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A Crystal Lake Story

Part Three - Conclusion

This is the third (and final) segment in the “Crystal Lake” saga.* You can refer back to Part One and Part Two. I left off in the spring of 1991 when we had just moved back to our “dollhouse” in Hyas, SK from Churchill, MB. (Polar bear capital of the world!) 

I was so happy to be back in my lovely little house in rural Saskatchewan. As I mentioned last time, we had renovated the house from top to bottom shortly before moving back to Churchill for almost three years. We had renters who took very good care of it, so it was like moving into a brand-new house again when we moved back. During our time “away” we’d also purchased a cottage at Crystal Lake with the intent of using it for vacations.

And then…

One day while my hubby was out “exploring” (he does that from time to time) he came across an abandoned farmyard with a large two-and-a-half-story house on it. As he is apt to do, he went inside to check it out. The house was in excellent condition, so he asked around and found out the person who owned the land was willing to sell it.

When he took me to see the house, I fell instantly in love! It was everything I had imagined in my “dream” house. As it turned out, it was a 1910 “Eaton’s Catalogue” house, an early RTM, if you will. It had original floors, wide casings and trim; a beautiful oak banister that ran up the centre of the house; four large bedrooms; and the most beautiful fireplace I’d ever seen with gorgeous green tiles, ironwork, and a bevelled mirror above the mantle. So…

We bought the house for $2500 cash! The only catch was, we had to move it. We decided to turn our cottage at Crystal Lake into a garage and replace it with a permanent home on the lake. What an undertaking!

It was about thirty miles from Pelly, SK, where the house was, to Crystal Lake. It was no small feat since it was a BIG house. A mover we knew from Canora, SK was willing to take it on, but my goodness! We had no idea what we were really getting ourselves into! Getting the house off its foundation and onto the moving truck was an undertaking in itself, but then there was the drive! It pretty much took the entire day to go that thirty miles as the convoy snaked along the highway from Pelly to Crystal Lake. Traffic on the highway was blocked, power lines had to be lifted and in one case even cut! What a sight to see that massive house rolling down the highway. Thanks to our VHS movie camera (*smile) we have it all on tape!

We weren’t out of the woods, yet, however. It was a steep incline down the hill on our property to where we planned to put the house near the lakefront. We’d built a wooden foundation, but there were some TENSE moments as the structure started rolling down the hill. I had visions of the house picking up momentum and ending up in the lake!  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when that monstrosity plunked with finality onto its foundation.

At the time, the house stuck out like a sore thumb. since it was the largest house at the lake. These days there are quite a few large permanent homes on Crystal Lake, but not back then.

I LOVED that Crystal Lake house. It was everything I had ever dreamed of.  Plus, we had a full basement, so we had more space than we’d ever had before. I envisioned my children walking down that staircase on their graduations; my daughters descending the step in their wedding gowns… It sounds like a dream, but the reality wasn’t quite as kind.

Moving away from Churchill meant we left good-paying jobs and a stable income which was soon eaten up by the massive project. We’d moved “home” on a prayer without much thought about what we would do for a living. It soon became apparent that Gerald would have to get a job somewhere else since there wasn’t much work available near the lake.

Off we went to Estevan for about eight months where Ger worked with my brother-in-law in the oil field business and I had baby number four—our one and only son. We visited the “house” some weekends but mostly I just yearned to be there. I’m not sure I even tried to like living in Estevan. I just wanted to be back in my dream house. Our son was only three weeks old when we decided to move back to Crystal Lake once again. I missed my home so much and you know what they say: happy wife happy life.

It was March of 1992 and there was still lots of snow on the ground. Ger worked with a carpenter friend and then got a job working at a grain elevator in Canora, which is within commuting distance. My eldest daughter had to ride the bus to school, but there were other kids at the lake who also rode the bus, so I didn’t mind too much. (It was her fourth school and she was still only in Grade One!) I remember rocking my son in the evenings in front of that beautiful fireplace after getting the other children to bed. I was settling in for the long haul and I felt content. I felt assured that this was my forever home.

NOT. Less than six months later my husband got transferred to Wynyard, SK. We were grateful for the work, but I was so sad to have to leave my dream house once again. It was too far to commute so we had to move.

I see now that God was teaching me important lessons about letting go. Perhaps there were some lessons to be learned about “idols” too, since that house was everything to me. We lived in Wynyard for three years, but the children and I spent the entire summers at the lake and as many weekends as we could during the rest of the year. My heart was always there and in many ways, I think it made for divided loyalties and an inability to commit to the community we were living in.

In the summer of ’95 we got an opportunity to move west to British Columbia with the company Ger worked for. We had to think long and hard about what that would mean for our family. Commuting back and forth in the summers from Fort St John, BC to Crystal Lake was just not practical. In the end, we took the job in BC and put our Crystal Lake house up for sale. Later that year we sold the house. Ger’s sister and her husband sold their cottage the next year and my family sold all their property shortly afterward, too. We had all come to the end of an era.

Fifteen years in and around that little pond in the middle of the prairies holds many profound memories. Many defining moments took place there–on the beach, at the clubhouse, in the water, or on the golf course. We lived in a rustic cabin, in the back of a beach store with no shower, and in a beautiful house that I was sure would be my forever home.

But God had other plans.

*I had such an outpouring of response to some social media posts about Crystal Lake from people who know the place, that I knew I needed to write a fuller story sometime, so this is it.

Who knows? Maybe “A Churchill Story”, a “Yukon Story”, an “NWT story” or a “BC Story” will be next! When you wander as often as we have, there are plenty of stories to tell.

**The people who bought our house still live there! In 28 years they have done amazing transformative renovations to the yard and house, but still maintained its beautiful character. I am so happy!


  1. Jane E. Park says:

    You packed so much “life” into such a few years at beautiful Crystal Lake!

    1. tracykrauss says:

      Yes, those were good years… but really, one can look at every bit of life that way, no matter where you are. 🙂

  2. Tina says:

    Who has owned it for the last 28 years?

    1. tracykrauss says:

      A couple from Yorkton. They used it as a seasonal place at first but then retired to the lake and still live there.

  3. Holly Hutchinson says:

    We got to tour this house 10 or 12 years ago and it is still a dream house!!
    Loved those special years at Crystal Lake. What a wonderful time for our family!

    1. tracykrauss says:

      yes, you showed us pictures. They were kind enough to let us come in and see the place, too, when we went there once, but that was about ten years ago, now.

  4. Joanna says:

    That was a beautiful recap of this part of your life journey Tracy and I love the “letting go” piece. That would have been my dream house too.

    1. tracykrauss says:

      Yes, they were good years, but one has to be careful not to long for the “good old days” too much! There is too much life to be lived to always be stuck in the past or long for what could be…

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