Points West: Time Travel

Bus Tour: Points West Oct 3, 2017

After some nasty days, sunshine broke through the clouds and blessed us as we traveled west through a golden prairie landscape. Forty-seven enthusiastic seniors in a comfortable bus headed for Carberry where 10 o’clock coffee and homemade cookies awaited us at the United Church. To begin this journey into the past I read a little of Nellie McClung’s book, ‘Clearing in the West’ to contrast our  ease with her family’s 1880 journey. They slugged along the Portage Trail with all their possessions on a horse drawn wagon, and oxcart. When wheels became mired in the mud, the travelers helped each other. They forded rivers which we crossed without a pause, camped each night, and reached their homestead in eleven days.

Carberry: The Museum plus the Gingerbread House portrayed local history. Local guides met us and explained their various exhibits. With varying backgrounds the artifacts snagged different memories—churn, lace, skis, or flail—and carried us back to a different time and place. How I wished for interviews to catch a glimpse of scenes relived. I felt myself a very privileged intruder.

The Seton Centre focused on the legacy of Ernest Thompson Seton and the natural world he so effectively made his life’s work.

Following a lovely lunch of soup and sandwiches, we drove to the Criddle Vane Homestead, the setting of my book, ‘For Elise’. The only buildings remaining are the entomology labs where Norman with his summer students, collected and labelled specimens during the early years of the 20th century.

We walked as a group to Elise’s grave in the back corner of the Criddle cemetery and placed a beautiful red flower and ivy on her grave. Our father had taken us there before his death in 1977 and I promised to find out more about his grandmother. Little did I know where that promise would lead in travel and friendships! In the five years since publishing the book Elise’s life has touched many. The gathered group was a very small sample of her fans.

A path led through the trees to the clearing where the crumbling logs are all that remain of my father’s birthplace born there is 1900. Mr. Criddle put countless road blocks trying to prevent Edwy’s marriage to his beloved Emily. When at last permission was given he wrote her, “I’m building the best house I can, “a Palace for my Queen”. We gathered in the sunshine while I read about Thyra’s birth, their firstborn. The next half hour was free to investigate the property, Norman’s lab, the pump, the signage.

Our last stop was the home of the Wawanesa Insurance Company. Their first offices now house the museum exhibits: per-settlement arrowheads and hammers, early settlement including Nellie Mooney’s going away dress after her marriage to Wesley McClung, and a large display of Criddle and Vane memorabilia.

Behind the museum is the beautiful little 1882 St. John the Divine Anglican Church, relocated from Rounthwaite. If you are thinking of a summer wedding it would be a lovely venue. We wound our way through the display rooms, and in turn received our tea and choice of home-made pie.

When we shared the highlights of the day on the drive home a fine innocent looking gentleman confessed to sneaking back for a second piece of that delicious pie. Other highlights of the day: the knowledge and welcoming attitude of the guides at the museums, visiting Elise’s grave, the ruins of the Palace, being in small prairie towns, and the fellowship with each other. We arrived safely back in the parking lot behind Creative Retirement on Portage Avenue just before expected the time of 7:30 PM.

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