Kids sold eggs and tails

From our January 2013 issue

By Mary MoffatCalgary, Alta.

When I was growing up, I had a sister six years older and three brothers. Two were 1-1⁄2 to 3 years older than me and the youngest one was five years younger so I tended to be a tomboy and spent more time at boys’ activities.

In the spring of the year we went gopher hunting. The pasture had numerous holes and you would pick out the ones being used by the footprints in the loose soil.

My dad gave us 1¢ for each tail we brought home. Then, we took them to school where the teacher counted the tails and on behalf of the municipality paid us 1¢ a tail.

I felt sorry for the teachers because the odour from a can full of gopher tails was awful! I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had taken our word for the correct numbers, but I may be wrong!

For a number of years we had a little Fox Terrier who just loved to go gopher hunting with us, but after she died we relied on a stout stick to hit the gopher as he emerged from the wet hole.

My brothers had a pocketknife to cut off the tails and these were carefully put into an old tobacco can to take to the school. Years later, gopher poison came on the market and that worked faster than our method, but we lost our source of income!

Another source of petty cash was collecting crows’ eggs. We watched to see where the crows built their nests and when we estimated they had four or five eggs laid the boys climbed the tree and took the eggs home.

The contents had to be blown out and then the empty shells turned in for 1¢ apiece from the municipality. It was not unusual for the boys to earn a dollar in the month of April. A dollar at that time bought 20 ice cream cones or 20 chocolate bars!

Speaking of birds reminds me of the morning songs of the hundreds of blackbirds who nested in the trees by our pond 300-yards south of the house. As soon as it was warm enough, my parents and my sister and I had beds on the screened-in porches on the second floor.

If it rained with a wind that sent the rain onto our bed, we had to move our bedding and mattresses into our bedrooms, but it didn’t rain very much in the ‘30s to disturb us. I like to think all that fresh air helped me to be as healthy as I am in my late 90s.

Nowadays, the young folk put out poison for the gophers and unfortunately a lot of the birds have disappeared.

How excited we were to hear the song of the meadowlark! With a little imagination you could hear the bird singing, “Cheer up! Cheer up! Spring is here!”

The different birds all made different sounds. Even the caw of the crow sounds good in late March or early April.