Pearl Sklapsky-Holben Memoir – written April 22.1989

Dad would prepare the house for Mother, as best he could, and get his oxen and wagon ready to meet the train when it should arrive in Brock, bringing the rest of his family. I believe that Lottie remained for a while with Aunt Lillian to help her with her new baby Mildred, who was near the age of Norman. With the new baby and two little boys Archie and Earl, Lillian could use the help. George Krepps filed on land two or three miles from Dad’s place.

I know Mother must have been very tired when she finally reached her journey’s end and not really overjoyed with what she saw when she got there. Fritz says he can well remember the ride out from Brock. The train arrived late, the oxen were slow and the prairie trails unpaved, indeed they were rock covered and full of hummocks. They felt every hump and hollow and mosquitoes were ferocious and thick. Can you just imagine riding with a little baby and small children in a wagon without springs, already tired from a long train journey? Fritz tells about the older kids getting off the wagon and walking behind. They noticed some dogs following and called to them. Dad said those were coyotes and that the kids would make a lovely meal for them. Suddenly the bumpy old wagon seemed preferable.

I think George Krepps and Young Frank had remained at the homestead with a light lit for the homecoming. I can imagine Dad telling Mother. “Just wait until we get around this hill and you’ll see our light.” Well the hill was a series of long low hills covered with rock, which, after World War I, was dubbed Vimy Ridge. It was really a stone pile all on its own and to this day I don’t think they managed to break it up. One hill is dubbed Miller’s Hill for Dad’s brother-in-law Will Miller. I imagine many times Mother must have thought they were lost as the light disappeared, only to be reassured by Dad that a hill had gotten in the way. What a relief it must have been to drive up to the house and know this was the end of the journey! I said that I doubt she was overjoyed with what she saw, but was likely too tired to really care at that point. It was theirs. They would soon prove they could do their homestead duties and it would really be their place. Stiff, sore and tired, what a relief it must have been for her to stand on the ground finally and not look down at it slipping by under her. Well, get the children some bread and butter and bed for the night next and maybe a night of rest for herself. It had been a long tiring journey and tomorrow was another day and we’d see.

Fritz says he remembers stepping into the house for the first time. It was only a shell. You could look right to the rafters in the roof, and the 2 x 4 studs were all around the walls. It was a house all right, 14 x 22 feet and it had windows and a door and an upstairs which wasn’t boxed in yet. But it had a shingled roof and was sided up and wind proof with tar papered walls and siding over that, so they were sheltered. There it sat, a tall, two story house in the middle of nowhere!

Looking in all directions you would see nothing, except Clarence Federspiel’s house three miles to the west. Many small hills and large bumps were between. Often on nights in the following years, Clarence and Blanche Federspiel’s light was the only one to be seen at night. Dad had a small kerosene lamp with a mirror reflector back of it hanging on the wall, and a neighbour, Mr. Cox, said that he could sit outside and read his paper by Frank’s light! Quite an exaggeration.

George Krepps filed on land two or three miles from the Sklapsky’s, but owing to high hills you could not see his house or even the smoke from his stove pipes. He was over often with the young folks and if any length of time lapsed without seeing him, Dad would check on George.

One time when it was very cold, they hadn’t seen George K. for a week or ten days so Dad decided to walk over to see him. Well, he found George sick in bed; no fire going. Dad soon lit a fire to warm up his shack but found George had the mumps. Dad returned home for Mother, who promptly wrapped herself up and with a kettle of hot soup and some oats, they set off to help George. She heated the oats, put them on George, got the hot soup into him, got him feeling better, and left him with instructions to eat more of soup while it was hot, and a promise she’d be back to check on him the next day. His shack was much warmer, with fuel inside to keep it that way. He soon could once again do for himself, and recovered fully, no worse for the experience. So though his house was not visible, his friends still realized he was there and looked out for George Krepps.

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