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Ashes in Canada

Don - July 25, 2006

Members of our family had the opportunity to go to Magrath Alberta Canada to bury my dad’s ashes.  Pothole creek seperates the town from the cemetary with a quaint small park in between.  The family had a brief graveside service and dedicated the grave.  We then went on a trip back in time…what a trip!

We drove out to Del Bonita where my grandfather homesteaded.  We went to the old homestead site, now a wheat field with a creek running thru it.  While stopped on the road, a local farmer drove up in his truck and asked if everything was ok.  We explained our grandfather had homesteaded there and he said "Oh yeah – Free Clifton’s place".  He knew all about the original homesteaders in the area – eventhough it took place in the early 1900′s.

We drove back to Magrath and stopped at the Hutterite’s (a religious order that lives in a colony – but take advantage of modern inventions) where grandpa used to bring his wheat to have ground.  The men in their homemade shirts and pants all sporting short brimmed straw hats and beards were working on a new huge building to be used to made rolled steel siding.  Anyway we wanted to buy some pancake mix that they make there. 

A man in his 80s helped us.  When we told him why we were in the area and who we were he told us he knew my grandpa and his two brothers…when he was a little boy….but he remembered them.  He gave an extensive tour of the mill (which they normally don’t do for stangers), we had a nice visit.

Saturday was the pioneer day parade in Magrath.  What a fun time.  Old tractors, old cars, old wagons, old people, horses, two marching bands and lots of candy.  A real parade, with a huge turnout lining the streets – both of them – not one of those commercial deals we see on TV.

Then it was off to my uncle’s farm for a family reunion.  Cousins, uncles, aunts, and shirt-tail relations I hadn’t seen in years – some I’d never seen.  The farm was originally my other grandfather’s.  My mom grew up there, she watered the trees that formed the wind break, tree that are now 80 years old.  The old barn is still there, the irrigation ditch too, but the outhouse is gone.

All of this gave me a deeper appreciation for my heritage but more than that it gave me a perspective of life and community that my grandparents and parents lived through.  I realized that the sense of community I felt there is missing in my life, where I live.  I don’t think there is anything I can do to get that here.  It would be great to have it, but have felt it while visiting was special.

I understand better why small towns like Magrath continue and how and why my ancestors survived and thrived.  What a wonderful heritage, what a wonderful trip.

Thanks for letting me ramble.  Hopefully someday you’ll all have a similar experience.


  1. My mother’s family is from Magrath, and we have visited for Pioneer day. It’s a great experience.

    I have seen some of the same community closeness you describe in this post.

    If you want to get a real feel for what it was like homesteading there, though, go in the dead of winter, and remmeber how uncomfortable it is while running from the heated car to the heated house!

    Comment by cantinflas — July 25, 2006 @ 2:50 pm

  2. Thank you for sharing all the details of this wonderful trip. You wouldn’t normally go into such detail on the phone when I call…that’s mom’s job. So thanks for the great perspective, not just so everyone could have a glimpse at life back then, but so that a daughter could appreciate her great heritage as well. Also, I live in a small town now and hopefully I’ll get some of that feeling that you were talking about while we’re here. Thanx Dad!!

    Comment by Angela — July 25, 2006 @ 3:09 pm

  3. Don, this was a great post. I loved the idea of going back to the homestead and finding people who knew ou grandad. More and more, I am aware of the price we pay for mobile success. This was a gift.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 25, 2006 @ 3:44 pm

  4. You came to southern Alberta and didn’t tell us? We could have had the first ever Canadian bloggersnacker.

    Comment by Kim Siever — July 25, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

  5. Way to stick it in our noses that YOU had this great experience and WE didn’t, Dad!!
    Seriously though, I think you’re right. I was amazed to see a glimpse of that in one small street/block in my mission and realized how sad it is that we don’t really have that anymore.
    Just one more reason to pray for the end to come asap!>:)

    Comment by Bret — July 25, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

  6. Actually, Dad, I DO have a similar experience to that every time I go home to visit (without the pain of having to bury my father, thank Heaven). While waiting at the desk to rent a car in Spokane, the man in line behind me says, “You’re not a Clifton, are you?” and proceeds to tell my husband all the marvelous things he has come to admire about his good friend, my dad.

    The community we grew up in is a trifle bigger than quaint Magrath, but you’ve certainly etched a noble heritage for your descendants in your own neighborhood and on your own acre. Grandchildren already cherish memories of walking with Grandpa through his garden and orchard, and I presume they will pass on these experiences to their own children.

    The Clifton legacy continues on and thrives. Thanks, Dad.

    Comment by Amy — July 25, 2006 @ 4:02 pm

  7. Great post. My dad grew up in a small community (Skagit Valley) and I used to stay there during the summer with my grandparents. Everywhere we went, everyone knew my grandparents. Seems like every time we saw someone, my grandpa would later say, “That was one of your cousins.”

    I live in Orange County now and this place is packed full of people. So many people that everyone who live in neighboring housing tracts all go to the same stores, restaurants, etc .It’s like living in a small town again–can’t go grocery shopping without seeing someone I know.

    Comment by Susan M — July 25, 2006 @ 4:40 pm

  8. Lovely post. It was fun to try and picture the Hutterites and the parade and Magrath in my mind. Hopefully passing on experiences like this will help us keep a little bit of that sense of community with us.

    Comment by Kristen J — July 29, 2006 @ 2:19 pm

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