Where The River Takes Me

The Southern Gazette - - SPORTS - Harold Wal­ters

Where the River Takes Me [Scholastic Canada Ltd.] is one in a se­ries of Dear Canada books de­signed for 12 year old girls, give or take a birth­day. Each one is writ­ten in the form of a diary. This par­tic­u­lar diary is subti­tled The Hud­son’s Bay Com­pany Diary of Jenna Sin­clair.

Once upon a time, way up north in a for­eign prov­ince, I bagged gro­ceries at a Hud­son’s Bay Com­pany store but that has very lit­tle to do with this book, ex­cept to show a fil­a­ment con­nect­ing me with Jenna Sin­clair.

Oh, and cen­turies apart, one time or an­other we wrapped our­selves up cud­dly warm in our re­spec­tive Hud­son’s Bay blan­kets.

An aside of al­most no im­por­tance: This is the first book I ac­tu­ally have read in 2017.

Why start the year with twelve year old Jenna Sin­clair’s diary? Here’s why. Thir­teen years ago, at the birth of our first grand­daugh­ter, Mis­sus started read­ing this se­ries, think­ing it would be a suit­able heir­loom for said grand­daugh­ter when she reached Jenna’s age.

By the time Grand­daugh­ter reached her twelfth birth­day, Mis­sus had a shelf lined off with Dear Canada books. Im­me­di­ately af­ter the birth­day bal­loons popped, Mis­sus showed Grand­daugh­ter the stogged shelf.

“I’ve been sav­ing these for you all your life,” Mis­sus said.

“Oh,” said Grand­daugh­ter, run­ning a fin­ger along the spines and pulling out a book — this one, in fact.

Grand­daugh­ter flipped per­func­to­rily through the book be­fore slid­ing it back into its slot…

… and head­ing off to read a graphic novel — graphic novel! For frig sake! — about some babysit­ting club. So I’ve read this book for Mis­sus. In 1850, ac­com­pa­ny­ing her Aunt Grace and aun­tie’s new hus­band, Jenna left Fort Edmonton with a bri­gade of Hud­son’s Bay Com­pany em­ploy­ees and trav­elled the river routes all the way to — even­tu­ally — Fort Victoria.

Of course, Jenna’s diary is the story of her ad­ven­tures, or, cap­i­tal A Ad­ven­tures, as she calls them.

Dur­ing her Ad­ven­tures, Jenna saw many things that I found in­ter­est­ing.

A breed of now-ex­tinct white dogs, for in­stance.

The Sal­ish peo­ple from over around Bri­tish Columbia reared long­haired, Spritz-type (what­ever that is) dogs for their white hair which — mixed with moun­tain goat hair — was then wo­ven into cloth­ing.

Guess what those dogs were called. Sal­ish Wool Dogs. Truly. Ask Mr. Google. Twelve or thir­teen — p’raps even 17 or 18 — year old girls might not be­lieve cer­tain gen­der spe­cific [?] sub­jects ex­plored in this book.

For ex­am­ple, the study of De­port­ment…

… which has noth­ing to do with be­ing shipped back to one’s home coun­try.

It has to do with young girls learn­ing to move, “smoothly, el­e­gantly, grace­fully” and even how to hold their skirt tails prop­erly when walk­ing through mud.

Lis­ten to this line from Jenna’s diary re­gard­ing De­port­ment lessons: “All of which are sup­posed to make us ‘good ma­te­rial’ for a suit­able mar­riage.”

Jenna was reared up in a Hud­son’s Bay Com­pany fort. You’d ex­pect her to have eaten more than a plate­ful of wild game, buf­falo hump, boiled beaver tails and things of that ilk — of that elk [!]. But, b’ys… … in one diary en­try Jenna rem­i­nisces fondly — mouth-wa­ter­ingly so — about be­ing served her favourite tasty treat: “help­ings of moose nose, my favourite.” Moose nose! I’m not one to eat wild grub. Con­sid­er­ing its con­tent, baloney is prob’ly the most ex­otic fare I can man­age and — I s’pose — if it was made way out west, might very well con­tain a smidgen of moose nose. Moose nose! I can’t fathom chow­ing down on a pair of baked moosey nos­trils but I did visit Mr. Google to check out his recipes.

Sure enough, he had some … with pic­tures.

The Dear Canada se­ries is es­sen­tially his­tor­i­cal fic­tion aimed at of­fer­ing its readers a glimpse of our coun­try’s past while at the same time spin­ning en­ter­tain­ing yarns.

They are at­trac­tive books, well­bound be­tween colour­ful hard cov­ers. They are worth the price tag: $14 or $15 — but p’raps not the re­cently added sales tax here in Dwight’s Ball­room. Sure, each book has its own at­tached bookmark — a rib­bon. How nice is that?

Jenna and I have both seen were the Frazer River flows into the Pa­cific Ocean. Jenna left shore and pad­dled across the water to­wards Van­cou­ver Is­land. I left the ground and flew to­wards Prince Ge­orge, fol­low­ing the Rocky Moun­tains’ spine.

Dur­ing take-off a wo­man com­plained to the flight at­ten­dant that she couldn’t lo­cate the floata­tion de­vice be­neath her seat.

As the plane banked and climbed away from the same ocean Jenna crossed, and lev­elled off out above snow-capped peaks, the at­ten­dant said, “Ma’am, we won’t be fly­ing over water.” I laughed and laughed. Thank you for read­ing.

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