By Ron Baker
In mid-June a friend dropped by. She was excited to hand me a bundle of papers. Actually a story. Written by someone called Robert Carlington Baker.
My friend figured my Baker surname probably meant I might be related (I seem to be related to half of Kindersley anyways!). Little did she know that was my grandfather.
I set the sheets aside to read once again. As a youngster, I had read of my grandfather’s homesteading exploits – coming to the Kindersley area in 1909.
A few days later, the Canada 150 celebration reminded me to revisit my own history.
Robert Carlington Baker was a poet, a farmer, a widower at an early age, remarried and a father of nine children. His countenance was that of a bearded wiseman, often mistaken by children for Moses or Santa Claus. His wry humour often evoked the response from his wife Clara, “Now Carl . . .”
In his autobiography, called My Pilgrimage and Pioneering, he states the he can “remember very little of the first five years of his life” (as if any of us do), and “It may be alright not to think sometimes” – a sign of his bent towards overstatement, sarcasm and “twinkle in the eye” humour.
And so, here are some early reminiscences of this pioneer to the Kindersley area.
“I had not thought seriously of going west until a good chum of mine said ‘I am going west in a week’. That was a little sudden to me, but I said, ‘I’ll go along.’ I had to get packed and get my ticket. We were leaving on Monday’s train about March 5, 1909. Well, Sunday night at church this lad said his Dad didn’t want him to go, so he wasn’t going. I said ‘I have my ticket bought so I’m going.’ . . .
“About March 10 the train pulled into Zealandia . . . there was a sleigh going to the Merrington District. (There was no Kindersley at that time) . . . a sixty-five mile journey. The country was covered with snow, sagebrush showing up here and there. Where sagebrush grew was supposed to be heavy clay soil. I got busy and Mr. Baker’s son drove me around to see different quarter sections that were open for homesteading. . .
“I went to the Land Office [in Moose Jaw], there was a long line-up waiting. Finally I was going up the stair way passed an office and was handed a number and as our number was called out we took our place where we were questioned and asked what we wanted. I gave my first choice, Sec. 12-29-23-W3rd [on the East Side of the Motherwell dam]. The office boy on looking it up said it was still open. It would cost me $10.00 and break 30 acres and reside on it 6 months a year for three years. The price was alright.”
Understatement! Wait ‘til you read my next column. Oxen, and farm supplies, and ingenuity, and my grandfather’s saying, “Many mosquitos are as big as a horse.”