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Over Prairie Trails   By: (1879?-1948)

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By Frederick Philip Grove


Introductory 1 Farms and Roads 2 Fog 3 Dawn and Diamonds 4 Snow 5 Wind and Waves 6 A Call for Speed 7 Skies and Scares


A few years ago it so happened that my work teaching school kept me during the week in a small country town in the centre of one of the prairie provinces while my family wife and little daughter lived in the southern fringe of the great northern timber expanse, not very far from the western shore of a great lake. My wife like the plucky little woman she is in order to round off my far from imperial income had made up her mind to look after a rural school that boasted of something like a residence. I procured a buggy and horse and went "home" on Fridays, after school was over, to return to my town on Sunday evening covering thus, while the season was clement and allowed straight cross country driving, coming and going, a distance of sixty eight miles. Beginning with the second week of January this distance was raised to ninety miles because, as my more patient readers will see, the straight cross country roads became impassable through snow.

These drives, the fastest of which was made in somewhat over four hours and the longest of which took me nearly eleven the rest of them averaging pretty well up between the two extremes soon became what made my life worth living. I am naturally an outdoor creature I have lived for several years "on the tramp" I love Nature more than Man I take to horses horses take to me so how could it have been otherwise? Add to this that for various reasons my work just then was not of the most pleasant kind I disliked the town, the town disliked me, the school board was sluggish and unprogressive, there was friction in the staff and who can wonder that on Fridays, at four o'clock, a real holiday started for me: two days ahead with wife and child, and going and coming the drive.

I made thirty six of these trips: seventy two drives in all. I think I could still rehearse every smallest incident of every single one of them. With all their weirdness, with all their sometimes dangerous adventure most of them were made at night, and with hardly ever any regard being paid to the weather or to the state of the roads they stand out in the vast array of memorable trifles that constitute the story of my life as among the most memorable ones. Seven drives seem, as it were, lifted above the mass of others as worthy to be described in some detail as not too trivial to detain for an hour or so a patient reader's kind attention. Not that the others lack in interest for myself; but there is little in them of that mildly dramatic, stirring quality which might perhaps make their recital deserving of being heard beyond my own frugal fireside. Strange to say, only one of the seven is a return trip. I am afraid that the prospect of going back to rather uncongenial work must have dulled my senses. Or maybe, since I was returning over the same road after an interval of only two days, I had exhausted on the way north whatever there was of noticeable impressions to be garnered. Or again, since I was coming from "home," from the company of those for whom I lived and breathed, it might just be that all my thoughts flew back with such an intensity that there was no vitality left for the perception of the things immediately around me.

ONE. Farms and Roads

At ten minutes past four, of an evening late in September, I sat in the buggy and swung out of the livery stable that boarded my horse. Peter, the horse, was a chunky bay, not too large, nor too small; and I had stumbled on to him through none of my sagacity. To tell the plain truth, I wanted to get home, I had to have a horse that could stand the trip, no other likely looking horse was offered, this one was on a trial drive he looked as if he might do, and so I bought him no, not quite I arranged with the owner that I should make one complete trip with him and pay a fee of five dollars in case I did not keep him... Continue reading book >>

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