Dogs and other farm animals

Almost all of Abe’s diary entries are terse, impassive, descriptive statements: “did this,” “did that,” “so-and-so visited,” etc. From time to time, though, his humanity shines through, no more so than when he is writing about certain of the farm animals.

Jack the dog
Every farm has at least one dog. They are as likely to be a mutt of uncertain and unknown parentage as they are a pedigreed purebred. They are companion and work dog combined. They guard the yard and house, herd cattle, and catch rodents. They chase cars and get into scraps with skunks and badgers. They follow you in the yard and in the field, play catch, and plop down beside you when you pause to rest. They nudge you with their muzzle when you need cheering up, listen attentively to everything you say, and demand nothing more than a scratch behind the ears or a pat on the head. They eat table scraps, chew up old bones and dig holes to bury their “treasures.” They howl at the moon and bark in response to other dogs’ barking. They live outside; they sleep in the barn when it’s cold or, if they’re lucky, on an old mat in a dog house. Some die of old age, some meet tragic ends. When they die, we mourn the passing of a dear friend. Continue reading “Dogs and other farm animals”

The Bonspiel

Team Canada delivers a stone, 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver BC

You hear it as soon as you open the rink door: men shouting “Draw!”, “Guard!”, “Take-out!” and “Good shot!”; the growl of rocks sliding down the ice; the slap-slap-slap of corn brooms; the crack as rock hits rock. We stand in the cold along the sides, stomping our feet to keep them warm, watching the men plot and play. A hip flask passes from hand to hand, then disappears into a pocket. On the far sheet where the draw has already ended, little kids push rocks to the far hog line and give a good heave-ho; their rocks barely make it to the 8-foot circle. The draw ends, the chamois man cleans the ice, closely followed by the tank man sprinkling a new layer of pebble. We head to the kitchen, fingers and toes tingling with cold, noses red and runny. We open the door and walk into a wall of blast furnace heat. Coal-fueled cook stoves roar full blast. Women, sweating, red-faced, hustle hamburgers, hot dogs, slices of pie, pots of coffee. Men and kids sit elbow to elbow along the L-shaped counter, soaking up the food and heat. The men talk about the thaw that cut short last week’s bonspiel, the snow cover, the potential for this year’s crop, the cost of machinery and repairs and gas, the latest government shenanigans, the wheat quota just opened. Food devoured, we head back out for the next draw. We watch some names advance across the board while others come to a dead stop. Will it be a local rink or one from the town down the highway that wins the trophy this year?

(Anyone who grew up in a small Canadian prairie town knows about curling. If you didn’t and don’t know what I’m writing about, this site is a good primer.)

#Curling #ChildhoodMemories #RuralLife #WinterSports #Saskatchewan #HannaFamilyMemories #MargaretGHanna

Dreamin’ Arizona

(My husband has said, “If there is such a thing as reincarnation, please, PLEASE don’t let me come back as an Arizona cow.”)


“Moo. Moo? What’s going on? Why am I mooing?”
“You’re a cow, that’s why.”
“A cow! How did I get to be a cow? I was a human last time I looked.”
“Look down.”
“Argh! Hooves! What happened to my arms? My hands? How am I supposed to eat?”
“With your mouth, like this.”
“You’re kidding! By the way, eat what? I can’t see anything to eat.”
“Way over there, a couple hundred feet, there are a few blades of grass.”
“You’re kidding! I gotta walk all the way over there for that? Where am I, anyway?”
“Southern Arizona, just south of Casa Grande.”
“And all that’s here for me to eat are those few bits of grass? Come on. How am I supposed to live on that?”
“Ha! Just be thankful you’re not in the Mohave desert.”
“Because there’s nothing there. Nothing at all. Just cactus and Joshua trees, and not many of them. This is paradise compared to the Mohave.”
“You’re kidding!”
“This grass isn’t very tasty. What’s this plant taste like?”
“No, don’t touch that, that’s a cholla. Oh, now you’ve done it. You’ve got cholla all over you.”
“Ouch! They hurt. I’ll just rub against these sticks to get rid of them.”
“No, not that. That’s ocotillo. It has thorns.”
“Ouch! Ouch! Does everything around here have thorns?”
“Warned ya’. Yep, mostly. Uh-oh.”
“Now what?”
“You see Butch over there?”
“Who? What? That bull?”
“Yep. He runs this place.”
“He likes newcomers.”
“Whaddaya mean – newcomers?”
“He gives every newcomer his special welcome. Okay, like, I’m outta here. Hasta proxima.”
“Wait! Whaddaya mean, ‘special welcome?’ Why is he looking at me that way? Oh, ah, hi Butch. No wait, I’m not a cow. No, really. I’m actually a human. Why are you going behind me? ARGH! No, no, no! Moo! MOO! MOOOOO!”

 * * *

“Wake up, dear. Wake up!”
“What! What?”
“You were mooing like a cow.”
“I was?”
“You must have been dreaming. What were you dreaming about?”
“Ah, nothing that I remember. You know how cows, er, dreams are.”

#Humour #Fiction #Dreams #OurBull’sLooseInTown #MargaretGHanna

The Dirty Thirties’ Legacy – Improved Farming Practices

It is impossible to ensure that rain will always fall but farming practices appropriate to dry-land farming can help to mitigate the effects of drought. The Dirty Thirties were crucial in bringing about those changes.

Some farming practices more appropriate to dry-land farming had long been known. By the 1890s, the Dominion Experimental Farms had recommended the use of summerfallow – leaving a field fallow for a year to conserve soil moisture, and cultivating it to destroy weeds. Experiments had determined that crop yields on summer fallow could be as much as twice that of crops sown on stubble. Continue reading “The Dirty Thirties’ Legacy – Improved Farming Practices”