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.

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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.

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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!

(1825)

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Marie Lake: Growing up in the Wilderness – Chapter 2 of 11

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


Louise and Harold Hauling Manure

Photo (by Mom).  Louise and I loading the stone boat with manure to fertilize mom’s garden.
March 4, 2018: 1464

Link to Next Post:  Link to Explosion
Link to Last Post: Link to the Mink Pen Adventure
Link to Family Stories Index
Summer of 1947

1. My Little Sister

“Come on brother, let’s go to the beach and play!”  Louise always wanted to play and ‘for a girl’ she was pretty good at everything and not afraid to try anything. Although I really missed the fun times we had with our cousins at the Smith Place, it seemed my little sister was quickly growing to be a friend who could pretend, share secrets and take chances with the best of them.

Mom and Louise Feeding Mink 1947She was just a wisp of a thing, probably no more 40 pounds soaking wet, but at three and a half, she was a bundle of pure energy. Beyond that she was smart and I knew she would be light years ahead of me in the smart department. She could learn things so fast I felt intimidated. Maybe she had worked out a secret deal with that stupid Ouija Board as it never answered any of my questions correctly.

One thing Louise was not good at was being told what to do. If I started getting too bossy she would just plain and simple, baulk. Although probably not the best analogy for my little sister, she reminded me of a young filly dad once tried to train. No matter how he sweet-talked, threatened or cajoled, that filly would only do what that filly wanted to do. So it was with my little sister.

One of the best friends Louise and I had was Shep, a collie cross that dad and mom had given us earlier that spring. Shep, at 3 years old, had been given to Dad by one of his friends at the Cold Lake Indian Reserve. As for the name, “Shep” I suppose it came from a popular song of those days, “Old Shep”, first recorded by Red Foley in 1940 then over the years by dozens of other artists including Slim Carter, Hank Snow, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Alabama.

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Marie Lake: Explosion – Chapter 3 of 11

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


Stove at Marie Lake

Photo (Web).  A wood cookstove that nearly ended our mothers life.

Link to Next Post:  Link to Easy Come, Easy Go
Link to Last Post: Link to Growing Up in the Wilderness
Link to Family Stories Index

July, 1947

It was one of those quiet, lazy July mornings at Marie Lake. The dead calm waters reflected the morning sun and the leaves on the poplar trees, usually twisting and fluttering in the slightest breeze, hung as if frozen in time. The only noise to be heard was the quiet chatter of a few birds and of the laughter of Louise and me as we Mom before firedredged out wet sand to complete our giant sand castle – to be a surprise for mom and dad.

Suddenly, the serenity of the morning was bluntly ended by a loud, deep ‘whooomp’ coming from the direction of the house. A split second later the silence was further pierced by a blood curdling scream that echoed through the trees and down to the water. Louise and I sat there, momentarily frozen.

With the screams rising in intensity, we jumped up and run towards the house. As we topped the small sand bank we saw mom running with flames and smoke rising from her body. We were stricken with fear at a site we couldn’t fully comprehend.

After a short distance, she fell and rolled in the sand, grass and pine needles covering the yard. We stopped dead in our tracks not knowing what to do. At that moment dad came running from the mink pens. He frantically tried to smother the flames with his jacket but it wasn’t large enough to cover her whole body. Each time he moved the jacket, flames would spring to life.  An eternity passed before the flames were finally extinguished. The nauseating smell of burnt cloth, plastic and flesh permeated the air.

Dad hollered: “Harold, Louise, get a sheet off the bed.”

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Marie Lake: The Mink Pen Adventure – Chapter 1 of 11

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


Line Squal moving in over water

A line squall moves toward our boat as we crossed Marie Lake.  The high winds and waves placed us in mortal danger.

Link to Next Post:  Link to Growing Up in the Wilderness
Link to Last Post: Link to Near Death on the Dock  (End of Part II)
Link to Family Stories Index

1947 -1949

Marie Lake was suddenly rough, very rough, as the wind stirred up white frothy waves to a height of three or four feet. The ice had been out for no more than a week and small chunks could still be seen floating nearby. We were being drenched by the freezing spray and at this moment were in imminent danger of being thrown into the freezing cold, dark waters.

Aunt Marcia1 reflected upon that hair raising boat trip:

“That crazy uncle of mine was so smart but he had no sense when it came to being cautious. When we left the dock he could see storm clouds on the horizon and the wind was rising. I was only fifteen but even I knew Marie Lake could quickly become rough enough to swamp our small boat.

Now, here we were, spread-eagled on top of a boat covered with stupid mink pens. Mink pens, can you believe it – stinking, dirty mink pens. I suppose we were lucky Uncle Dave had not kept the mink in them. I asked him to wait, but he laughingly chided me – come along or stay by myself. Stupid me, I went along. Now we were in the middle of the lake and things were going from bad to worse.”

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Martineau River: Life or Death on the Dock – Chapter 5 of 5

Written by Harold McNeill on August 24th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Boy fishing

Photo (mom)  Fishing off the dock where my sisters life nearly came to an end.

Link to Next Post:  Link to the Mink Pen Adventure (Start of Part III)
Link to Last Post: Link to Wolves in the Wilderness
Link to Family Stories Index

Smith Place, 1945 – 1947

When the spring break-up came and logging was finished for the summer, our family packed up everything at the Martineau River Camp and moved to a large log home on the North Shore of Cold Lake.  It would be our home for the next two years.  It was an idyllic place for kids with beaches and fishing and all things that would excite a young mind. Then suddenly it all changed.

“Mom, mom, come and look!” I shouted, as I came running into the house where mom was alone working in the kitchen. “Louise is at the dock swimming underwater!”

It was early spring 1946 at the Smith Place1 and my two and a half year old sister Louise and I had been playing on the dock. The water was still freezing cold as the ice had just left the lake a couple of weeks earlier. Dad and Uncle Warren were out on their first fishing trip since the ice had gone out and Aunt Liz and her kids had just left for town.

Mom’s face went ashen; she dropped her tea towel, was out the door and running towards the dock before I could move. I followed her as fast as my legs could carry me.

I could hear mom frantically calling back: “Harold, Harold, show me where, show me where!”

Hearing the panic in her voice I started running harder and I knew something terribly, terribly bad was happening.  How suddenly that peaceful spring day had been shattered.

(2010)

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Martineau River: Wolves in the Wilderness – Chapter 4 of 5

Written by Harold McNeill on August 24th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Grey Wolf Howling at Moon

Photo (Web)  Hearing wolves around the campsite was common, but hearing them close by when huddled by a tree out in the wildness was a whole new experience.

Link to Next Post: Near Death on the Dock
Link to Last Post: A Winter Dash to the Hospital
Link to Family Stories Index

Spring, 1945

The full moon that rose high in the sky slowly slipped behind the drifting clouds. Deep in the forest it alternated between bright, cool moonlight and pitch black as Mom sat under a fir tree cuddling Louise and me as we slept peacefully on her lap. It was freezing cold on this early spring evening and snow still remained in the shaded areas. Without the wool blanket wrapped around us we would have all been freezing. Mom, however, was shivering, part from the cold and part from the fear of what lurked in the forest. Dad had now been gone for over two hours and mom had no idea when he might return.

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Comments

  • Andrew Dunn

    May 14, 2019 |

    Thank you so much for all your help thus far Harold, aka. Tractor guy! I could not have done without you!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 25, 2019 |

    I find it interesting to contemplate how a small community evolves in general isolation from the rest of the world. We have a similar situation in the northern communities in Canada to which access is limited. The inclusion of the world wide web and mass media has changed things, but these communities are still left pretty much to their own devices when it comes to personal interaction.

  • 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