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Fiction Historical

The Man from the Creeks

by (author) Robert Kroetsch

afterword by Sherrill Grace

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Jan 2008
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2008
    List Price

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Out of print

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Set against the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s, The Man from the Creeks is a gripping tale of three entrepreneurs desperate to strike it rich. Fourteen-year-old Peek and his mother, Lou, join up with cooper Benjamin Redd and embark on a treacherous journey to fabled Dawson City. First published in 1998, this is a witty and ribald retelling of Robert Service’s incomparable “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.”

About the authors

Robert Kroetsch was a teacher, editor and award-winning writer. Born in Heisler, Alberta, in 1927, Kroetsch grew up on his parents' farm and studied at the University of Alberta and the University of Iowa. He taught at the State University of New York, Binghamton, until the late 1970s and then returned to Canada, where he taught at the University of Calgary and the University of Manitoba from the 1970s through the 1990s. Kroetsch also spent time at the Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts and many writer-in-residencies, where he powerfully influenced recent writing on the Canadian prairies and elsewhere. His generosity of spirit and openness to the new showed many authors new ways to pursue their own kinds of writing. In honour of both his writing and his contributions to Canadian culture in general, Kroetsch was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2004. In 2011 he received the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award. Robert Kroetsch died in a car accident outside of Edmonton, Alberta, in 2011.

Robert Kroetsch's profile page

Sherrill Grace
Sherrill Grace is a professor of English and theatre at the University of British Columbia. She is former President, Academy I, of the Royal Society of Canada. She has lectured widely in North America, as well as in Germany, Italy, England, Belgium, France, China and Japan.

A member of several professional associations, including the Association of Canadian Studies, the Canadian Association of American Studies, the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English, the Canadian Comparative Literature Association, the Modern Languages Association and the International Association of Professors of English, Grace was awarded the prestigious Killam Teaching Prize in 2008, and in 2009 she received the Ann Saddlemyer Award for her biography Making Theatre: A Life of Sharon Pollock.

Sherrill Grace's profile page

Excerpt: The Man from the Creeks (by (author) Robert Kroetsch; afterword by Sherrill Grace)

We were stowaways, my mother and I. We wanted to get to the Klondike. More exactly, we wanted to get rich on gold.

Up there in the lifeboat where we were hiding we could smell the loaves of fresh bread and the pans of baking-soda biscuits, set outside the galley door to cool in time for breakfast. But, worse yet, we could almost taste the freshly baked cinnamon rolls.

Back in Seattle we’d stowed away in something of a hurry. Somehow we got into a lifeboat directly above the steamer’s galley. As a result, our diet of hardtack and equally hard cheese and stale water got to be less than exciting. Not that my mother’s salary of five dollars a week would have bought us much else.

After eight days in that lifeboat we could smell fresh food right through the canvas and wood, and that in spite of the fire bucket at our feet that was our toilet.

The real trouble, though, was my birthday. That ninth morning was the morning of my fourteenth birthday. October 24, 1897. That was three months and a week after the gold rush began.

My mother got it into her head that I deserved a birthday treat.

“Please don’t risk it,” I said. I was pleading, but I tried to sound logical.

“It’s a bit late,” she said, “to start telling me what I should risk.”

Every stampeder on the Delta Queen was so preoccupied with getting to the Klondike goldfields that my mother really believed she could crawl down from our lifeboat, swipe some cinnamon rolls and carry them back up to me as a birthday present without getting caught. To clinch her argument she pointed out that the sun wasn’t yet above the horizon.

“Okay,” I said, trying to sound conspicuously resigned. “At least don’t stop to look for birthday candles.”

The Queen was three days late on a voyage that was scheduled to take five, and still Skagway was nowhere in sight. We were somewhere in the Inside Passage, south of Skagway, north of Juneau. We knew that much. The old tub was leaking like a sieve. It was running out of coal too, but that was not the immediate problem. The problem was our having to proceed at only half-speed or sink.

The Klondike gold strike had started up such a flutter of greed that people were willing to buy tickets on anything that promised to float in a northerly direction. My mother had hoped that a four-day food supply would take us the thousand miles to Skagway, and then luck would take us up over the Coastal Range and down the Yukon River. After that all we’d have to do was figure out how to carry home our bags of gold.

Instead of taking two cinnamon rolls, my mother picked up a pan of twelve that was intended, it turned out, for the captain’s cabin.

She slid the pan under the coat she carried over her left arm. It was too chilly and too damp for anyone to be carrying a coat on one’s arm instead of wearing it. But that wasn’t the giveaway. The rolls were so fresh the smell caught the attention of one of the pastry cooks, a big, tough customer who was on his way back to the galley from the head. Most of the people on that boat, what with the water system out of commission half the time, didn’t smell like cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven.

“Up with the birds I see,” the cook said.

Little did he know what he was saying. We were up with the gulls, directly over his head.

Passengers were supposed to be asleep at that hour on the old steamer. But a lot of them had developed the habit of standing at the rail and staring toward the horizon, cursing while they did it. And some didn’t have cabins to begin with.

The cook was waiting for a response.

“Just who do you think you are, lady?”

“Don’t lady me,” my mother said. “The name is Lou.”

Just like that. That was the name she gave herself, as if she’d picked it up with the pan that was warming her forearm.

That’s what the poet called her, later, when he wrote his famous poem.

Other titles by Robert Kroetsch


The Poetry of Robert Kroetsch

by (author) Robert Kroetsch
edited by David Eso
afterword by Aritha van Herk


An Illustrated Tribute

by (author) Robert Kroetsch
photographs by George Webber

Too Bad

Sketches Toward a Self-Portrait

by (author) Robert Kroetsch


An Anthology of New Poetry

edited by Jon Paul Fiorentino & Robert Kroetsch

Writing the Terrain

Travelling Through Alberta with the Poets

contributions by Ian Adam, Robert Stamp, Tammy Armstrong, Margaret Avison, Douglas Barbour, John O. Barton, Doug Beardsley, Bonnie Bishop, E.D. Blodgett, Robert Boates, George Bowering, Tim Bowling, Jan Boydol, Gordon Burles, Murdoch Burnett, Anne Campbell, Weyman Chan, Leonard Cohen, Dennis Cooley, Joan Crate, Michael Cullen, Cyril Dabydeen, Lorne Daniel, Alexa DeWiel, Jason Dewinetz, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cecelia Frey, Gary Geddes, Gail Ghai, Deborah Godin, Jim Green, Leslie Greentree, Vivian Hansen, Tom Henihan, Michael Henry, Walter Hildebrandt, Gerald Hill, Robert Hilles, Nancy Holmes, Richard Hornsey, Tom Howe, Aislinn Hunter, Bruce Hunter, Laurence Hutchman, Sally Ito, Pauline Johnson, Aleksei Kazuk, Robert Kroetsch, Fiona Lam, William Latta, Tim Lilburn, Alice Major, Kim Maltman, Miriam Mandel, Sid Marty, David McFadden, Barry McKinnon, Erin Michie, Deborah Miller, Anna Mioduchowska, James M. Moir, Colin Morton, Erín Moure, Charles Noble, P.K. Page, Rajinderpal Pal, Ruth Roach Pierson, Joseph Pivato, Roberta Rees, D.C. Reid, Monty Reid, R. rickey, Ken Rivard, Stephen Scobie, Allan Serafino, Joan Shillington, Greg Simison, Carol Ann Sokoloff, Karen Solie, Stephan Stephansson, Peter Stevens, Ivan Sundal, Anne Swannell, Vanna Tessier, Colleen Thibadeau, John O. Thompson, James M. Thurgood, Eva Tihanyi, Yvonne Trainer, Aritha van Herk, Rosalee van Stelten, Miriam Waddington, James Wreford Watson, Wilfred Watson, Tom Wayman, Phyllis Webb, Jon Whyte, Christine Wiesenthal, Sheri-D Wilson, Christopher Wiseman, Stacie Wolfer, Rita Wong, Richard Woollatt & Jan Zwicky

Seed Catalogue

A Poem

by (author) Robert Kroetsch
illustrated by Jim Westergard

The Snowbird Poems

by (author) Robert Kroetsch

The Studhorse Man

by (author) Robert Kroetsch
introduction by Aritha van Herk

Seed Catalogue

A Poem

by (author) Robert Kroetsch
illustrated by Jim Westergard

Gone Indian

by (author) Robert Kroetsch

Other titles by Sherrill Grace

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