Making Do: A Prairie Memory Guide


100 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-919433-10-3




Reviewed by George E. McElroy

George F. McElroy was a freelance reviewer living in Oakville, Ontario.


Dave Cunningham was born in Grande Prairie, Alberta. From the time he was 10 until he was 15 he visited or worked on his Grandpa McGee’s farm during the summer. In the fall and winter he hunted and trapped with his Grandpa Cunningham. The book is dedicated to both grandfathers who, according to the author, had little in common except stubbornness, and consists of sketches and impressions of those formative years.

It is rich in anecdotes and tall tales such as the legend that a bull snake was supposed to be able to lift himself up like a stick. When a bird decided that this was a good place to perch, the snake ate him. It touches upon almost every imaginable facet of prairie life and includes pioneer recipes and natural remedies such as how to dry apples for winter use, how to bake bannocks, how to stretch out the flour supply by adding ground-up cattail root, and the medicinal properties of pine tea, sage brush root, mustard plasters and goose grease. There is nothing to indicate how the author learned to draw so well, but it is a self evident fact. Well over a hundred simple line drawings, somewhat reminiscent of those of naturalist Ernest Thompson Sewn, are scattered throughout the book. This book should appeal to anyone with a prairie background and to many others who have not. Perhaps its greatest flaw is its brevity. A reader may skim through it easily in less than an hour.


Cunningham, Dave, “Making Do: A Prairie Memory Guide,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,