Pearl Sklapsky-Holben Memoir – written April 22.1989

He worked in lumber camps all winter and on April 1, 1912, he returned to Canada, bringing his family with him. In 1912, and 1913, he cropped the forty acres. This same four head of cattle were listed for each of these two years. From April 1, 1912 to August 15, 1913, when he applied for his homestead patent, obtained November 1913, he listed his wife and seven children as being in residence. He had neighbours who helped, in fact they helped one another. Uncle Elmer’s brother, Clarence, had taken land three miles west of Dad and the two men dug a well by hand, but never hit water.

Farther south, in the Snipe Lake area, a homesteader was asked why they made the long journey to the spring for water instead of just digging a well. His reply was, “It’s the same distance no matter which way you go.” referring to the depth which had to be dug to hit any water at all, and often they got brackish water after all the effort of digging.

Working for the last winter in the lumber camps, he advised Mother to prepare for the trip up to Canada in the spring, reassuring her what a good move it would be for them. They could easily make good, then return to Michigan. Mother, who had never been very far from her parents wasn’t too happy about going, but as her husband had said they would return soon, having made their fortune in Canada, she began to pack.

Another baby, Norman Byrns put in an appearance, in Dec. 1911 making a family of five boys and three girls. Dad used the money from his last stint in the lumber camps to purchase settlers’ effects, seed, and whatever else they needed to get going “up there”.

Mother convinced herself of the wisdom behind the move. Frank had said they’d return soon and be able to buy their own home in Michigan once they’d done well in Canada. He wouldn’t take them any place sinister and he’d returned several times now. In such a short time he’s bought one hundred and sixty acres, built a two story house, started a well, and had his own land plowed and ready for seeding. It must be a wonderful country. In all the years they had been married and both working, saving, and doing their best, they had not even been able to buy a place of their own in the States.

It was quite an undertaking, especially in those days. The children in school told their friends of their wonderful good luck in moving north to Canada. Mother took stock of what to pack. There were some things she would leave in storage until they came back. One thing she would leave was her set of good dishes with a wreath of roses surrounding a golden “E” for Ettie which Dad had bought her. They were too dainty and pretty for homesteading, and besides, they may get broken on the long trip.

There must not be many women there because Frank had mentioned Clarence Federspiel and a Perry Pettit, but there was no mention of any women. He’d talked of the big Saskatchewan sky, no trees to block your view and you wouldn’t be looking over into your neighbours yard. But you could hear him, miles away over the hills, calling to his oxen or pounding nails to build his house, barn or granary to hold the grain, the air being so fresh and clear. The kids would surely enjoy the wide open spaces where they could run and play and you could see clear into tomorrow and three days ahead, it was so open and clear. It sounded like a real Utopia. Mother had never been far from home and friends she’d grown up with but she’d go with her Frank. He was her husband, father of her children and he’d always provided for them. They were healthy, never hungry and always had a roof over their heads. So Frank really could be depended upon and if he said they’d make good, well they just would. And besides Frank said they would return.

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