happiness

Family Sing-song (FGK 88)

At the bottom of the box of letters were two audio reels. I had no idea what would be on them, or even how to play them. Fortunately a friend of mine directed me to a place in Inglewood where I could get them moved to digital format and could listen to them. One reel was empty, but the other is a real treasure. Talk about “From Grandma’s Kitchen” – we get to hear everyone all here in Grandma’s kitchen (and later the living room where they sing). Grandpa is on here, and he plays his violin while someone else plays piano and the family sings. I LOVE that someone used the word “twitterpated”.

As someone who has had to participate in the awkward family phone calls when either I was away, or when someone else is – I appreciate how difficult it is to think of something to say and make yourself sound interesting. I also know how it feels to be the one away from family, to know they are gathered together, and how loved it made me feel when I would get the big awkward phone call. So, although people don’t maybe sound like they don’t know what to say, the love behind the effort made speaks volumes.

Instead of transcribing this one, I thought it should be played so everyone can hear it. I love it – hopefully it works!

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The Garden at Braeside (Grandpa Taylor’s Garden) part 3

I have to admit that this story didn’t end the way I imagined it would. And like many real life stories, the unexpected turn was a wonderful one. Reading this made my heart so full and so grateful that this man was my grandfather. I really wish I had been able to get to know him better, he was a man with a very kind heart.

He mentions that this story was written for Cindy to illustrate, and that she was doing it for some class assignment. He also mentions that there should be copies for us four “younger cousins” – did anyone ever see the illustrated book? I’d love to see what she did with it. It has been a real joy to get to hear Grandpa’s voice as he tells this story. If any of the Ramsay family would like a digital copy please let me know and I’ll email it to you.

By the time he was 10 years of age, Ralph had become a bookworm. His Grandpa Taylor had a huge library, and Ralph would spend much time in there lying on his stomach on the carpet pouring over the beautiful books. Some of these books were the great big family bible, and copies of Shakespeare’s plays, printed in large books with lovely illustrations. And there were the noble stories of the round table, and the knights of King Arthur.

These books planted many new ideas in Ralph’s mind. By this time also, Ralph knew a lot about halloween and it is about this particular halloween that this story is told – from his grandfather he knew how little boys and sometimes older boys too, played many naughty tricks on their neighbors. Some of these tricks cause trouble for the persons on whom they were played.

As the time drew closer, Ralph came up with a Halloween idea all his own. He gathered together a group of 4 or 5 other small friends around him and suggested a different kind of trick for them to play. It happened that a few days before Halloween, Mr Scott had received four chords of firewood dumped behind his house for burning on his stoves. At this time, wood cut from trees on the nearby farms was the cheapest means of heating a house during the colder months of the year. Mr. Scott had arranged with a farmer to bring in a wagonload of wood. A chord of wood usually measures 128 cubic feet. And while this doesn’t mean much to you, it might mean something to your mother and father. And for stove firewood the sticks would be about 14 inches long and a chord of wood when piled would be about 4 feet high and 8 feet long. The wood was neatly split and ready for the stoves but was thrown in a heap on the ground and had to be first piled to keep it dry and protected from the rain and the snow.

Ralph knew how difficult it was going to be for Mr. Scott to pile all that wood with all his aches and pains. The weather was turning colder and there was more rain. Ralph could tell from Mr Scott’s face at times how much he was hurting. Ralph’s suggestion to his friends on that halloween was that they sneak over behind Mr Scott’s house after dark and pile all his wood for him in neat piles. That way it would be much easier for him to get to it when winter snow came, and it would be all piled and ready.

His friends agreed to his plan. After it was dark, and they were sure Mr Scott had gone to bed, Ralph and his followers made their way as quietly as they could around to the back of Mr Scott’s house. They worked and worked in the night until they had piles of wood all ready to surprise Mr Scott when he woke up the next morning. Naturally all the boys were curious to know what Mr Scott might say the next time he came over to work in Grandpa Taylor’s garden. And of course Ralph was more interested than anyone else. When Mr Scott did come over to Grandpa Taylor’s to work he looked curiously at Ralph as if he suspected that Ralph might have had a hand in what had happened. But he didn’t say anything, nor did he ever mention his woodpile to Ralph. Yet Ralph noticed that from time to time there was a difference in Mr Scott’s attitude towards him. He ceased to be so cross, and was much friendlier than ever before.

Ralph would often look up to catch Mr Scott looking at him as if to say ‘did you have a part in piling my wood for me?’ Ralph would look him right in the eyes and smile. He experienced a very nice feeling about doing something for someone else, without being asked and without expecting anything in return. His reward was a warm feeling inside himself, and the hope that God might have approved of what he had done. This was the beginning and the first time perhaps, that Ralph and his friends consciously gave away something of themselves – a gift of their work to someone else. For Ralph this was the beginning of a practice which later on became a habit. He called it “Investing in People” and it brought him a lot of happiness.

The end

So you can see who it is I’m writing about, I’ve included a photo of Grandpa that was sent earlier this year though our “cousin chat”.

Grandpa in New Liskeard or Twin Lakes circa 1925
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The Garden at Braeside (Grandpa Taylor’s Garden) part 2

I meant to add to yesterday’s story, that when Grandpa mentioned that he and his mom (Claire) travelled back home to Ontario after his dad left, that the home that they travelled from was in North Battleford SK- not a short distance.

I turned over the framed photo of Braeside and found Grandpa had written a little blurb about it. I am so grateful for those people who know enough to write the significance of an item for those of us who won’t remember all the details. Reading “lawyer scrawl” is a challenge. Often as a child when my parents would send in notes to the teacher I would be called up to the front to read them the note because they “couldn’t quite make out the handwriting”. So, if anyone sees where I’ve misread something in Grandpa’s note please tell me!

“This is a coloured photograph of the George Taylor family residence, built about 1903-04 by John Clarke and probably Len Hill. I have a picture of it under construction. It was named “Braeside” after Grandpa’s beloved Scotland (“hillside”). Grandpa had his own letterhead = Braeside, New Liskeard, Ontario on the best linen paper. I was here with my mother until I was 18 and left for college and again until I married. Grandpa Taylor died on the 19 August 1919. Grandma was the life tenant and mother the housekeeper. This picture was owned by mum.”

As soon as little Ralph was old enough, about 4 or 5 years of age, his grandparents would take him with them when they worked in their garden. They showed him how they planted the vegetables and the many beautiful flowers that were throughout the garden. So Ralph spent much time in the garden and became interested in all the life he found there. Birds were always to be found in the garden. There were many English Sparrows, Robins, Chickadees, Wrens and Blue Jays in the summer. Grossbeaks came in the winter to eat the cranberries. When Ralph was about 7 years of age, he was given a little plot of land all his own and he was shown how to get it ready for planting in the spring. He learned to spade it and rake it to get the ground all even. He learned the various ways of planting seeds like carrots, beets, and pumpkin. Potatoes were cut up and planted with their eyes still on. He also planted flowers in his garden. Snapdragons, pansies, asters, daisies, lupen and dalphiniums.

Ralph worked in his garden with his own little rake and his own little hoe. His grandparents showed him how to stretch a string across the length of his little garden and attach it to two cedar sticks, one on each end. Ralph took a third stick to draw a straight line in the soil, the depth required for the seeds. Usually about an inch or so deep. The seeds would all be dropped in at the right distances apart so they would grow up without being too crowded together. Many such lines were drawn for the different kinds of seeds to be planted.

Later he was taught how to remove all the weeds from around his plants and to water them very carefully. He diligently watched the potato plants. When potato bugs were spotted eating the new green leaves, he was taught to pick the bugs off the leaves and dispose of them in a can.

Ralph’s mother, Claire was out of the hospital and completely well by now. She worked as a housekeeper at Braeside for her father and her mother. Working in the garden was one of her favioute pass times. It was also under her supervision that the many beautiful flowers were planted around Braeside. At one time there would be as many as 500 gladioli blooming on the front lawn in every shade of red, peach, choral, yellow, and white. Cars would line up in front of the house to see the sight. The work of the large garden was getting to much for Grandpa Taylor and Claire to handle all by themselves. Grandpa Taylor was getting old and was often sick, and there was so much work to do. So he hired a man named Mr. Scott who lived just across the street from him. Mr. Scott was an Englishman who was about 60 years of age, and his job was to come and act as gardener. Mr. Scott would come over regularly to do work in the big garden and Ralph was frequently with him.

Mr. Scott had difficulty walking because his joints were very stiff. His work was very hard, digging up the soil in the spring, getting it ready for planting, and then helping with the harvest in the fall. So there were times when Mr. Scott was not smiling. He was very grouchy and not very pleasant to a little boy who was full of questions. Mr. Scott was probably suffering from a lot of pain, and it was only in much later years that Ralph understood the stiffness in his knees and hands as being what older people called arthritis, or rheumatism. Arthritis could be very painful at times, particularly when the weather was cold and damp.

But Ralph got used to Mr Scott and followed him around, and particularly watched when he was digging up the garden soil. The robins would be busy coming around looking for earthworms exposed by the digging. Ralph would often laugh when the worms resisted very hard at being pulled out of the ground. The robin with one end of the worm tight between its beak would start to pull the worm out of its hole and would have to lean way back. The worm in turn pulled back the other way to try and return to the safety of the ground. The result was a tug of war with the robin and the earthworm teetering back and forth in the struggle. Sometimes the robin would fall over backwards, almost backwards, after winning it’s prized catch. And sometimes the earthworm would escape right back into its hole again. The robin would cock it’s head and look at Ralph as if to say “the rascal got away on me”.

There were many birds nests around the garden and Ralph was interested to watch the robins gather up the worms to take to their babies in the nest. He would watch the little baby robins stretch their necks and open up their beaks as they were being fed. And Mr Scott would often stop a moment or two to watch the robins too. And occasionally he would laugh at the robins as they were fooled by the earthworms.

Everywhere that Ralph went, his dog “Doc” would follow him. Doc was a water spaniel with long, floppy ears, and he was the same age as Ralph. Sometimes Doc would get in Mr. Scott’s way, and Mr. Scott would be cross at him. But both Ralph and Doc accepted Mr. Scott and were anxious to be friends with him. They would follow him about when he was hauling different things in his wheelbarrow, and they would run little errands for him when he asked them to.

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A Brief History of the Ranch Part I (FGK 86)

My Uncle gave a talk at the Jumping Pound Hall on July 14, 2016 to a group of people. I can’t remember who they were, or what the function was about, but somehow I was there and not only did I gorge myself on the family famous garlic cheese dip, but I sat with my kids and cousins at a front row table while he gave a brief history of the ranch. About 30 seconds into his talk I realized this was one of those recollections I was unlikely to hear again and recorded it on my phone. I’ve had a few suggestions that I should be turning this into a book, and I’ve decided to take some time and lay everything out and do just that!! I’m not sure how to put it together yet, but I do think it would be a lovely way to remember who we are and where we come from.

When I was a teen I spent a summer working at Mackay’s, and I spent many lunchtimes sitting at the Lodge with Grandma while she told me stories of the “olden days”. In my teen arrogance I thought I would always remember those stories, but I quickly forgot them. I swore that if the opportunity came up again that I would make sure I recorded them.

As my uncle’s story begins, I believe he is talking about my great-grandfather Richard and his brother John.

..and the reason why they both wanted to homestead here is because it was close to the railway, close to fresh water, close to firewood. They went through miles of prairie, and don’t kid yourself, in those days prairie was prairie because it was continuously burned off by Indians travelling through it, and there were miles and miles and miles of nothing, not even a stick of wood to burn. So everybody burned buffalo chips, you know all about that don’t you? That’s why they did it. Even the old round up wagons in the early days burned buffalo chips – there was no wood except for along the odd little creek.

Anyway, getting off the story a bit but.. the fact that this country was homesteaded is sort of why our family ended up here and I’ll go back a notch further again, the original settlement in this area was at Morleyville, with the McDougalls and the mission there. And there’s another old family that lives to the west of us, their name’s Sibbald, and they came in in the 1870s and he was the first white teacher in Morley, and we’ve had a great relationship with the Stony Indians for a long, long time – due to the fact that way back in Ireland sometime in the late 1870s – our family was a family of Protestants in Cork, the County of Cork in Southern Ireland, and that seemed to be kind of an event.

They were quite religious, my great great grandfather was a pastor there. He raised 7 sons and they travelled out, one of them went over to Africa and they never saw him again. He went with the missionary work with the Dr there.. Dr. Livingstone. Another one went to Australia, but anyway they were poor, worked real hard, and they decided they were going to take the youngest son and educate him, so everyone worked real hard to get this young guy an education. And talk about kind of picking the black sheep, I don’t know… sent him to school and he ended up back home, with a little bad reputation behind that, and anyway, stayed home.

My grandfather, I didn’t hear him say this, but my dad always told the story, they were over digging peat bog there my great uncle John, which is who I’m talking about, he stuck the shovel in the ground and my grandfather said you could hear the shovel vibrating and he said “I’m going to Canada”. So the family settled on that and they bought him a boat ticket to take him to Montreal and that’s all he had was a boat ticked and no money.

He ended up in Montreal and they didn’t hear from him for two years. Until, they heard from him in Brandon, Manitoba and he got a got a job with a farmer there and learned to drive mules, they never had mules to drive in Ireland, I don’t know what they were using – donkeys probably, But, he was a mule skinner and he became friends with a band of Cree Indians who were camped in that area and were in the area, and he also worked for the Canadian army as a mule skinner. And he learned to speak a little Cree Indian so the army hired him, he was an adventurous young guy no doubt about it, they hired him to travel west with this little band of Cree Indians.

He spent his first winter in Fort Qu’Appelle and his job was as an informant for the army and the RCMP <I believe at this time they were the North West Mounted Police>, which hadn’t been formed at that time, I guess they were, with regard to the Riel Rebellion. So he travelled West and ended up at Calgary. And his first job was as a freighter from Calgary for the East to bring supplies to Fort Denton in Montana, to Fort Whoop-up in Lethbridge, and then on up to Calgary and his job was to distribute some of this stuff out to the Tsuu T’ina over here, we used to call them Sarcee, and also Morley. And the old Morley trail, kind of wagon ruts, that he carved across this part of the country.

And as a result of that, he became the first Indian Agent, the first white Indian Agent for Morley, and he spent the early years of the Riel Rebellion in Morley, had lots of friends there and they looked after him, but it was quite a dangerous thing. There are quite a few stories about what happened you know, unsettlement, and anyway he survived that. In his travels back and forth across here, he sent letters back to the family and attracted the interest of my grandfather who arrived here in 1885. By that time the railway was here so he didn’t have to walk all the way across those prairies. And he set up a homestead over here, my great uncle set up a homestead over here, and they homesteaded together. My grandfather bought the property just to the west – where those buildings are – you saw the CL barn – and so they were right next door to each other. My great uncle down the hill, and my grandfather was on top of the hill and they were stockmen, and they loved livestock. My grandfather tried raising some sheep and he finally ended up getting up page-wire fence to keep the sheep in and the coyotes out, but the coyotes still got in so he quit raising sheep I guess.

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Curling is one of the best games going (FGK 85)

I was going to title this “Skinny cows and fat cows too” but I figured that would be taken wrong if one just read the title. Sometimes the gas plant near us lets off the most horrific smells, but nothing like what my uncle is describing here – it sounds pretty grotesque.

Mount Royal College

Thursday, Jan 29 1953

Dear Margie

How are you doing? I’m sorry I didn’t write sooner, but I just didn’t get around to it. I am going to curl tonight. My curling team is fourth best on the league. I sure like curling! I think it is one of the best games going besides baseball or hockey. I’m getting so I can throw the rocks about right by any sweeping is kind of slow.

There hasn’t been much going on around home I don’t think. Dad and Ken went over to Grand Valley to help Reese build the frame of the barn. You know that they’re building a new barn over there don’t you?

We started to feed all the cattle last Saturday. We cut the cows and heifers into two bunches, the skinny ones in one, and the fat ones in the other. We took the skinny ones to 21 to fed them sieves. I think dad’s figuring on taking the other bunch to Springbank in a little while. Buckles or whatever you’re going to call him is sure putting on weight. Last weekend I was going to get him in and work a little of the fat off of him but I didn’t get around to it. I’m going to try and find time this weened or I’m liable to have to halter break him all over again. Him and the other three colts are out with the bulls doing nothing but eat and sleep and get in the road.

They tore the goose pen down and got quite a lot of lumber from it. Boy the oil well has sure been cutting up lately. Early Saturday morning they turned it on full blast without setting it on fire. The gas fumes caught in the wind which swept them down on me and Red who was riding through some cows and _____ stuff by the machine shed. There was some liquid gas with it and when it hit your face and eyes it would sting like the dickens. It pretty near choked you when you breathed. The cattle sure did some running around in circles.

They’ve got a new well site staked out in 24. You know where the ditch is where we dug out the den of coyotes when old Alex was along, it’s about a hundred yards west or so. It’s kind of going to be a bother but I guess we will get used to it. That are moving this same rig over.

I sure have been teasing Anne lately. Jeff N. has taken quite a shine for her but she hates him. Last Friday night at the dance he danced nearly every dance with her.

Last Sunday I came in with Ken and Delores and we went to Blanch and Fred’s and played cards till ten o’clock. When I got to the College I was locked out. I sure was scared for a while. Finally Mr. Schultz let me in. This week we had to change rooms. Wayne and I are in Bernard and Jim’s old room now and they are up on the third floor. I’ve had the whole afternoon off today because Mr Schultz was sick and couldn’t teach health. I always get off at two o’clock Thursday though.

Well I hope you’re feeling alright

Goodbye

Love, Marshall

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It’s Fascinating to Hear an American Accent (FGK-83)

I have no idea how this letter ended up in mom’s letter stash. I wonder if it was a pen pal of my aunt’s? I found it interesting to hear her perspective on King George dying. I was a bit surprised to see her questioning the American eating marmalade on toast. My limited knowledge about marmalade comes from Paddington Bear, and since he was from England I assumed that would be a thing there. And it’s good to know that no matter where the live, when parents plan a road trip it ends up being forced family fun time with bored to tears teens.

40 Alwoodley Lane

Alwoodley, Leeds, Yorks

England

10.3.52

Dear Sheila

Thanks a lot for your letter. I had a leaf floating in my teacup this morning and when I banged it between the backs of my hands it came unstuck first bang proving that I’d get a letter today (don’t think I’m mad but Nancy and I do this when we remember and it generally works).

We finished exams about three weeks ago. I did fairly well, I only failed History and that was on purpose as it was my ninth subject (we are only supposed to take 8 or less subjects in the General Cert. and these prelims were to decide which subjects to we take, so I decided for myself). As these exams were the first this school year and fairly important they’ve saved us the agony of reports till now. I opened mine the minute I got on the bus (strictly forbidden). It wasn’t too bad but to my utter disgust they called me Sara (Sara’s my proper name – I’m Sally-for-short).

It was dreadful when the King died. I think I shall always remember that day. There was the Entrance Exam for the 11 year olds on so there were just the 5th and 6th forms at school. We heard the rumour at break. After break it was French; the French mistress is a very religious Catholic and is very nice. When the news came through she had us all stand to say the Lord’s Prayer and everyone cried. The rest of the day was really miserable.

Our radio closed down that day apart from news bulletins. Until after the funeral we had just mournful music and improving talks. The very day after the funeral they returned to the usual light-hearted music – I thought it was pretty bad to have solemn music but that was for respect, but to just switch back straight afterwards was dreadful.

Wednesday

Sorry for dragging this letter out so.

It’s Pa’s so-called half day today so both parents have buzzed off to some symphony concert or other. They’ve been up to School this afternoon for an At Home 8th forum (sounds daft!). First they had a little talk about courses in the Sixth Form and careers. Then they had a cup of tea and a biscuit. After that enter all the mistresses to undergo severe interrogation. (Actually they said some quite nice things about me and not at all what I expected.) When they’d finished planning our lives they dispersed. Ma and Pa came home having learning all my guilty secrets but some hope someone had connived them their daughter was a credit to them so they were quite bucked.

The weekend before last we went down to Cromer in Norfolk. We intend (or rather Ma intends) to stay there for our summer holidays. We started off at the Saliuday at midday and arrived there at 8 o’clock (evening). After supper we went to bed. We got up at about 9 o’clock and had breakfast. There were several American soldiers there. It’s fascinating to hear an American accent. I suppose it’s as fascinating for you to hear an English accent but I can’t believe we have an accent. One of the soldiers was eating marmalade on toast with his bacon and eggs. Is this usual?

After breakfast Nance and I went onto the beach and then went to buy a paper. We left at about half-past-ten and took the coast road (along the shores of The Wash) back to King’s Lynn. We were looking for a suitable place for holidays. On the way we came through Sandringham – the big country estate where the king died. We didn’t have time to go to see the house or even go to Sandringham village. The road as it went through the estate was unfenced and on either side there was gorgeous woodland simply alive with pheasants and other game.

We got into Leeds at about a quarter to seven and after a bit of a mixup I met Meg and we went to hear Eileen Joyce at the Town hall. It was a marvellous concert but I got awfully stiff. Afterwards we managed to get her autograph. When we were walking down the Headrow to the Bus Station and awful little man tried to pick us up. It was rather pathetic but gosh we both got scared.

Sunday 16

Three weeks today I shall be starting out for Paris. I can hardly believe it. There’s a party of us going from school. Did I tell you about it? If everything turns out all right I shall be going to France again this year but then I shall stay near Lille.

This weekend is our weekend off again. Today we went up to Pateley Bridge. All we did when we got there was sit in the car and watch some stupid boys playing football or read. Then we had tea and came home. Really our trips are getting more and more pointless.

I haven’t been hunting for ages – or at least three weeks. The other two, on the spur of the moment, took a day off college last Tuesday and buzzed off to the meet at Almholem (where our precious Massarellas(?) have a couple of farms). They came back full of it. Apparently that was last meet as there’s been none activated since.

On Friday we went to see “Where No Vultures Fly”. It’s terribly good, have you seen it? It’s about a man who tries to set up a National Park in Africa. It’s filled in colour and there are lots of pictures of animals and things. Anthony Steel plays the part of the man, Bob Payton, and oh boy! Is he smashing!

Has Marshall got his skunk? I couldn’t see Ma letting us have a skunk around.

I’ve been looking for that Picture Post. We don’t get it at home, but they get it at school. Of course there’s not one December issue there. It’s funny to think you’ve seen Elizabeth and Philip once and you live in Canada and I who live in England have only seen them once too I can’t remember her much except that she’s small and has a lovely complexion. I can’t imagine Margaret being only about five-feet.

Well I must close. Write soon

Love Sally

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Nosy Old Women (FGK 81)

This letter was written by my great aunt, who was the mother of twins. A while ago I mentioned a story in our family history book where the mom would lasso one of the twins to a fence so the other would play close by- this was that mom. Imaging trying to do that now? Back then it was probably the safest way she could watch her kids and also get her work done. The life of a mom, always trying to find balance between chores/work and kids. I guess according to this I also am a bad scholar, exams send my anxiety through the roof (and I honestly don’t think they should be the only way that students prove what they have learned).

(Postmarked December 12, 1952)

RR2

Calgary

Wednesday

Dear Margie

Here I am at last. I have sure been slipping up and down- say it anyway you like it feels anyway.

I hear you are getting along quite nicely which I am very glad to hear.

I saw your mother at Uncle Clarence’s Monday night, there was a Stockman’s meeting and you know we nosy old women – we had to trot along too.

Harvey had a hockey practice Tuesday nite and he is going to another this Friday nite and then he will know if he is on the team for the winter. He says his name is – it should be Wills, Callen or Longeway and then it would be easy sliding for him. I don’t think that I would like any of those names, the one I got sounds better, how about you?

Clarence is busy on his exams this week. He says that they haven’t changed since he last wrote and that he doesn’t like them any better so I’m afraid he will make a poor scholar.

Harvey is busy hauling grain to town, he makes two trips a day, so he is kind of tired at nite and likes to lay down and sleep.

Harry was here today, he was going to work on the garage and put in another door for us, so I also got him to put up boards for my drapes, believe it or not I have my drapes now. I sure have to get that room painted – the curtains sure show it up. But not till spring I guess. Everyone is too busy now and after Christmas it will be too cold, so I’ll wait.

Well Margie, keep the good work up and I’ll try to write a little quicker next time.

Love

Auntie Marg

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A Dreary Winter Day (FGK 80)

What better way to get back to the letters than one from Mrs. Barkley, she is always a ray of sunshine for me- even when describing a dreary winter day. This letter was sent to the Junior Red Cross Hospital and then forwarded home to the ranch. I assume it must have been one of the times when mom was in and out of the hospital. At this point it had been about 4.5 years since she contracted the polio virus, and she would have been 15.

Sunday – 15th (Envelope says Jan 16,1956)

Dear Margie:-

You sure can’t complain about not being out in the Sunshine! Isn’t it just the dreariest winter!

How are you progressing? I hope really well and that your time in there is getting short.

I took our tree down on Wednesday and such a mess. It seemed to shed so much this year. I think it may have been because it was so full of frost when it was cut. Of course I haven’t taken the cards down yet. I like to enjoy them for a month or so.

Mr. Barkley and I had hoped to go to Lethbridge this week but the weather took care of that. I guess they had no snow there but suppose they have some now. It is getting quite deep in the fields now. Just about up to the men’s knees.

Did you know they made a tape recording of the Cantanta(?) Friday evening? Also the trip! We hope to have a record of it.

I guess I better retire. Hope you are well. All are well here thank goodness

Best Wishes,

The Barkleys

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In Grandma’s Words part 13 (FGK-75)

One of my most valued artifacts in this house is a buckskin jacket with beadwork sewn on it. I was told that years ago (waaaay before my time) one of the ladies on the reserve who Grandma was friends with wanted to go to a fancy function but she didn’t have a gown that was appropriate for it. Grandma gave her one of hers so that the woman would be able to go, and never thought much of it again. A while later the buckskin jacket was gifted to Grandma as a thank you for the gift of the gown, and the beads that were hand sewn onto it were taken off of said gown. I look at it daily and it serves me as a reminder of how important it is to live life with an open heart, to give freely, and to receive with gratitude. Again, I try to be sensitive to the words that are used. Grandma only every spoke respectfully of our Indigenous neighbours to the west of us, and so I stayed true to the words written because it was what was used at the time.

The jacket
The beadwork

Grandma’s Cheese Straw recipe! My kids grew up eating cheese straws, and they are one of my fondest memories of snack munching as a kid. I agree with her sentiment that it’s a very precious recipe.

All through the years we felt a close tie between us and our neighbours the Indians at Morley. We would contract fencing jobs to them all summer. In the fall they would often help us harvest. And later in November would often ride with the men to help round up stray cattle. I loved our Indian friends and felt I could always trust them. We looked forward to the First of July when they held their annual Stampede in the beautiful natural setting where they had built their corrals. What a magnificent picture to view. We would park our car on the hillside looking down into the corrals, and beyond them the big circle of teepees and tents and their children, cats, and dogs. And back of it all those Gissing blue foothills leading up to the Rockies. Where on earth could you find more beauty and activity? I always felt well entertained. My chickens were just nice fryers by July 1st and I always fried about four or five and along with a salad, cake, and sandwiches that would do us for the day.

My Harry Jacques, the jeweller from Calgary used to have a contest with a prize for the best dressed Indian baby. He very often asked me to be a judge and I wanted so badly to give first prize to everyone there, they were so cute and the beadwork on the buckskin was beautiful. Our kids just loved the first of July and the Morley Stampede.

We always tried to get to Banff or Vermillion crossing for a few days holiday and fishing just before haying. Once we went to Everett, Wash, USA and dug clams just as Percy did when he lived at the coast as a boy.

Family fun time
Family picnic at the ranch
As you can see from the caption “slave labour”. The running joke is that the CL on the brand stands for “Continuous Labour”.
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happiness

In Grandma’s words part 8 (FGK 70)

A day in Grandma’s life is exhausting, they sure worked hard. But honestly – ironing diapers!!! I remember mom complaining bitterly about washing out diapers in the toilet, and although I try to be more eco friendly, I have to admit I was pretty happy to just throw diapers in the trash.

We now have the story of how Aunt Gertie joined the community before she joined the family. I loved the story of our great grandfather Richard giving Auntie Sheila sweet treats. When my boy was born, I kept him off sugar for so long and was so careful. Then his first Christmas, when he was about 6 months, my dad took him on his knee – in the dining room here at grandma’s – and very gleefully put a gigantic spoon of Grandma’s Christmas sauce in his mouth. So that was the end of that. What a great way to start out with sugar though – that sauce is mad good.

Shortly before we were married, Percy gave me a fine big black saddle horse named Spades. He was part Arabian and very gentle. I loved to go out riding with the gang when they were working the cattle. Annie rode a very beautiful spirited bay hunter and she certainly was a good rider. Percy’s dad always had a string of coyote hounds following him and occasionally they would go after a poor little rabbit that crossed our path.

Grandma and Grandpa in front of the barn that Grandpa built – it’s still in use today

In 1929, Jack Copithorne and Dave Lawson combined their teams of horses and pulled Archie Arie’s(?) homestead house down to a spot between Nicoll’s and Jack’s to be used for a school house. All the children of the district were living in this neighbourhood at that time. The fall after we were married, 1932, the teacher Marg Erwin boarded with us and walked to this school. Marg was a city girl and found it very lonely at our place. She was extremely musical and we brought my mother’s piano out for her to play on. We enjoyed many musical evenings after that. Frank, Percy’s brother got married to Georgie McDougall in 1934 and lived on the XC ranch. That year Gertrude Flumerfelt came to teach and boarded with us until our Sheila was born in 1935. While Gertrude was here, my mother’s health deteriorated and she spent considerable time with us too. Sheila was a real pride and joy to everyone. The first baby girl to be born in the district for fifteen years and everyone made a great fuss over her and she was a darling. Percy’s dad used to hold her on his knee and give her little bits of food at mealtime. She sure started eating ice cream at an early age. By now my mother’s health was so poorly my dad rented a house in Cochrane no moved her in near the doctor. He was fortunate to get Mrs. EC Johnson, her dear friend to come and live with her and nurse her that year. She died when Sheila was only six months old.

When I was in Cochrane so much, Sheila came in close contact with my sister’s daughter Aileen, who was, unknown to us, just coming down with the whooping cough. Sheila caught the whooping cough and what a winter we had after that! Frank was in the hospital all winter and poor Georgie was alone with Richard who was only a tiny baby then. Sheila’s health was poor after that until she was two years old when we had to have her tonsils out.

Percy’s father died in April 1936, when Sheila was just a year old. It threw the whole responsibility of the ranch and family on Percy and Frank’s shoulders. Clarence was only fourteen years old. He seemed so young to lose his father after having lost his mother when only two years old. Annie carried on as usual that summer, cooking etc for the haying crew, for which I was very thankful. But it was a short haying season and by then when I took on the job of feeding the men, the poultry and dairy, I was expecting my second child. But I at last got a washing machine of my own and certainly needed it with all the men’s clothes to wash as well as our own. Sometimes there were as many as fifteen shirts to iron each week. The washing machine was run by a gas engine – a very temperamental one. I often gave up trying to get it started then in anger would give it a swift kick and it would start.

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 and to make it firm. Then you add salt and work and work it in, then pat it into a mould so that the result weighs exactly one lb. My churn was a big wooden barrel, one that made about thirty lbs 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 into jars and cooked. I also canned chicken. I remember one time I starved the roosters etc and the other chickens to be butchered as usual the night before so that 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 beautifully jelled jars of chicken but when I opened them to use they smelt so strong of stink weed and tasted like it too, I nearly wept when I couldn’t use them.

As I said before, money was scarce and there was no hope of making our tiny kitchen larger. I loved my little kitchen when there were only the three of us, but that winter, trying to crowd four and sometimes six more people around our table and then squeeze between it and the stove was just impossible. I use admit we were a jolly crew and had many hearty laughs and jokes about it all.

That winter was a long one. Marshall was born in March and about that time Percy brought his cows home from Olds. He bought some of their hay they had for sale and when he got it home the cattle wouldn’t eat it. It was slough hay that they had cut on top of the ice and it didn’t even make good bedding. When driving them home from he stockyards in Cochrane, one old cow just played out about four miles south of Cochrane so he had to leave her there as it was getting late. Next morning she was standing at the gate at the home corral.

Just in case you feel like making 4 loaves of bread

Fortunately Marshall was a healthy, happy baby because I was too busy to fuss much. I remember very foolishly ironing diapers for Sheila and everything had to be just so, but not so with Marshall. We baked eight or ten loaves of bread every other day – set it to rise overnight. I used those hard Royal yeast cakes. I even made my own soap for a while. There was su much fat after butchering and I had a good soap recipe. Poor Sheila must have been a bit neglected then too because once when she was only two years old, she was playing around the yard while I was churning in the basement. She tried to look through the window and both she and the window crashed to the cement floor. It was a long fall. Fortunately she was not cut by glass but did bite her tongue and lip badly.

We haven’t reached when mom was born yet – but here’s the three of them
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