wait until Grandpa came back.  As I waited there were several kids, all a bit older and taller, having a great time zipping down the 100 meters to the bottom and then back up the other side.  What was really strange – was there were no any adults in attendance.

When Grandpa returned, he climbed up, checked it out, and then talked to the other kids. All were having such a great time, so Grandpa hoisted me up and off I went.  It was a lot of fun and pretty soon Grandpa gave it a try. Trust Grandpa to try anything at least once.

After that, between his turn going down, Grandpa ended up being the one to drag the pulley and rope back to the top as it was heavy slogging for the kids.  We must have spent an hour swishing down the slope and up the other side.  Sometimes a dog belonging to one of the kids would chase us as we neared the ground at the bottom and then headed up the other side.

It was another fun day of kicking around the parks, campgrounds, highways and byways of Western Canada with Grandpa.

Grandpa Note:  Can you imagine, a Zip Line in a kids playground, being used without adult supervision.  Even kids younger than Grayson were being helped on the line by older kids, the zipping down the line. In this world of ‘bubble wrap’ kids, this was an unusual sight in a town administered facility.  I don’t recall seeing another in any of our travels.

36. Grayson Diary: Grandpa’s Memory Foam

Grandpa certainly likes to be comfortable when travelling. To make sure his bed had no hardness, lumps or bumps, he purchased two, three inch, pieces of memory foam. Man when I crawled in and the foam settled, I would almost disappear.

Photo: Me snuggled in and sound asleep. Do you know how  totally comfortable this was? Well, it was totally, awesomely, comfortable.

As you know from my previous notes, I was slow getting to sleep so Grandpa would often be sawing logs before I called it quits.  As I always slept a solid eight or nine hours without moving a muscle, Grandpa and Bjorn would always be awake by the time I roused from my slumber.

They would always laugh as I would sometimes end up wedged under my blankets between edge of the canvass and deep in the memory foam. They told me that one night I might totally disappear and they would have to rip it apart the foam to find me. Everyone just laughed.

Hey, who cares, I had the best sleeps every night with the flaps wide open and the wind blowing through to keep me cool.

37. Grayson Diary:  The Crust on my Bread

Bjorn never gave up telling me I had to eat the crust on my toast. Of course, I had a different opinion. Simply put, I don’t like the crust. I’m sure there are things that Bjorn doesn’t like, but I guess because he’s an adult he can pick and chose what he likes, but kids have eat what they are told to eat.

Well, it all worked out pretty good in the long run as Grandpa really likes the crust so between us we would clean up everything including the crumbs. Grandpa even offered to eat Bjorn’s crust.  Bjorn didn’t laugh, he said he likes the crust. I then offered him some of mine.

38. Grayson Diary:  Toilet Paper

This morning Bjorn and Grandpa got into it over Grandpa not having put a new roll if toilet paper on the roller.  Grandpa said he did not put one one because he did not know which way Bjorn wanted the roll to sit – over or under.  Hmm, I think these two need a break from each other. I stepped in, flipped a coin and put the roll on with the paper coming over off the top. Neither of them laughed.

39. Grayson Diary: On becoming a Farmer

It has become clear to me that becoming a farmer means not just learning a little bit about a lot of things, but learning a lot of things about everything.

Heavy equipment, crops, cattle, fields, the weather, yes, most certainly the weather, as every farmer we met talked about the weather. “Was it going to rain before they finished haying?” “Was it going to be so dry the other crops would suffer?” If it was raining this conversation was held over a coffee in the local coffee shop.

While Grandpa and Bjorn are not farmers, they seemed to know a ‘little’ bit about a ‘few’ framing things as they were always explaining something to me such as how oats, wheat, barely and other grain crops helped to feed the people of Canada and the world. As we travelled along, it was really beautiful how different crops filled the prairies with so many colours. Yellow, blue, green, brown, and hundreds of other shades covered thousands and thousands and thousands of acres.

Photo: Here I am inspecting some of the weeds along side a crop of barley. I believe Grandpa said this stuff is Fox Tail grass. The heads on this grass have beard’s that are very soft to the touch unlike that of the barley in the field.

I remembered that barely was one crop that Grandpa said he really hated cutting. Barley, he said, was covered with prickly tops – he called them ‘beards’ – that would stick in his socks, pants, shirt, and would make him itch all over during the long hot days of the fall harvest. I reminded Grandpa of the time he, Mom and I were hiking in the hills around Savona while looking for some stupid balancing rock and how our socks and shoes became filled with prickly beards from some kind of weed. We could hardly walk without getting prickled and we had spent the next several days picking those prickles’ out of our clothes, sock and shoes.  Grandpa laughed and said barley did exactly the same thing.

As we travelled further south, the land slowly began to change from the mixed farming with lots of trees where Uncle Leonard lived, to the vast grain fields of central Saskatchewan. Finally, the prairie became rolling hills where hundreds of cattle grazed.  As we could see forever, we could sometimes see a little twister, Grandpa called it ‘dust devil’, in the distance.  We had heard that this year many of these little dust devils sometimes turned into tornadoes which could do a lot of damage.

As we continued south we entered the valley of the South Saskatchewan River and a campground called Saskatchewan Landing. Suddenly we were again in a heavily treed area that was like an oasis in the desert.  This section of the river was very wide as a hydro electric dam had been built with the section behind the dam being called Diefenbaker Lake. I remembered seeing a statue of Mr. Diefenbaker in Prince Albert. I gather he must have been some kind of a hero in Saskatchewan. At the campground, it did not take me long to grab my bike and head out to the playground where I knew I would find a lot of kids wanting to play while Grandpa and Bjorn prepared dinner.

Photo: I don’t think Bjorn could quite understand the two idiots (that be my Grandpa and me, not Jay) that he was travelling with. Here we managed to get more spaghetti and meat sauce on our mouths than in our mouths. More than once Bjorn likely stayed awake at night wondering what we migth be contemplating for the next day. ps: That lettuce on the table is some we still had from Auntie Helen’s garden in Glaslyn.

If we had the time, Grandpa and Bjorn said they would like to stay here for a few days as we heard the fishing was good, the weather was great and it was just a beautiful like the one in which we had stayed at Jackfish Lake before heading to Prince Albert. Grandpa said he would like to stay here for a few days and rest up, but, unfortunately, time was eating away and we had to get back to BC in time to meet my Dad for another holiday that was planned. Also, my mom was getting pretty lonesome without me around to bug here.  The next morning we were off and running to a place called Cyprus Hills.

Photo (below): While Bjorn was driving, Grandpa captured this shot while coming off the bridge
that spans the South Saskatchewan River near the Saskatchewan Landing Campground.
The hills in the background were beautiful.
Link to Photos of Saskatchewan Landing

40. Cyprus Hills and a movie called “Pursuit of Honour”

As we neared a point near the Saskatchewan, Alberta and US border near Montana, we drove into an area called Cyprus Hills.  Although Grandpa and Bjorn said they had heard a lot of good things about the area, they had no idea what to expect.  They thought it might be a bit like the badlands in Alberta but were we ever surprised when we arrived. It was not long before the rolling prairie began to disappear as we began to climb into an area that looked more and more like British Columbia.

Photo (from Web). Tourists standing on Lookout Point.

At Lookout Point, we reached the highest point in Saskatchewan which, at 1500 meters (5000 feet), is the highest point in Canada between Labrador and the Rocky Mountains.  Although the entire area is called Cyprus Hills, there are no Cyprus trees. Rather strange don’t you think? Most of the big trees are much like those found in British Columbia. There is also a plentiful supply of Pine, but, thankfully, there were no signs of the dreaded Mountain Pine Beetle that has so devasted the forests around Kamloops and across central British Columbia all the way into Alberta.

This entire area was a big part of our history as the Indians of Canada and America travelled or lived in this area both in peace and conflicts that spread throughout the territory.  Cree, Assiniboine, Blackfoot, Atsina, Saulteaux, Crow and many others periodically called the Cyprus Hills home.  In one instance, the ongoing conflict lead to a number of Nakota people being killed in what became known as the Cyprus Hills Massacre. On one excursion into Canada, several Whiskey Traders, Bison Hunters, Wolfers (wolf hunters) and Metis frieghters from the Montana, came to believe the Nakota people had stolen a horse.  After a night of heavy drinking they attacked the Nakota camp and 23 Nakota people were killed along with a few of the attackers.

The Canadian Government, angry over these continued incursions over the 49th parallel and the resulting deaths, led to the formation of the Northwest Mounted Police as Canada sought to exercise greater control over the border with the US.  Combined with the Riel Rebellion in the north, it was during this period that present day Western Canada began to take shape.

Oh, I also Grandpa told us the movie “Pursuit of Honour”, about a group of men in the US Cavalry who were ordered to shoot hundreds of their horses, refused and, along with their horses, fled toward Canada and safety from other military pursuers.  It seems they entered Canada somewhere around the Cyprus Hills where they were met by the North West Mounted Police, who helped the men get the horses safely across.   Grandpa said it was a very good movie based upon a real life historical events.

Photo (above right from Web): The Frenchmen River flows south through the Cyprus Hills and eventually becomes the Milk River after crossing the 49th parallel into the United States (Montana). The river is one of the few that flows all the way south to the Mississippi Basin.

Well, enough history for now, I must continue to sort out my thoughts about Krista and whether I shall write her after I return to Victoria. Oh! Be still my beating heart.

41. Grayson Diary:  Heading to Medicine Hat

While nosing around the Saskatchewan Landing campground, Grandpa found a notice that the Medicine had Rodeo was running Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It would be an historic 150 year celebration which sounded like a really good idea. As we had been to some really good chuck wagon races in Bonnyville, we could now top it off with a Rodeo in Medicine Hat.

Nana, still back in Victoria holding down the Fort, got busy on the Internet and found a spot of one of the few remaining campsites right in the city, about five minutes from the Rodeo Grounds. Also, she told us that there were still plenty of tickets for Thursday night at $20 for adults and $10 for kids. Really, how good does it get?

After an easy drive from Cyprus Hills, our arrival about 3:00 pm gave us plenty of time to sit back and relax before the early evening event. As usual, after we set up camp, Grandpa and Bjorn settled down for a beer and game of crib while I hit out on my bike.

Photo: Later that evening Grandpa captured this action shot of a bronc rider at the Rodeo. 

It turned out this campground was mostly filled with giant fifth wheels and trailers and most were occupied by older people. No kids, no playground. Strange! Oh well, I just enjoyed riding my bike and chatting with people along the way as old people can often be just as interesting as kids and for some reason they just love hearing a five year old tell them of his adventures.

At one point when I passed by our campsite, Grandpa called out and I asked if he could check by the Campground Office to see if they had wireless and, if so, would I get the User Name and Password: “No problem Grandpa.”

42. Grandpa Diary:  Listen up Guy’s

When Grayson returned from his bike ride, Bjorn and I were engaged in a deep discussion about some ‘important’ aspect of world affairs. We never argued about anything of course.  I noticed Grayson ride up near the table, but never paid much attention.

Grayson (resting on his bike):  “Grandpa!”
No response, as Bjorn and kept talking to each other.
Grayson: “Grandpa, excuse me!”
No response.
Grayson: “Bjorn, excuse me!”
No response
Grayson: (another try)
Still no response
Grayson (loudly):   “Listen up guys”
Bjorn and I stopped talking, turned and gave Grayson our full attention.
Grayson:  “Listen, you guys asked me to get the password and I have it. Before I forget, it is “Snowbird” and the user name is the name of the park.  OK?” and off he went to do more exploring of the park.

Bjorn and I could hardly contain ourselves as this little guy has been most patient member of our touring group, but when he failed to get our attention by a reasonable interruption he quite forcefully and respectfully, got our attention.

OK Grayson, point taken, kids are people too.

43. Grayson Diary: Off to the Rodeo

Shortly after 6:00 pm, after purchasing a cowboy hat for Grandpa, we settled in our grandstands and the guys order a beer from a girl who looked very much like my cousin Candice in Cold Lake. I could swear she was flirting with me as she gave Grandpa, Jay and Bjorn their beer. When I looked at her my thoughts flashed quickly back to Krista and wondered if Krista was missing me as much as I was missing her.  Oh well, life moves on.

Photo: Grandpa, me, Bjorn and Jay in the Grandstands.  Uncle Jay refused to wear a cowboy hat as he just didn’t like them.  I guess Uncle Jay never realized that when we threw on those cowboy hat’s it drove the woman and girls crazy.  Oh well, Uncle Jay, your loss. 

The first excitement of the evening, and one which could have been tragic, was when the cowgirls while and intricate parade pattern with their horses and flags, somehow lost their timing and four girls, along with their horses collided and crashed to the ground.  There was a big scramble as the horses and riders clamored to their feet. It was amazing that none of the girls were hurt. While they had to delay everything for a few minutes while they settled the horses down and lined up again, after that everything went off without any hitch.

When Grandpa checked out the program he was hoping to find the name of one of our cousins in Saskatchewan, Matt Pick found that many of the contestants in the bronc riding, calf roping and bull riding were champions who had participated in Calgary Rodeo.  Given that at both the chuck wagon races in Bonnyville and at this rodeo in Medicine Hat, we were seeing many of the same competitors as at Calgary, we has we had ringside seats.

With the sun at our back and at centre field about 15 rows up the view was excellent and Grandpa got a lot a really good action photographs.  During breaks in the action, I spend a lot of time chatting with the people around me, something that just seems to come natural.

Oh, there was one accident during the bull riding when the rider was caught and the bull fell on him. Grandpa actually got a shot of the bull coming down on the man.  He was taken away by ambulance, but, we learned later, he was OK. Boy, he was one lucky man as you will see in the attached photographs.   After the last bull ride, the last event of the rodeo, I said goodbye to all my new friends in the grandstands and we headed back to the camp ground.

Oh, I forgot.  In between things happening in the show, Grandpa told me about another cowboy who is a shirt tail cousin of mine, a young man by the name of Matt Pick. He is the nephew of a cousin we met at Battleford Campground, Laurie Anne Hartley (Auntie Marcia’s daughter) and the grandson of my Uncle Bud Pick.  Laurie told Grandpa that Matt is a true urban cowboy who has become not only a first class Quarter Horse trainer, but is also a calf roping champion. In this photo he is just dismounting his trusty stead and getting ready to tie the calf (note the small rope in Matt’s mouth) The photo below was borrowed from Matt’s Facebook pictures. We had hoped he might be competing at Medicine Hat, but it was not to be.

Link to General Rodeo Photos.

Link to Rodeo Action Shots

.

44. Grayson Diary:  Visiting Cousins in Calgary

A hundred kilometers or so before we arrived in Calgary we began seeing strange, tall, thin, mushroom capped, statue-like figures in fields along the way.  At first we thought they were some kind of hay bales, but on closer inspection we found them to be carved from solid rock in shapes that slightly resembled round hay bales stacked on edge.

Bjorn suggested these were not unlike the Neolithic and Bronze aged stone monuments found at Stonehenge in England, but Grandpa suggested they must be be much recent as they were not nearly as weathered as those at Stonehenge and, also, it seemed highly unlikey there was any Druid influence in this area that would extend that far back in history.

Grandpa further suggested they may have been created as some form of religious symbol by the people of Calgary whose lives over the last hundred years have become increasingly dominated by those who worship at the alter of the Oil Patch. There was also the possibility these monuments were connected to the Crop Circles which have gained such wide attention in recent decades.

Bjorn was really intrigued and said that when he got back to Victoria, he would check with some of his Anthropological friends at UVic to get their perspective.

As we drew closer to Calgary, it was clearly evident the city is expanding at an unbelievable rate. Along the secondary highway on which we were travelling, thousands upon thousands of new homes were being constructed for as far as the eye could see. They are all being built in the same style and in the same repeating patterns. This must make it very difficult for people to differentiate one home, one city block and one section of the city from another. No wonder these poor people are seeking new symbols to help better define their lives.

Fortunately, the area of south-east Calagary in which Auntie Shawna’s home sits, was developed before the trend toward mind numbing sameness that has became the order of the day. The whole area has real character with trees, boulevards, lawns and house styles varying not only from house to house, but from street to street in a manner that provides a friendly, connected feeling.

As soon as we stopped, I again started meeting more of my Cousins, Aunties and Uncles. Where do they all come from? Since we left on our travels three weeks early, I have probably met more than two hundred and they just keep popping up out the woodwork where ever Grandpa decides to stop. On this stop, I guess we were lucky that Sidney, Brooke and Brodie were home as they had planned on going camping over the week-end, but found that every campground surrounding Calgary was chock-a-block full.  They came home just before we arrived.

It was not long before we were set up, plugged in to the power and, bingo, we were home again. Because the kids did not get to going camping, Grandpa asked Auntie Shawna if it was OK if he, Bjorn and Jay sleep in the house so the four kids could have the trailer for a couple of nights.  That sounded like fun and it was not long before Brodie, Brooke, Sidney and I were all set up.

Brodie and I snagged the back bunk, while Brooke and Sidney took the front.  Grandpa said that if it was OK with Auntie Shawna we could eat our meals in the trailer and could stay up late as we wanted as long as we did not go crazy.

That night we played games to our heart’s content and, later, Brodie and I tried to drive the girl’s crazy by doing silly boy things. It was really a lot of fun as this was the first time on the trip that I was able to share the trailer with other kids with no adults around telling us what we could and could not do.

Photo: Me with my brother Jay and a few of our Cousin’s and Aunties.

The next afternoon, after we drove Bjorn to the Airport, Auntie Shawna took us all to a private water park and playground not far from their home. There I met another bunch of cousins. Where the heck do they all come from?  There must have been about 10 more of along with other Aunties (Ashley and Kelsey, photo above).  It was a lot of fun as I very seldom get to see all these kids and their parents.  Later, we continued the party back at Auntie Shawn’s where we had a big BBQ. This time Auntie Karina and her boyfriend joined us but I did not get to see Cousin Connor as he was in Cold Lake with Auntie Louise and Uncle Frank.

After a late night on Saturday, early Sunday morning Grandpa, Jay and I were heading off to B.C.  It has been an awesome trip and I am so looking forward to seeing my mom and dad again. Maybe that will help to take my mind off Krista. “Be still my beating heart”.

Links to Calgary Family Photos

Grayson Edward Walker

Link Here for Part 1 of the Grayson Chronicles

Link Here for Part ii of the Grayson Chronicles

Link Here for Part III of the Grayson Chronicles

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

  • McNeill Life Stories Index to Police Notebook - McNeill Life Stories

    February 16, 2020 |

    […] Part I, Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation. Part II, Comparing police cultures and implementing change Part III, The past as a guide to the future Part IV The integration of police services […]

  • Harold McNeill

    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

    I’ve copied just one sentence from Mulligan’s longer discussion, “And I think people don’t like the idea that somebody who’s, for example, was drunk and ran into you and you become a quadriplegic is going to be treated exactly the same way you would in terms of getting benefits (go to minute 00:15:26 to see his full comment)

    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

  • McNeill Life Stories Index to Police Notebook - McNeill Life Stories

    January 5, 2020 |

    […] 28. The past as a guide to the future (Part III): Over the past 60 years, many activities the police once performed as a natural part of their daily duty, eventually became incompatible with achieving their basic goals. What happened? (August 2019) […]

  • McNeill Life Stories Why I stand with science? - McNeill Life Stories

    November 11, 2019 |

    […] During the Ice Age, the Earth’s average temperature was about 12 degrees Fahrenheit colder than it is today. That was enough to keep snow from melting during the summers in northern regions. As snow fell on the snow, glaciers formed. (NASA Earth Observatory) […]

  • McNeill Life Stories How to Game an Election - McNeill Life Stories

    September 18, 2019 |

    […] The Federal Conservatives and Seymour Riding Association complied but one day later those memes will be shared by every third party social media site and by thousands of supporters where the message will be taken as a statements of the fact.  Five years from now those memes will still be circulating. (Link here to background on the SNC Lavalin matter) […]