How I learned you can’t go home again

Part 1: The Village

“The past is a foreign country,” wrote L.P. Hartley. “They do things differently there.”

No. We do things differently here. The past is over and done, fixed, immutable. We cannot change what happened then.

Not so with our memories.

Psychologists, neurologists and other “ists” tell us that our memories are anything but immutable. We remember some aspects of things past, forget others, confuse events, think we were somewhere when we weren’t. Even the act of recalling a memory changes that memory, or so they tell us.

Memory is a muddle.

So, what was I remembering when I went back to my home village of Meyronne this summer? I walked up and down the streets for almost an hour, looking at vacant lots where once there had been homes, businesses and gathering places. The village was eerily quiet, quite unlike my memory. Continue reading “How I learned you can’t go home again”

“Dropping the Writ” — Say What?

Here in Canada, we are coming to the end of a federal election. Voting day is October 21. Only five more days of this gong show (thank heavens).

The election period began several weeks ago with the dropping of the writ. Since elections are often called “races,” I’ve long had this image of the leaders of the federal parties lined up at the starting gate, in classic sprinting crouch, waiting for someone to “drop the writ” that starts the race and for the crowd to scream, “And they’re off!”

What is a “writ?” And why is it “dropped?” Continue reading ““Dropping the Writ” — Say What?”

Overbeck’s Medical Marvel

Or, If It’s Too Good To Be True . . .

In 1998, when Mom decided to sell the farm, we had a grand clean-out of the house and shop. The shop had quite the history of its own. It had started life in 1910 as the two-room script house on S 25-8-7-W3 in which my grandparents wintered. In 1917, it was moved across the section and attached to the new house to serve as parlour and bedroom. When the house was enlarged in 1925-26, it was removed and transformed into Grandpa Hanna’s shop. He did his blacksmithing and general repair work in what had been the “front room.”

I don’t know what Grandpa Hanna used the back room for. In my time, Dad used it as a general catch-all room, containing whatever didn’t end up in the junk pile out back of the shop. I never ventured that far into the shop; it was too scary.

The 1998 clean-out turned into a treasure hunt. Yes, that room contained a lot of junk, but we found scythes and sickles, an ancient foot-pedaled wood lathe complete with tools, and the weirdest looking device called an Overbeck’s Rejuventor contained in a wooden box. I was curious. What was this device used for? Continue reading “Overbeck’s Medical Marvel”


Excerpts from Grandpa Hanna’s diary:

Wednesday, November 14, 1917: dug rhubarb
Monday, November 19, 1917: dug up plants & fruit bushes in old garden. Planted same in new garden in pm.
Thursday, November 22, 1917: planted raspberries

When Abe built the new house clear across the section in 1917, he moved more than the buildings from the old homestead site. All the garden plants came, too. Perhaps the conversation about the move went something like this:

Addie: When are you planning to move the garden plants over?

Abe: Can’t right now. We’re busy working on the barn and the new house. The garden will have to wait till next spring.

Addie: You’re not too busy to scrape out that slough or work on church business.

Abe: That’s different. We need the pond to collect water for the livestock. I’ll move the garden come spring.

Addie: And next spring you’ll be too busy with seeding and harrowing. Then come summer, you’ll be too busy with summerfallowing and breaking new land. Next thing you know, it will be fall and you’ll be too busy with harvesting. You want raspberry jam and gooseberry jam and rhubarb pie, don’t you, so move those plants over now before the snow flies. Otherwise they won’t be grown enough to produce fruit for that jam you like so much.

And so, the garden was moved.

Of course, maybe it didn’t happen that way at all. But given my grandmother’s opinionated and outspoken personality, I wouldn’t be surprised if she had something to do with the timing of the move.


#HannaFamilyHistory #Garden #Humour #HistoricalFiction #MargaretGHanna #OurBullsLooseIntown

The History of the Hanna Farm, Conclusion

The Torch is Passed on

As I was growing up, I was vaguely aware that Grandma Hanna owned part of the farm and eventually Dad bought that part from her. But how did that happen? And when? Once again, Grandma’s treasure chest to the rescue.

No copy of Abe’s will – if he had one – exists. If he had none, then by virtue of dower rights, Addie – Grandma Hanna – would have received one-third of the farm and the remainder would have gone to Garnet, my Dad, once he came of age as he was barely 17 when his father died. However, surviving documents imply that Abe did have a will by which Grandma Hanna became owner of the South half of 25-8-7-W3 and South half of 26-8-7-W3, in other words, almost half of the farm. Continue reading “The History of the Hanna Farm, Conclusion”

The History of the Hanna Farm, Part 3

Abe Adds Bits and Pieces

Legal Subdivision 4, SW-25:

One of the mysteries in Grandma Hanna’s treasure chest was a letter and a series of receipts from the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) for $600.00 (plus interest). Why is Abe paying the CPR? I wondered. I thought it was the CPR that purchased land from Abe. I looked at the date on one of the receipts: 1928. A notation on the receipt held the answer – Abe was purchasing land from the CPR.

In 1913, the CPR purchased Legal Subdivision 4 from Abe – a total of 40 acres on the southwest corner of Section 25 – to become part of the future townsite of Meyronne. The village didn’t grow as much as the CPR anticipated, so about three-quarters of the land was left undeveloped. Continue reading “The History of the Hanna Farm, Part 3”

The True History of the Hanna Farm – Part 1

When you’re a child, you don’t question how things are. You just assume that the way things are now is the way they’ve always been.

At least, I did. I assumed that the farm I knew, consisting of 1080 acres – the home section of 640 acres, most of a half-section (280 acres) to the west across the road, and another the quarter-section of 160 acres about ½ mile to the north – had always been in my family’s possession.

Boy, was I in for a surprise! Continue reading “The True History of the Hanna Farm – Part 1”


Fire season is upon us.

It’s the end of May, and a huge wildfire, some 10,000 hectares in size, is out of control and threatening the town of High Level in northwestern Alberta. Townsfolk were evacuated several days ago. It is only one of many fires burning across the country. Drought is making a bad situation worse.

Fire has been both a tool and a danger. Indigenous people fired the prairie to green up the grass that, in turn, brought the bison back in their numbers. Europeans traveling across the plains described fires stretching from one horizon to the other, creating a scene worthy of Dante’s Inferno, leaving behind miles of scorched, blackened earth that they crossed for days afterward. Continue reading “FIRE!”

The Uncle We Never Knew

Herbert William Hanna (a.k.a Bert) died in late 1932, long before I or my cousins were born. We remember little of what Edith (his sister) told us about him, other than she (along with Abe and Addie) were heart-broken when he died. He was 17 years 9 months old.

Wednesday, November 23, 1932: “Bert’s remains were laid away in Meyronne cemetery. Till the day dawns & the shadows flee away. Returned home with sorrowing hearts.” (Abe Hanna’s diary) Continue reading “The Uncle We Never Knew”