By Gene Chura – Moose Jaw, Sask.
The longest, most frightening and the most lonesome four days and four nights of my life happened in August 1938 and I still vividly remember every hour of it.
Since Saskatchewan was in the drought area, the farmers, of course, had no grain crops or some as little as five per cent on some farms. The grasshoppers, crows, and gophers did their share in destroying a lot of the small crop that did grow. This also meant the hay production was also non-existent.
Since haw was food for all animals, it was vital to find a good growing acreage of hay and, of course, harvest it to bring it home for farm animals.
To help the farmers with this problem, the municipal office was scouting all over northern Saskatchewan for a good field of hay and finally located one.
My brother, Paul, and his brother-in-law, Mike Krysak, were also scouting around for hay to harvest. Lucky for both of them they were offered this field of hay which, of course, had to be cut, baled, and shipped back home via CNR boxcar to Krydor, Sask. where they farmed.
The hay field was located on an acreage where the CN Railway was located between Prince Albert and Glaslyn, about halfway between the two locations and a small post office and telephone area called Mildred, about 20 miles straight north of Blaine Lake.
Off we went to Mildred, taking six horses, two hay mowers, one hay rake, plenty of food, blankets, plus a shotgun and ammunition. I, of course, was the extra help. There was no wage. I had completed my Grade 12 and was waiting to hear from the University of Saskatchewan about a special two-year administration curse they were offering. It would be two years done in one year.
The governments, both provincial and federal, were offering special courses to the public hoping that a few young capable people would take this opportunity and enroll.
I finally heard from the U of S admission office advising me to report to Saskatoon on Sept. 2, 1938. It actually worked out very well for me because I was able to help for a month with haying and then go to Saskatoon for my business course, which I did.
In the next two weeks we made good progress with our hay harvest and no equipment broke down.
The original owner of this property had a two-story house under construction. The frame was completed, roof completely shingled, all door and wind areas were cut out and framed but no windows or doors had been installed. So the wind created its own ‘musical’ array of sounds.
Here is where we bunked and could hear the wind play its own melodies all night. It was spooky but at least we were under cover.
We were about six miles away from civilization and a telephone, so a person on horseback delivered a phone message from home saying Mike’s sister who was also my brother Paul’s sister-in-law had died and the family requested that the two of them come home for the funeral.
They had very little choice. They would be gone approximately four days and four nights. I, of course, would have to stay behind and look after the four horses and live in that ‘haunted’ house as described earlier.
This is what I will never forget of my loneliness – living out in the wilderness – the closest human being about six miles away and the rest of the area surrounded with bush and tree and coyotes barking all night keeping our four horses on edge.
I was trying to sleep in this haunted house, listening to the horses acting uneasy because of coyotes all around them and, of course, too close for comfort.
There was no way I was going out at midnight or later to settle the horses down. I was scared spitless so I cradled the loaded shotgun and stayed in the haunted house until daylight.
Experts have told me that when something really, really impresses you – good or bad – it will never leave your mind. This is true.
Now, 75 years after my experience and when I think of the haunted house surrounded by bush and wild coyotes my mind is very clear and I vividly remember my experience back in August 1938.