‘I pawed great handfuls of packed gumbo’

From our April 2012 issue

By J. Alvin Speers – Calgary, Alta.

During the summer of 1959, my holiday trip was another return to the West. My dad accompanied me. I was still single at the time.

At my parents’ home where I resided when not on the road for work, I loaded the car trunk in anticipation of perhaps taking a different job out west.

I removed a set of tire chains and placed them in the garage lean-to where my things were stored. On second thought, I got them and placed them in the car trunk again.

We left on a fine trip to last two weeks, driving on Highway 1, visiting friends on the way and eventually stopping at dad’s brother’s farm at Prelate in west-central Saskatchewan.

Overnight, it rained heavily and I had planned to go on to Calgary, while dad visited a few days with Uncle Ernie.

I got only to the roadway at the end of the farm lane where I was immovably stuck in gumbo that solidly filled the rear wheel wells around the tires.

Determined to get to the paved road if possible, I put on my coveralls, jacked up one rear wheel at a time to put the chains on. I was grateful I had retrieved them from the garage before leaving home.

I pawed great handfuls of packed gumbo off the tires to make it possible to apply the chains. That took some time and I was a muddy mess, but I was able to drive on.

Reaching pavement I stopped beside a creek culvert, removed the chains and cleaned them in the running water. I washed my hands and removed my coveralls to proceed in presentable shape to my next stop in Calgary.

Four days later, dad rejoined me and we drove on through the Okanagan Valley to visit mother’s sister and husband at New Westminster, B.C.

We returned via the southern route through the Crowsnest Pass, visiting mother’s mother in Medicine Hat and continued east.

We crossed Saskatchewan once more, to Sudbury, Ont., where I resumed work installing phone equipment. Dad took the bus to his home in Orangeville.

The gumbo adventure frequently comes to mind among more pleasant recollections of 52 years ago.