Songwriters create music for myriad reasons. But few ever do so after a bloody knife attack from a person breaking into the house.
Although the 2019 attack remains a chilling reminder of a traumatic moment in time, after two years of writing and recording, Caroline Parke (nee Juhlin) is nominated for five awards through the International Singer Songwriter Association (ISSA) based in the United States.
The nominations include International (Intl) Album of the Year (The Road), Intl. Female Single of the Year ("Oklahoma Between"), Intl. Female Songwriter of the Year, Intl. Female Rising Star and Female Emerging Artist.
Parke, a cattle rancher who lives on the outskirts of Lloydminster bordering the Saskatchewan River, loves the serenity of country life. But during the hellish knife attack two years ago that turned her life upside down, she was home alone with four young children asleep in bed.
It was 2:30 a.m. in the morning and the nearest neighbour lived about a kilometre away. Her husband had just received a frantic telephone call from his sister desperate that someone was banging on her windows.
“We didn’t know what to do. We thought about calling the police. The nearest detachment is 12 minutes away, but they only have two officers on at any given time. They cover a large territory and it’s usually a one-hour response time,” said Parke.
Her husband jumped in the truck and peeled down the township road for a drive-by look. Standing in the kitchen, she watched his taillights grow smaller. Out of the corner of her eye, the anxious wife thought she saw someone wearing a ball cap seated in her truck.
At that moment her father-in-law trucked up the driveway. Together they searched the yard finding no one. Instead the duo spotted a car driving slowly on the township road as if they were casing the area. Wondering if it was a sign of trouble, her father-in-law left to check it out.
A few minutes later, Parke stood on her porch dialling police. Out of nowhere, a girl who had hidden in the flower bed, jumped out and attacked the young mother with a knife and darted into the porch area.
“She slammed the door but the deadbolt didn’t work. I had been after my husband for months to fix it and I’m glad he didn’t,” Parke said.
With only one thing on her mind – protecting the children – Parke slipped into a bearish mother mode. Mustering her strength, she burst through the door and physically tried to punt the attacker from the house.
“She swung the knife at my head and there was blood. I grabbed a flashlight and beat her over the head. She was on methamphetamine and I could smell the alcohol.”
Shortly after Parke subdued the assailant, her husband arrived home. The couple called the police. Up until a squad car arrived, he guarded the attacker holding an axe. The person was later convicted receiving a three-year prison term.
Despite the arrest and conviction, Parke found it difficult to cope.
“I couldn’t sleep. I’d think lights were in the bedroom. I was a zombie during the day. I pulled back from parenting. I couldn’t talk or interact. I’d make meals and provide the basics for my kids. I sent the young ones to Grandma’s house whenever I could, and I’d sit home and cry or go for a walk. I had dialogues in my head and I started thinking about all the beautiful things in my life.”
Back in 2007, a friend encouraged Parke to learn a few basic guitar chords.
“That was a pivotal moment. Before that I’d only played the radio.”
Not only did Parke connect with the guitar, she also learned to play the violin and joined a twangy, old-time country band. When counselling failed to heal the attack’s upheaval, the up-and-coming musician picked up her trusty guitar.
After playing a few basic chords, she poured her anxieties into "Daylight Breaks," an expression about the assault. Following this initial break-through, the newbie singer-songwriter wrote 14 additional songs about love and reflections of the times we live in.
A fellow musician introduced Parke to Ray Gathercole, 75, a country singer turned music producer who owns Dreamcatcher Music Studios. Impressed with Gathercole's musicianship and extensive knowledge about the industry, she invited him to produce her first album of originals material.
“Ray was on tour before I was born. He’s retired. He’s got all the time in the world and he’s very motivated. He’s up at 4 a.m. and sometimes gets so busy he doesn’t look up until it’s 11 a.m. He knows his music.”
"Yes, I Miss You" is one of the singer-songwriter's favourite songs, a number about people that have left us. Through this song, Parke memorializes her maternal grandfather, Henry John Powers, a former government land surveyor who moved to St. Albert in 1977.
Power’s daughter Sheila married Tim Juhlin, a long-term forestry planner. As a child, Parke recalls the Juhlin family of six moving throughout the province to Hinton, Grand Cache, Lac La Biche, Edmonton and Crowsnest Pass. While the Juhlins moved from town-to-town, Grandpa Henry’s home was a place of never-changing stability and fond memories.
“I still remember the weeping willow tree so big I tried climbing it when I was four. When I was a teen, I couldn’t believe you could climb it. It seemed so small,” Parke said.
“We always walked to the confectionery store about three blocks away. I’d fill out scratch tickets and pick numbers for the 6/49. Once we won $10 and he gave me the winnings.”
Music is Parke’s greatest healer. The prolific singer-songwriter plans to release her single Ranchin on May 1 and is working on its corresponding album, Pause and Pine, slated for release this fall.
In the immediate future, Parke hopes music fans will check out her YouTube songs and visit the ISSA website to cast a vote for her. The ISSA Awards committee posts a list names of nominees on its website at https://issasongwriters.com/official-2021-issa-awards-nominees/.
The website is open for public voting until April 30 and only the Top 15 will reach the finalist level. At that point, last year’s winners will deliberate to select the Top 3 in each category. Winner announcements take place Aug. 7.