My father's birthplace

Posted by Sylvia Olsen on

We are in Ontario already and I haven’t even mentioned Saskatchewan. We spent the long weekend there…several days off in a row. That alone is worth a mention. Driving across Canada usually means dashing through Saskatchewan on the way from Calgary or Edmonton to Winnipeg. This trip was no different except that this is the first time I’ve done the northern route and gone through The Battlefords—the birthplace of my father, Don Snobelen.  


The vast prairie made me think about the story my grandfather, Joseph, told me of when my father was born in 1917. His due date was sometime in March but Grandma went into labour on a blizzardy night in January, almost 2 months early. Grandpa took the horse and buggy and went out to find a doctor—that meant 17 miles to North Battleford, the closest town. He left Eva in the sod shack with her brother Donald Macpherson to look after her. When Grandpa returned his son had arrived and was snuggled near the woodstove in a crate. They figured he weighed under three pounds. My father, like many babies born on the prairies in those days, was a miracle baby. Grandma couldn’t nurse him, her “nerves” (at least that was the family story) and lack of milk meant baby Don had to be fed unpasteurized cow’s milk. Their life didn’t get any easier for some time, but my father had a strong spirit that kept him going for more than eighty years.


Thanks to Charlene at Prairie Lily Knitting and Weaving Shop, in Saskatoon, for hosting two workshops and to all the great women who came out. They helped me understand a little better the difference (if there is any) between “Siwash” “White Buffalo” “Mary Maxim” “curling” etc sweaters.



Saskatoon is a wonderful place to spend a weekend. The South Saskatchewan River, the bridges, the parks and the wonderful Bessborough Hotel all were part of our weekend. Prairie cities give me insight and hope that a racially integrated Canada based on equality is possible. It’s not that the cities are necessarily open-minded but that the population is weighted so heavily towards indigenous people that I am sure they will take their place side-by-side in all parts of their society.



That’s my hope for all of Canada. My sense is that if we get to know each other a little better and appreciate the things we share and understand where we differ that our country will be a better place.




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