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Lyn Hancock wants Paul Gross to turn her book, The Ring: Memories of a Metis Grandmother, into a film.

It should be said that Lyn Hancock didn't know who Paul Gross was 10 seconds before making this decision. But upon hearing the Passchendaele director is a Canadian filmmaker with Calgary roots who seems to have an interest in history, Hancock makes the snap decision that he could be the man to turn her take on the romance between Sam Livingston and Jane Howse, not to mention its heartwarming offshoot story of how the book helped reunite a family, into an epic, generations-spanning movie.

"It's got 200 years of history and geography," she says. "it's got the buffalo hunting, it's got the gold prospecting, it's got the mystery of the ring, it's got the romance. What else do you need? It's a soap opera. . . . Will you tell him about the book? We'll have to send him a book."

It only takes a few minutes of conversation with Hancock -- a veteran writer, teacher, lecturer and adventurer -- to notice how her mind appears to be in permanent race mode.

This is a woman who attempted to cross the Northwest Passage in a rubber boat in the late 1960s. She lived among the Metis and Inuit for decades in Canada's North. She wrote 20 books about raising orphaned wild animals and claims to have once brought a live cougar to the offices of the San Francisco Chronicle for an interview.

And in conversation, the fast-talking, 72-year-old Aussie-born dynamo races from subject to subject, barely leaving enough time to breathe.

So it's not hard to imagine her taking over the conversation on her flight a few days back to Calgary, where she is doing a week's worth of publicity behind her self-published update of the 1985 book Tell Me, Grandmother.

"I said to the people in the plane around me, 'can I do a test?' " says Hancock, who now lives on Vancouver Island. "'What do you know about Sam Livingston?' Nobody did. I said 'But there's so many buildings with his name on them.' "

If few knew the history of Livingston, even fewer know of the courageous life of his wife Jane, the Metis grandmother in the title.

In the early 1980s, Hancock certainly did her best to help plant the larger-than-life romance between the Irishman and the Metis woman into Canada's permanent consciousness. That was when she was approached by Marion Dowler, whose husband Dennis Dowler was one of Sam and Jane's many grandsons. He wore a ring that Sam had given Jane. In 1969, one of Dowler's daughters brought the ring into her Victoria school after her Grade 6 teacher had told students to look into their own histories.

That teacher was Hancock, a job she took after an early life filled with adventure and globe trotting.

"Writers are curious people, they ask who, what, when, where and why," says Hancock. "They always got an antenna out there looking for stories. So (I told the students) start with yourself. What do you have in your own house that inspires your curiosity. So she brought to school this ring."

It wasn't until years later that Hancock was enlisted to help Dowler organize all of her research into a book. By that point. she was an established writer, having written numerous books about her adventures raising orphaned wild animals, including the 1972 bestseller There's a Seal in My Sleeping Bag.

Tell Me, Grandmother -- now out of print -- told the story of Jane Howse, who married Livingston, an adventurous Irish-born farmer, prospector, buffalo hunter and entrepreneur. Together they had 14 children and watched as Calgary formed around them. Their house is preserved at Heritage Park. His name is also attached to an elementary school, fish hatchery, federal building and the new "Livingston Place." The famous ring is now on display at the Glenbow Museum.

But both Dowler, who passed away in 2007, and Hancock thought the book needed to be updated. The most compelling reason was the side story about how it reunited a long-lost descendant of the clan. After the book was published, 66-year-old Dorcy Samuel Letourneau read the book. He had been put up for adoption after Sam Livingston II died at the age of 25 leaving his wife despondent. She was forced to give up her two-year-old son, who grew up never knowing his heritage. He wasn't shown his birth certificate until he was an adult. After reading Dowler and Hancock's book in 1985, he called up the writer and asked 'Could I be related?'

"I said 'You better get up to Calgary right away because your sister has been looking for you for 64 years,' " says Hancock. "The whole family had wondered where he was. She had searched diligently for 64 years. She was dying of cancer. He got up there just before she died. Every time I tell this story, (people) get goose-bumps.

"This is what I see as a scene in the movie, Paul Gross," she says with a laugh.





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