Monday, May 12, 2014

Book Review - PRAIRIE STOREKEEPER by D.E. Macintryre

Title: Prairie Storekeeper

Author: D.E. Macintyre

Publisher: Peter Martin Associates Limited: 1970

A tiny slice of prairie history.

The settling of the prairies at the turn of the twentieth century was one of hardship, struggle and perseverance.   In 1906 D.E. Macintyre thought that opening a general store for homesteaders in the middle of nowhere (eventually, Tuxford, Saskatchewan) was an excellent entrepreneurial approach to a career he hoped would succeed beyond his imagination.  He would be the pioneer of pioneers.  They needed him.

What he had come to soon realize was that he needed them just as much as they needed him, if not more so.  Horrendous winters, prairie fires, horse thieves, tornadoes, loneliness, lack of heat for warmth and cold for storage hit the storekeeper hard.  Worst of all, the ladies kept bringing him in butter to sell.  LOTS of butter.

Tuxford was not immune to tragedy.

"On one occasion we invited a team of young lads from Moose Jaw to come out and play a game [of hockey] with us.  The game had not been going for long when one of the Moose Jaw players tripped on a hole in the ice and fell on his face with the heels of his skates sticking up.  One of our players, a powerfully built young man named Bob Gemmell, son of the man who had sold the town-site to the CPR, fell on top of the Moos Jaw player.  The heel of a skate penetrated the main artery of his leg.  He was carried into the drugstore.  Unfortunately the doctor was away on a country visit and, in spite of all we laymen could do, Bob died in a few minutes.  His untimely death was a shock to our close-knit community."

He eventually sold his store at Tuxford and didn't look back.  While he left the west for a brief period of time, Mr. Macintyre returned to pursue other business interests.  Prairie Storekeeper is one of those historically important accounts of prairie settlement as not many storekeepers took the time to record their story.  Worth the read if you can find the book.