Lone Butte Cemetery

Lone Butte Cemetery, where the tall grass grows and the prairie wind blows. What a lovely place to explore!

On a recent trip to Calgary for a dental appointment – I know, “dental appointment” is the kind of hook that keeps the reader wanting more – we discovered Lone Butte Cemetery located on Secondary Highway 570 east of Dorothy, Alberta.

Here’s a map of the area that we drove through on our way. We came south down Highway 884 from Youngstown and Big Stone, and turned west onto Secondary Highway 570.

Listen to me read this post:

What I loved the most about this cemetery is that it appears to have been established on virgin prairie, unbroken land never gouged by a plow blade. Tall prairie grasses blow softly in the wind in this final resting place and meadowlarks sing that closing hymn. The graveyard feels exposed to the prairie elements but so were its silent residents when they lived in that open, lonesome land. Somehow that makes this cemetery feel appropriate. These folks worked with the land and now they’ve joined it, two old friends. Well, mostly friends except when the land was trying to kill them with drought and snowstorms, mercifully not at the same time.

In 1913 the Dorothy Improvement District No. 246 was created and in 1932, it was incorporated into the Municipal District of Lone Butte. The Lone Butte Cemetery serves this M.D. Lone Butte joined the Municipal District of Berry Creek in 1933 and, in 1936 the M.D. of Berry Creek became part of the Special Areas.

I found the Everybody Has to Be Somewhere blog while researching the Dorothy/Finnegan area and found that the author had posted some beautiful photos of Lone Butte Cemetery in what looks like early spring. Also as I snooped around the internet, I found a very nice history and photo blog of Finnegan that made me want to visit. Maybe I will someday and I’ll bring my camera.

This corner of Alberta is often overlooked because it is so sparsely populated, but it is full of history and of a peace that is difficult to come by these days.

This is a very touching, western-themed monument. Note the horseshoe-filled cross, the empty saddle, and the cat on the white cross. This one tells a story.

These three Clyne graves are tucked away from the wind and snow in a stand of Caragana bushes. When exploring Canadian the prairies you can always tell where a homestead once was by the continuing existence of Caragana and rhubarb!

Wildflowers bloomed among the native grasses during our late June visit. I had only my phone with me to photograph this place. It was a drive-by photo shooting.

“Waiting Patiently” Together forever, but not quite yet. It looks like they shared a full life and that he is fondly remembered.

This is the view looking south to the entrance of the graveyard between two clumps of Caraganas. See the survey stakes and the twine in the foreground?

This welcoming bench in memory of Edna Pugh is situated in the shade of the Caragana stand that also provides shade to the Clyne family.

I’ve always enjoyed exploring graveyards but recently reading Remember Me As You Pass By has caused me to stop the car this season instead of drive by a roadside cemetery.

Rarely have I seen grave sites so lovingly adorned. I really like these weathered crosses reminiscent of the cemeteries in old western movies.

I love history. If there’s a family history project that you’d like me to help you write, please get in touch. Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope you enjoyed the Lone Butte Cemetery tour! Take care and enjoy life. ~ Lori

Merna United Church and Cemetery

Merna United Church, currently under the care of the Merna Cemetery Maintenance Society. These folks have done a great job in the upkeep of this building and of the cemetery.

I love visiting cemeteries, especially the older ones that tell their own stories of the people who came before and of their struggles and triumphs, their lives and their deaths. The other day we went to Big Knife Provincial Park in east-central Alberta, about an hour and a half’s drive from our village. On the way back we stopped at Merna United Church and cemetery in Flagstaff County, 27 kilometres east of Forestburg.

The little white church stands right where it was built in 1907. It was dedicated on Sunday, July 29th, 1908. In the half an hour or so that we wandered around the cemetery, I located the oldest grave as cited in the article from “Heritage Barns of Flagstaff.” According to the post’s author, this earliest marker belongs to Mary Winfred Stewart who was born in 1871 and died in 1905. The updated stone tells her story a bit differently:

Mary Winnifred Stewart, first wife of [William?] H. Stewart was born in 1871 and died in 1908, the year after the Merna church and cemetery had been established. I really appreciate that both wives are listed here along with their husband and that the original stone is topped with a new marker.
Archibald Brown died October 29, 1909, aged 58 years. “Blessed is the Peacemaker”
I see now that William Charboneau also died in 1919. That’s not why I photographed his monument, though. I was fascinated by how they kept two pieces of the original stone and set between them the updated marker. It’s a beautiful way to preserve history.

When the Merna district school closed in 1969, its bell was removed and placed in the brand new bell tower of Merna United Church in 1970. I’m so glad that bell got to live on and serve its purpose elsewhere in the community. I didn’t spot the bell in the enclosed tower when I toured the church the other day, but I assume it’s still there waiting to ring.

If you enjoy exploring cemeteries or cemetery history or both, Remember Me As You Pass By is an excellent book full of mostly Alberta cemetery stories and history. Here is my review of it.

This stained-glass transom window is above the church’s front door.
I just had to capture this gorgeous replacement plate belonging to the grave of a Mason Lodge member, John Nicol. There were other [brass?] plates like this in the graveyard, but no others that I saw featured the Masonic symbol.
“In affectionate remembrance of Marion McPherson beloved wife of D.L. McPherson Died January 1st 1917. Aged 65 years. To be with Christ is far better.”

If you’re exploring the countryside this summer, drop by a cemetery or two. I’ll do the same. They’re peaceful and contemplative places where physical distancing is not an issue. Thanks for reading and take good care. ~ Lori

A Duck In the Sink Beats a Pan On the Table

The duck that was in the kitchen sink. To bring it out of the house, my uncle wrapped the bird in his bathrobe and carried it out to the deck. Moments after this photo was taken, the frightened duck flew away.

Listen to me read this post:

Today my uncle called me with a mystery.

Each morning, my uncle heads downstairs to make coffee for him and my auntie. Then he goes back upstairs while the coffee’s brewing and when the coffee’s ready he brings it back upstairs. My auntie and uncle enjoy their coffee in bed. This Tuesday morning, the routine was the same.

Except when he returned to fill the two coffee mugs, there was a live duck in the kitchen sink.

My uncle and aunt are both in their 80s. They live on a very well-tended acreage that has a large barn and a couple of gardens. They still live in the two-storey farmhouse that they restored more than forty years ago. They are kind and generous, and their place is peaceful.

My aunt always claimed (mostly jokingly) that there is a ghost in the house because sometimes a pot or a cookie sheet or a piece of cutlery will be out of its cupboard or drawer and placed on the table or counter in the kitchen when no one’s been home. This has happened a few times and it always makes for a fun story.

But a duck in the sink beats a pan on the table.

“I went back upstairs and we heard this sound downstairs, this rustling,” my uncle described it to me. “But I’d just been downstairs making coffee. I asked Jeannette, ‘Is Tim here already?’”

My uncle called to see if I could solve the mystery. Yeah, right. I can’t remember what I’m looking for in the fridge lots of times. How would I know how a large duck ended up in their kitchen sink at 7:30 on a Tuesday morning?

Anyway, it’s kind of fascinating and so I wanted to share the mystery with you, dear reader. Got a theory about how the duck got into the house and then into the kitchen sink? I love to hear it.

Take care and have a very happy day. ~ Lori

The lane leading to my auntie and uncle’s country home.

Of Bertrand Russell and Linseed Oil

What I’m doing now:

I finished applying boiled linseed oil to the old fence as practice for treating the enclosed deck exterior with it. I really like how it made the wood planks look, deeper in tone. I don’t think the deck wood will become quite as dark because the wood on the deck is much newer than the fence boards. When the wood is older it seems to soak up more oil. We’ll see.

What I’m reading now:

I recently started reading Bertrand Russell’s Portraits from Memory and Other Essays. It’s the first time I’ve read him since university, and I barely read him then. I guess I thought I had better things to do. I was wrong.

This book is available, along with other used copies, from AbeBooks.org.

“Of remoter ancestors I can only discover one who did not live to a great age, and he died of a disease which is now rare, namely, having his head cut off.”

~ Bertrand Russell, from Portraits from Memory

Listen to me read this part about Bertrand Russell:

In university years ago I studied philosophy and I read the British philosopher, mathematician, serial husband, and campaigner for peace, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970). Not as thoroughly as I should have but enough to keep me interested all these years. That man accomplished more in a week than I’ll do in my whole lifetime!

Since we got our new computer, Pocket now pops up on my home screen and offers suggestions of articles I might like to read. Sure enough and big as day, there was a Bertrand Russell essay called “How to Grow Old” featured on the website brainpickings.org.

After reading this essay about how to age and die well (spoiler alert: the key is living well) I looked up Bertrand Russell to find out more about the man that nurtured these beautiful ideas and then grew them into words.

Young Bertrand Russell didn’t have it easy. Both of his parents, his sister, and his grandfather died by the time Bertrand was six years old. This misfortune left him and his brother Frank to be raised by their grandmother, apparently the last adult standing. Frank was sent to boarding school while Bertrand was educated at home. It was lonely, but he claims he didn’t mind the solitude, only the boring, repetitive meals in a household that could’ve afforded to feed a small village. Oh yes. Young Bertrand also loathed the strict routine including the hour-and-a-half piano practice each day. He admits his relief at leaving for Cambridge and discovering that there were others more like him out there in the world.

“If a person when adult is to be able to fit into a society, he must learn while still young that he is not the centre of the universe and that his wishes are often not the most important factor in a situation.”

~ Bertrand Russell, from Portraits from Memory

Despite early tragedy and a rigid upbringing, Bertrand Russell turned out all right. Over the course of his 97 years he published in excess of 70 books and approximately 2000 articles. In 1950 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Bertrand Russell had his ups and downs. For example his first wife, Alys Pearsall Smith, was a bit disappointed when he returned home from a bicycle ride during which he made a realization. According to Wikipedia, “Their marriage began to fall apart in 1901 when it occurred to Russell, while he was cycling, that he no longer loved her. She asked him if he loved her and he replied that he did not.”

During his life of activism and of expressing his views, many liked Bertrand Russell and many hated him. Either way, it’s this philosopher and Nobel laureate that I’m researching and writing about today. The same can’t be said of some guy way back when who intensely disliked Russell. I’m not familiar with that grouchy man or his body of work. but I might have met his great grandson.

Take care and be well. ~ Lori

“Contempt for happiness is usually contempt for other people’s happiness, and is an elegant disguise for hatred of the human race.”

~ Bertrand Russell, from Portraits from Memory

No One Needs To Hear It

Yesterday we sat outside the restaurant eating our hamburgers in the car. Through the windows I could see the tables and chairs stacked up, wide yellow tape surrounding them as if it were a crime scene. Some nights I dream of eating inside the A&W, and then I wake up and remember that things have changed.

As we ate we watched the large, white gulls hop around the parking lot. Two were fat and healthy. They squawked as they searched for French fries on the asphalt and occasionally sipped from the puddles there. One gull was different from the other two. She stood mostly still on one leg and when she walked, it was gingerly. Clearly, she had an injured foot. At one point she was perched on a curb, balancing on one leg and a strong gust of wind blew her right over. She rearranged her feathers and sat back down on the curb.

Listen to me read this post:

I felt profoundly sad and helpless watching the injured gull. Then I realized that for days now I’ve felt profoundly sad and helpless. The gull simply made me feel the emotional combo more deeply. Darn sad bird.

It’s been really hard to blog lately  because everything I write about feels small in comparison with what’s going on in the world. I can’t write about my garden when people are dying from and frightened of COVID-19. I can’t tell about my mild discomforts when folks are out risking injury as they protest civil rights abuses and bravely demonstrate for much-needed change. I’m too safe and too comfortable to comment on either situation. I likely will never get sick from the coronavirus, not where I live, and I don’t think I have the courage to go stand up for civil rights only to be deterred by “less lethal means.” Yikes.

“No matter who we are, no matter how successful, no matter what our situation, compassion is something we all need to receive and give.” Catherine Pulsifer

So I’m stuck in sadness and helplessness, unable to write and unable to say something useful. I’m mired in sadness because marginalized people feel threatened, are imprisoned, and die at a significantly greater rate than folks like me. I feel really sad when I see corporations take financial advantage of a bad situation to build their wealth while the food bank lines lengthen.

My heart aches when I hear people I care about focus on riots and looting. These happen, I know, and I don’t condone vandalism, theft, or violence. But I don’t let looting distract me from the issues of poverty and racism that run deep, so deep and for so long, through the world. And I don’t confuse riots with peaceful protest. The differences are pretty easy to spot if it suits you to see them.

For someone stuck for something to say, I guess I’ve found something to say after all. It’s just not the time to talk about my flowers or my travels or my beautiful life. No one needs to hear it so I’ll rearrange my feathers and sit here on the curb, waiting out the hard times and hoping for peace and for justice.

Thanks for reading and listening. I appreciate you. Take care. ~ Lori

Love in May

Here’s a post I wrote a few years ago, the spring after I quit my teaching job. What a beautiful spring it was! My whole world opened up. Gone was the insomnia and the heart palpitations. Here was opportunity and freedom! This feeling and the life surrounding me made me remember the first time I fell in love.

I hope you’re all doing  well. Take care and enjoy what’s left of this beautiful month of May! ~ Lori

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No wonder I first fell in love in May!

Walking down a village sidewalk yesterday, I breathed in deeply the sweet air and remembered falling in love that first time. The sky was a cloudless blue above me and against this background huge purple lilac flowers bloomed, apple trees blossomed, and so did mountain ash trees. The perfumed air was full of birdsong and frog calls. Warmly and lightly, the breeze touched my face and the earth felt solid under each step I took. If you’re going to fall in love, May is a good month to do it.

Hear me read this post:

The scented air and the soft breeze, the sounds of the birds and the bees, all reminded me of a day long ago and of a boy wearing a plaid shirt and riding a red horse. He had freckles across his nose, dark hair, and bright blue eyes. I’d seen him around, but not like this. Suddenly, I really saw him.

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The Church Picnic

It was easy to fall in love at that church picnic because of everything around me and in me coming to life that Sunday in May. It was the easiest, most natural thing in the world.

At this time of year, everything is calling out to each other. “Hey, I’m alive! Are you alive? Let’s make more life!”

Attracting Attention

Flowers and trees bloom to attract the attention of the butterflies and the bees. Robins and sparrows and mourning doves all sing their seduction songs. Frogs croak and insects hum and all for the same reason. “Time is short and May is wonderful! Let’s make more life!”

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Young people are all dressed up and dancing and drinking intoxicating nectar. They might think they’re doing something completely different than the birds and the bees and the frogs and the trees. They aren’t. Those young bodies are propelled by exactly the same seductive forces. “Life is short and we are young!” And so they draw one another closer and continue life’s dance.

Savouring the Season

When I was differently employed than I am now, I missed much of May. Like the students who sat in their unyielding desks and wondered about the world outside the classroom windows, I wondered too. A bird’s shadow would flit past the windows or poplar fuzz would drift lazily by and we’d all turn to see what was happening out there where life was.

How we kept May at bay, I don’t know. She pressed at the windows and knocked on our classroom door. “Let me in! I’m alive! Are you?” We are, but we’re trying to keep a lid on it…

Lone Daisy
 

May is the time in this corner of the world when everything has finally thawed out and every living creature is seeking a mate with whom to continue and affirm life. I couldn’t help but fall in love. I was far too young to find a mate, but May was the perfect time to dip my toe in the inviting waters of love.

Cheering for Life

We’re all cheering for life. That’s why we love babies and sunshine and kittens and puppies. It’s why we enjoy springtime and why we enjoy love, and it’s why we love May. Of all the twelve months, May is the one cheering loudest for life and of all the months, it’s the perfect time to fall in love.

Closeup lilac
 

Book Review: Remember Me As You Pass By

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Remember Me As You Pass By: Stories from Prairie Graveyards

Written by Nancy Millar

Remembering that we all die has the power to put our small discomforts and minor disputes automatically into perspective. The fact of death is the truest thing I know. And nothing drives the truth of mortality home like a stroll through a peaceful cemetery on a sunny summer day. Each of the folks represented by those bronze plates, concrete markers, and granite headstones experienced their own small discomforts and minor disputes. This was called “life.”

One day a couple years back, I noticed through the large glass window in our front door that something was hanging from the exterior door handle. There was a note with the book, Remember Me As You Pass By: Stories from Prairie Graveyards. It read: “I was doing some house cleaning, found this and thought of you.”

Remember Me Image

I was very touched by the gift but apparently not touched enough to read it until recently when provided the quiet by the coronavirus pandemic. I’m so glad I took the time to open up this paper copy and to savour its contents. This is an extraordinarily well-written and well-researched book. Besides knowing how to write and how to unearth some great stories, Nancy Millar is also pretty funny!

She writes about the “real” Sam McGee, a customer at the Canadian Bank of Commerce in Whitehorse, Yukon, where the fledgling poet, Robert Service, worked as a teller, and how Sam brought a bag of his own ashes home during a return trip to the North.

“When he visited Whitehorse at the end of the prospecting trip, he discovered that his old cabin there had been spruced-up as a tourist attraction and one of the items being offered for sale in the gift shop was “Genuine Sam McGee ashes.” Not only had he died, according to the tourist bureau of Whitehorse, but he had been such a massive man that his ashes would apparently supply tourist demand for some time.”

I also enjoyed how Nancy Millar describes Canmore, Alberta:

“Canmore is a pleasant mountain town on the edge of Banff National Park. Part of it wants to be big and rich like Switzerland; part of it wants to be small and modest like Canmore.”

There are a few really good chuckles in this read and they are placed alongside heartbreaking tales of tragedy that brought tears to my eyes for people long dead who I never knew. In the introduction, the author tells of a young couple who homesteaded in the early 1920s in the Innisfail, Alberta area. To earn money to help get them established, the husband went to work in Innisfail for a few months, leaving his newly-pregnant bride at home. He never did return. When his work at the brick plant in town was done, he started out on the twenty-mile journey on foot. He was robbed and killed along the way, his body left in a ditch.

“When the police found him in the spring, after the snow had melted and revealed his body, they rode out to tell his wife. But she had died too, in childbirth. Her twin babies were dead beside her.”

This book isn’t only about death and cemeteries. Instead, the graveyards and grave markers serve as jumping off places for Nancy Millar’s explorations of Canadian prairie history. It’s also a book that makes me want to explore prairie cemeteries even more than I have prior to reading Remember Me as You Pass By. At the end of the book, Nancy Millar includes a practical section called “How to Explore a Graveyard.” Handy! She reminds us to visit respectfully and to close gates. Then she goes into more detail for those readers interested in doing further exploration and maybe conducting some research.

If you love Canadian prairie history, old places, and colourful stories, then you will thoroughly enjoy this 1994 publication.

 Then think as soft and slow we tread

Among the solitary dead

Time was, like us, they life possessed

And time shall be when we shall rest.

~ from the Calgary grave marker of George Park

 

Before They’re Gone

Here’s an article I wrote last summer. Since then my husband and I have each lost a dear auntie and uncle. The auntie in the story below has turned 90, though, and is still chugging along! Time passes quickly. It’s hard to imagine that there might not be another tomorrow to spend with the people we love, but that might be the case. Spend your time now.

Take care, dear readers, and have a good, healthy week ahead. ~ Lori

My IMG_7016message here today is simple: visit your old folks while you still can. Time is tricky and days all run together so closely resembling one another and moving us ever forward. Before we know it, time has passed and so have the people we love.

 Why would I use a dating service? I’m 89!

Last Monday, we had the best visit with my husband’s auntie. She told us that a credit card company contacted her because some suspicious purchases had been made on her credit account.

“What kind of suspicious purchases?” she asked the company representative.

“Well, there are several charges for a dating service.”

My husband’s auntie shook her head and told us, “That was the best laugh I’d had in a long time! A dating service. I’m 89 years old. What do I want with a dating service?”

Her outrage at the idea of her needing a dating service was so fun! Auntie has been a widow now for decades and enjoys independence in her own home that she shares with a huge, orange cat. The credit card company refunded all her money, had her cut up her old card, and sent her a new one. All’s well that ends well.

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This is a random photo of me at the Bar U Ranch posing as a calf.

She knew we were coming to visit so she’d made ginger snap cookies, cheese biscuits, and fresh coffee for us. There were also fresh pickles from cucumbers right out of her garden to sample. They were crunchy and made my lips pucker. We brought a jar of them home. When we were done eating, we toured her garden and she talked about the strength she’d built up in her arms this seasoning by watering her garden pots using buckets of rain water.

She told us, “I use my mother’s wagon to haul those water buckets. She watered her garden the same way when she got old.” My husband’s auntie’s eyes filled with tears. It just goes to show that no matter how old we get, we all miss our mothers when they’re gone.

I have a passion for recording stories.

It’s one of my favourite things, visiting with the older people in my life. I’m a lover of stories and old folks often have great stories to tell. I do know some older folk who don’t care to talk about the past. They live in the now and prefer not to reminisce. That’s just fine, too, but I really like the old stories. That’s why I’m passionate about helping people to get those colourful memories recorded before the colourful storytellers are gone.

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to right than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.

~ Marcus Aurelius

If you’d like to record your family history in its entirety or to simply write down some of those good old stories, please get in touch. I can help with everything from writing to editing to publishing. It would be my pleasure.

 

George and Views From the Road

One of my favourite spring sounds is a chorus of frogs greeting one another and encouraging the production and fertilization of frog eggs. These guys were singing up a storm in the little slough just north of town last evening. (It breaks my heart when brush and wetlands are plowed over and drained to create more farmland. I’ve got to toughen up if I’m going to live around here. Heck, I’ve got to toughen up if I’m going to live anywhere.)

This morning I had my first really good visit with George, my neighbour’s cat who disappeared last year and then unexpectedly returned months later, starving and full of buckshot. I’m so glad he’s back! We missed each other. Having him around saves me from needing to get a cat of my own!

See how charming he is?

It’s such a beautiful sunny and still day here! I had a quick editing assignment to do, and now I should go sweep out the dusty garage. Before I do, though, here are some more photos. A neighbour lady here in town paints these rocks and leaves them along the road north of town for walkers, runners, and bikers to find as they trek along. I took these the other evening, the same time as I captured the frogs’ song.

I hope you’re having a very pleasant day wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Take care of yourself and of each other during these very strange days. ~ Lori (and George)

Well I’ve been out walking
I don’t do that much talking these days