‘Brother was deafened for a few days’

From our January 2014 issue

By Shirley Lomheim – Saskatoon, Sask.

My parents, who were city folk, bought a farm near Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. in 1933. Although father had a full-time job in Moose Jaw, he expected my mother and older siblings to run the farming operation.

He was confident that they would get along just fine in their new lifestyle except that he was somewhat concerned about the use of the two firearms that were included in the farm sale.

To put them out of reach of the family, he placed the rifle and the ancient shotgun high above the two doors in our kitchen while the boxes of shells were locked in a metal box which was put under the bed of my parents’ bedroom.

Since it was forbidden to enter their inner sanctum, my father was assured that my mother would have complete mastery over the use of the guns.

As a result there were only a few occasions when my teenaged brother, Roy, was given permission to fire the weapons.

The first time occurred when it was discovered that a predator was attacking the chickens at night. That was sufficient reason for mother to hand Roy a box of shells for the shotgun.

She reasoned that since Roy had never fired a gun in his life, he might have more success with the larger of the two weapons. After we heard a series of shots over a lengthy period of time, we were assured that he had done his duty.

The next morning however, although we searched the entire farmyard, we couldn’t find any carcass of a fox or whatever had been enjoying chicken dinners at our expense.

We did, though, see the badly shattered walls of the second most important building on our farm, clearly indicating where bullets had entered and exited the outhouse. I suppose if we had looked upon it optimistically, we could have considered it as an effective form of air conditioning.

Shortly after that incident, my brother was called on for another venture with the shotgun. Farm neighbours had suggested that if the wiring around the chicken coop was reinforced, we might not lose so many chickens. With that in mind, Roy set to work on the project.

With all the noise of hammering, the chickens wisely dispersed so he could get on with the job and one inquisitive hen decided to inspect the damage done to the outhouse. Unfortunately, she fell down one of the two holes.

Why anyone would build an outhouse with two holes defies my imagination. I realize it is polite to share but sometimes one might wish to conduct one’s affairs privately.

Anyway, the hole was too deep for recovery and besides we didn’t feel we wanted that hen brought back up so the fowl had to be dispatched. My brother made the mistake of closing the outhouse door before delivering the fatal shots.

We never knew whether he actually shot the bird or if it simply died of fright, but my brother was deafened for a few days. There was a third time when the shotgun was needed.

A very old horse had been included in the farm sale. The previous owner warned it might soon have to be put out of its misery but although weak, it didn’t seem to be suffering. Its only daily exercise was to walk from the barn to the water trough and to the house for a treat of sugar.

One day we found it laying down and was unable to get up. With the advice and help of neighbours, my brother got it onto to a stone boat where he would haul it to the far reaches of our property.

Out came the shotgun again, and while my despondent brother left the yard and my mother and siblings crying, we waited for shots to ring out. It was quite disturbing to hear how much firing was required to kill the horse.

Two or three mornings later we were astonished to see the old nag, not a bullet wound in sight, calmly drinking water from the trough.

My brother had to confess that when he had reached the place of execution, the horse had suddenly rallied, got up, and walked into a clump of bushes.

Roy thought the animal would die a dignified and natural death and to gain some firing practice, he aimed at nearby treetops where he used up an entire box of shells.

The old horse was treated like a long-lost relative for a few days until one morning we found him beyond the need for any bullet.