Pearl Sklapsky-Holben Memoir – written April 22.1989

One Mountie had remarked to Mother that she sure had some healthy looking kiddies, and five year old Thelma thought he had said kitties. After looking all over for the nonexistent kittens, she confided to Lottie that “Canadians sure do tell lies”.

The mailman from the Penkill district, Robin Shankland, also passed through the yard, between the house and the barn, stopping to rest his team and himself, telling any news he’d heard and promising to stop on the return trip.

The fall of 1912 saw the beginning of the McCarthy School District. Mr. Don McCarthy and Mr. Sam Horner each gave a parcel of land on the corner of their land, Homer’s being the NW quarter of 10 and McCarthy’s the SW quarter of 10 along the west road. The school opened in the spring of 1913 with nineteen children enrolled, the five eldest children of Frank and Arletta Sklapsky attended. Dad had become a naturalised Canadian and in those days, the family under eighteen years of age and the man’s wife automatically became Canadians as well. Mother, born in Ontario, was already Canadian.

Shortly after Fred started school, he was talked into filling up the lattice work in front of the girl’s toilet. He carried sods from the neighbours breaking and piled them all up in front of the girls’ toilet doors. After lunch, the teacher left the school and soon returned demanding to know who had done that. No one answered, so all the boys got the strap except the guilty party since she knew Fred was too little to have done anything like that. Jay St. John had egged him on to do it, and likely even was the one who came up with the idea, but never snitched on young Fritz.

Dad, with the help of his two oldest boys got the rest of the land under cultivation as the ‘Duties” stated and he was ready to preempt the next quarter section which he said was the northwest quarter of seventeen, 25-19-W 3rd, just north of the quarter he homesteaded on.

Dad had a lovely team of little black mares with the same stamina, he called Nell and Belle. Farmers used to haul the loads of grain to the elevator and sometimes get into town after closing time, whereupon they would have to leave the sleigh load until the next morning, only to find the runners frozen to the ground. If Dad was in, he’d offer to pull the loaded sleigh in, only to be laughed at with his small horses. Well, Dad would quietly hitch his team to the load and say, “Come on now Belle, Nell, easy into it…” a couple of tries and suddenly they’d lean into their collars. It seemed as though the first try was to test, the second try was a try and the third meant they would haul it into the elevator. They weren’t very big, but they were Percherons and our pride. Belle had a colt named Rowdy, and he was! To ride him was something you’d never forget. He really pounded his feet in a gallop and it seemed as though he would go in a series of jumps. Nell died birthing a colt and Belle retired after many years of breaking and seeding.

Lottie and Hilda had gone as far as the McCarthy school taught, so they helped out around home for a while. There were a few chickens and a couple of cows to tend, and household chores and they found it boring, very boring! So one day they decided they’d ride the spare horses into town to get the mail and groceries and be back real soon. So off went the two daring young cowgirls.

Brock was a sleepy little burg on this hot dry, sunny day with no breeze. There there were no trees then to provide shade. Though folks had tried to get a few growing, they were mere twigs yet. The residents pulled down the window blinds to close out the merciless sun which beamed from a cloudless sky, and in the whole town, not a person was in sight. It looked like a ghost town. The girls decided to race their horses down on the board sidewalks of Main Street to give the town a “Wake up Shake Up!” I can just imagine them tearing through the town and the townspeople hearing all the noise and commotion, rushing to see what was happening, only to see the sky still a clear blue, sun shining hot as ever, and a bit of a dust cloud headed east!

Dad would work out for other settlers, helping stone or plow, summer fallow, or whatever work he could get. It helped to acquire cows, chickens, seed, or what they could spare in payment. He and Clarence Federspiel built the Brock coulee road south of Brock. I guess this would help pay taxes, but it left my Mother alone on the wide open prairie for days on end. Once she remarked, “Your Dad says no one ever gets killed by lightening up here in Canada, and there’s a good reason for why. There is no one here to get hit.”

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