Timescape: History Plays and Isolation
memories of it. Frank moved to the prairies from a different world and was shocked by
the emptiness and isolation, both physical and emotional, he found here.
A woman abandoned on the farm in winter is a powerful image of isolation. Lily
is not the only farmwife left alone in this collection of radio plays.52 The events that lead
to another farmwife left alone on the prairie are told in North of Moose Jaw (1980, 30:00)
by Robert Currie of Moose Jaw. 53 This is another play that deals with the isolation of a
settler’s life. It is the story of Alec, a restless soul tired of his sod house life on the prairie
near Moose Jaw. Near the beginning of the play, Alec and his wife, Jessie, discuss the
palpable weight of isolation inside a sod house in winter:
Alec – It’s a long winter. Jessie – And I thought it was always women who suffered cabin fever. Alec – Well, Jessie, we don’t have to worry about you, do we? You’re tough. Jessie – Sure, tough as nails. Alec – I never figured on a sod house. Holed up like a gopher. That’s no life for a man. Jessie – But it’s all right for a woman, isn’t it? Alec – Come on, Jessie, I never said that. It’s no life for anybody.
Despite Alec’s claim that this is “no life for anybody,” he will leave Jessie alone for that
“long winter” – as we will soon see. Like Frank Dobson in The First Step, Alec wryly
remembers the exaggerated stories that brought him west in the first place: “‘The
healthiest climate in the world’. They’d say anything to get us out to Western Canada.
‘The great fertile plains’. Hah. Those bloody boosters.” When Frank Dobson
encounters the realities of prairie settling, he buckles down and makes the best of them.54
However, when reality crushes Alec’s hopes of finding his own slice of Utopia, he fumes
and plots an escape from sod house life. Alec grumbles to his friends in town, “You
52 53 54
a familiar image in Saskatchewan fiction as well, especially Sinclair Ross and Ed McCourt. another play in the Festival ’80 series.
until he dies.