On Train - CPR #4
Vicinity, Medicine Hat,
Dearest Jean -
Attempted to write before, but the train was too rough for any legible attempt. It is better now and we are just approaching Medicine Hat. It is 12:30am Friday.
We have had a very pleasant trip so far - Weather has been perfect, and the mountains have been magnificent - with a sprinkling of fresh snow.
Several of our good friends were at the doc in Vancouver - Tro[?],
Quite a few miles of track have slipped under our wheels since the above interruption. It is still pretty rough but I am going to try to get down most of what I want to say before Winnipeg so I can post it there.
To continue where I left off - Besides Tro[?], Marjory McLiesh, Charlie Schultz, Mrs Dobbin & her brother Cec. Coates, (Claire being away) and Dave Carey - and of course Fred & Kate Hagginon. Also a couple of Bills special friends. Mrs. H. had a small fruit cake - the last of last Christmas' baking. I will save it for the boat.
We got settled down nicely in our sleeper & had dinner on the train as it slid along the harbor - the mountains silhouetted in a lovely twilight - and finally into the blackness of night - and the upper Fraser - with my thoughts back with my darling wife and baby - I wish now we had planned one letter from you by airmail to Winnipeg - However Toronto will come soon - and a letter from you! How I am going to look forward to those!
The excitement at the dock in Victoria was a bit hectic - and that helped probably to keep a stiff upper lip. I could see you & Mary from the front of the steamer, as she pulled away - till things all went swimming for a moment - and when I looked again - we were around the corner - and away.
Next morning after a pretty good sleep following a Kaleidoscope of half conscious visions of you & other things. I woke refreshed just as dawn was breaking and we had passed Kamloops along toward Shuswap Lake - the countryside looked beautiful - fresh & still - with a few pink clouds clinging to the shoulders of the higher mountains - promising a sunny day ahead. The country was the same which I surveyed 9 years before in which I used air photographs for the first time - rather appropriate as the initiator of the string of circumstances leading up to this present venture. Also it was along the road below which came occasionally into view that my sweet bride and I both travelled in that glorious October.
I lay there in my birth looking out the window - seeing a continued string of reminders of the past episodes - and you, - freshened & revitalized by the sweet mysterious stimulus of the very early morning - soon the train swung around over Knotch Hill - and behind the mountain - drawing an abrupt curtain of green hillside over the pageantry of the scenes & thoughts - I pulled down the blind & cuddled down to a blank sleep which lasted till the first call to break fast - away beyond Sicamous.
At Field I ran over to see Mrs. Curry - but there was no one home - looked for Lyol at the Sta. but they said he was up at Banff. However a lady told me that Mrs. Curry was still alive although invalid. The high Rockies between there and Banff was glorious - and many a familiar scene carried me back to my first conquest of B.C. twenty - one years ago.
At Banff a most charming young lady was over the platform and when I stepped out she ran up & kissed me - It was Gertrude - a picture of sweetness & happiness - she had her little overnight case, a return ticket to Calgary and permission from George Brewster to go with me that far & return the next day!
We had a lovely visit & dinner in the diner - Calgary came all too soon - she had made arrangements to stop over with relatives of her landlady at Banff. Gertrude is on top of the world - she has the job licked at Banff - and I really think she has a wonderful opportunity there - she is getting 100er per month (this is confidential) She also has a few [?] - which is just right too. The population at Banff are very busy in summer - & work to make enough money to last them through a winter of idleness - which of course means getting into mischief - and the usual boozing - she has had some difficulty therefore finding congenial friends who are content with just the ordinary wholesome pastimes. I am quite confident she will hold a level keel & hold a straight course - and it will be good training for her to do this and still be tolerant & able to enjoy the best side of the perhaps weaker vessels about her. I hope you will have time to write Gertrude often - it will give her a good solid handrail to grab onto in time of need and you are close to her in space & affection.
I waited up till 12:30am this morning and to my joy Leila was at Medicine Hat with Uncle Ashton, Bessie & her husband. She had got my letter just in time to make the westbound train to Medicine Hat the day before - so she & I had a grand old visit together till 3:30 am this morning - we both seemed to grab onto a mutual and mute understanding that this was a time for happiness and cheerfulness - and we laughed and chattered away - and ate a bunch of canned turkey sandwiches (her own canning) - Leila will soon be 40 - but she looks 30 - she is a marvel - and no one can ever appreciate fully what she has been through - Poor girl she never has a minute to herself - down till late at night she must go full steam to keep ahead of the work - no wonder she rarely gets time to write - and when she does she is too tired to remember enough of the important things she wants to say. She was under the impression that she had sent me a financial news of her last years crop operation when she returned that last cheque and I clumsily told her that she had overlooked it. She really broke even last year - and can finance this year o.k. if they get another break this year. They have just had over a foot of new snow which was badly needed for the coming crops. You have a champion in Leila she feels so close to you now that I am going to be away. Her love for you is equal to that for me -but her sympathy & concern for you & Mary are really greater than for me - because of all people she understand & feels most strongly what a sacrifice you are making.
You can see that I have had a busy & wonderful trip - I dream of you when asleep - and think of you when awake - my darling darling Jean - May God speed this trip & interlude to bring us soon together again.
We are now speeding towards Manitoba - almost across Saskatchewan.
Bill doesn't think much of the Prairies - and I don't blame him - just the same I am glad I was born on them & reared on them - because thereby I can sense their mysterious message & fascination - and after all - my old dodo can thrill to the grandeur of B.C.
I see countless little homesteads slip past on the flat panorama - windswept - trying unsuccessfully to snuggle down into the slightest little break in the monotony. But in each of these little oases the great drama is in valiant process - LOVE, LITTLE ONES - HOPE - FAITH - EVEN DELUSION - God has his hand on them all - because there is LIFE - GRAND wonderful LIFE.
Heaps of love & a big kiss for each of you & a hug - will write again tomorrow.
P.S. Jean if you keep these letters I will make them my diary - A good idea huh?