On The Train Alberta Bound
July 7, ’80
The train ride was great! After leaving Smithers, the countryside leveled out some. Looking at the pouring rain from my warm, dry seat on the train was a redemptive experience all by itself. Every so often the train would pass an attempt at a farm. Homesteading had to be difficult anywhere, but in the northern Canadian wilderness it had to be painfully difficult. At least that was the consensus of opinion that the girl I met on the train and I came up with after our first beer together. She was both pretty, and interesting to talk too.
I met Jean while watching the scenery pass from the bar car. She happened to fall into the seat next to me. Lucky for me, the seat was empty. She was from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and she had her own story about homesteading. She was returning from a visit with her three girlfriends who were homesteading a piece of land on the coast. They had lived in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere for the last three years. The girls supported themselves by working the land—barely. Things were falling apart, though. When Jean left, one of the girls called it quits, and returned to her parents’ home in Vancouver. There were only two girls left to do the work of three, but it was even worse than that because, according to Jean, the girl that left did most of the work. Jean didn’t hold out much hope for the two girls that remained. I told her that all social experiments had that problem, the problem of unequal distribution of labor, and before we had finished our beer, we both agreed that guts, sweat, and a short life had to be the watchwords for anybody thinking about homesteading. Maybe it was the booze, or maybe it wasn’t, but Jean talked as if she was seriously thinking about joining the duo. Leaving her job and friends behind was, for her, the most difficult part though.