History and Commentary From a Prairie Perspective

William Wardill

William Wardill, Comment and Commentary from a Prairie Perspective

William Wardill of Eatonia still lives where he was born 83 years ago. A virtuous old sage with a wicked wit, he became an omnivorous reader almost as soon as he learned the alphabet. He read about the First World War when still a child and was almost old enough to enlist in the Second World War. His boyhood was spent in a safe passage through the Dirty Thirties. Since earning a university degree in history and English in 1991, he has published numerous columns, articles and books, including a novel in 2010. His work is coloured by small town living, ecological concerns and a belief in a personal obligation to community.

  • My musical ghosts

    I have a picture in my mind of the Eatonia Band helping to celebrate the opening of a new school during the time of great expectations that followed the ending of the Second World War. I think that. . .

    William WardillApril 22, 2019

  • I Think About the Women

    There is a place where I searched for history when I was young, vigorous and fearless. It is in and around the cleft formed by the joining of the South Saskatchewan and Red Deer Rivers. As I worked. . .

    William WardillMarch 25, 2019

  • I Have Been So Great a Lover

    The mists of memory swirl backwards and scattered poem fragments emerge like flotsam left by a receding tide. Lines from three poems by Rupert Brooke have remained imbedded in my mind through the . . .

    William WardillJanuary 15, 2019

  • The Ghosts of Christmas Past

    Like circus barkers, the hawkers of the electronic media have been unleashed to peddle their wares. The annual trivialization of one of the world’s great religions has begun. A hedonist society has. . .

    William WardillDecember 6, 2018

  • William Wardill

    When I was nine years old, the theatre in my home village was five years old and was never a venue for first run movie releases. This explains why I never saw The Eagle and the Hawk, first shown in. . .

    William WardillNovember 22, 2018

  • Three thousand tons of mustard gas

    Chemical weapons are not new. In ancient times there were primitive flame throwers hurling Greek Fire at wooden ships in naval battles in the fabled waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. In . . .

    William WardillNovember 6, 2018

  • Fake News

    I am a columnist. Those who write columns for publication have the right to express their opinions about real events, real, people and real things. We are not entirely free, however, to write . . .

    William WardillJanuary 30, 2018

  • The Home Place

    William Wardill The Home Place Several weeks ago people gathered for the funeral of my wife’s nephew. He had ended his own life to avoid the relentless agony of terminal cancer. He was 53 years. . .

    William WardillJanuary 24, 2018

  • The Silent Majority

    There are always loud voices – more male than female – that insist that government could be brought very close to perfection if only all those other people had some clear and incorruptible moral . . .

    William WardillJanuary 18, 2018

  • Sacrifice

    Tears come easily to old eyes. Over the years mine have witnessed scenes of both joy and pain. In the televised images of the Remembrance Day service in Ottawa, I saw the emotions in the faces of . . .

    William WardillNovember 20, 2017

  • Firestorm

    I have lived for 90 years on the northern lands of the Great Central Plain of North America. I was two years old when the stock markets crashed and the rain stopped falling. For the next 10 years I. . .

    William WardillNovember 7, 2017

  • About honest and honourable turnips

    I am a wordsmith. This is a malady which affects a frantic few in the larger human family. It is a dangerous business. If the skills of a writer are so slight as to barely deserve the title of . . .

    William WardillOctober 30, 2017

  • Don’t say death

    For 17 years, Planet Earth has survived with constant acts of terror, real and threatened. The most devastating attacks came on September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center was destroyed and the . . .

    William WardillOctober 6, 2017

  • Falling Leaves

    A century ago the plain on which I live was still a buffalo pasture, although the great beasts and those who hunted them were gone. Then homesteaders came and, 97 years ago, a new railway branch . . .

    William WardillSeptember 7, 2017

  • Gravitas

    Gravitas is a word borrowed from Latin, the forerunner of all the Romance languages. In English, the dictionary meaning is dignity. It is more than that. It is the skills in words and manner which . . .

    William WardillAugust 9, 2017

  • Read My Book - Muskrat Ramble

    Kind Sirs and Gentle Ladies, I ask that you do me the honour of reading what might well be my final book of poems, Muskrat Ramble, and thereby discover a strange history told in cadenced words. I. . .

    William WardillAugust 8, 2017

  • In one man’s lifetime

    My father was born on Jan. 13, 1876, in the 39th year of the reign of Queen Victoria, 15 years after the death of the royal consort, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg. Prior to the 19th century, . . .

    William WardillAugust 8, 2017

  • The conscience of North America

    If it can be said that any nation has a conscience, it is effectively expressed by its government in the ways it deals with its own citizens and its relations with other sovereign states. . . .

    William WardillMarch 3, 2017

  • A troubled soul

    The ancient Greeks believed death occurred when the soul left the body. The concept of soul endures to this day as the mysterious force that animates the human body. I am a very old man. I am not . . .

    William WardillJanuary 21, 2017

  • Masters and slaves

    According to the talking heads and their colleagues, Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States because of the anger and fear of a whole bunch of white men who blame immigrants and . . .

    William WardillDecember 7, 2016

  • Revisiting the ghosts of Christmas past

    Yesterday I was watching a cable channel telling the frightening story of the American presidential election when the vitriolic insanity dissolved into the sweet strains of a Christmas carol. “. . .

    William WardillNovember 18, 2016

  • What is an ISDS?

    ISDS is an acronym for investor state dispute settlement. It is a feature of the North America Free Trade Agreement that gives foreign investors the right to sue Canada if their potential profits . . .

    William WardillOctober 21, 2016

  • The summer of our discontent

    This has been the summer of my discontent. For 60 long years I have worked as an arborist. Now I am watching my friends in the urban forest signalling the end of summer. Green ash trees, once the . . .

    William WardillSeptember 27, 2016

  • Airships, has their day finally come?

    My dreams are coming true. Airships are being built again. Not so long ago I cruised the Internet to see the flaming crash of the Hindenburg at Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6, 1937. The Hindenburg . . .

    William WardillAugust 31, 2016

  • Anonymous Sources

    On a day in the not so distant past, I received a letter that surprised me. The writer praised me for being one of the few honest and intelligent columnists he had ever encountered. There was no . . .

    William WardillAugust 9, 2016

  • Brexit death knell for a diminished kingdom?

    Late last year in Northern England, the nephew of one my distant cousins was beaten to death with an iron rod by seven youths who could find nothing better to do. This is the kind of cruel incident. . .

    Willaim WardillJuly 20, 2016

  • Trudeau and trade

    Last month I wrote about our prime minister giving citizens the opportunity to express their opinions about the impending TPP trade pact. Maude Barlow and the super patriots of the Council of . . .

    William WardillJuly 15, 2016

  • What is so rare as the days this June?

    As I write this, there are 16 days left for Canadian citizens to express to the federal government their opinions and concerns in regard to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, which has . . .

    William WardillJune 17, 2016

  • A little schoolhouse on the prairie

    On May 20, Minister of Education Don Morgan stated there could be further amalgamations of school divisions and wondered out loud what the optimum number of school divisions should be. In the ivory. . .

    William WardillMay 26, 2016

  • Words and meanings

    On the morning of May 11, the talking heads of the electronic media were agog. Donald Trump, presumptive heir to a Republican White House, had conversed with Paul Ryan, speaker of the house and . . .

    William WardillMay 16, 2016

  • The lives you didn’t live

    Every one of us has lives other than the one we are living. From the bittersweet vantage of extreme old age, I look back to remember Robert Frost, the poet who touched my very soul, wrote about “. . .

    William WardillMay 4, 2016

  • Vintage Voices

    I have been spending time developing a music library for a T. Eaton Catalogue house which was built in 1917. The work is an exercise in confusing technology and annoying frustration. It is also an . . .

    William WardillMarch 23, 2016

  • Music is a powerful world force

    Carrie Jacobs Bond composed music and lyrics of I Love You Truly in 1901. It was the first of her many compositions to be published and is still heard today, most often at weddings. Jacobs Bond was. . .

    William WardillFebruary 4, 2016

  • When the laws were blue

    Excitement about the Power Ball Lottery has been lighting up TV screens all over North America. Here in the Canadian backwoods there seems to be a necessity for understanding what the happy furor . . .

    William WardillJanuary 22, 2016

  • Grow vegetables if you don’t want to become a vegetable

    In following the words and pictures in both print and electronic media, I have noted people who consider themselves to be experts are rediscovering the folk wisdom of former times and displaying it. . .

    William WardillJanuary 6, 2016

  • And a little child shall lead them

    As I watched the television screening of a new Canadian government being sworn in, I recalled to a fragment of Isaiah 11.16. The words were “and a little child shall lead them.” I saw a little . . .

    William WardillDecember 4, 2015

  • Automation and wealth

    Before the first steps were taken in the Industrial Revolution in England 500 years ago, wealth was in the ownership of land bestowed by a monarch on men said to be of noble birth. Wealth was not . . .

    William WardillNovember 19, 2015

  • Give this day our daily bread

    Oct. 19, as the Liberals under Justin Trudeau, came back from the political wilderness to oust the Harperite Conservatives from power, I switched on my ancient TV set and turned to CNN. I expected . . .

    William WardillOctober 29, 2015

  • Decision-making powers stripped from rural Sask.

    If we care to know about natural and man-made disasters the world over, the news media provide endless accounts, some truthful and some tainted, of the follies, greed and suffering of the human . . .

    William WardillOctober 19, 2015

  • Wisdom as a necessity, religion as a choice

    There would be no murders in the name of God if the world were filled with scoffers. If there were no religious beliefs there would be no religious conflicts and no insane instrument of destruction. . .

    William WardillSeptember 25, 2015

  • What a man has gotta do

    When I was a little boy the word “urinate” was not in my lexicon. It was in medical journals. Little boys had more innocuous names for it such as peepee and piddle. The medical term has been used . . .

    William WardillSeptember 17, 2015

  • 'Trumpery’ fits Donald like a glove

    There is an elderly word in the English language (stolen from the French) that is aching to be used. The word is trumpery. It means “something showy but worthless.” There you are, amigos. . . .

    William WardillSeptember 6, 2015

  • The range in the home

    I remember the huge wood and coal range in my grandmother’s kitchen. The fellow who sells gleaming household appliances has a picture of one in a book. “To think that women had to slave over a . . .

    William WardillAugust 20, 2015

  • Anybody who plays the piano can’t be all bad

    Canadians are to experience the delights of a super-long election campaign. Pollsters are predicting a three-way horse race in which two thirds of the electorate want to put Stephen Harper and his . . .

    William WardillAugust 6, 2015

  • Looking at the record

    What the electronic media refer to as “breaking news” is served up in repetitive detail until the next “breaking news” breaks. During its time on the flashing screens each featured story appears to. . .

    William WardillJuly 31, 2015

  • A tale of four nickels

    I was three years old when the twin maladies of drought and depression brought a continuing calamity to the Saskatchewan prairies. When I was seven or thereabouts, I received four nickels from my . . .

    William WardillJuly 13, 2015

  • In search of objective truth

    Today Jed Bush, contestant in the U.S. Republican select-a-presidential-candidate-race, told the world how much he admired Pope Francis. He then added in the politest of words that the concern for . . .

    William WardillJune 27, 2015

  • Enduring shame

    Two days ago, on land which had never been touched by the white man’s plough, I talked with a Cree man who had spent two years in a residential school. What he told me was a journey in horror. What. . .

    William WardillJune 11, 2015

  • True North

    When I arose this morning I was eager to perform my regular morning ritual of going to the front lawn to face the east and there bow in obeisance to my government that is in Ottawa. (Every . . .

    William WardillApril 30, 2015

  • A personal manifesto

    I was one of the dwindling few in church this morning. My presence there does not mean that I accept every word in Christian scriptures as true. It means that, without the acceptance of biblical . . .

    William WardillApril 28, 2015

  • Don’t get your toga in a twist

    Incredible as it may seem, when I was a lad I didn’t play baseball or chase reluctant maidens. Instead, I sat indoors in an overstuffed chair and dreamed about being a senator. I mean a senator . . .

    William WardillApril 20, 2015

  • The first moving picture

    There were no moving pictures shown in the raw village where I was born until the owner of the only hotel bought enough chairs to fill his ballroom and invited a travelling showman to make regular . . .

    William WardillApril 16, 2015

  • The military solution

    As a Canadian patriot, I once again place the ruminations of my brilliant mind at the disposal of my government in Ottawa, without any desire for recompense, either in bags filled with loonies or . . .

    William WardillApril 1, 2015

  • The Good-Maker Gibbet Company

    A brief news morsel, like an arrow gone astray, suggested the Masters and Mandarins in Ottawa were thinking of sentencing all the really nasty people caught by the constabulary to life imprisonment. . .

    William WardillMarch 16, 2015

  • History and hysteria

    Political posturing seems an anemic term to associate with the maniacal purposes and practices of the thing called ISIS, yet these deranged killers understand the process very well. Political . . .

    William WardillMarch 10, 2015

  • The time worn search for the treasure chest

    There are people fighting for and against the bloodthirsty creation variously called ISIS who think they are fighting in a religious war. There are observers, near and far, who think they are . . .

    William WardillFebruary 27, 2015

  • The Whistler and His Dog

    When I was a weird young child, I was infected by a strange belief. I believed I would never grow older, bigger and wiser unless I first learned to whistle. I stood for hours in front of a mirror, . . .

    William WardillFebruary 20, 2015

  • In praise of women

    There is a story in the Bible about Susanna and the Elders. Susanna was a beautiful woman. The Elders were lustful old men who wanted Susanna to “lie with them” in a closed garden because they . . .

    William WardillFebruary 11, 2015

  • When boys were boys

    My friend Kay Parley who writes for the Wolesley Bulletin is a wise old maven. She picked up on a column I wrote about unstructured play. Essentially, I was complaining about parents who turn their. . .

    William WardillFebruary 4, 2015

  • The sacrifice of the politically powerless

    The numbers of aged people as a proportion of the total global population is growing. I am one of those persons politely entitled a “senior.” We are the ones who misplace things every day and enter. . .

    William WardillJanuary 23, 2015

  • Charity alone is not enough; there must be justice

    I risk my reputation as the town’s oldest resident weirdo by admitting that I donate substantial sums of money to charitable organizations that I recognize as having both a worthy purpose and a . . .

    William WardillJanuary 19, 2015

  • A compendium of complaints

    Here we are, five days into the year in which I hope to reach the venerable age of 88. I shall have to hurry if I am to make anything of myself. What I am now is a complainer. I call myself The . . .

    William WardillJanuary 6, 2015

  • One Man’s View of Warfare

    I think most men are just little boys grown larger. Little boys play with toy soldiers and like to carry toy swords and guns. I wonder if this is because of something in male DNA, a warrior . . .

    William WardillDecember 14, 2014

  • The twilight of the gods

    Within the political, corporate and investment communities the worship of wealth and its symbols continues. There is a growing undercurrent, however, of heresy. More and more people among the powerless multitudes understand they can't eat legal tender,

    By William WardillOctober 29, 2014

  • Bring back the outhouse

    Canada Post is running a glitzy TV advertisement that seems to promise front door delivery of every item purchased from Internet businesses. This puzzled me a little. I am a faithful customer of Canada Post but, neither as a business nor a person, are

    By William WardillSeptember 14, 2014

  • Down the Back Lane

    I am the grandson of a zealous gardener. Before coming to a frontier village in Saskatchewan in 1919, my maternal grandfather had lived in a row house in a smoky industrial town in England. The back lane behind his home enclosed a meagre yard where a

    By William WardillSeptember 12, 2014

  • Experts and expectations

    When the trees drop their yellow leaves this year I will be 87 years old. I will look back on a life marred by errors and embarrassments but redeemed by one small success. I am able to identify, study and write about problems that I can't solve. This is

    By William WardillSeptember 2, 2014

  • Short-line secrets

    I have been told that on the rails of Big Sky Rail, which took over a CN branch in 2011, the lonely trestle I first saw 80 years ago is in close proximity to a small forest of crude oil storage tanks. The report disturbs me. Before the Second World War,

    By William WardillJuly 28, 2014

  • A matter of degree

    Since people first were able to use language and press letters in clay there have been stories of current events. The circulation of news by the king's heralds gave way to the publication of news on hand-printed parchments, on paper printed with hand-set

    By William WardillJuly 1, 2014

  • Playing follow the leader

    Showing the flag is an old game. Our leaders are playing it again. They are showing the various flags of NATO countries in an effort to bend the actions of Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation into a less threatening path. The centre of violence is

    By William WardillMay 10, 2014

  • Herman Humpback: a modern fable

    Herman Humpback was a happy whale. There were more of his kind. There were Hubert and Henry and Homer and Humperdinck swimming close by. He liked to surface to see the girl whales blowing. There was Helen and Helga and Hilda and Hermione and Hazel. They

    By William WardillMay 6, 2014

  • A new era in transportation?

    The United Nations, rejecting the tiresome politicking that originates mostly in the United States, has pronounced publicly that unless the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is reduced, planet Earth will become a dangerous, even a

    By William WardillApril 22, 2014

  • A list of sanctions

    The talking heads on television news services are following the search for a missing airliner more closely than the explosive situation in Europe. What is happening in and around the Ukrainian Republic is a way station in a long and troubled history. To

    By William WardillApril 16, 2014

  • Somebody's gotta do it

    This is the sixth day of April. Yesterday morning we were insulted again by a brief scattering of fluffy snow. Memory takes me back to spring days of long ago. In May, the village rejoiced in a peaceful cobalt blue sky and the shimmering green of grass

    By William WardillApril 10, 2014

  • I like Ukrainians: best agents of change are time and patience

    In the first decade of the past century when Europe was a powder keg almost ready to explode into war, my father, a young and exceedingly proper English youth, arrived in the village of Vonda, Saskatchewan. There, he filed on a homestead and bought a

    By William WardillMarch 27, 2014

  • Side effect

    In skipping your way through cable channels you will eventually encounter a new miracle drug. Because I believe drug companies invent new drugs and then look for health problems to use them on, I just invented one myself: "Laetorictus, scientifically

    By William WardillMarch 13, 2014

  • Tin Pan Alley

    Tin Pan Alley was that area of Manhattan where music publishers and song writers congregated with tinny upright pianos to play their latest offerings for the many purchasers of sheet music. Historians say Tin Pan Alley blossomed in New York in 1885 and

    By William WardillFebruary 25, 2014

  • I saw it in the funnies

    At intervals, writers with nothing better to do and a copious supply of unclear words attempt to prove violent video games have nothing but beneficial effects upon the children who are addicted to them. These pompous personages are either idiots or

    By William WardillFebruary 13, 2014

  • Old King Coal

    When I was a very small child, my mother's father told me that his youngest brother had crossed the ocean to a far place and had never come back again. His name was Septimus, the seventh son, and while my grandfather laboured in the coal-fed industrial

    By William WardillFebruary 4, 2014

  • In Mandela's image

    Those among us who have no direct knowledge of South Africa and its political history must accept what news services have told us about the man called Nelson Mandela. We are told that he was born into a royal family and he later became a firebrand in the

    By William WardillDecember 30, 2013

  • The dementia catalogue

    There has been a report that politicians and their minions in distant Ottawa will be discussing what to do for and to citizens with senile dementia. (If, since the last time I looked, the term senile dementia has become politically incorrect, please

    By William WardillDecember 23, 2013

  • Canadian ketchup

    Rich, red ketchup was a part of my boyhood diet. Every time a bottle of it was purchased for me, a bottle of HP sauce was purchased for my brother. In those very early years, my food choices were based on the sense of sight. HP sauce was brown; I didn't

    By William WardillDecember 11, 2013

  • An enduring symbol

    For longer than the span of my years, people have walked unaware on what I hold to be the most significant man-made symbol of endurance anywhere in my town. It is a length of concrete sidewalk 200 feet long. (If you want that in meters, work it out for

    By William WardillDecember 3, 2013

  • Stealing the sunlight

    In my small town there are two areas of unwounded prairie wool. One is a portion of a boomtown rail yard and the other is a part of plot which has been the town's sports grounds since 1921. These small surviving tracts of native grasses were once

    By William WardillNovember 25, 2013

  • Christmas belongs to me

    Christmas belongs to me because it is part of my cultural inheritance. Christmas belongs to me because of happy memories. I was a child during the Great Depression. I remember farm families coming in sleighs to a Christmas Eve church service. My memory

    By William WardillNovember 24, 2013

  • The Sapient Society of Grumpy Old Men

    To borrow a term from the lexicon of a bumptious bureaucrat, I am a stakeholder. I am a stakeholder in all sorts of things. For example, I am always referred to as a stakeholder whenever the health care people ask for my opinion about anything (which

    By William WardillOctober 30, 2013

  • Peripatetic pigs and other matters

    The busy bureaucrats in Regina have found another way to keep their pay cheques coming. They have decided to revamp the solid waste disposal system, up, down and sideways. Thus far, their ultimate solution is like a fog-shrouded iceberg. Details and

    By William WardillOctober 25, 2013

  • The last fowl supper

    Alsask has been a place-name in Saskatchewan for 103 years. For most of that period volunteers in Alsask have celebrated the end of summer and the abundance from fields and gardens with fowl suppers. These temporary public events, as they are so

    By William WardillSeptember 17, 2013

  • Looking after the old ones

    Old men are associated with unpleasant odours. They ooze, drool and release gaseous eruptions. They and their lady companions are not welcomed joyfully at such events as symphony concerts or royal christenings. For the old ones, keeping themselves as

    By William WardillSeptember 10, 2013

  • Canadians are in good hands

    One day last week, having been overcome by an attack of egotism, I was singing and dancing in front of a large mirror, stopping at intervals to bestow fulsome praise upon myself. My long-suffering wife entered the room. Sparks of anger were flashing in

    By William WardillSeptember 3, 2013

  • How to make the world safe for corporations

    There is nothing new under the sun. In 2013, Saskatchewan is riding the crest of a resource boom which is providing a wealth of raw materials to other countries. In 1847, the Elgin-Marcy Reciprocity Treaty gave the British colonies of North America the

    By William WardillJuly 17, 2013

  • A political weather forecast

    This morning, June 10, I have a persistent pain in my belly. This is because I have begun to believe I know the guiding blueprint being followed by the regime in Ottawa. It seems to me that our shepherding prime minister and his voiceless flock are the

    By William WardillJune 18, 2013

  • A doleful Canada Post

    Canada Post has been lamenting in the newspapers about its accelerating loss of business volume. Being a skeptic by nature and a former postmaster to boot, I see this as an opening gambit in what will be planned service cuts that will affect every

    By William WardillJune 13, 2013

  • Challenges, private and public

    Hurrah! An 80-year-old man has climbed to the top of Mt. Everest. If he and I could go back in time to attend the same institution of learning, I would be ready to graduate while he was still in middle school. Whereas I find it hard just to climb out of

    By William WardillJune 6, 2013

  • Alladin's wonderful lamp

    Life is a journey, so it is said. My journey began a very long time ago and many of my collected memories are of things unknown to most younger people. The homesteading era in Saskatchewan was in full swing in 1910. Still surviving when I was born were a

    By William WardillMay 28, 2013

  • Conversation coamouflage

    Anybody with even a smattering of learning knows that camouflage of the optical variety is the art of making something look like something else or making whatever something is doing look like it isn't. Crazy painting of ships during wartime disguises

    By William WardillMay 17, 2013

  • Surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions

    Back in the middle of the 18th century, the Scots, who had already invented numerous beneficial things, concepts and processes, where poised on the edge of remarkable developments which later came to be called the Scottish Enlightenment. The centre of

    By William WardillMay 10, 2013

  • Hair today, gone tomorrow

    Sometimes the noise of regurgitated TV programs is interrupted by advertising. A burst of saccharine-sweet music heralds the appearance of an impossibly handsome man at the peak of his virile glory. He is just standing there in an opulent room, the

    By William WardillMay 2, 2013

  • Who is negotiating what?

    Before the world staggered into the Great Depression, I was an infant, aware of little beyond my own safe cocoon. Two things I did know. A steam whistle wailing in the night announced the arrival of the 11 o'clock passenger train. I also knew that when

    By William WardillApril 26, 2013

  • Brave and gallant youths fought in many battles

    Years ago in Eire, the guide on a tour bus, who claimed to be an Irish Catholic married to a Protestant from Germany, said to me, "There is no religious conflict worth the sacrifice of even one human life." She was wise. In a part of the world torn by

    By William WardillApril 18, 2013