Sunday, December 1, 2019

A Place at the Table for 2019

From left; Bill Studley, Theresa Gladue, Dave McGowan, Linda Studley, MC Greg Wandling, Barb Munro, Preteek Jain

          The “Peace Songwriters” had a successful night (Nov. 30, 2019) with our “Place at the Table” concert and raised a few dollars for the Salvation Army as Christmas approaches.
Contributors to the show included;
Bill and Linda Studley, Theresa Gladue, Barb and Ian Munro, Denise Gardiner, Preteek Jain and Greg Wandling who was also the very entertaining MC.

Denise Gardiner

The work presented was a variety of original songs and rhymes as well as ‘covers’ of traditional seasonal work. Clayton Studley did some video work and I expect there will be a DVD available sometime in the future. The 2018 “Place at the Table” can be viewed at
Door Prizes drawn during the evening

          A special bonus this year was the arrival of long time members of “Peace Songwriters” who now live in Grande Prairie and made the trip to help us out. Janina Carlstad and John Fletcher AKA as the duo “SomeAre Solstice Flutes”
Janina and John

Thank you Janina for the pictures

Event director / song writer / entertainer Barb Munro and sound man / lighting & effects/ bass & piano player Ian Munro

I wrote a rhyme specificly for 2019 entitled “Just Feeling Good” and for 2018 “An Old Rancher’s Christmas”.

Just Feeling Good
© Dave McGowan 2019

There are many things in life that can upset a person
You don’t have to be old to have joints and muscles hurtin’
Perhaps it’s the cost of livin’ that has you all uncertain
Or long hours of labour for the lowly wage you’re earnin’

We all have some little thing that’s driving us insane
Perhaps it’s seething anger at some politician’s name
Or perhaps you were out of town but still get the blame
Different strokes for different folks but upset just the same

But all that angst, worry and want won’t make anything better
It’ll cost you sleep, scramble your brain, make you into a hater
We pass it on to our young; they worry, eat and get fatter
And then as we all get close to the end we learn it doesn’t matter.

So forget those things that simply ruin your days
Sure there’ll be pain, anger and unhealthy ways
And people not thinkin’ about what they say
And others doin’ things that get in your way

There are people much worse off than you, but they cope
As their life stampedes down an ice covered slope
Instead look at the child whose eyes shine with hope
And climb out of your pit, don’t whine, worry and mope

You can give that child’s eyes more reasons to shine
Or a person who’s down some help with their climb
Give him a hand up from the precipice
And make that child a part of your Christmas

You’ll suddenly find you’re sleeping better
And feel in your heart you did what you could
It won’t fix your joints but it won’t really matter
‘Cause you’ll be smiling and just feelin’ good.

An Old Rancher’s Christmas               
© D.M. McGowan, 2018

The ranch is lonely this time of year
Now that my sweetheart‘s gone
We hadn’t planned for either one
To leave for the great beyond

Hitched in harness, a team we where
Going the same direction
Pulling together we made a pair
But now it’s all reflection

Daughter found herself a man
And they’re off chasing the dollar
The boys the same, all working lives
But their kids pleasing grandfather

They don’t listen much to me
That life ain’t about the buck
I think you need beauty and humor
Or you’re just plain out of luck

That no one listens to me
Well I’ve got used to that
Horses usually take instruction
But cows no more than a cat

Always have to repeat myself
And some folks have to be led
Just like a pig I once had
Didn’t hear a word I said.

But the daughter called today
She’d been talking to her brothers
Said them and her husband agreed
And they’d talked some to others

They want to come back to the ranch
Her call gave me quite a lift
As the year rolls up to Christmas                
I couldn’t get a better gift.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Boys in the Battle of Britain

            Once again Remembrance Day is just around the corner so I present what has become an annual event, the story of a young Canadian who served with many US citizens in the British Royal Airforce under British Officers.

            This is a story I’ve posted before but I think it should appear again in recognition of Remembrance Day and of a very good friend with whom I loaded and unloaded many cartridges of a variety of calibers. I also had the pleasure of hearing his guitar behind my vocals on several occasions and playing both bass and guitar behind his excellent vocals.
            I’ve changed a few things but those who knew him will recognize the story and the man it portrays.
            Following the Battle of Britain he returned to Canada and taught fighter pilots for the last few years of WWII. Following the war he did not stay in the air and came to regret it. In the early seventies he saw an article about the “Great Lakes” biplane being re-licensed and made available to the public once again. He managed to qualify for a private pilot’s license and to solo in a “Great Lakes” before his death.

The aircraft on top is a P-51 Mustang the first of which finally appeared in Britain in October 1941. The first 93 shipped to England where equipped with 4 - 20 mm cannon (Mustang IA) unlike later versions which, like the US versions sported 4 - .50 cal. guns.
At the beginning of the Battle of Britain almost any aircraft available was used. The most successful and the one that could probably be said to have won the battle (if any single one did) is the Spitfire pictured on the bottom. They used 8 Browning machine guns chambered for the .303 British round.


Before men started shooting at him with 7.92 mm bullets Harry Burnside had been a singer. He stood in front of fifteen, twenty and sometimes thirty-man orchestras and sang the Dorsey, Kenton, or Ellington songs or whatever else the crowd in front and the band behind wanted to hear. He had worked his magic in Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and his home town, Windsor, Ontario. Harry thought it was only right to use his natural talent, his voice to make at least part of his living. It had also been a great way to start a young life and learn the music and entertainment business from professionals. It was only incidental that it was the perfect place for a teenager to learn from the masters how to party.
Sometimes horrendous events are necessary to save a young man from himself. In Harry’s case it was the war in Europe that brought a young man’s party life to a close, at least temporarily. Of course it also accelerated the danger in that life.
Not that Harry rushed to a recruiting station in the autumn of 1939. Some of his young friends and even the older men he worked with certainly did. It was one of the older musicians who convinced him signing up for service was the thing to do.
“Folks ‘r sayin’ this here war is gonna be over in no time,” Marvin, a trumpet player said. “They is sorely mistaken. I bin readin’ up on these here Germans an’ they got ‘em an army. British ain’t got nothin’ an’ they’s gonna get whacked.”
“Are you suggesting we Canadian boys should go over there and get whacked, as you say, right along with them?” Harry asked.
“First off, I ain’t a Canuk, I’m a southern boy,” Marvin said. “Second, when things get tough they’ll be comin’ for us anyway. Might as well sign up for somethin’ you want t’ do instead o’ somethin’ the government thinks you’d be good at.”
“You’re country isn’t in it,” Harry pointed out.
“Not yet,” Marvin responded. “Now, you’ve been workin’ here an’ there along with singin’. I don’t got no income but my trumpet. A man signs up he’ll get three squares a day an’ a cot.”
Harry took a drink of his whiskey and water and cast his gaze around the musicians gathered in the late night or, to those who were not musicians, early morning booze hall.
“You know, Marv, I’ve always wanted to learn to fly a plane,” Harry said.
Marvin clapped him on the shoulder. “Now you’re talkin’, boy. Royal Canadian Air Force. What say we go sign up first thing in the mornin’?”
Harry looked at his watch. “Might I suggest early this afternoon? I might be awake by then.”

Somewhere between Windsor, Ontario and Ashford, Kent, Harry lost touch with Marvin, but not with men from the southern States. Almost half the men stationed on the airfield were Americans who had travelled north to Canada and signed on with the RCAF.
Though they wore Canadian uniforms and insignia they were technically in Royal Air Force squadrons. Their squadron commander was a British major, and Harry’s wing commander a Canadian Lieutenant. The other two Canadian pilots presently assigned to their understaffed wing were actually from Arkansas. In the two man barracks enjoyed by RAF pilots one of those southerners, Otis Tyler was Harry’s bunk mate.
“Ah hear we all getting’ new radios next month,” Otis said as the two pilots walked down the hall one early morning in late August.
Harry shrugged with one shoulder as he held the door open with the other hand and let Otis out into the humid dawn. “Be fine if they’re better than the T9. But if they aren’t, well, I’m starting to get used to being up there all by myself.”
“Mighty handy fur tellin’ somebody where you’s ‘bout t’ crash,” Otis noted.
“As long as they work and you’re no more than a mile away” Harry countered. “The T9 is good for about that far. You’re probably better off depending on a farmer seeing you go down.”
Otis chuckled.
As they approached the mess hall their wing leader, Lieutenant Mapes reached the door and opened it for them.
“Good news chaps,” the officer said as the two non-coms passed through the door he held open for them. “Just spoke with the CO. We stand down today.”
“Excellent!” Harry said. “Now I can have some real breakfast and more than one cup of coffee.”
“Yuh all worry too much ‘bout that coffee thing,” Otis said.
“Quite good policy,” the Lieutenant said.
“Nothin’ to it,” Otis responded. “Yuh all just take an empty cola bottle up with yuh.”
“I say, old boy, a bit hard to pee in a bottle when one is trying to avoid the 109 that is glued to your tail. Not to mention that bottle flying around loose in the cockpit.”
“Yuh all make sure yuh strap it in so it don’ fly ‘round,” Otis said. “As fur takin’ a leak when Gerry’s on muh tail an fillin’ my magic carpet full o’ holes, why ‘bout then I don’ have no trouble passin’ water.”
Lieutenant Mapes laughed. Harry grinned and shook his head in resignation.
“Since we aren’t going up to be shot at, perhaps we could talk about something else?” Harry suggested.
“Our Calm Colonial boy is right once again,” Mapes said. “We have a day to repair gear.”
“And talk about new radios,” Harry suggested.
“There isn’t anything to talk about,” Mapes said. “I’ve heard the same rumours as you men. However, I haven’t heard anything from the Old Man and I haven’t seen any radios. Other than the 9 in my Spit that quit working entirely the last time I was up.”

Later that day, Otis asked Harry to join him and some other airmen to study and review the local ladies and pubs. However, Harry had grown out of the need to wake up with a pounding hangover. He had already had years of partying. Besides, bringing in bullet scarred Spitfires had made the drinking bouts seem very unimportant. His mates, often a year younger still asked him even though he seldom went with them.
An hour after the other pilots had gone into town Harry walked off the base and caught a ride into Ashford. He walked the streets for awhile admiring the buildings and the history.
Occasionally a Junkers 88 would fly across theEnglish Channel very close to the water, start a steep climb to miss the Cliffs of Dover and release a bomb mounted to its belly at the end of that climb. The speed of the bomber combined with the force of the climb would cast that bomb for a very long way and it would land wherever the laws of physics, geology, and aerodynamics might decide and no man could say. On that beautiful day in late August, 1940 a building Harry had admired moments before and at that moment was no more than a block and a half away, disappeared in a cloud of dust, smoke and noise.
Harry Burnside had been flying over Britain for three months. He had been as far as France on a half dozen occasions. He had no idea how many dog fights he had been in but had shot down three Me 109s and crash landed twice. He had landed successfully in Spitfires that probably should have quit flying several minutes before. He had been scared out of his mind on those occasions but had worked his way through it.
That day, on the streets of Ashford, after the completely random bombing of a very historic building, Harry Burnside could not control the choking fear.
Looking around he saw the sign for a pub, the Anvil and Hammer. He stepped through the door and saw ale glasses stacked on the bar. He turned the pint glass over and said to the barman, “Whiskey.”
The barman could see by the look on Harry’s face that discussion might be dangerous. He poured a shot into the ale glass.
“Fill it,” Harry ordered.
The inn keeper complied.
Harry downed the whiskey and noticed only in passing that it was smooth, single malt.
            He put the glass back down on the bar and said, “Again.”
            Once it was full, he downed the second glass.
            He remembered opening the door to his barrack, but very little after that.
            Much later Otis Tyler returned to find his bunk mate, the man who usually refused to go drinking with his mates, passed out on the floor.
            “Burnside,” he said, as he picked Harry up and placed him on the bunk, “yuh all just like them travelin’ preachers back t’ home; Preachin’ hell fire an’ brimstone then next thing yuh got some farmer’s daughter out behind the tent.”
            And that is how Sergeant Pilot Harold Burnside became known as “Deacon.”

Monday, October 28, 2019

Writing Outside the Lines

Writing Outside the Lines
I was reading an article in the “Roundup” magazine from Western Writers of America about “writing outside the lines.” I wasn’t into it very far when I realized, that is exactly what I do. In my stories I often include back ground that is not in keeping with accepted and promoted history. The reason for that is that I’ve found things that sometimes don’t support the usual teaching. The following are a very few facts I’ve found over several years of research that disagree with what is often accepted.

1.     “Nothing of significance happened in Canada”
Several dozen significant events took place in Canada. Several wars where fought on her soil; between France and England (several times), between England and the USA, between several aboriginal nations and Norwegian, French and British forces.
Events in Canada had an impact on and continue to have an impact on world events. Examples include several European wars (100 Years’ War, War of the Roses, 1812, US Civil War, Indian Wars, both WWI and WWII).
For a time “Britain rules the waves” but would not have done so without white pine from Eastern Canada.
This is a list that could go on for a very long time

2.     “The settlement of Canada was done without any major contention by loyal subjects.”
This is probably the most unfounded of all the misleading statements about our past. Simply look at the dissention surrounding any election, study or proposal one might care to name. In addition there are the rebellions in the early 1800s in Montreal, Quebec and Toronto. Then take a look at the disgusting (as well as unfounded, unsupportable and criminal) attacks on citizens during the general strike of 1919 in Winnipeg and the Regina Riot of 1935. The several rebellious actions both for and against Confederation in the 1860s (Maritimes), 1870s (BC) and the 1970s.

3.     “Men don’t carry firearms in Canada.”
This is actually a line from a “Canada moment” and spoken by a character portraying NWMP Inspector Sam Steele in the Yukon. Even though he and his force did confiscate many firearms when they deemed it necessary he would never have made such a statement. In addition it takes only a very short study to realize that most of the miners they were dealing with did carry firearms except within urban areas. This was also the case in almost all of Western Canada.
This is a country populated by momma moose with newborn calves, Grizzly and black bear as well as wolves and cougar that, during some famine years will attack anything. Anyone travelling alone across this land in the 1800s and right into the mid-1900s without personal protection of some sort is only going to survive through some extraordinary luck.
Even today it is not a good idea. True, we now have bear spray available but it doesn’t do much when one is trying to call for help and flare guns can start fires we don’t want to see.

4.     “These attacks on citizens by outlaws didn’t really happen.”
Tell that to the descendants of those who survived the Cypress Hills Massacre of 1873. Or those who were killed a few at a time, both red and white of which very little if anything was ever said. In some cases it was white on white or red on red as the result of some party fueled by an alcohol fueled feud (often based on wood alcohol). Sometimes it was due to someone without a work ethic taking from someone who had a work ethic … much as is the case today.
We have theft today but there are people around who report and complain and we even have “eyes in the sky”. I suspect when there was no one around for miles there was a great deal more savage treatment (at least as a percentage of population), including theft and murder than there is today.
It has always bothered me (and I’ve written about it several times) that history is often presented in the most boring, uninteresting ways possible. As a result there is a large group, probably the majority, who have no interest in what or who built the spot/city/country where they live.
          And that’s the biggest reason why they don’t know who they are; they don’t know how they got here or there or wherever they are.
          Yes, history must remain true to the facts or the actually events. Yes, writing history requires research. If the writer hasn’t recounted the facts accurately then it isn’t history.
          However, if no one reads it (and thus repeats the inaccuracies) who cares?
          Besides, while being so diligent in researching and relating the “facts” it is often the case that the important information, such as the people involved and what they were like, is completely ignored.
          The important consideration is that people make history. The British Colonial Ministry, the British Ministry of Taxation, or the various Colonial Governments (including those in the 13 colonies) recorded those things they thought made them look good or increased their funding but they had little to do with “making” history. The reactions of the citizens to those governments or ministries are what constituted the most important aspects of history.

Here are a few other things from history that aren’t exactly as they are usually presented.
John A. MacDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister is credited with the ideas that resulted in Canadian Confederation, Canadian Pacific Railroad and so called “protective” tariffs restricting trade with both the US and Europe.
None of these where is idea. He was convinced by his political rival, George Brown that an amalgamation of political parties was the only way to maintain a governing council of the Province of Canada (still a British Colony at the time). Further argument convinced him of pursuing the idea of self-government and Canadian Confederation. He became the driving force behind the efforts that resulted in the British North American Act but it wasn’t his original idea.
CPR and “protective” tariffs were also not his idea. It was easy to get him on board with transcontinental construction of a railroad since the distance and terrain involved made it obvious that communication and transportation would be necessary to maintain a nation so large. With the same problems in mind it was easy to see that Canadian businesses would have difficulty competing on a level field with US companies who already had transportation and communication structures and a customer base that could offer business stability. Both ideas, the railroad and the tariffs, were ideas from Canadian commercial enterprises but where easy to sell to any senior minister under several layers of pressure including a lack of funding.
As with most ideas from government there was nothing wrong with conception. However there was no research (as usual), poor installation, (again) no re-evaluation, and no re-instigation.

The point of all this, the information about John A. and the various disparaging and even supportive statements about Canadian history is to demonstrate common perceptions are often wrong. Sometimes it’s because we don’t have all the information in the first place. Other times it’s because the “accepted” idea needs a great deal of support to survive because it was in error in the first place.
Something else we do is judge these characters from history – both the celebrities (John A. PM) and the unknown (John Q. Citizen) by the standards of today. The needs, thoughts and actions of 1840 have no relationship to what was then needed, thought or done in 1870. The standards of morality accepted at the time and primarily mined from the Bible had not changed in those thirty years but how to achieve those goals had changed.
The same is true comparing then to now, except, of course that fewer people now are checking morality standards by studying anything including the Bible.
Here are a few things that I’ve discovered by research and attempt to support by “writing outside the lines.”
“No consideration was given to individuals in post-industrial England.”
“The USA was settled with the gun.”
Also B---S--t! (It wasn’t just the plow, either.)
“The settlement of Canada was without rancour or violence”
Also B---S--t!
“The celebrities of yesterday (Benjamin Disraeli, George Washington, John MacDonald) where true heroes and great icons.”
B---S--t! They were just people like your neighbor.
And people are entertaining.
You don’t agree? Tell me so. Leave a comment.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Disappearing Métis

“Into the Mountains”  background

Gabriel Dumont

Louis Riel's Children
Jean Louis and Angelique
In 1885 after years of unfulfilled promises from Canada’s Federal Government the Métis of the North Battleford and Frog Lake areas of the North West Territories (in today’s province of Saskatchewan) rebelled over their treatment. It was known as the Northwest Rebellion or the Second Riel Rebellion since it was led by Louis Riel who had led a rebellion in 1870 in the Fort Gary/Red River area (today’s Winnipeg).
Riel was indeed the leader but the military leader or Métis General was Gabriel Dumont and they were joined by some Assiniboine and Cree people. Despite being ill equipped in relation to the Canadian Militia and North West Mounted Police …
(Though both sides had some repeating rifles about half of the Métis’s were muzzle loading/percussion weapons. Toward the end when supplies where disappearing a few flint locks appeared. )
Martini-Henri 1871 in  577-450
This was the weapon used by the Canadian militia 
... if they had been properly issued in enough numbers
The North West Mounted Police had transitioned to this
the Winchester 1876 in 44-40 from a Ross rifle and
in 1886 began switching again to ...
Winchester 1886 in 45-70
Some of the Métis may have used the Spencer 1860 carbine
This is a 7 shot repeater loading through the base of the butt-stock
Using a .50 or .52 rimfire cartridge

…and vastly outnumbered, the rebellion lasted for several months and resulted in the deaths of 91 people. Had Dumont been allowed to operate without political interference it probably would have lasted much longer thus resulting in more deaths.
The eventual outcome probably would not have been any different. The Canadian Militia (Including a detachment of North West Mounted Police lead by Sam Steele) had them greatly outnumbered and had better equipment including two Gatling guns (and an officer and two non-coms) on loan from the US military, several artillery pieces, all the horses they could round up and commandeer in the country, and the use of a couple of stern-wheel river boats.
This is an 1876 model Gatling. It is probably of .50 Cal.
but there were few made in 1"

An episode with one of the river boats supplied some comic relief for the Métis. They strung a cable across the North Saskatchewan which resulted in the removal of the wheel house and fancy footwork by those aboard.
When it was all over several of the leaders escaped (Dumont into the US) and some, including Riel were tried, convicted and executed. At least one and perhaps more of those where not involved in the rebellion and had tried to keep their people (Cree and Assiniboine) out of the fracas and either died in Stoney Mountain Penitentiary or shortly after release.
(There is a “Heritage Minute” for Louis Riel at )

True, the Métis where forced into a corner by the government and by the racist though accepted treatment by those surrounding their communities. However their actions where definitely rebellious and therefor constituted treason. On the other side the Métis had tried several peaceful methods to elicit attention and change but had been ignored. Therefor the government was guilty of incompetence and negligence but, as is and always has been the case, no one was charged for that ineptitude. The leaders of the losing side became public figures due to imprisonment and execution while the leaders of the winning side (who caused it all in the first place) where shuffled off to some innocuous position where their names would quietly disappear from history.
As has often been said the news (and history) is written by the winners.
The population of Métis suddenly decreased dramatically. Truthfully it undoubtedly increased but many denied their heritage and Métis suddenly “disappeared.” As mentioned, some like Dumont went south of the 49th parallel into the US. What happened to the rest?
Almost a century later Métis suddenly appeared as individuals and as communities throughout the West. Perhaps my short story “Into the Mountains”, fiction though it is, supplies one possible explanation.
What do you think?

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Education or manipulation?

Apparently there are those that think our ancestors always had the worst of motives when they presented their ideas. John A. McDonald and Sir Isaac Brock were not creating a country they were stealing. Samuel de Champlain, Henry Hudson and Giovanni Caboto were not mapping new country they were subjugating the populace in “new” lands.

Having read some of the writings of John A. and of those around him I’m 100% sure that he wanted free of the oppressive, ignorant demands of the British Colonial Secretary. His second concern was that the neighbor to the south would attempt to absorb “his” country.

He also thought that the various “Indian” (ie: aboriginal) peoples would be defeated by a more efficient economic system and history proved him correct. He also thought that they should learn some of the systems brought from Europe or the peoples, their societies and language would also disappear. History almost proved that to be correct as well but due to an understanding imparted by the education system some of those languages … and societies … may be saved.
It is also true that the education system was poorly managed. It was full of concepts that had nothing to do with education and turned the schools into prisons, torture chambers, and mental destructors.
As it is practiced today education in general has a great many short-comings, but thankfully nothing as bad as what the “residential” system became.
Remember that the “residential” system started off as a supportive, constructive idea. It became a way to destroy the various aboriginal societies, and to eliminate the various languages and spirituality.
It was not, initially, intended to be that way.
A top shelf educational system should have the goal of teaching students how to think constructively and artistically. However they are now systems designed to make students think “THE WAY YOU ARE TOLD TO THINK.”
Apparently we have all kinds of money to pay for things that don’t really matter such as foreign aid, UN membership and attendance, trade junkets (commercial enterprises should be paying for that), Federal and Provincial “studies” (on a few dozen matters that anyone dealing with them could answer for free), or for legislation that in many cases should be paid for by insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies or special interest groups.
We don’t have money for schools, military veterans (who should be handling, when still in service, Foreign Aid), or seniors.
No money for school drama or music and very little for sports. Without sports a high percentage of the kids are likely going to be overweight and die early from circulatory problems. Without arts to develop minds they could precipitate almost any destruction one could imagine.
They certainly won’t have an education.
By the way, Sir Isaac Brock was a British soldier doing what British Parliament had told him to do.

Champlain, Hudson and Caboto would, in today’s world, be considered civil engineers or “surveyors”.

By D.M. McGowan 2018

They taught us many things in school and some of us where fine
At following the words and rules along a designated line
A few were branded trouble when they left the proven trail
And popped the system bubble when they just refused to fail

“If you do exactly what we say you’re sure to get an “A”
Though you may not learn very much to help you through the day
But you’ll get the all important grade and be every politician’s dupe
For if you follow where you’re lead you’ll think they speak the truth”

What many didn’t see both students and the staff
It isn’t learning simple facts but how to love and laugh
Edison, Curie, Gates and Einstein they all had imagination
They didn’t follow another’s path or stay locked within their station.

Sure there is knowledge we all need in writing, science and math
Some we need more than others depending on our chosen path
And if you intend to just get along to do only as you’re told
What need for any new idea? What need to be so bold?

But if you intend to make a mark to be a Gates, or Jobs or Woz
You’ll need some imagination to be anywhere near the top
How do you exercise imagination, build its strength and survival?
Understand poetry, fiction and music to rise above any rival.

“Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.” Marie Curie.

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”  Jane Austen

“Study the past and you’ll know your mistakes aren’t unique.” Dave McGowan

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Native Sons in W W I

Frank Beaton and W W I

In the early ‘60s I worked on a couple of ranches on the south side of the Peace River and one of those I worked with was a man named Frances Beaton Jr. better known as Frank. He was the son of a long-time Hudson’s Bay Company Factor at Fort St. John. Frances Beaton Sr. was a Scott and his wife and Frank’s mother was a Dane-zaa, better known to we pale-face as Beaver Indians – probably because the HBC could usually depend on them delivering high quality pelts.
Dane-zaa group near Fort St. John 1914

Dane-zaa men near Fort St. John about 1910

          Frank had many stories to tell about his up-bringing and because of a couple of those stories I gave him and his father a cameo appearance in “The Making of Jake McTavish.”
          One of the stories he told was about he and several other young native men meeting in Grande Prairie, Alberta and signing up for service with the Royal Canadian Army in World War I. As I recall he said he thought he was the oldest of the lot and he would have been 21 or 22 when they took this eventful trip.
          I thought at the time that it must have been a monstrous cultural shock for these young men. Subsequent statements and responses to questions by Frank affirmed my suspicion but he was certainly not known for his talkative nature.
          I was thinking of it again recently and wrote the following rhyme, gave it to Karen and she took some of the bumps out of it.

Native Sons in World War One
By D.M. McGowan and K.L. McGowan
© 2019

Seventeen native boys left the Upper Peace
The only land they’d known, all in their teens.
They’d all grown up wild out among the trees.
Knew where to find pelts, beaver ponds or streams.
They hunted for their supper, trap or single shot
And only their mothers gave safety a fleeting thought

After two hundred years of Scott and Fleur de Lis
They knew some other talk, sometimes two or three,
English, French and German were spoken in the land,
And whatever tongue was spoken by their particular band
Some of them could read and write more than just their name
But the army didn’t care, green privates all the same

An amazing great adventure for young trapper men
From freedom of the wild to a Canadian Army pen
Across the land in trains, something never seen.
Mistreated by a Sergeant, but still bright and keen.
Dropped off in camps and marched around a square
“Dig some dirt from here and put it over there.”

On the trains again east to Canada’s Maritimes
March down to the docks in perfect double lines
Then up a gangplank to a big steel canoe
Then told to put their kit where you couldn’t fit a shoe
A dozen ships in convoy from the Bedford shore
But count on German U boats sinking two or more.

More camp time in England, weeks without the sun
Then finally sent to France to show them how it’s done
Trenches that collapse from rains that never end
Bodies on the wire or sprawled out in no man’s land.
All caked in mud, “Are they ours? Are they theirs?”
Days and weeks of boredom, then terror and despair.

Vimy Ridge, the Somme or maybe Regina Trench
Maybe English on the left other times the French
High Wood or Kitchener’s, Avion as well
With the Aussies at Gallipoli, some lived to tell
Passchendaele, Arras, knowing each the end
If not for the war, surely for the men

Metis, Cree and Dane a total of Seventeen
On a great adventure, young, naive and keen
But the Great War wasn’t a great place to learn
For seventeen go but only two returned.