Every Thursday morning, writers and wannabe writers meet and share with each other their efforts from the week — prose, poetry, memoirs, musings, humor, whatever. Then, in late February, we read our best pieces to an enthusiastically appreciative audience of boaters, cottagers and full-time residents. Goldwin read about his granddad’s farm in southern Ontario; I read about a manatee visiting our dinghy (which I will share later).
Granddad’s Farm – by Goldwin
Long ago – 1940s – and far away – southwestern Ontario, my granddad – Archie – had a cattle farm on the Long Woods Road. It was the best of times. I spent Christmases and summers there.
My granddad liked horses. He kept a team of Percherons he joyfully used to pull the tractors out of the mud when they got stuck; he had a team to race his sulky, and a quarter horse for my cousin Mary, a fan of Gene Autry – NOT Roy Rogers.
I hated that riding horse. Mary could ride it. The beast bit me, stepped on me, and wouldn’t respond to “ha” or “gee” or the reins. It tried to get me off by scraping along barbed wire fences or ducking beneath low branches. So, I learned to drive a Ford tractor, pulling a wagon in the wheat fields.
The dog, Jigger, and I hunted field mice who hid beneath the shucks of wheat in the field. I moved the sheaves and he chased and bit.
Wild cats fed on mice in the barns and granary. They gathered in the milkhouse. When Archie – my granddad – milked, he sat on a three legged stool and occasionally squirted a cat instead of the pail.
In the fall, a threshing machine arrived. It was connected to the large Oliver 88 tractor by a long belt. A threshing gang of men traveled from farm to farm. My grandma – Cora – fed them all at the ring of a large bell. She had help from Mrs. Riley, an Indian woman from the adjoining reservation. Mrs. Riley wove baskets out of sweet grass.
Every spring a hired man – Rollie – showed up. He rode a motorcycle with a bottle of whiskey and an accordion. He drunkenly played “Turkey in the Straw,” always outside.
When I was little, Granddad sat in his rocker and bounced me on his knee. It was a horsie back ride I enjoyed. Ten years later, he sat and watched Argentina Rocca and Dick the Bruiser, professional wrestlers, on black and white TV.
About that time, “the best of times” came to an end. Hoof and mouth disease caused all the cattle to be destroyed and I was in my first auto accident. While teaching my first love to drive my dad’s car on the reservation, we came over a rise. The road was loose gravel. An Indian man was walking down the margin. Stephanie swerved to miss him and we slid into the ditch. Tractors came and pulled us out. I told everyone I was driving – and got my first real job to pay the repair costs. I stamped prices on cans in a Kroger food store long enough to convince myself to endure college.