Dal Bracken at Craigellachie. His second book

Dal Bracken at Craigellachie. His second book

Pioneers shaped the country

Dal Bracken

Dal Bracken’s new book, Raw Courage How Pioneer Homesteaders Changed the Rugged West into Canada’s Breadbasket of the World, recognizes the endurance of all the area’s inhabitants, from the earliest migrants from Asia to the Europeans who came seeking a better life in the 19th century.

The very readable book, illustrated with historical photographs, is divided into sections which provide the background for his story — the last ice age which left the country as it was for the homesteaders, the First Nations people, the explorers, and how trading, the railway and the Northwest Mounted Police changed the way of life in what was to become Canada.

Bracken’s focus is on the people who came to Canada from 1870 to 1930, mostly through the Homestead Act of 1872 which offered 160 acres of land for $10, and their lives through 1939. It includes his own memories of growing up in Southern Saskatchewan during the 1920s and ‘30s.

“I wanted to do this because once my generation is gone, there will be no link between the past and the future. Our parents and grandparents were homesteaders but no one will know what it was like for them,” said Bracken, 91.

The book tells about what it was like for the settlers to establish a home and farm in a country where many did not speak their language, how they built houses, got crops planted, raised livestock, and educated and entertained themselves. There is a section on the strength and invaluable contributions of pioneer women. Bracken also writes about small towns, local characters, and the changes that came with the telephone, radio, automobile and mechanized farming equipment, then the Second World War.

“People who have seen the book tell me that they are really impressed and that is a good way to learn history, better than they learned in school,” he said. “One fellow told me that he wished he had read it before visiting the Prairies because he would have got so much more out of it.

“The pioneers were very strong people to leave what they knew and come to something they didn’t know anything about. At my age, I still have a lot of memories of my own experiences and my parents’ and grandparents’ experiences so that goes back well over 100 years. I want to share that.”

Bracken’s first book, Memories RCAF 1941-1945, was published in 2006.

He will have a book signing for Raw Courage Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Schubert Centre. The book is available at Bookland in Vernon.