When I was a little girl, I used to love going to the farm. I think we went twice a year, but when I was little, it seemed like years and years between visits.
The farm was wonderful for many reasons.
Christmas was a huge affair with people sleeping everywhere, christmas baking on every surface (I swear I gained 10 lbs every time we went), and lots and lots of presents Christmas morning. Our cousins closest in age, Krissy and Scott Unchulenko, were always there to play with (and later Graig and Bryan).
We could run wild in the yard, the cow pastures, the woods behind the house, and the wheat fields. When there was some, we could “swim” in the grain sheds full of grain. There were dogs to play with, cats, chickens and piglets to chase, and cows to sit on while they were being milked. We ate lots and lots of fresh food picked daily from the garden in the summer and made forts of hay bails to stay warm in during the very cold winter. We had cow patty fights and snowball fights. We were ALWAYS sent outside to play.
Everyday, Grandpa Mack would get in his truck and drive out to see his cows in the fields. In the summer, all of us kids would get in to his beat up and dusty old truck to go with him, driving across the fields or along the dirt roads. A couple of us would climb in the front seat with him and some of us would hop in the back (in the truck bed) with the dogs and off we would go.
Grandpa would tell us all about the cows, their names, and what was happening with them. They were always hoping fences, getting lost, having babies, or getting sick. Dad and him were forever mending fences and herding the cows back in to places they belonged. As a kid, he seemed comical to me…a man who was forever chasing cows. I can honestly say, I didn’t understand a word he said.
He spoke minimally and often quietly. He would call us all Larry, Curly and Mo interchangeably. (I actually thought he didn’t know our names). Sometimes, he would drive us 5 miles from the farm and down the road that he said was half in Manitoba and half in Saskatchewan. He’d say, “You’re in Manitoba now!” And the kids would all pile on one side of the truck or the other and point and yell at each other in favour of one or the other.
And, as far as I remember, he only sang one song to us:
How much is that doggy in the window.
The one with the waggly tail.
How much is that doggy in the window.
I do hope that doggy’s for sale.
Over and over and over he sang the same song to and with us on the drive day after day. It was awful and WONDERFUL!! It might just be my all time favourite memory of childhood. I felt so free in the back of that truck. A city girl finally in the country after a whole year of waiting for it. I remember sitting on the ridges of the dirt caked truck bed, the wind wiping dust in my eyes and hair, leaned up against some dog with its tongue hanging out, singing at the top of my lungs.
When we got older, I’d walk to the cemetery with Krissy and listen to her tell me all about the people I was related to buried there. I’d never heard of any of them and could never remember them between visits; we went less and less often.
We played less and had more chores to do, like picking berries and peas from the garden, or weeding, or helping in the kitchen. I remember shucking peas for over an hour for dinner.
But, we got to ride a dirt bike one summer, all over the fields. And, when I was 16, Dad taught me how to drive a tractor and then left me ALL BY MYSELF to pull a combine for a whole day, round and round a big, unevenly shaped field with a huge rock in the middle. Afterwards, he told everyone what a good job I did and I felt really proud.
Before Grandpa died he told me he did all of the work on the farm for us kids and he hoped we would keep it up. It makes me sad that none of us are farmers. Part of me wishes I could be. Part of me is still there singing.