Edna’s story 14 (FGK 131)

Our water here still comes up from the well by the creek to the old house (Annie’s house mentioned here) and then across to Grandma’s house (where I am), then over to the cottage. It also is the water source for the barn and for my cousin’s place.

Chapter 3

The War Years

We finally dug a ditch to Annie’s house and go the water in 1938. Just a cold tap in the kitchen and a slop bucket beside the sink for a year or so. Then we dug a septic tank east of the house and put in bathroom fixtures and hot and cold water. That lightened the workload but we were still very, very crowded, especially at meal times. Finally the men had time to dismantle an old house in the area and built a lean-to over the kitchen door where we put a big table and used it as a dining room, down three steps from the kitchen. About then we got a battery-set radio. It was wonderful to get the world news every day, but becoming very disturbing to hear it. Then one day in the fall of 1939, the news that we were all dreading to hear came over the air. We were at war! It really shook us more than we ever expected it to. The happy carefree talk at mealtime was changed a lot. The whole outlook of our operation as a ranch was changed. Two of the men joined up and went overseas. From then on we just hired older men and the Indians helped us when we needed extras. The government urged us to raise hogs and grow as much food as we possibly could. I began to buy my chicks and turkey poults from the hatchery and raised larger flocks of poultry. Before this we had so few eggs all winter I always put the summer surplus eggs in water glass to preserve them for use all winter. A rare treat was to have fresh eggs for breakfast Christmas morning.

Percy decided to go into hogs properly. He built a prescribed round brooding house with a stone in the centre and separate pens out from it. It really was a neat setup; it housed ten brood sows. We had a little mill run by the old John Deere tractor with lugs on it, Model D, and chopped our own grain. Those pigs were an awful amount of work; extra chores before and after the day’s work. The men fenced an area down to the creek for them to range on but every now and then they would get out. I remember a couple of younger boys on the crew just couldn’t sleep in the bunkhouse because the two older ones snored so loud. They said one snored so loud they raised the roof and then the other one let down again. So these boys took their blankets and slept out on the hillside on a fine night. Once they were awakened by a big old sow rooting against them. The snorers sure kidded them after that.

When the ten sows were furrowing someone had to be on the job day and night. One young sow went mad and tried to destroy all her little family. She was frothing at the mouth and tossing the poor little creatures in all directions when Percy went in. He picked up three that were still alive and brought them into the house to see what I could do for them. Two just lay still and groaned but one had a large triangular rip in its side and almost two feet of entrails hanging out. It was squealing quite lively. I got a needle and thread and wound the intestines around my fingers and carefully tucked them in and swerved it up and fed it warm milk. I kept it in a box in the kitchen for a few days, the other two died. Finally it got too lively so we gave it to a gentle sow who could handle one more. That little pig grew up and raised two families of her own before we sold her, but she always had a funny hollow in one side.


How to Kill a Skunk and Other Animal Stories (FGK 32)

There are many things I love about this letter. Mom was in a wheelchair and able to be out of bed!! She’d been in hospital almost 2 years by this time. I bet she loved the freedom of being able to move herself around! The young boy they had staying with them would have been the same age as mom, and I don’t know where he was from or who he was, but how kind of Aunt Annie to stop whatever she was doing and play with him in order to make him feel more comfortable. Small acts of kindness go a long ways.

When I was a kid, mom used to read Old Mother West Wind to my sister and I, as I did with my own kids when they were little. Aunt Annie gives a more graphic “from the farmer’s view” version of stories much similar to those. I can imagine Mr. Skunk had quite a time gorging on eggs before he finally met his demise. Out here there’s a man who can’t smell the stink of a skunk and he’s been called by various community members to help deal with a skunk who has made himself at home where he shouldn’t. Unfortunately, this man’s wife CAN smell skunk, so I’d imagine he’s not too popular when he returns home!!

RR No 1, De Winston, Alta,

4th July, 1953

My dear Margie,

I thought I would just sit down tonight and drop you a few lines. I was so pleased to get your nice card and to know that you enjoyed the box of what nots that I sent in.

Your mother had told me about you manipulating the wheelchair around. good for you. I bet you will have lots of fun getting about in that. Can you go visiting the other patients? I guess you would have lots of places to go in that beautiful big building.

We have been having a terrible year of it. We didn’t get very much of our crop in and what we have in is just being hailed.

July 5 – I had a little interruption while writing your letter. We have a young boy, thirteen years old, staying with us now. He seemed rather lost so I suggested a game of rummy. so we had a game and he beat me too.

As I was saying earlier in my letter, we got considerable hail last night. It smashed my poor flowers down most pitifully. However, I am still hoping I’ll be able to take you some Dahlias later on. It’s been so wet and cold that everything down here looks as if it’s a whole month behind schedule. I don’t suppose the snow when it comes will be “behind schedule”.

Our poor old duck has laid all spring and sat twice. Each time she sat the old skunk came along and helped himself to the eggs. I don’t know whether she’ll try again as it’s getting rather late. She had fifteen eggs in the first nest. I didn’t find the second nest but the skunk did as she is up and about again. However this morning Uncle Ed had Mr. Skunk in a trap. We had a lot of fun over him. Uncle Ed said he could kill him without him leaving any smell. I didn’t believe it possible. He said he would put a wire on a long pole and slip it over his head and choke him. Well everything went fine until the wire broke. However he finished off the sunk by drowning him and he didn’t smell very much either so I guess we had to admit that he knew the best way to kill off a skunk. Tippy took good care not to get too close as he had tangled one time earlier in the year. He surely did look disgusted. He came and sat by me and left Uncle Ed to hunt the skunks by himself. I didn’t appreciate him sitting by me very much either.

We have two pea-hens sitting this year. I was surely glad the skunk didn’t find their nests. They come every day to the door to be fed bread. They make quite a clatter too just to make sure i know they are all there. I have three that we raised last year and they surely are all in the dog house. They went to the garden one day and ate up the cabbage and cauliflower. It’s the first time they ever did anything like that. I think they found time on their hands and just decided to get into mischief and they did. I was really muttering to myself and out loud too when I saw what they had done.

Clarence has been sick again last week but he is better today. He is running around all over the place now. He followed his Dad down the road the other day. I saw him disappearing around the corner and had to chase after him. Tippy was with him but he wasn’t trying to bring him home at all, but just going away with him.

Well Margie, my dear, I guess I had better stop my chatter and close for this time. You’ll be hearing from me again soon.

Love from us all

Aunt Annie