John Muir, a much respected naturalist, wrote, “The Rural Municipality of Buckland is a colourful mosaic of nature. Terrain and fauna change greatly in short distances. An exhilarating yet tranquil landscape.”
In one of my recent columns, I decided to look more closely at that wonderland north of our city. My column centred not on the flora and fauna, but on the pioneers that settled in the R.M. of Buckland. I wanted to investigate what life was like for them in this land of beauty. Well the area may have looked idyllic when first seen, the challenges this paradise created were daunting.
In a local history book entitled “Buckland’s Heritage,” Edith Newell, a past teacher, aptly describes life for those early settlers - ‘north of our river:’
“A Tribute to Our Pioneers”
They didn’t count the cost – the strain of back – the sweat of brow;
They only knew the work was there, the land to clear, the roots to grub;
Before they put the oxen to the plough.
I will delve further into “Buckland’s Heritage” to share with you some of the memories stored there. These stories, I feel, leave one with a true sense of what past life was like.
One group of Bucklanders that faced not only the area’s beauty but also its daunting challenges were the ‘War Brides.’ Having married Canadian soldiers recruited from Buckland, they faced a life vastly different from their more populous homelands.
Audrey Mckeand wrote, “I think I expected to find farm life somewhat similar to that in England, but how wrong I was. Besides the vastness of my new surroundings, I found the quiet a difficult thing to come to terms with. I remember going outside one day and just standing and listening, listening for any sound which would make me feel less alone, but there was none.”
Mrs. Mckeand went on to have a full life and raised a family that still contributes to Buckland, but it was not always easy.
There were also memories that bring a grin and a bit of a gasp.
Matt Brandon writes, “Our parents had gone to town, my siblings came home from school. They got dad’s shotgun out. The shotgun was pointed at the floor under the table. All of a sudden there was a blast; the shot peppered holes in the floor. They swept up the mess and ran outside to get a can of paint and a brush. They saw mom and dad coming home about a mile away. They hurried and painted the floor, and never breathed a word of their so-called fun. Next day, mother was sweeping the floor and the broom stuck to the floor as the paint was not dry yet. I don’t recall how this incident ended.”
The next two stories strike close to home for me. The first reminds me of student I taught some years ago in Prince Albert Technical High School. The student would arrive each morning and quickly fall asleep in my class, She may have had good reason, but I did speak to her. She apologized profusely, stating, “Oh Mr. Harrison, I get up each morning at six to catch the bus.” I replied, “Ok, just try not to snore.”
In the “Buckland Heritage’ book a similar story appears, “ Some pupils left home in the dark, and arrived home after dark to start their homework.” The author goes on to say, “The long bus ride was not the only concern. Some early buses were driven by sixteen year old students. The buses were far from the best. One driver drove for two weeks without low or reverse gears. Snow blew in on the students.”
But I will end this column with a most positive story, one also close to home for me.
One of my neighbours Gayle Paskaruk will remember fondly this story. Bob, Gayle’s husband, was raised in Buckland. Bob was the son of Bill and Mary Paskaruk who operated Pines Service just three miles north of P.A. “This first commercial enterprise in the Red Wing area was based on the sale of gas, oil and ice cream cones. However the ice cream got out of hand - selling two scoops for the price of one. Annual visitors from as far north as Uranium City to as far south as Houston Texas stopped to fill up on gas and those famous ice cream cones.”
Yes, Buckland has many stories to tell.
All of them serve to remind us that the beautiful area ‘north of our river’ is not only a wonderland to drive through but also, as Mrs Newell says, the home land of:
“Those hardy early pioneers – they blazed the trail
And hoped to leave a better world for all.”