How Little Winnie Prompted Me to Be a Writer

6463476471_4e8ab0ce9a_m (1)I was twelve when I met my cousin Winnie in Seattle. She was also twelve.

My parents and younger sister and I travelled from Estevan, Saskatchewan, to visit my mother’s sister and family there. We crossed the American border into North Dakota and then spanned Montana, Idaho and Washington State.

That trip covered 900 miles, and on today’s roads takes about 18 hours. But we travelled 1937 roads. And we made the trip in a 1929 deep maroon Model A Ford, the frame of which had been damaged in an accident before my father bought it. When he learned of the damage it was too late. The car was ours.

The car performed acceptably up to 35 miles per hour but driven faster than that it began to shake and vibrate in protest.

So, the four of us chugged along at 35 miles an hour across the vastness of the West and through the grandeur of its mountains. I particularly remember going through the Blewett Pass. Its many curves would not have permitted speeds to rise above 35 miles per hour.

In Seattle we found our relatives — Big Winnie, my mother’s sister; then Edna, her daughter and Little Winnie, my second cousin.

Big Winnie was only 4’ 10” tall, but the adjective “big” reflected her status as the matron of her family. Little Winnie got that name when she was small, but at 12 Little Winnie was already taller than Big Winnie.

Having never met before, at first there was a usual shyness, but children have an instinct for “strangers who are family.” I remember the pleasure at getting acquainted with a new cousin.

I recall only one conversation between Little Winnie and me. We were alone, swinging gently on the front porch swing when I asked, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” Without hesitation she said, “I’m going to be a writer.”

I replied, also without hesitation, “I’m going to be a writer too.” I don’t know where that came from. To my recollection I had never previously had such a thought. I don’t remember my response as competitive or teasing. Little Winnie had simply planted a fresh idea in my head and I warmed to it instantly.

Our family chugged all the way back to Saskatchewan in the wounded Model A and soon after arriving home, it was time for school. I was going into grade six.

Miss Walden was a new teacher, young and very motivating. She soon had us doing other things besides “school work”, such as doing drills in place to the music of a scratchy gramophone and coming to the school on Saturday mornings to sand and re-varnish our desks.

She even had us writing stories or poems for possible publication. At the time, the Regina Leader had a page on Saturdays for children’s compositions sent in from children among its readership. Miss Walden was faithful in encouraging us to write and she sent some of our efforts to the paper.

I remember one piece I got published, inspired by what was going on at our house, I wrote a half-fanciful Mark Twain sort of story about spring house cleaning. The first sentence began, “I entered the house to be accosted by the smell of calcimine.” Back then walls were often refreshed with a whitewash called calcimine.

I remember that my Mother worried that some readers might read my distortions as a true account. She didn’t like the fabrication of my pulling fishing gear from under my bed and pitching it out the window.

I don’t know whether Little Winnie became a writer. I know I began writing in earnest at the outset of my ministry — not only sermons, but articles, booklets, even books — and here I am in my ninety-first year still writing, by the grace of God.

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Photo credit: Julie Jordan Scott (via



One thought on “How Little Winnie Prompted Me to Be a Writer

  1. What an enjoyable recollection of a long, pre war road trip , from the Canadian prairies to the Pacific coast of USA !

    I’m not a motorist ,but I live in Coventry,a city with a long history of motor manufacturing.If Detroit ,including Dearborn ,is America’s motor city, then Coventry has a good claim to be UK’s motor city.We have a long history of car manufacture. Consequently we e have a fine motoring museum and an annual motorfest.

    Vintage and classic car enthusiasts bring their vehicles to our city each year, to display and to join in the annual vintage and classic car runs.

    We see many old European and north American cars on our streets and precincts and motoring along our roads , all kept in good running order by their enthusiastic owners. The fine old model A Ford, built from the late 1920s, by Ford at Dearborn, Michigan, regularly appears.

    I’ve seen the white walled spoked tires, the old step plate and running board and the single tail light of the classic Model A .I believe it had a larger engine than the famous model T and was the first American car built along English lines, with a safety – glass windscreen .It looks an historic ,tall bodied ,classic car.

    At 35 mph ,Estevan to Seattle must have been a breathtakingly scenic journey ,if exhausting.It must have taken well over 24 hours,a real family adventure.

    What a memorable picture is painted of the old model A, chugging through the winding curves of the Blewett mountain passes. And on arrival,the old front porch swing , which conjures up a picture of the old western homestead, for us Brits.

    The idea to become a writer seems to have caught hold the minute Winnie mentioned it,and was then drawn out by Miss Walden’s encouragement. I think the word education derives from the Greek ‘educare’, to draw out,So Miss Walden performed her teaching job well.

    Congratulations ,Pastor Don ,on your many decades of writing.I read’ Just Call Me Pastor’ each week and have three of your books on my shelves .I have read them all ,and often refer back to their pages. These three are ‘The Pastor’s First Love’ 2013,’God’s House Rules’ 2007 and ‘Belonging : Adventures in Church Membership’ 1978 .I have the 1990 revision of ‘Belonging’,updated in 2003.

    It’s interesting to hear of the moment that prompted a lifetime of writing and I am grateful to Little Winnie for the part she played.

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