Why are ancestor’s important? St. Joseph’s Colony, Saskatchewan

St. Joseph’s Colony is a huge part of Saskatchewan.  The settlers were predominantly German. Unlike the east, which is predominantly English and French as settlers, Saskatchewan’s two largest groups of people were the German and the Cree (Natives) in Saskatchewan. St. Joseph’s Colony followed Prime Minister McDonald’s dream of an organized grid of square land plots. Two miles long and one mile wide, then broken into four quarter section plots.  The roads, often dirt and sometimes gravel, made for many roads and it was hard to get lost.


Sod House

Old house on farm.

Old house on farm

If you could build a house (often sod in the southern part), dig a well and cultivate 10 acres, the land became yours.  I grew up after the area was settled. Most farmers around now owned at least a section of land.  But it was still wild, still isolated. It was my ‘Little House on the Prairie’ upbringing. Fortunately, our house in the northern part of St. Joseph’s Colony, was not a sod home.  My grandmother, however, didn’t have my good fortune. With a family of nine kids, she lived and raised her children in a sod hut.  When my mother was born, they finally moved into a wooden house.  I have seen a sod hut at Heritage Park in Calgary, and I cringe to imagine living in one.  I doubt many people could actually do it today.




Life Changing Days, follows my ancestry on my father’s side.  It was an eye-opening experience to know the hardships they faced.  I will always be proud of my ancestor’s, tough, ambition and determination as they helped create the west we have today. They were only happy to escape the religious persecution and the uprising communist regime taking place in Russia at the time.

Without them and people like them, we would not have the life-style we enjoy today.  It’s important to know and wonder if we could have accomplished the same.
Life Changing Days by Mary M. Forbes

Canada’s Civil War



The Metis (part white and part native) were a group of people who started the first settlements in Western Canada.  They combined both cultures very efficiently.  They farmed and they hunted as well.  Again, like most settlers in the west, history books don’t often tell of their part in settling the west.

Their villages, like other settlements consisted of shops, homes and churches. Set along the picturesque slopes of the North Saskatchewan River, the village is set in the park-lands area of Saskatchewan, not the flat south most people are familiar with.

Batoche stands out as where The Riel Rebellion of 1885  took place. Batoche is the site Louis Riel chose to set up the ‘Provisional Government of Saskatchewan’.

In ‘Hawk’s Gift – a western romance, – I go into depth as to the causes that both the Metis and Natives felt as a need to separate from Canada. Even to this day Canada’s west is often overpowered by rules and regulations made in the East. And by people who sometimes don’t understand Canadian Western people.    Hawks Gift by Mary M. Forbes

Miller Family Reunion – The cousins; The Food

On Saturday we gathered for food and a wonderful time of ‘catch-up’, good food and lively conversations.  Most of my cousins I hadn’t seen since I was in my teens.  It was amazing to see how we’d aged.  I had a picture in my mind of each and every one of my cousins who attended – all as teens.cousinsAs children we often visited Aunt Mary (dad’s sister) and Uncle Emil (mom’s brother) on Sundays. Aunt Mary was a fantastic cook. We were double cousins – but the best part was they had a child to match every one of me and my siblings.  We always had playmates and things to do when we visited back and forth.  It was so enjoyable to reunite with them.









The food served was reminiscent of the old day when families gathered on Sundays to enjoy our day of rest.

food at reunionreunion






Miller Family Reunion – The Siblings

This summer – August long week-end we had a Miller Family Reunion outside Regina, Saskatchewan. Regina is the Capital of Saskatchewan the province I grew up in.



Regina Parliament Building

Regina Parliament Building






It was nice to meet my sister Isabelle and her family. I had not seen them in fourteen years. We stayed at the same hotel and had time together there so our visits extended into mornings and late evening as well.


Isabelle and Larry – with George hiding his face.

I brought print copies of my books and sold them all – thanks mainly to Kevin and Lynette McGill – our hosts.
Life Changing Days - Cover

Sleep Inn

Sleep Inn the hotel we stayed in

I was also happy to see my brother Larry who lives in the east. I hadn’t seen him in nine years. He was always my playmate and buddy from the time we were kids.

Larry and I at reunion

Larry and I on the smoking verandah.


Smoking verandah

George and I on the verandah

And of course my sister Nola who I see often and never tire of seeing. Her son and his wife hosted the reunion.

Nola and I at Reunion

Nola and I. No, it’s my books in the box. We are not for sale at $10.00 each.


Finding Fridays – the Metis in Canada

History in the Canadian West

The courageous voyagers created a group of people known in Canada as the Metis. In those times political correctness was not even thought of.  It is probably one of the most difficult things  I find when writing historical romances and wanting the story to be accurate. Many voyagers were gone at least a year at a time.  Many had wives either in the east or in Europe.  But they would take ‘wives for the winter’ – picking from the Cree who were mainly friendly to the voyagers.   There are so many stories untold and imagined about those men who used the Native women and then abandoned them – or fell in love and stayed with them.  Some probably juggled and separated their lives as well and returned to the same woman each year – living out their lives with two wives.Fort MacLeod - Church

The Metis are an example of my theory we should have integrated instead of segregating.  Half white/half native, the Metis set up farming communities and adjusted well to the modern Canada being created.  Mainly the French or Scottish were more inclined to integrate.  For a time the NorthWest Fur Traders dominated the fur trade.   These men were only interested in the lucrative business of getting furs and their exploration was secondary. Occasionally someone wanted to find the western route to India again because of the rich trade in the east.  But unlike some governments no one was interested in the west, except exploiting it.  The English owned Hudson’s Bay Company and were more inclined to remain segregated.

The Metis, established villages and towns as well as farms.  Most gathered near and around the North Saskatchewan River to farm.  They set up their farms like the French in Quebec – each plot, long and running to the river.  This created a problem when Canada bought the western lands from the Hudson’s Bay as the plans were made instead (by an Eastern government) to have square plots of land instead on the flat prairies. It was another cause for Canada’s Civil War.

The Metis lived mainly like homesteaders do everywhere – building houses, wells, animal shelters, churches, schools and villages.  But they still utilized and used the buffalo for food and clothing.  They became so proficient and organized that wealthy people from Europe and England came to participate in a Metis Buffalo Hunts.

Although Winnipeg was the first established Metis settlement in the west, Batoche is the most famous in Canada.

Batoche, Saskatchewan

The village of Batoche, Saskatchewan


The Metis were a perfect example of combining two different cultures and living in harmony.

Finding Friday – What’s in a name?

History in the Canadian West

Did you know Saskatchewan (a Cree word) and Calgary (A Gaelic word) mean the same thing?  Both mean ‘swift waters or currents’ in English.

Although Saskatchewan has two rivers named ‘swift waters’ as both the North and South Saskatchewan rivers run through the province, Calgary has no river called Calgary.  The two rivers that run through the city of Calgary are the Bow and the Elbow River.   The Bow River was named because of the trees that lined the river creating branches which made excellent bows for the Natives.  The Natives often camped alongside what is known as Calgary today. The warm chinook winds created relief from cold, harsh winters. Both rivers get their clear, pristine waters from glacier fed Lake Louise, considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.Carol's Picture & Tim Horton's

Alberta was named after Princess Alberta, Queen Victoria’s daughter. It was originally part of Rupert’s Land, a vast area owned by Prince Rupert one of the owners of the  famous Hudson’s Bay Company. The Hudson’s Bay Company is the oldest mercantile company still in operation today. Their trading posts were scattered all over western Canada.  Alberta became part of the Northwest Territories when Canada purchased the western lands from the Hudson’s Bay Company.  In 1905 Alberta and Saskatchewan became provinces.

Edmonton, the other large city in Alberta  is an English name and has a long history in England. Edmonton, was established as a town in 1892. The town was named after Fort Edmonton which had been established by 1795. The name of the fort was suggested by John Peter Pruden after Edmonton, London, which was his home in England as well as the home of Sir James Winter Lake, the deputy governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company at the time.

Paradise on the Horizon: Excerpt 2

Excerpt from Paradise on the Horizon:

Paradise on the Horizon by Mary M. Forbes

Luke’s eyes narrowed.  “How am I ever going to explain you to my neighbors?  Look, Natasha, ladies don’t act like whores.  Unless you want everyone believing you are my mistress, I’d start watching my behavior, if I were you.”

“You would not recognize a lady if you fell over her.”

Mutinously, Natasha reached back, motioning for Boris to pass her the bottle of wine she’d purchased in Minnedosa.  Tipping the bottle, she took a large swig of the alcohol, smiling maliciously.

So Luke wanted to teach her manners, did he?  His battered features looked drawn and sore, but she no longer cared.  Let him suffer.  She would not offer him a drink to soften the pain.  He didn’t drink.

Seeing the abhorrence in his eyes, she flicked her tongue out, deliberately licking the red drops from her lips.

“You can’t drink on the train.”  Luke hissed and then stopped short.  He started to chuckle.  His face softened.  “You’re behaving like a spoiled child, sweetheart.”

“How would that be, sweetheart?”  Natasha asked, sugary sweet.  She took another deep swallow, but it didn’t taste as good now.  She was behaving like a child.  “Of course, ladies don’t drink either.  What was I thinking?”

“No, they don’t.  But that’s beside the point.  No one can drink on a train, sweetheart.  If you’re caught, they’ll put you in jail.  Then they’ll find out who you are and ship you back to the Doukhobors.”

“Are you trying to frighten me Luke?”  Natasha whispered with mock bravado.

Did they really throw people in jail for drinking on a train?   She saw the humor in his eyes.  Surely, he was teasing her again.  “You know, I just realized you would fit in very well with those ‘Spirit Wrestlers’.  Maybe we should go back and make a trade.  They need workhorses and would surely get more use out of you than me.”

Paradise on the Horizon: Excerpt 1

From the time I was little I was fascinated with North American western history. Living in Canada’s west, with its’ low population and vast lands I learned there is still a way to explore and discover new horizons.  Canada’s rich history is virtually unexplored and undocumented in a fiction manner at this time.  Meet my ‘New West’.

At the turn of the century (1900’s) there were many events happening in the west.  Russia was in absolute turmoil with communist forces gaining power.  Russia allowed a pacifist religious sect migrate to Canada – the Doukhobors.  The infamous marching naked by the ‘Sons of Freedom’ searching for Utopia is a historical fact.  My heroine, a Russian Princess escapes with the Doukhobors.  From a Princess to a farmer is a shock she must learn to deal with.

At the same time Canadian Forces were fighting under British direction in the Boer War in South Africa.  When the English public heard rumors of abuse and rape there, Kitchener decided to come down hard on these atrocities.  My hero is a soldier, wrongly accused of rape and court-marshaled.

And to further tie actual events into my story – Reverend Lloyd Barr decided to start a colony on the Saskatchewan/Alberta border – a place now called Lloydminister. He wanted only good English stock for his settlement  Unfortunately, the farmers in England were not about to leave their fertile lands and he only got some aristocrats down on their luck to street, town-dwellers to come to Canada. None were farmers. The Doukhobors were excellent farmers.

And that is how my princess meets her soldier.

Historical Romance:  – Paradise on the Horizon.  –  Excerpt:

“What are you doing?”  Standing, Luke managed to bring his shotgun up, pointing it ominously at the strange vision before him.

“No.  You will not do this.”

Screeching like a wildcat, the old crone sprang at him.  He barely had time to think before she hit him squarely on his chest, wrestling the rifle from his frostbitten fingers.  Panting heavily, she flung it into the icy slush.

Stunned, Luke felt stinging pricks against his frozen face and shoulders as she violently beat against him, following him down as he fell to the ground.

Instinctively, he reached and his massive fist connected with her chin.

He pushed the sagging form away from his pinned body.  Rolling over, he came to rest savagely on top her.  His hands held her slender wrists above her head.  Hearing her frantic moans, he peered down into her squinting features.  Another shock ripped through him.  She was no old crone.

Instead the most sultry, magnificent blue eyes opened, glaring with stormy hostility up into his face.  Her oval face was boldly stunning and completely unlined.  Her pouting lips trembled, so tempting and kissable he felt an immediate jolt of response in his groin.

Paradise on the Horizon by Mary M. Forbes

Life Changing Days – Holidays on the Farm.

Sunday is always a day of rest. It is the way it is and no one asks why, because Sunday is the most beautiful day of the week.  First we attend mass because the roads are clear and easy to navigate. And then we gather with our ‘ready-made friends’ (our many relatives) and we celebrate.  Adults play cards, laughing and talking.  And mom with our aunts and grown cousins cook – giving us the most delicious food we will ever eat.  We don’t know this.  We just take it for granted because we don’t know otherwise.

Gathering around the big kitchen table for coffee.

Gathering around the big kitchen table for coffee.

Kids go outside and play, sometimes together, – kick-the-can, hide-and-seek or even my beloved cowboys and Indians.  Sometimes we break into age groups and wander off to do activities in groups. There is endless space to do as we please.  We are not supervised. But we are always guaranteed a fun, joyous time.  Some live close and we see them nearly every Sunday. Sometimes we visit them and sometimes they visit us.  But always we have large gathering that people might call a party – every Sunday.

I have a cousin my age.  He is a genius. He is going to university when I start high-school. We don’t care, because when we get together, we play – no different than others.  They live in the Eagle Hills.  I look at those huge hills and think maybe they are mountains. Covered with mysterious forests, we approach them carefully with both anticipation and fear.  Visions of stories about the explorers fuel our anticipation.  Thoughts of dangers lurking, like Hansel and Gretel, give us the fear.  The fear isn’t enough to stop us. We are explorers.

Others, those that live nearby, become an extension of our siblings.  We fight, we play together but we always know we are there to protect each other.  We are always there to help each other. We have competitions and play sports (yes, we are that many) and sometimes the older ones might let the younger ones win.  But mostly they don’t.  That is how we learn – their winning isn’t demeaning nor does it make me feel bad –  it only makes me determined to do better.

We enjoy visiting our uncle and aunt what seems like far away – to the south of us. Strangely we are matched age to age – their children to mom and dad’s.  How unique is that.  The girl my age is one of my best friends – and it never changes as we grow up – although sometimes we only see each other a few times a year.  I prefer the area I live in with slopes, hills and tree surrounded sloughs.  They live in the Saskatchewan everyone hears about – the flat, empty area.  It is then I learn maybe it doesn’t matter where you live – it’s more about being surrounded by people you know, people you love.

Rarely we visit distant cousins –  they have a cabin by a huge lake.  Oh the glorious times of white sandy beaches, huge rolling waves and the silky joy of cool water in the summer heat.  What a glorious time we have.

Old Picture of Mom & Dad

Cool water, endless and awesome

I know as a fact, I will never be alone, regardless of how many hardships I suffer, unless I choose to be alone.  I salute all my ‘ready-made friends’, scattered all over North America – many strangers, but not.  I realize I will always be welcome somewhere, someplace. I apologize for drifting away.  I count my blessings.

To Feel: – Sadness/Sounds

There are many things throughout our life that cause sadness.  I doubt anyone can say they are not touched by sadness.  But as a writer, sometimes sadness needs to be summoned from within and is sometimes very elusive.

Some things that can create sadness within me are listening to sounds.  When I was young, growing up in isolation in Northern Saskatchewan, I can remember hearing the sounds of coyotes howling late at night, if I woke up.  Always late at night, always in the cold winter,  always when everyone else was sleeping, it was a poignant sound.

When I was an adult we lived near Fish Creek Park in Calgary for a time.  One night I woke to that exact same sound.  It was winter, it was late, everyone was sleeping.  It brought back memories and it created that exact same feeling – sadness.

Northern Saskatchewan is scattered with thousands of lakes and sloughs.  Lakes are surrounded by white, fine sandy beaches and sloughs are surrounded by trees, pussy willow shrubs and grasses.  When I was around them, usually at dusk, there would sometimes be a piercing sound that filled me with sadness – a loon.  Again, it always seemed to be dusk, but this time in the summer.

Now, it is hard to step out my door and hear those sounds or listen to them in the middle of the night.  But I have discovered a new method to make me sad.  A song by Vince Gill – ‘The lonely sound of my voice calling is driving me insane….but nobody answers when I call your name’   makes the tears stream down my cheeks. There are other songs which are capable of doing this but this song is guaranteed for me.

Happy writing and – listen to the sounds around you.