An entry from Willie Brant’s diary: Ran out of Eno’s heartburn medicine last night, have to stop eating so many tomatoes, but they are so good this time of year.  Heading for town to get more Eno’s, stopped to see if Joe wanted anything, found him with his head stuck in his big old Encyclopedia.  “Hey, just in time for breakfast”, from him, as he slapped a coffee mug on the table and a frying pan on the stove.

“So what are you studying this time of day?” from me. “Oh, that”, looking at the big old book, “I was just boning up on sea turtles, have you been watching the turtle tale unfold?”  “Nope, try not to watch news; all the silliness rots my brain.  So would that be C turtles, as in not class A or B, or Sea turtles?”  Joe ignored that one, and went on “Well, it seems somebody took a picture of a Sea turtle with a drinking straw sticking out of his eye, it went viral on the internet, and now everybody is worried about drinking straws destroying the environment!”

“Seems to me if a turtle is dumb enough to get a straw stuck in his eye, we are helping the environment by removing him from the gene pool. So what now?” was my offering.

Joe replied “Well, it’s gone so far that the city of San Francisco has banned plastic drinking straws, in fact if a waitress gives you a plastic straw she faces a tougher penalty than if she murders her mother-in-law, or almost anyway. Of course that is in California, I notice some of the pundits I follow have taken to calling California the biggest insane asylum in the history of the world”, then he went on, “But it shows the power of a well-done photograph to make a serious impression”.

I offered “But is it for real? Surely no turtle is that dumb.  Maybe it was posed, we seem to be seeing a lot of that lately in the fake news!”  Joe thought for a minute, and offered that conspiracy theorists would love my idea; maybe it is a posed fake.  A company has just come out with a drinking straw made of candy, so after you drink your ton-of-sugar drink you finish off by eating the straw.  A good conspiracy theory would be they sponsored the picture to get the ball rolling on their product taking over from plastic.

As Joe slapped a couple of plates of fried eggs on the table he wound up with “anyway there is a lot of stuff going into the oceans that shouldn’t, even the City of New York sends out barge loads of unsorted household garbage and dumps it at sea. So maybe something good comes out of this by publicizing that kind of stupidity, even if it rots our livers by adding sugar straws to our diet.  Always look on the bright side.”


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People who spend time with nature are better balanced; better able to distinguish what is the cause and what is the effect; what is logic and what is fractured logic; whether an event is closer to a kid falling off a bicycle or more like a train wreck; whether a dose is closer to a quart of whiskey or a teaspoon of beer; what makes sense and what is ‘fake news’. They have ‘common sense’.  They are more understanding and generous toward other people.  They are even better looking, because their faces reflect their greater inner peace.  So says a new (2017) book “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative” by Florence Williams.  She backs up this claim with a whole book-full of statistical studies.


Some specific benefits of time with nature she lists are lower stress levels, better ability to focus, more creative, less fatigue and anxiety.

We in our scattered northern communities live with nature every day. We have to watch for deer, moose, bears, other critters everywhere we drive.  Our skies are full of birds.  We have open country within minutes of all of our doors.  We are bird-watchers and moose-hunters and blueberry pickers and mushroom pickers and gardeners and hobby farmers and real farmers.

We are hobby trappers and real trappers, keeping a balance between predators and prey in our wilderness. We manage the forest, working every day harvesting and planting and tending trees.  We live along the myriad waters of our beautiful north; we are fishermen and watersports enthusiasts.  We are ice fishermen and snowmobile enthusiasts.  We are pilots, travelling our beautiful skies.  We are prospectors.  We even go finding those funny-looking growths on birch trees which we are told are so healthy.

Or we just spend time outside in our long summer days, enjoying the parks and wilderness paths in our urban areas. Many of us have what we call ‘camps’ and city people call cottages, small lakeside houses where we are immersed in nature.  Which we can access in minutes on a pleasant country road, not hours on a clogged freeway, as city folk spend getting to their cottage on a tiny pond or a polluted great lake.  Those few who can afford it at all.

Some of us spend time at the hundreds of commercial wilderness resorts and campgrounds and Provincial Parks which dot our country – it is simply amazing how Midwestern Americans all seem to know our country from trips or reports of trips to our resorts, although they only have a vague idea as to where Toronto is (as Toronto has only a vague idea as to where we are).

So are we smarter, especially as to ‘the environment’, more balanced, more generous, more capable, clearer-thinking than city folk? Of course we are.  That is what makes us resent their superior attitude, viewing us all as some kind of rustic inferior children who need their guidance.  Using their greater numbers, trying to force us into their inbred city worldview. Oh well, we are right, and we will win in the end!

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Before the CPR came, white pine was quite common south of Wabigoon and Eagle lakes, but rare north of them, this is the limit of its natural range. Red pine and especially Jack pine is the natural dominant species in the Wabigoon Valley .  Even so, white pine has played a role in our local history.

As noted in previous columns, white pine was once the dominant species over much of central North America. Its wood was highly prized in Europe for its milling and stability properties, and it was very valuable.  It was harvested vigorously without thought of regeneration, and it has all but disappeared.  Quetico Park is one last bastion, and logging was stopped there some 40 years ago to ‘preserve’ it.  Unfortunately, trees, like all living things, get old and die and cannot be ‘preserved’ beyond their usual lifespan.  I am told that Quetico is deteriorating; a lot of the old trees are dead and coming down, and the pine forest being replaced with the balsam/poplar/white spruce/brush mixture we get where there is no fire.  Valuable wood wasted, and beauty becomes the beast, but hey, we stopped those loggers.

I confess I know nothing about how white pine regenerates in nature – they all seem to be very old or very new, they seem to go in waves. We had a flush of new white pine seedlings appear naturally on our Eagle Lake property about twenty years ago, but not much for new ones since.  I tried transplanting some of those seedlings from where they were too thick, with much less success than transplanting say spruce or jackpine.  If regenerating them was easy, I expect we would see lots of plantations in such places as Minnesota and Michigan.  This means it is not a renewable resource, once harvested, it is gone.

The dominant species here is Jack Pine; it regenerates prolifically after a fire, and grows rapidly in our clay soil to a usable size before it is 50 years old. It is short-lived, few live to one hundred years old, and over-mature stands burn and the fire regenerates a new stand of jackpine.  When the first homesteaders arrived in 1896, there were thick stands of jack pine, already one quarter the way to maturity, regenerated from the 1882 fires.  So it is a renewable resource; one could even say a long-cycle crop.

Transfer of land to homesteaders was never absolute; there might be restrictions with regard to space for roads; navigable waters; ownership of any minerals which might be discovered, and, worst of all, ownership of the pine trees. These restrictions were not applied uniformly, it varied depending when and where the homestead was claimed.  Some of our local homesteads including most of those awarded to veterans returning from the first world war have that pine restriction on them, “we keep the trees, you get the stumps”, — some way of saying thanks.

It appears that the regulators were not aware there are different species of pine trees. The restriction reserving the pine to the crown might make sense in the case of white pine, a valuable, non-renewable resource, but makes no sense at all for Jack pine, a low-value growing crop. It has been rigorously enforced anyway, it is still ‘we get the trees, you get the stumps’, even though the trees are third generation since the land was in our hands.  This takes away from the value of the homestead, not only in putting restrictions on use of the land, but in providing an excuse for government to trespass on the land – to a homesteader, just as intrusive as policemen being allowed to march into your city bedroom at will.  No wonder we have a separatist movement.

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Every day they gather at the Waiting Place, a couple of dozen dapper, well-groomed uniformed men, playing cards or smoking or just shooting the breeze. When it is ‘Time’, they all go out and each gets into a spotless long black limousine, and proceeds off to one of several office buildings, being careful to line up in the correct pecking order.  Promptly at “the Time”, a couple of dozen Very Important People scuttle out of the buildings and each gets into a limousine and is whisked away to the front door of the Parliament building.  The Cabinet Ministers then proceed to their places for Question Period, and the limousines proceed back to the Waiting Place.

After the ministers huff and puff and strut through Question Period, undoubtedly the most remarkable display of bad acting between Hollywood and Bollywood, they rise as one and leave to reenter their limousines, now carefully lined up outside the door in the correct pecking order, and are whisked back to their respective office buildings, all of which are within ten minutes walk from Parliament. The limousines are returned to the Waiting place, and the two dozen dapper uniformed gentlemen go home, their days work done.  Except when they are required to ferry their minister to a Very Important Meeting, or the airport for their weekly (government-paid) flight home, or just to take the ministers friends or family on a little spin.

Now some might think this a waste of money. But remember these are important people, representing whole departments of the government of Canada (even though they were school teachers or used car salesmen or lawyers in real life – unlike the American system, where cabinet secretaries are selected for their qualifications, most have Ph D’s, and come from successful careers in business and/or academia).  I kind of like the notion that the taxes I pay go a long way to pay the cost of a limousine for one of these important people.

What I object to is YOUR tax dollars (mine went on a limousine) being used to have CBC rant at us to ‘take the one-ton challenge’, and use public transit or car pool, at the same time that each of these guys takes a daily separate chauffered limo ride rather than a ten-minute walk. You guys take the ‘one-ton challenge’, and then we will give it some thought.


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From Willy Brant’s Diary

Part 1 — planting trees — Rainy day last spring.  Stopped at Joe’s on my way home from town.  Found him busy transplanting tiny little cabbage plants into bigger pots; Joe has great big hands, my fingers are smaller and nimbler so I stayed to give him a hand with that little chore.

I say “So, I came home from town by the back road, haven’t gone that way for a year or two, and guess what I saw?” His reply “How would I know, maybe a moose or something?”

“Nope, you know the old McWhirtle place over in the 4th concession?  That bigger field at the back, must be 40 acres?  The whole thing has been planted to trees; you can just see them above the grass, nice job, looks like a good success rate, nicely spaced.”

Joe responded, squinting as he tried to pick up a really tiny cabbage “Nothing new there, the bush is claiming a lot of abandoned fields, I saw a field over toward Minnitaki all nicely planted. Apparently you can apply to Ontario to have your field planted, and they will send a crew, no charge, and pay you rent besides!  But only on your best agricultural land, if you have a patch that is too steep or rocky or whatever to farm, so it should be planted to trees, they won’t do that!  All at the same time as Ontario is putting up big bucks to encourage new farmers in the Temiskaming district.  They want to re-open long abandoned homesteads there while they shut down small farms here, even though the land and the climate there is not as good as here in the Wabigoon Valley.”

“Are you kidding?” from me, and “Nope” from him. Then he went on to explain that some bureaucrat noticed that in Quebec, across the Ottawa River from Temiskaming, there is quite a prosperous-looking farm community.  The dolt of course didn’t twig that Quebec supports small farms, while Ontario moves heaven and earth to force them to go big or go broke.

He finished “So, farming has disappeared in country like Temiskaming where the landscape is broken up by rock hills or lakes or whatever so big fields are not possible. Our soil and climate is better than theirs, so our farms haven’t completely gone back to bush like theirs, but it’s getting close.”

“Good grief!” from me, then “Remember old Billie McWhirtle? I remember him telling a story that when he was a kid, which would be like 90 years ago, their farmhouse was too hot to stay inside in summer.  I can imagine, cooking for all those kids on a wood-fired cook stove and no summer kitchen.  He said they would stay outside, and in early summer the black flies and mosquitoes were so bad they would go cut brush and burn it, the smoke kept the bugs away.  That’s how that big field got made into farmland in the first place.  Billie must be turning over in his grave to see all that work undone”.

Joe finished our talk with “Yep, well, you have heard me rant on all the possible reasons why Ontario wants us out of here, none of which really make practical sense, but all of which seem to help keep the money in the city where it belongs. Get used to it.”


Part 2 — Save the Boreal Forest — Joe was a bit more cheerful when I dropped in that rainy day last week, big difference from last spring.  He was sitting there with a silly grin on, surrounded by some of the heavy books and periodicals he reads, he is not real keen on the internet, says it makes it too easy to lie to the people.

“So what’s up? You into the sauce or something, you are looking mighty smug this morning!”  “Oh, well”, he said, “I feel a bit of optimism we might escape the cloud we have been under.”  “How So?” from me.

“Well”, he says, waving at a pile of papers around him, “Remember ‘Save the Boreal Forest’? A few years ago some American billionaires set it up as a charity, put out about $60 million in grants to the usual environmental groups and protest groups so they could make a huge fuss that the Canadian Boreal Forest was in danger, and had to be ‘saved’.  Actually, turns out it was only Northern Ontario they were concerned about, when they got our forest industry on the ropes they ran out of money and forgot all about ‘saving’ the rest of the Boreal Forest.”

“So, that seems a bit off”, says me, “Doesn’t the boreal forest renew itself by fire? So environmentally the best way to get the wood the world needs is to harvest the mature boreal forest, save all that C02 going up in the air when it burns, then plant again so the new trees can suck more C02 out of the air?”

He exploded “Are you kidding? This is about politics, not practical reality or what is good for the planet!”  Then he went on to say that with all the protest groups howling and a sympathetic government, the Ontario Forest Industry threw in the towel and signed a protocol which puts the whole industry in sunset mode, no new investment or growth.  Any mills that went down because of the economy are down permanently, their forest limits taken away.  Any mills still operating have three times as much timber growing on their limits as they use, so they don’t have to be real up on reforesting.  A downward spiral.

“But why would the billionaires want to shut us down? Surely they can figure all this out” from me, and   Joe replied “Well, you know my theory, the American Midwest is drying up, they won’t be able to support their population or the huge agriculture there, it is the breadbasket of the world, and they want us gone so they can divert our northern rivers south!  Of course that is just a theory, maybe there is something else.”

After some thought, I came up with “So, why so cheerful and optimistic? Sounds pretty gloomy to me” and he replied with “Yes, but our new Premier just announced that he will support growth in the North including the Forest Industry.  Maybe he will tear up the “Northern Ontario Growth Plan’ we have been stuck under, it is really more of a ‘Northern Ontario Shrink Plan’.  Maybe that will put us on an upward slope for a change.”  So, sure hope he is right, if we want our northern towns to survive.

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The Human Drive for Inequality

I thought you might find the following essay interesting, it is copied from the Casey Daily Dispatch, july 3/18.

The Human Drive for Inequality,   By John Hunt, MD

At the Foundation for Economic Education Conference (FEECON) in 2017, I met Bill Frezza. He’s been teaching a critical lesson about equality, learned from the horrors of the AT&T telephone monopoly. What follows, I mostly learned from him.

After the invention of the telephone in the mid- to late-1800s, innovators produced great accomplishments as they strived to improve the technology to help us communicate. But that came to a sudden stop.

In 1913 (the same ominous year in which the Federal Reserve Act was created, destroying the foundations of the free market), American Telephone & Telegraph “cronied” its way into a government-created telecommunication monopoly that lasted for 70 years. And during that time, telephone innovation stopped cold. So cold, in fact, that all phones looked pretty much identical for decades. Our phones were wired permanently to the wall. Oh, and they weren’t our phones.

Believe it or not, it was illegal to own your phone. Western Electric (an AT&T subsidiary) owned them all. It was the only company legally allowed to manufacture phones. Neat trick: the same phone that my great-grandfather didn’t own still worked on the stagnant, unchanged AT&T system when my parents didn’t own their phone five decades later.

Ah, but at least every customer of Ma Bell was treated equally (although many were stuck with shared party lines, meaning some were less equal than others). During those 70 years of monopolistic equality that began in 1913, there were only a few (relatively unimportant) innovations in telecommunications. It was an equality of sorts, sure, but an equality based on no choices. Multigenerational equality was successfully obtained by assuring that everything pretty much sucked.

The crony US government guaranteed AT&T a 12% profit, no matter what. In exchange for this guaranteed profit, AT&T provided telephone wires and service to rural areas of the country that would be expensive to supply otherwise, and allowed the government to control prices. Everyone got a phone.

With a guaranteed and excellent profit of 12% annually and a total monopoly, there was no motivation for AT&T to innovate, provide for (or even be aware of) the changing needs or the desires of the customers, nor to increase efficiency and productivity, lower costs, or provide good customer service. They could sit there, picking their nose and earn 12%. Prices were always high for telephone communication during most of the 20th century. Every long-distance call cost us money. The higher the revenues, the more AT&T’s 12% would add up. Why would AT&T fight to make things more efficient or cheaper? Doing so would only hurt its cash flow.

And the result of this government-catalyzed boondoggle? Fifty years later, finally, the exciting new product entry was… wait for it… the Trimline phone with its “Innovative rotary dial with moving fingerstop!”


It took another 20 years before we even got push-button dialing.

What we need to remember is that the people of 1980 were quite equal to the people of 1920 in regards to their communication tools. Equality had been accomplished. From decades of equality, we reached the finish line: the Trimline phone. Yahtzee!

Deregulation occurred in the early 1980s, and AT&T’s monopoly was eliminated. When equality got sidelined, competition for each customer’s money blossomed, and new, better technologies began popping up in unexpected places. The result: Sprint and MCI created entirely new networks and fiber-optic digital telecommunication lines.

Cellular phones were invented that provided communication not only for the developed countries, but for the entire Third World. Hundreds of phone styles and varieties of services flourished to supply for the diverse and unpredictable wants and desires of ever more humans. Oh, and the internet developed on the backbone of the digital network that grew post-deregulation. The entire world has benefited from the simple act of ending coerced equality.

One has to wonder what blooms of abundance would occur in the field of transportation if only the government monopoly in road building was eliminated. Flying cars? Parabolic 36-minute trips from coast to coast?

The core internal contradiction inherent in the progressive fight for equality is this: human progress is predicated on a drive for inequality. The strive to improve oneself and to improve humanity—physically, emotionally, financially—is the embodiment of this desire to be better, unequal to the past and unequal to the neighbor who hasn’t gotten there yet. Take this away and you have stagnation, not progress.

The lesson of AT&T’s blatant cronyism and coerced equality needs to be heard (but won’t be heard) by those whose goal is coercive equality of medical care (through Obamacare) or coercive equality of the internet (manipulatively called “Net Neutrality.”) To a partial extent, such equality can be achieved through force, sure, but what is the cost of this equality? The cost is that we rob our children and grandchildren of future abundance. They’ll be equal to us. How many in the future will unnecessarily die because of a slowing of medical progress? How many children could be lifted from poverty, but won’t be because the words progress and equality are conflated?

Is inequality unfair? In many cases, certainly. It is unfair that a child is born to a single teenage mother who loves her meth more than her child. But no government effort imaginable—no matter how much coercion is applied—will make up for that inequality and unfairness, or create for that child any semblance of equal opportunity or equal outcomes. After all, the government doesn’t love, nor can it coerce love.

An important point: Equality in the eyes of the law is worth fighting for. The law can—and should—be blind to your wealth, race, and whether your mother was a crack addict or not. Unfortunately, the misguided striving for economic equality has resulted in the ever-increasing empowerment of Washington politicians—the hub around which crony special interests, and thus inequality under the law, flourishes.

Elimination or minimization of suffering is a great goal. Elimination of poverty is a great goal. These goals have never been accomplished, and they can never be achieved through the use of coercion or fraud, for these are the immoral methods that underlie war, not peace and prosperity.

The moral means to accomplish great goals is to respect inequality. We need to free up our innovators to find ways that one person can suffer less (unequal), or be less poor (unequal) or less sick (unequal) than others. Or to assure that one person can get to Mars sooner than another person can (unequally). And then apply (without coercion) such lessons, to spread that inequality to whoever else wishes to be unequal, better, happier, less poor, less hungry or more Martian. And while spreading this wonderful inequality, someone else will discover something new that unequally improves quality of life.

We, and our children and grandchildren, can have such choice and abundance, as long as the government—like a narcissistic, drunk king sitting on a throne—doesn’t use its guns to grant another crony monopoly to another multigenerational parasite like the former AT&T. But beware, the government keeps trying to incubate just such parasitic worms, through such notions as Net Neutrality and Obamacare.

You can’t stop politicians and bureaucrats from being stupid and misbehaving, any more than you can prevent a seagull from dropping bombs onto your head from on high. But you can avoid unknowingly encouraging their misdeeds. And you can wear a hat.  Preferably a hat that’s better than (unequal to) the next guy’s, and better than the one you wore last week.


John Hunt, MD


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Part one — Youmans or Yeomans  —  The first entry in the Land Agents Record Book for a lot in the CPR subdivision which became Dryden was on August 4 1896 to a Mr. George Markland Yeomans (sometimes spelled Youmans).  On that day he claimed lots 1, 2, 5 and 6 on the north side of King Street, that is, 4 out of 6 lots on the downtown block, Earl to Whyte. On Feb 17, 1897, David August Yeomans claimed lots 7 and 8 on the north side of King, the long-time home of Gould Furniture.  “Carved from the Wilderness”, George Wice’s history book of early Dryden, says Yeomans built the first real store in Dryden, that is, a free-standing purpose-built building.  It was built along with a house on lot 1, that is, the NE corner of King and Earl, presently the Bank of Montreal.  So the Yeomans family had a whole block of downtown King Street and was the largest landholder and merchant in the town.

On the rural scene, among the first properties claimed was the Yeomans 960 acres in 3 abutting parcels in Wainwright Township. An entire lot (rural survey lot) is 320 acres, and that was the maximum one person could claim as a homestead. The family circumvented this by each member, wife Elizabeth Yeomans, daughter Charlotte Yeomans, and George Markland Yeomans each claiming a whole lot, adding up to the total of 960 acres.  This property was along the Wabigoon River, 2 miles northwest of the corner of the Demonstration Farm (now the cemetery corner).  So in 1896 the Yeomans family was also the largest landholder outside the town.  These original homesteads were not free; there was a considerable charge in order to obtain title to the land, so Yeoman’s were among the biggest early investors in the community.

The very first road in the district was built that summer of 1896, ‘building’ consisting mostly of removing all the trees and cutting the stumps short. John Crerar reports in his memoirs that he worked on that crew as a young man.  He said the route started with a crossing of the CPR from at the foot of Earl Ave. It went northwest from there along a line, still visible, which includes the highway between McKinstry’s and the Dairy Queen, to the west boundary of the Demonstration Farm.  Then it went north along that west boundary, now Grand Trunk Ave., and continued north-west to and through the Yeoman’s claims. So the first road connected the Yeoman’s town and country properties.

The crew then went back and built a road east along the south boundary of the Demonstration Farm, now Government Road and highway 17 East. That was all the road construction in 1896, so the Yeomans got a lot of priority.

If you Google George Markland Yeomans, you can come up with this story. Asa Yeomans married Charlotte Yost Herkimer in New York State, and moved to the Belleville, Ontario area after the war of 1812, perhaps as a belated United Empire Loyalist.  George Markland Yeomans was born in Belleville in 1830, married Elizabeth Fry, and they produced a family of five including a son David and a daughter Charlotte.  They homesteaded several places in Ontario, and ended up in Manitoba.  The Glenbow museum has a picture of George and Mrs. Yeomans and Charlotte in front of their general store in Dalton, Manitoba, in the 1890’s.  This coincidence of names and occupation serves to nail down that this is indeed our family.

This indicates that George was 66 years old at the time he came here, and no doubt his large family helped him get established. Incidentally, Google also tells us that David died in Alexander, Man., and we have no record as to what he did with the King St properties or when he left Dryden.  Another son, also George Markland Yeomans, died in 1919 in Winnipeg as a result of war injuries.

“Carved from the Wilderness” indicates that the store built by G M Yeomans in 1896 was in the hands of a J. G Hayes, Hardware merchant, when it burned down, ‘within a few years’. George was actually farming on the Wainwright properties in 1897, but when the properties were patented in 1902 he listed his occupation as ‘Merchant’, perhaps he still had the store as well as the farms.  The newly patented farms were sold, also in 1902, to Thomas Goodwin, farmer.

The Wainwright properties then fell into the hands of Winnipeg investors, perhaps Mr. Goodwin was not well enough capitalized to maintain such a large property, and were eventually purchased by Emily Pickering in 1908. And the Yeomans family, who started off so prominently, disappeared from the local scene.

We commonly think of our pioneers as being from Ontario, however, this also makes the Yeoman’s the first family to come here from the west, having moved to Manitoba some years before. They built the first building purpose-built to be a store in Dryden. They were the largest property-owner in Dryden and the largest rural landowner, and had enough influence and clout that our first road was built directly from their town property to their farm property.

The mystery is that someone so prominent is not mentioned very much at all in any of our written history. Perhaps it had to do with their moving away early in our history.  Although George wrote a glowing testimonial to the farming potential here in 1897, by 1902 he was gone, so perhaps he was seen by other settlers as more speculator than genuine settler. Still, an important figure in Dryden’s early history.

Part 2 — Saskatchewan Day — The Yeomans family seem to have been our first settlers from western Canada, but after the initial surge from Ontario, resettling from the west was the most common pattern among our early settlers. Many local families are descended from Ontario folks who went west and found the constant wind and big sky uncomfortable, or were wiped out by drought or hail or whatever, and came back here where conditions were more familiar and secure. They say 4 out of 5 businesses fail in their first 5 years, and farming is no exception.  Before there was a well-developed infrastructure and such assists as Crop Insurance and Cooperative Marketing, farming on the prairies was definitely a risky business.  As I have noted previously, many a Saskatchewan farm was saved from the bailiff by the farmer taking his team of horses to one of our bush camps for the winter, thereby accumulating a nest egg.  So they came for the more familiar climate, and they came for the greater security.

My wife’s father’s family left old Ontario and settled near Virden, Manitoba. They came back here to Ontario in the 20’s, mainly because they could not get decent water; there was always a film of oil on the surface in any well they dug.  They settled in Eton Rugby.  There is a wry twist – it turned out their Virden farm was in the center of the western Manitoba Oil Field, and became worth a fortune when oil was discovered!  Of course between those times was the depression, when Eton Rugby people could survive while it was tough times around Virden!

Following this steady flow of homesteaders from the west during the teens and twenties, there was a big surge in the 30’s depression and even into the 40’s, especially from Saskatchewan. The drought was so bad in some parts of that province that even enough food was a problem, while one could at least feed the family here, grow a garden, shoot a deer, catch a fish.  We reached our maximum number of homesteader/farmers of about a thousand by the time of World War 2.

Most came by rail, the normal means of transportation in those days, but many local families have memories of coming in a trek resembling the ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ trip to California; old truck piled high. Team of horses or a farm tractor (with a rooster riding on the hood!) pulling a hay-wagon piled high with  household and farm goods, perhaps including a flock of chickens or a cow walking behind, all on the primitive trail which preceded our present highway.

I think a ‘Saskatchewan Day’ would be very successful, perhaps in 2019, 80 years after the depression ended. Perhaps a social event (At Birchland campground?) around a big map of Saskatchewan which includes all the now disappeared communities.  Local people with Saskatchewan roots would socialize and mark their home community on that map.  Another way to deepen our ‘sense of community’ here.  Of course I am prejudiced, I was born in Regina!



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