Friday, March 19, 2010


La Pas ("the Pass" in French) was named by the voyageurs. I'm unclear about what it's the pass to or from. This far north the land is mixed with water bodies (when they are liquid) so much that a strong man and a canoe with a compass could go just about anywhere and find plenty of beaver on the way. The Saskatoon folks, when I was there, considered it to be frontier yet. "Pretty rough country," they said. The Indian population is high, which probably skewed their opinions.

The back of the photo says "Government Bridge across the Saskatchewan River at La Pas." This is the railway to Hudson Bay, a town north of Swan River about halfway to LaPas, so this must have been the way Sam and the potatoes arrived. La Pas is the "Gateway to the Arctic North." I'm unclear about the final destination of these spuds.

The photo back says "Steamboat on the Saskatchewan River," which goes through Saskatoon and finally empties into the water body called "Hudson's Bay." It's a slow shallow river in most places, or so I remember it. Nothing like the Missouri/Mississippi complex that drains inland USA.

The romance of the boxcar, almost a little house on wheels, and who knows what might be in there or where it might go if you hitched a ride. These are sitting on the siding for a sawmill, which explains why there is a waste burner alongside. It's a tall tower with screen on top to prevent sparks from setting the prairie on fire, not like our tipi-shaped burners meant to be braced against the wind. The chimney might be for the actual sawing steam engine. In the background there appears to be a grain elevator.

No doubt this is where "Papa" stayed, but there are no details. In fact, I'm not even sure he took anyone along with him.

The Rand McNally road map says La Pas has "Old Christ Church" but I don't know whether this is it. There's little to Google in La Pas. Maybe there's someplace on the planet that the Chamber of Commerce doesn't have a website after all. The album notes "New church," which explains the scaffolding. It looks to me as though the building to the left is a school, probably a boarding school for Indian kids. In fact, it appears to me that this is a whole center of some sort. Curious how religion and education get conflated. It's perfectly possible that this is where the potatoes went to be peeled and eaten by students.

This is the house of the doctor in La Pas, clearly bigger than most, but not what one would call a mansion today. A solid house, very well fenced, with a clothes drying lazy susan in the backyard. The windbreak/shade making evergreens are also a sign of prosperity. Note it is the only photo with trees in it.

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