Vantage Points Flashback - Blizzard at West Brenda

Welcome to another Vantage Points. We highlight personalities, places and opportunities in history – the stories that shapes us as a region. Thank-you - municipal councils of Southwest Manitoba and MB Heritage - for supporting our work.


Yesterday is burned to memory. Bear with me as I get the details down.

Monday, 11 March 1918. It was raining softly - felt ominous. I'd stayed with Mother in Melita. I left at first light with my horse and carriage going 10 miles northwest to West Brenda school. The students call me Miss Ried.

I settled my horse. Hurried in - against a gathering breeze. I was late. The children were fidgeting around the stove they'd lit - relieved to see me. We were short one  - Viola. I board with her parents. She was meant to bring me lunch.  

I admit. I can lose myself in books. I'm reading Middlemarch these days by Mary Evans. It's like she knows my life, though she lived in rural England.

‘Miss Ried!’ Jake was staring out the window. It was getting nasty. I couldn't see the stable.

“Harry,” I called. “Come help with the door.” The snow hit us with such force we were gasping. I couldn't even see my hand, stretched out. Clearly, we were leaving.

Coal? Check. It's inside. Food? Just lunch boxes. The children offered to share. No, I said, my stomach isn't right. Water? Golly, we can't even see the pump. Deep breaths. I have to get the children talking – What they're looking forward to this spring! Cora wants the war in Europe to end and hoping her uncle Edgar comes back soon. I sigh a worried prayer.

The wind shook our tiny room. Supper was meager. The stove pipe smelled hot and sounded wrong – banging loudly. How would we find the stable if the school took fire? And, it was pitch dark. We had no light. I sang my mother's songs – encouraging the children to sleep at their desks.

‘George Elliot’ was Mary Evans' pen name. She wanted to write about important things, politics, women voting - so chose to write as a man. Thank goodness those days are gone! Like Nelly McClung tells us. We women are equal with men. Surely that's not so hard!

Nelly was a teacher too. Just down the river. Married a farmer. Mother says it's my turn – at 23. I've got books, work, money and the valley to roam in. I'm good! For now.

We comforted each other through that long night.  Finally, at daybreak, with the wind as backup, we sang God Save the King and halfheartedly began our lessons. Then, in the window. A snowman atop a horse. And then another. We brought them in – to thaw and join the sudden party.

Two fathers found their way through the blizzard. Each took my hand, looked me in the eye - tears in theirs – thanked me for being strong. I held each child in a good long hug – and felt the weight of a millstone fall.

I adapted 'Blizzard' from a story written for Vantage Points 4. Vantage Points is a 5-book series of short stories about the many layers of history of South West Manitoba.

Please learn about Turtle Mountain – Souris Plains Heritage Association. Our website is  

Email is 

Or call me, David, @ (204) 305-0528.     

See ya’ later!    

David Neufeld

Turtle Mountain-Souris Plains Heritage Association