Prairie Graveyard

     This sad song, all true, was written by my brother Chris, drawing on family stories. My great-grandfather stepped off the ship in Halifax, bought a ticket on the CPR as far west as his money would take him, and ended up in Moose Jaw. A year later he sent for his wife and infant son, but then times grew very hard and they were forced to spend a winter in a tent. On the Saskatchewan prairie. In 1912.
     The boy died, a new-born daughter got sick, and in a panic they sold all they had for a ticket back east, to a job and a more equitable climate. The girl survived to become my grandmother, but there never was another son.
     In 1982 when Chris was gaining his Air Force wings in Moose Jaw, we looked up the old town records, and found where the boy was buried. It was a cold, gray, raw winter day as we stared down at the unmarked ground in the old cemetery. What it must have been like for my ancestor I can’t imagine. Later we arranged for a stone to be erected.

 

Prairie Graveyard Waltz      ©1999 Chris Hadfield

G                              D                     Em              Bm

With my hat in my hand and the wind in my hair,

            C           D                 G

And a feeling I never have known.

                 C                  D                       Bm              Em

There’s a glaze on the ground and a weight on my heart,

      Am         C                D

As Austin, I leave you alone.

 

I’ve stood here for hours yet I cannot explain,

To a boy who will never grow old,

What it was brought us here to this hard lonely place,

          C                       D                          G

From England, from Yorkshire, from home.

 

Em             Bm                  C             G

Sifton, you promised the fat of the land,    [chorus]

Em                         Bm              Am  C       D

And a west, and a future that ca—ll –ed me.

          G                            D                     Em                Bm

Your words brought us here but they could not sustain,

      C                    D                 G

So beaten, we’re headin’ for home.

 

[instrumental, chorus]

 

You see son I married your mother too young,

In a town that turned iron to steel.

We stood in a crowd at the edge of the square,

Hearing words all so vivid and real.

They said, “Welcome new friends to this vast fertile land,

Where there’s acres and gold lie in store.”

But by the shine in her eyes, I could ne’er realize,

The price we’d be payin’ was yours.

 

[chorus]              

[bridge]

          Bm                                   Am           C

On a pillow at home lies your wee sister Mary,

          Bm                                        Am C             D

She’s coughing and thinner each time that she cries,

           G                 D            Em                         Bm

And I just could not bear the thought that we’d lose her,

      C               D                    G

So prairie we bid you good bye.

 

                                                Bm                    Em

[chorus, and extra tag line:] Away from the sun settin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

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