By Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
A number of years ago, my wife, three sons and I piled into our minivan and drove thousands of kilometers to Manitou Beach in Watrous. Saskatchewan is known as the land of the living skies. While I love the BC mountains and seashore, there is something unforgettable about a prairie sky that seems to roll on forever.
The magnet for this long trek to Saskatchewan was the rare opportunity to meet with 240 of my wife’s relatives. All six of the brothers made it from six different parts of Canada. Three of the six brothers are actually ordained clergy. There were so many relatives that we had to wear colour-coded name tag just to figure out who was who. I jokingly say that my side of the family could hold a family reunion in a telephone booth.
Manitou Beach, with its high mineral content, is famous because you can float on it, almost like the Dead Sea in Israel. While at Manitou Beach, we were able to have family dancing at the historic Manitou Beach Dance Hall, and then go to an old-fashioned Drive-in Theatre to see the hilarious Noah take-off movie ‘Evan Almighty’.
It was fun to visit the historic family farm on the rocky roads, but not fun to replace the windshield after it was smashed by rocks on the prairie road. It is amazing how good can come of difficulty (Romans 8:28). The smashed window gave me a chance to connect with a North Bay trucker, an Anglican Edmontonian, and an Los Angeles actor repairing Canadian windshields We were able to pray together and one of them even obtained a copy of my book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’.
While in Regina, I had the chance to meet with two of our sister churches. If food is the language of love, I felt very loved while visiting in Regina. One of our congregations in Regina is full of Nigerian and Sudanese new Canadians and recent immigrants who fed us delicious African food. We were also treated to African dancing and singing by a Regina priest’s lively children.
Regina has deep significant to my family roots. Due to the Canadian Pacific Railway, my great-grandfather Oliver Allen was shipped with the Toronto Militia to quickly defeat Louis Riel at Batoche.
While conquering Riel, my great-grandfather Oliver met my great-grandmother Mary Mclean a Regina Leader news-reporter sympathetic to Louis Riel. Right before Riel’s hanging, my great-grandmother, who was fluent in French, disguised herself as a Catholic priest in order to interview Riel. Her newspaper editor had told her: “An interview must be had with Riel if you have to outwit the whole police force of the North-west.” Riel said to my great-grandmother on Nov 19th 1885: “When I first saw you at the trial, I loved you.” Shortly after, my great-grandparents Oliver and Mary married and relocated to start life anew in BC.
It interested me to discover that many Albertans and BCers are moving to Saskatchewan to take advantage of the cheaper housing prices and the country lifestyle. The Saskatchewan government is promoting this with large billboards in Alberta showing a husband, wife and two kids with the backdrop of a single-family home and a bike. The Saskatchewan billboard says in large letters: “More Life, Less Stress”. Some Saskatchewan residents that I met are worried about the Albertan/BC invasion because of the way that it is making housing prices unaffordable.
What a vast and wonderful nation that we live in as Canadians. What a wonderful treat to be able to take family members to explore the richest of this amazing gift called Canada. I thank God as a loyal BCer that all of Canada belongs to all of us.
Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News.
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