October 1

1947 Sarah Binks is born

Paul Hiebert (1892-1987) was a University of Manitoba chemist who revealed a sly humour and a talent for exquisitely awful verse in publishing Sarah Binks, a faux biography of the “Sweet Songstress of Saskatchewan”. Born in Russia to a Mennonite family who migrated to Canada, Hiebert took degrees in philosophy and Gothic and Teutonic philology before doing a Ph.D. in chemistry and launching an academic career. 

Hiebert imagined Willows, a Saskatchewan village of the early 20th century:

Half way between Oak Bluff and Quagmire in Saskatchewan lies the little town of North Willows. Its public buildings are unpretentious but pure in architectural style. A post office, two general stores, Charley Wong’s restaurant and billiard parlour, two United churches, the Commercial House (Lib.), the Clarendon Hotel (Cons.), a drug store, a consolidated school, and eighteen filling stations, make up the east side of Railroad Avenue, its chief commercial street. On the west side Railway Avenue is taken up by the depot, the lumber yard and four elevators. At right angles to Railway Avenue runs Post Office Street, so called because the post office was on this street before the last provincial election.

From Willows came Sarah Binks, spinster poetess whose hymns to the rural charms of her province live on in immortal ditties such as “Song to the Cow”, “Goose and “Up from the Magma and Back Again”. These stanzas won her the much-coveted Wheat Pool Medal but, alas, the accompanying prize was a horse thermometer. In a tragic mishap while taking her own temperature, she bit down hard on a Scotch mint, cracking the thermometer and swelling a fatal dose of mercury.

She was hailed at the unveiling of her monument with this tribute by the Honourable A.E. Windheaver:

“Despond not! I give you the words of your own great poetess, than whom there is no greater in this great Province of which I have the honour to be Minister of Grasshopper Control and Foreign Affairs. Despond not! Come drought, come rust, come high tariff and high freight rates and high cost of binder twine, I still say to you, as I have already said to the electors of Quagmire and Pelvis, that a Province that can produce a poet like your Sarah Binks under the type of government we have been having during the last four years, full of graft and maladministration and wasting the taxpayers’ money, and what about the roads, I want to say, that a Province that can produce such a poet may be down but it’s never out.”

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