Edna’s Story 10 (FGK 127)

There were three or four steady men to cook for and do their laundry. I was kept quite busy. The men milked about a dozen cows and separated the cream. We had to walk over to the dairy every morning (located near Annie’s house) to wash the pails and separator rain or shine. One bowl had 35 disks which had to be washed and rinsed separately. I churned once or twice a week and with the butter and eggs bought the groceries. Butter requires a lot of cold, cold water to wash all the buttermilk out of the butter to make it firm. Then you add salt and work it in, then pat it into a mold so that the result weighs exactly one pound. My churn was a big wooden barrel one that made about thirty pounds at a churning. We carried the water from a well on the other side of Annie’s house. It seemed like a quarter of a mile away.

We had a big windlass built out in the corral and butchered our beef there. Hung it up on the windlass to clean and skin, about an hour’s work. Then after it hung in a cool place for ten days, we would cut it up and put it into a brine and some jars and cook it. I also canned chicken. I remember one time I starved the roosters and other chickens to be butchered as usual the night before so they would have empty crops and be easier to handle. Never thinking about the weed seeds in the bottom of the trough. The chickens ate them. I had forty beautiful jellied jars of chicken but when I opened them to use they smelled so strong of stink weed and tasted like it too. I nearly wept when I couldn’t use them.

The year of 1936 was the driest one anyone could remember in our district. There was practically no crop to harvest nor hay to cut. Percy was very worried about feed for the cattle, and he had the enormous tasks of settling affairs of the estate as well. The dirty 30s seemed to be extra dirty to us when we lost our beloved parents but all over Canada people were suffering poverty and drought, so many, so much worse than we were. The men left the cattle out on the range waiting for the first fall of snow because there was so little feed at home. Cattle from the district have used the range at the base of Jumping Pound Mountain and Moose Mountain since long before it was made into a forest reserve. Riders camped up there to round up the cattle and bring them home early in November if not sooner.

This year, late in the evening of November 18th 1936, Jack Copithorne came up to visit Percy and to point out a pin point of smoke southwest on the range. They became very worried and decided to leave for the round-up camp, “The Lone Star” about 4am the next morning. I remember setting bread and baking it that night, along with fries and other food to send up with the wagon later in the morning but the wagon never left home. The men left on horseback and when they got as far as Frank Sibbald’s they met the fire and it swept past them. Here at home we had a high wind and the air was so full of smoke and dust you couldn’t see anywhere. Percy went into Sibbald’s and phoned home to tell me to send a man and a tractor up to Sibbald’s. He ploughed quite a furrow down north of Sibblad’s house to save it if the wind changed. But there was just no way of stopping that fire.

I was expecting my second child then, not quite as active and spry as I’d like to have been, but able to do the work just the same. When word came over the phone to vacate our homes and go to the creek for safety from the fire, I decided to put Sheila in the car and try to drive to safety. The story of my being trapped in the fire is told elsewhere in the history of our district. When I got home from the episode, I had a good two inches of solid cinders in my hair which took several shampoos to remove. The fire never reached our house and so I had done the wrong thing and got severely told about it even though it was not all entirely my own idea of what was best to do. When Percy came riding home he had lost our precious collie dog somewhere in his mad travels trying to save livestock. We wondered if we would ever see him again and loved him almost like a person. The next day, half of Calgary drove out to view the devastation and most of Cochrane too. All of the burnt country looked the same, just miles and miles of black cinders – no fences – no telephone poles, and nothing alive. Percy’s cousin Claude drove over to the Brushy Ridge area and while driving about three miles north of us, he saw something move. He got out and called to it and it nearly knocked him down racing to him and piled into the car. Claude continued his tour and then came to see ow we were doing and you can imagine our joy when “Buster” got out of his car. We often wonder if Buster recognized a Copithorne about Claude, or if there was something familiar about his voice. There were literally thousands of people milling around there and Buster was a very shy dog.

The following week, the ranchers started out to locate feed for their cattle. Percy’s brother George had just bought a new car and he offered to drive Percy, Frank, and Clem Gardner up into the Olds country to buy some straw stacks. They got a few miles north of Calgary when the car hit some loose gravel and rolled over into the ditch. It rolled over about four times before it came to a stop against a telephone pole, and it was upside down. No one was hurt at all, but they said everything was all mixed up like a pup’s breakfast inside that car. Later in the week they got to Olds and arranged to ship their cattle and put them out in little herds on the many farms that had straw stacks. Some of our men spent the winter up there looking after the cattle. What a winter that was! I think Percy became very well acquainted with the farmers around Olds and the snow was so deep up there that it was piled 10 feet high on the side roads.


Waterton memories 

Waterton has long been one of my favourite places. I first went there on a school trip when I was 9 and it’s had a special place in my heart ever since. 

In recent years it’s become a happy place the kids and I have shared. There is a certain kind of peace we find in those mountains that we can’t find anywhere else. 

So today, as our beautiful haven is on fire, we spent some time with our happy memories of a place we love. It’s a special place for many of my friends as I’ve noticed them putting up some of their favourite Waterton photos. 

Nature will heal itself, it always does. But in the meantime we pray for the people and animals in the way of the fire. And remember all the happy moments we have spent in this magical place. 

It is my happy place. 


the ups and downs

I’m not going to lie… today I was in a pretty crappy mood. I did a session of healing light yoga – and while it generally makes me feel good, and always makes me feel better in the long run – today it made me pissy and upset. Love how that energy moves around all those stored emotions and lets them come bursting out. Ugh.

This evening as I was driving the boy home from school we saw a huge fire in the direction of our homes.  I knew it wasn’t our house based on the location, but it looked like either the community hall or my cousin’s place and that freaked me out. We drove as fast as we could to get to where the fire was – it was a trailer that caught fire on the highway. Many phone calls were placed between cousins to find out what was going on, and we were all relived that everyone was ok, the fire didn’t spread, and that it didn’t affect any of our homes.

It kind of put things back in perspective for me though. Not only do I have this home that is filled with love to live in, but we are surrounded this tribe and we all care for and look out for each other. It’s not something that everyone has, and it’s not something that we had for our 10 years spent as gypsies. I’m so grateful for that and I’m so happy to be here surrounded by these people. Happiness moment….

It’s not our thanksgiving, but I sure have a lot to be thankful for. I loved seeing all my American friends celebrate their blessings online today.


Fire food

I found myself in kind of a funky mood this afternoon. I’m not totally sure why, but I was. We had planned on going to the creek for part of the afternoon and to have supper (it was maybe the best meal of the summer – I love food cooked over the fire). I am so grateful that’s what we did because it totally changed my outlook. I went from being out of sorts to laughing and really enjoying myself. Of course the fact that he brought me chocolate significantly helped with the mood shift. It was less the food and more the thoughtfulness behind it that was the reason for the attitude adjustment. 

There is a certain peace I find at the creek that I don’t find many other places. It seems to only take me a few minutes and I am completely relaxed. I’m so grateful to have a place like that and to have my tribe. Happiness. Pure happiness. 


The thunder rolls, and the lightening strikes….

Earlier this evening I had the unexpected pleasure of being alone in the house. I celebrated by happily enjoying a big ole piece of chocolate cake in front of the TV. Because sometimes such things need to be done. 

Suddenly the house felt like it was lifted up off it’s foundation and then dropped and shaken side to side all the while being completely lit up. Thunder and lightening hitting at exactly the same time. I could feel it right in my heart. I rolled off the couch onto the floor shaking, Ella’s eyes were bugged right out of her head and she was literally climbing the walls screeching rawwwwarrrrr over and over, Dottie was running wildly around the room whining so loud it was like a scream. 

I was lying there thinking what do I do? I’m going to die, what can I do? Oh right – Grandma would be furious with me for being so stupid as to have the TV on. I managed to turn it off and then looked outside to check the buildings. My cousin’s house was ok as was the barn and the other buildings. I tried mom but she was not answering. It was pouring rain by then so I didn’t run outside. The kids called from up at my cousin’s to say they were ok – shaken but ok. So I figured we were fine. 

Fortunately a neighbor was driving by because the lightning struck a fence post at the end of the yard. In the opposite direction of where I had been looking naturally. I was looking at buildings and tall trees – it decided to hit the fence post. The neighbor came in and started putting out the  fire. At the same time my cousin was coming home and saw the smoke. So it was the CL fire truck and fire fighters to the rescue. 

See that person in brown holding the hose? Same cousin I wrote about a few days ago who carried herself so elegantly at the Stampede. If I’m ever in crisis this is a person I want in my corner. 

The CL fire truck.  

My happiness moment today: the kids and I went and saw Minions. It was funny but no where near as good as Inside Out. Obviously I’m not used to going to movies in Calgary. The theaters were always almost empty in Roanoke, and they’re also pretty quiet in Cochrane. We walked into the theatre in Crowfoot a half hour before it started (very unusual for us. We usually arrive when they’re playing the commercials) and the only spots left were front row. We sat down in front and I looked back for Jacob – he had plunked down in a solo seat half way down – and a lady about a third of the way up started beckoning to me. She was there alone with four kids – bless her- and she pulled her kids up onto one row – so the 5 of them were sharing 3 seats- and gave us her other seats. I thanked her and we chatted a bit. She was from Cochrane and was waiting out the storm before driving home. This was the afternoon storm, not our electric explosion. 

I realize I get caught up sometimes by the jerk that cuts me off, the person who speaks rudely to me, or any number of other wrongs that can happen. But the world is full of wonderful, kind people and I am so much better to focus on them. Random acts of kindness are like rays of sunshine on a dark day and I’m grateful I got to experience one today. Happiness on a thunder storm day!