‘I pawed great handfuls of packed gumbo mud’

From our April 2012 issue

By J. Alvin Speers – Calgary, Alta.

During the summer of 1959, my dad accompanied me on a holiday trip return to the West. Single at the time, I was living at my parents’ home in Orangeville, Ont., when not on the road for work.

I loaded the car’s trunk in anticipation of perhaps taking a different job out west. At first, 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.

Dad and I left on a fine trip to last two weeks, driving on Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada), visiting friends on the way and stopping at my uncle’s farm (dad’s brother) at Prelate in west-central Saskatchewan. I had planned to go on to Calgary, while dad visited a few days with Uncle Ernie.

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

I was a muddy mess

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 mud off the tires to make it possible to apply the chains. That took some time and I was a muddy mess, but I was eventually 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 then continued east.

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

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

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