Tracing my (muddy) roots…

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at Paddle River Campground
LOCATION: Mayerthorpe, Alberta – about 60 miles NW of Edmonton
WEATHER: Cloudy with some rain. A few hours of sunshine in the PM. High 65

The main reason we selected this area to camp is because this is where my mother and uncle Leo lived with their parents in the 1920s and 1930s. Today’s plan was to check out their home and surroundings.

We found Padstow Road, a major family landmark, just a few miles from our campground. Uncle Leo remembered a lot and guided us along the way. Aunt Martha had studied a lot of the history and filled us in. The first stop was the one-room school house that my mom and uncles attended until about 8th grade.

The building is still there, pretty derelict and falling down behind the trees.

Mom had always told me tales of walking to school for miles and miles (especially when I complained about having to walk a few blocks to my school). It was true! The house where they lived was about 8 miles from the school.

Leo remembered that the house was down a narrow range road, so we turned down it. Big mistake! The road looked at first like it might have a bit of gravel, but quickly turned into a terrible, muddy mess. The problem was that we could not turn around; there was just no place dry enough. So, we kept on going, hoping for a turn-around. Meanwhile, the road got muddier and muddier.

We finally found the old farm house. It was where my mom and uncle were born. My grandparents farmed the land. They lived there about 20 years, finally leaving due to….(guess what…..the mud!)

Three miles down this muddy bog, we realized that it was just getting worse and that we would have to back up. First Martha, then George, cautiously backed us up the 3 miles. There were several low areas where we were seriously stuck. We had to stop several times to let the engine cool down. We had visions of sitting there for hours waiting for a tow truck, but finally, slowly, we made it to the main road.

Once on the highway, the car started shaking violently. It felt that all 4 tires were flat. We thought it perhaps was the rocky mud on the tires. We pulled over and George and Jack tried to get the worst off.

We passed the site of the family’s church, the farms of old friends, and the “old swimming hole” where my mom and her brothers had played.

We limped into the small town of Mayerthorpe, which was considered the big town when Leo and mom were young. Leo said they went into town about once a month. Here we found a carwash. After putting in about $20, we got most of the mud off.

George got a lot of the mud on himself!

The car was still shaking a bit. We didn’t know if it was more mud, or something more serious. We found a tire shop where they kindly squeezed us in. They hoisted the car and found more mud stuck in the bowels of the tire parts. They were able to remove it, and we were on our way again.

We drove about 3 miles to the town of Rochfort Bridge. This is the town closest to the old farm. The family would come into this town to shop, collect their mail, and to catch an occasional train ride to Edmonton. Leo thinks that they just flagged it down; there was no train station. Leo and my mother attended school here for a short time, boarding with families in town.

By this time, it was after 5:00, and we were all pretty exhausted. We returned to the campground just as the sun started peeking out. We enjoyed a nice campfire again, then cooked dinner outside.

DINNER: Jack’s Phillipino dish called adobo. It is chunks of pork that have been sauteed, then slow cooked with herbs and spices. It was really good. Sides were rice and sauteed vegetables.

We sadly said goodbye to my aunt, uncle, and Jack the caregiver. They will return tomorrow to their home in Grande Prairie, and we will be back on the road.

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