On Friday we made our way to Redwater, about 70 km northeast of the northern edge of Edmonton. The drive through Jasper was stunning with snow-capped mountains, green mountain rivers, rock cliffs and beautiful lakes It reminded us that it has been a long time since we have been in the Rockies, and that we love being here. Redwater is the home of Bill’s Uncle Leo, his Mom’s youngest brother. Their extended family of children, brothers, cousins, grandchildren and great grandchildren live “in the area.” Some are in Edmonton, some in small towns further northeast. Aunt Alice arranged 2 wonderful days of family get-togethers during which we talked and talked, and ate and ate! It was so much fun reconnecting with everyone. Bill’s two uncles (Edna’s brothers) are aging but still in good spirits. Leo, at 89, is mostly blind now, due to glaucoma, but has retained his positive attitude and good humour, supported so lovingly by Alice, 87. It was so fun to spend time with them and catch up on family news all around. Bill had a chance to reconnect with his cousins, with whom he used to spend a lot of time when he was young, living in Edmonton.
We visited the Redwater museum. This town, as many did in this area, started as a farming town by the homesteaders that started coming in the early 1900’s. The town currently currently has a population of just over 2000 people. But we learned that in 1949, oil was discovered in the town, and almost overnight, it grew to over 5000 people and all of a sudden had to house and service all the oil people. That boom only lasted for 5-6 years, and although oil is still being pumped, the town has shrunk considerably.
We felt like real city slickers. This area is a tight-knit farming community; with several family members still actively farming. We ‘toured’ their farm, getting a detailed explanation of all the large pieces of equipment. The investment of land, machinery, seeds, fertilizer etc is astounding, and these people depend so much on the weather to be favourable. All the hard work and operational expenses can be rewarded at the end of the season with a good crop, or it may just die in the fields. The last several years have seen drought conditions with crops left on the field. This summer has started very wet, with lots of rain, so the fields are a bit soggy. We were struck by just how hard they have to work, under very uncertain conditions year to year. But it’s in their blood. One cousin’s family has been working the same farmstead since 1913.
The geography in this area is so different from the island. Almost flat with fields of crops demarcated by rows of trees or fences. Most striking were the fields of canola in bloom with their bright yellow flowers. That’s the only crop we recognized!
We enjoyed being in a totally different geography and way of life, but we enjoyed most the time we spent with family. We are so glad we made the journey!