Another incident which marked the silent yet powerful working of God's
Holy Spirit occurred during the serious illness of Doctor Henry Elliott, a good friend of the community.
Owing to failing health that gentleman wile still in his prime had to give up the practice of medicine, and was serving as Commissioner of Northern Manitoba. When he was stricken with pneumonia, gloom was cast over the town.
Without any organized planning several groups of close friends were found to be offering continuous prayer for the doctor's recovery. There was a spontaneous turning to God for help such as I had never witnessed before. The nurse in attendance was Mrs. Gerald Wagner, wife of the Salvation Army Captain, herself also a Captain in her own right.
There came a night when word went out that the patient was not expected to live until morning. Mrs. Wagner was busy nursing and praying. About 9 a.m. she phoned the attending physician that she detected a slight improvement in her patient.
Dressing hastily Dr. Trimble set out for the Elliott home remarking "This I must see!" He saw and he confirmed the nurse's judgment. Dr. Elliott had passed through a crisis. Whatever may have been the views of individuals before, there were many people in The Pas who came to believe in the efficacy of earnest prayer.
As a piece of definitely social work our Ministerial Association decided to accept an appeal from dried-out areas in Saskatchewan for vegetables. We thought we should respond by shipping a carload of potatoes, cabbages, turnips, etc. from The Pas area. Local business-men thought our project was a hare-brained scheme such as only Parsons might undertake. They said that such a quantity of vegetables could not be found around The Pas.
However we made a sporting offer to the Board of Trade, that if men with cars would drive us through the district we would canvass the settlers for produce. They agreed to do that driving and also to collect the vegetables promised.
One Russian settler whom I canvassed said, "Four years ago I got five bags of potatoes out of a carload from Saskatchewan. Now them poor devils have got nothing, sure I'll put in four bags." His answer was typical of many others. It was a modern miracle of "Casting bread upon the Waters" and after many days finding it again. We shipped a carload of produce from the fur and fishing area of The Pas to agricultural Saskatchewan.
One winter day there was to be a Confirmation Service in the Church on The Pas Reserve, a memorial to an Ottawa W. A. member, the late Mrs. Caroline Greene - no relation to the writer. The missionary, the Rev. R. B. Horsefield, engaged a taxi to take Bishop Thomas and party out over the trail to the church.
On arrival we passed through a porch and I opened the church door, stepped inside and immediately disappeared through an open trap door into a basement furnace room. On the way down my right side struck the church flooring edge and I landed completely knocked out. The others rescued me from the dark pit and I observed the
Confirmation Service from a back seat in the church.
We dignitaries were transported in the school sleigh to the residence of a day school teacher for afternoon tea and thence back to town. After supper the Bishop had a speaking engagement at a men's club meeting in the United Church where I heard but could pay little heed to the Bishop's address. I had great difficulty in getting into bed that night - and still greater difficulty in getting out again next morning. My body was turned black and blue. I managed to carry on my duties, but for six weeks I was painfully conscious of every long breath I drew. The doctor diagnosed some cracked ribs, but he did not tape me up as he said I was well taped already by nature.
That episode of disappearance through a trap door was my second one of that nature in my prairie experiences. I arrived at a homesteader's shack at noon one summer day, passed through the kitchen, stepped into the living room and thence into another open trapdoor. The homesteader's wife had put a pan of milk on a chair to be taken down cellar by her husband, but he had gone off to work on the land. In my hurried descent into the nether regions I struck the milk pan and upset its contents over me, thus skimming the cream off the milk. I landed in upright position but I was literally "all wet". I thought I was drowning in a basement cistern.
Although my contact with Indian work was limited I did see enough of the influence of those wonderful early Missionaries upon the Indian through years of changing conditions and customs to convince me that these "Bringers of the Gospel" to the native tribes gave to their proteges a saving faith in a loving Saviour. Through periods when because missionaries were not available to staff mission they carried on with leadership of Lay workers.
When a Bishop or a missionary did manage to visit them they attended his services faithfully. One thing I noted was the loving care the Indians took of their House of God. They kept the floors immaculately clean. This was noted by visitors from The Pas and outside when they went across the river to see the Church opposite Christ Church, and found the door locked so the floor would not be soiled by the white people's muddy shoes.
We left The Pas at the end of June 1939 after ten years at the Gateway to the North. We were motored south by our good friend W. J. Hilton over the new graveled highway to Mafeking which had been opened a month previously by Premier John Bracken.
This highway ended the years' long feeling of isolation experienced by residents of The Pas and opened the way for ever increasing motor traffic with points south.
We stopped three months in Winnipeg where I acted as Locum Tenens at All Saint's Church during an absence of the Rector Canon Askey in England, and I also supplied at St. Georges Church during a vacancy there. This interlude was like taking a holiday in the city after our years of comparative isolation in the north. At the first of October we moved out to my new parish of Emerson where all persons arriving from the United States and others going South were greeted with the question
"Have you anything to declare?" Customs and Excise officials on both
sides of the Border were especially alert on account of its being wartime.
When President F. D. Roosevelt offered his big bombers to England those monsters halted at Pembina Flying Field, North Dakota. The Canadian authorities rented a Manitoba farm and engaged the farmer to haul the bombers across the line with horses.
It was illegal of them to fly over a country at War so they took off from the Canadian farm and flew away to join the fray Spectators from all over the countryside gathered to watch the unique operation of bombers being hauled by horses.
We also observed long trainloads of road construction machinery being transported over the Canadian lines for use in building the Alaska Highway. We experienced the flood of 1948 when the Red River went on the rampage and inundated the towns and country over an area of twelve miles.
Owing to the shortage of clergy on account of so many incumbents being away on chaplain service, the Bishop of Minnesota asked me to assume charge of his two northern most parishes of Hallock and St. Vincent. I already had three churches in Manitoba and was Rural Dean of Pembina Deanery, but we were living in a time of mutual helpfulness. I thoroughly enjoyed that association with the Episcopal Church and found their parishioners very loyal and appreciative of my help.
It was a unique experience praying for the President instead of the King and I always had to keep that circumstance in mind when conducting services.
Meanwhile we spent anxious years while our sons and daughter and her paratrooper husband were away in the services. We thanked God sincerely when they all returned home safely after the war.
Our youngest son Charlie joined the Air Cadets and worried lest the war should be over before he was old enough to enlist. That is how it went and as soon as he was out of school he joined the R.C.A.F. to help in the Air Cadet Corps.
We moved from Emerson to the parish of Duck Lake near Saskatoon, a town which had some historic points of interest. West of the town stands a cairn erected by the Historic Sites Board, to mark the spot where the first shot was fired in the Rebellion of 1885, and East of the river is Batoche where a bloody battle was fought. The old Roman Catholic Church there still bears bullet marks and vestiges of old trenches remain in the ground where fighting occurred.
We considered ourselves settled for some time at Duck Lake but I received an urgent invitation to accept the Parish of Grand Forks in the Kootnays of British Columbia. It was a difficult decision to make for the Duck Lake people had been very good to us. However they said that since I had spent so many years on the prairie they would not resent it, if we decided to move to the warmer climate of British Columbia, so I accepted the invitation to Grand Forks.
It was while driving home to Duck Lake from Rosthern that I made a resolution never to pick up a hitch-hiker again.