happiness

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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Gee I’m mad! I’m boiling! (FGK 82)

Auntie Sheila’s letters are some of my favourite – she is so open and honest in them. I really appreciate how vulnerable and real she is when she writes. Because of that I’ve chosen not to post some of them, they are clearly private conversations happening between sisters but it has given me a lot of insight into who she was and what a really loving and remarkable lady she was.

Based on this letter I’m also understanding how it is that she received that award that Grandma spoke of in her autobiography. You can tell she takes her schooling seriously, it seems all she does is study – well and perhaps buy shoes. I can relate to the shoe purchases much more than the studying although I’ve spent the last couple of years studying more than I ever have before.

Nurse’s Residence

CGH Calgary

21 Aug 1956

Dear Marg

Well I bet you thought I’d forgotten you, hey! I’ve been meaning to get up every night this week but never quite made it.

Gee I’m mad!! I’m boiling!! We have to stay in here and study all day from 8am to 3:30pm! On a beautiful day like this! We’re supposed to be supervised but nobody is supervising us and everybody’s talking like mad. It’s just a waste of time.

Oh by the way I hear you went on a big date last night or rather you were supposed to go. Was the show – good?

Marg and I went to see the “High and Mighty” last night, sure was good. There was a big banquet and dance at Penley’s thurs night that all the kids went to except me. Maurice “had to study” so-o-o Kathy said I could go with a friend of one of her boyfriends but I didn’t like her boyfriend so-o-o. I stayed home and studied. Guess it was pretty good. I phoned home Wednesday. Well they didn’t have any news so I stayed in and studied some more, about a quarter to ten Maurice phoned and we went out until ten thirty. He was up to the library at tech all night.

Went over to the Macmillan’s for supper on Tuesday night. Uncle Frank and Aunt Georgie picked me up half way there- I was walking. Apparently ______ and Ken are staying in town for a few days. Marilyn and I drove all over town looking for _____ for canning. She’s buying them second hand. I guess she’s getting married at the end of October this time. Honestly that girl. She’s got more ______(I really wish I could make out this word lol).

Went to a baseball game between the Holy and us on Monday. We lost 18-11 but later we won two games so now we’ve got the cup.

Well I must start studying. I think I’ll get a pair of shoes before I go home. Am going on the bus.

See ya next week maybe

Love

Sheila

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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 16 (FGK 78)

And finally we have the story of how Grandma’s kitchen came to be in her own words. I absolutely love this description. I have to say I smile every time I look at the photo of Grandma in front of the fireplace as she’s accompanied by the best dog of all time, my old friend Kayla. I don’t know how Kayla managed to get into Grandma’s memory book but I love that she’s there. I miss that dog.

I have so many memories of lying on that old red leather couch, surrounded by the overpowering smell of geraniums and reading old Archie comics. It was one of my all time favourite places to hang out when I was a kid. Although the geranium smell made me swear I would never ever have those flowers in my house, I religiously plant them in the flowerbed in the verandah just off the kitchen because that’s what was always there and anything else seems wrong. They just fit.

We decided then to tear off and build a new kitchen, level with the rest of the house. And build up the earth to be level with the back door and widen all our doors so that a wheelchair could get around easily.

At this age in my life I had enough experience to really know what I wanted in a kitchen, and I got it. Small kitchens were the style then but to me and our way of life the kitchen always seemed to be the heart of the home. I compare a good kitchen in a home to a good woman. And in my way of thinking a good woman is the most important person in the world. Like a good woman, a kitchen should be efficient and beautiful and always have a pleasant fragrance surrounding it. What is more alluring than the aroma of fresh baked bread, hot pies, and a roast in the oven?

One wall of my new kitchen is of knotted pine and has a fireplace with built in china cupboards on each side. The cooking area has knotted pine cupboards. Natural wood adds warmth to a room. The south west corner is all windows which look out on a panoramic view of the Jumping Pound valley up to the wide range of Rockies. This area is an indoor garden of flowers because we seem to have 9 months of winter in this country. It also holds our old red leather covered chesterfield. My range is a beautiful old fashioned one Percy bought me many years ago and I wouldn’t have it for any modern one even an Ultra Ray. There was one small window, about 3ft by 2 ft off the south wall which I didn’t like so I designed a stained glass one which portrayed our wildflowers and friendly wild birds and of course our source of existence – a cow and calf on pasture. This adds colour and conversation to the room.

I spend time every day looking at this stained glass window, it has always brought me a feeling of peace. I was told that Grandpa informed Grandma that the window was missing a bluebird and so he drew one in the top left hand corner. You can kind of see how the artwork of the bluebird is different from the rest of the window and that’s why.

My kitchen table seats twelve comfortably but of course often more. Adjoining is a very efficient mud room and extra bathroom. I worked hard for that kitchen.

The summer we built it I cooked for 18 men all summer in just a make shift kitchen. At the same time I gave Margie her physiotherapy which consisted of 38 exercises with resistance and each one 15 times. This I did twice a day. Margie also caught the mumps that summer.

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In Grandma’s Words part 14 (FGK-76)

The only stories I ever heard about Mr O’Brien were ones like how incredibly strict he was, being a military man and all, how one time he’d got really angry and thrown chalk across the room, and of course the firecracker story – which was of course more mom just responding to his flippant statement about putting a firecracker under someone than her deviously planning to light a firecracker under a classmate’s butt. But through the letters I’ve seen a much different man. From what I can see, he’s the one who organized the students to send those big class letters in for mom at the hospital. In the letters, the kids are describing doing such interesting things in their classes (growing plants, doing woodwork, and so many other activities). I have heard from many people what a big deal those JP Christmas concerts were. Hats off to Mr. O’Brien – he sounds like quite the man.

Mr. O’Brien did so much for the children and the social life in the district it is difficult to tell you just how far reaching his influence really spread. He had been a Sargent major in the army, a scout master of many years experience, and had taken a course in dramatics. All these talents and experiences were put into action immediately and the students experienced the unexpected pleasure of discipline, responsibility, and a scope for their own creative originality.

The fame of the JP Christmas concerts was so widespread the Community Hall had crowds far beyond its seating capacity, standing room only. I remember one concert where one part of the program was a quadrille on the stage by the students to the tune of a current favourite of the time “Buttons and Bows”. The crowd just went hilarious, stomped their feet, clapped their hands, and sang their loudest. Another time he used an Alberta artist talent of a play taken from the book “Johnnie Chinook” a local story and it was a big success.

He formed a Red Cross society among the students. Made them elect their own president and other officers in the correct parliamentary procedure. All this besides their regular schoolwork. And for the first time the students learned how to enjoy well organized sports at recess.

Every so often the students would invite the parents to the school and entertain them by having them take part in spelling matches etc. We became involved in many of the students’ activities, especially helping with the concerts and enjoyed their social life so much.

The annual school picnic was an elaborate affair where presentations were made to students graduating etc. All the speeches and work was done by the students themselves. Mr O’Brien would just strand in the background. but the results of his guidance was made manifest in so many ways.

For a little one room rural school house the ultimate achievement of most of its graduates is quite impressive.

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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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In Grandma’s Words part 12 (FGK 74)

No wonder mom always talked so highly of Lawrence, over and over I see where he’s been such a great friend to her. I remember dances at the Hall when I was a kid where it was family friendly until the “doors of hell opened” or something like that and then it was time for us kids to go home (similar to warnings I was given about going to the Cochrane Hotel – when I finally went I was quite disappointed to find it didn’t look anything like what I imagined hell to look like but was just an old fashioned bar with ugly vinyl chairs).

The Copithornes are a large, closely knit family and our family turkey dinner parties usually had twenty or more sit down to a meal. We usually tried to do our entertaining like this in the winter before the calving time in April. The children were always included in these parties and often in the dances in the Community Hall. They learned to dance and mix freely with their elders, there didn’t seem to be such a generation gap then as now. No one enjoyed a square dance more than Margi when her cousin Lawrence would ask her up. They looked quite small in the circle but they certainly knew their dance.

The evening of our 20th wedding anniversary was a bitterly cold night and Clarence and Irene invited us and Kumlins over for dinner. We had completely forgotten it was our anniversary and Percy said we were crazy to think of going out over snowy roads on such a bad night. But Kumlins insisted we go with them. When we got there there as quite a crowd gathered waiting for us. The ladies usually head for the kitchen to help serve the meal, but they made Margery Buckley and myself sit in the living room with the men. Then they took us into the bedroom and draped old lace curtains over us like veils and gave us each nosegay bouquets made from cauliflower, onions, etc. When they led us back into the living room our husbands were standing up each wearing a boutonniere of onions and Irene’s dad Don Robertson wearing a collar backwards and a wild brocade black housecoat and he read off a very comical take off on the wedding ceremony They shook rice and confetti over us and presented each of us with a very lovely tea set. It was a party we’ll never forget.

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In Grandma’s Words part 11 (FGK 73)

Remember how I said I’d never seen a photo of the lean to kitchen? Apparently I just wasn’t paying attention, because there’s a photo of it here in today’s post. The sun porch still looks almost exactly like it does in this photo, and we use it every day.

It wasn’t long before we were issued a “ration book” for each one of us. Transient help would come to work with all the tabs sold out of their books and we would just have to cope it it somehow, but they weren’t very popular. In Feb 1940 I left Sheila and Marshall with my sister and Percy, and I took Aunt Ada and her bachelor brother Roy Wills on a motor trip to visit Aunt Lil in Palermo, California. We thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the wonderful Redwood forest. And visiting the old fort where the Russians had landed in 1872. The fort was standing in good condition because Redwood won’t burn nor decay.

Before I left, I taught Clarence how to bake apple pie. When we got home, the man who helped him batch said they just made steaks out of the whole half beef and had that and apple pie nearly every meal. And his pies were just about the best I’ve ever tasted, much better than mine, but I doubt if he has ever cooked one since. They were certainly glad to quit cooking.

We decided to turn our lean to eating area into a kitchen as it was three steps down from our tiny kitchen and the steps proved very awkward. Mr. Mervin Wallace, the carpenter, came out and he built that kitchen with loving care. I was so proud of it, it was beautiful and quite convenient but could have been larger. It was all white and blue with accents of red here and there. It had a long low window in the west and I made cottage style curtains out of white and blue polka dot material with a wide border of eyelet embroidery.

By now I had a gas Servel refrigerator. Mr Wallace also built me a sun porch for my house plants. From three thirty on in the afternoon I used to just about wear a hole in that window watching for the kids to come riding out of the bush in Nicoll’s field a mile or so west of us.

A Servel refrigerator

I would always have a dish of dessert of a bowl of soup waiting for them and would listen to them unload all of the problems of the day, then all was forgotten and the real enjoyment of the day would begging for them. Each one to his or her living, such as curling up with a good book to read or outside to play.

Grandma and her kids. I’m not going to comment on how my uncle’s got his tongue sticking out (see what I did there). Mom looks like the cat who just swallowed the canary, at least my aunt managed to pass off as normal for this one.

By now we had a Delco in the house – no more coal oil lamps and those frightening Coleman gas lamps. At first we had a gas engine to charge the sixteen-two volt batteries. Then we got a wind charger which worked fine when the wind blew. We were so glad to have just the lights, we never thought of complaining because there were no electric gadgets to be got on the 32 volts.

I didn’t know what a Delco was, so I looked it up. Here it is, complete with the “old time” kind of advertising. I want to be sarcastic and say “lucky, lucky wife”, but I”m realizing that it shouldn’t be sarcastic at all. Given how hard these women worked, anything that made their lives easier must have been a real blessing (same for the men).
A Delco
I’m not sure where this photo was taken, but it was stuck in with this story.
Just in case you feel like doing any baking…. grandma made some pretty fantastic doughnuts and gingerbread cookies (pro tip, the gingerbread cookies are fan-freaking-tastic when dipped in her Christmas sauce).
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In Grandma’s Words part 10 (FGK 72)

Has anyone ever had a well behaved Shetland? My sister’s Peanuts was considered to be a good one, but it really was only in comparison to how incredibly naughty and evil my Tango was. Why did we all have Shetland ponies??

Margaret, my last child was born in Oct 1940. We let Sheila name her, she was so thrilled to have a baby sister, so she said “I like Margaret Bateman, let’s call her Margaret”. She was a dear little baby, had long dark hair when she was born and always was very lively. I lay in the hospital listening to the battle of Bristol on the radio and wondered if it was right to bring a child into such a world.

One fall a cattle buyer who bought our steers, gave Marshall a Shetland pony when he was about four years old. I have never liked Shetland ponies, but Marshall was very happy and wanted to be on it all the time. One fine afternoon when I decided to ride across the creek to get the milk cows in, I let Marshall ride his pony and come with me. My horse stopped halfway across the creek to have a drink and I looked back to see how Marshall was doing. Clarence was building a fence nearby. The Shetland had stopped at the edge of a deep pool to have a drink too, and I could see both Marshall and the saddle were slowly sliding over its head. I called to Clarence just about the time Marshall plopped head first into the cold water. The dumb Shetland sat on the bank like a dog sits down and it had the saddle on its head like a hat. Clarence and I both headed to the rescue but things happened too fast for us. Marshall no sooner hit the water then he bounced out again and was on a howling rage. It all looked so comical, Clarence and I just went into helpless laughter which made Marshall furious. He walked home in a huff and we were so weak from laughing at that crazy looking pony we could hardly get the saddle off.

This looks like the yard at Kumlin’s (aka Jack Copithorne’s)

Later that pony ran away with Sheila one day and threw her onto a big rock and broke her elbow. My father had sold his farm and rented an apartment in Calgary. While Sheila was in the hospital with her broken arm – it had to be broken a second time to get it right – my dad visited her every day and read stories to her. He also helped Percy cut crop a few times when help was scarce. He loved the children dearly and always called Margie “Peggie”. The last day he visited us, in Nov 1942, Marshall and Margi clung to his legs and begged him to stay but he had two companions with him and returned to town. That night he died of a heart attack.

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