He ‘suffered verbal onslaught in silence’

From our February 2013 issue

By J. Alvin Speers – Calgary, Alta.

When I was about 10 years old in 1940 it was arranged for me to go to my aunt and uncle’s place to drive the horse on the haylift fork during the haying operation.

In those days the hay, cut with a mower, was “coiled” by hand into piles to dry for a few days in the sun. It was then loaded onto a wagon hayrack and hauled into the barn.

Once there, a wide two-pronged hayfork, suspended by a thick rope on pulleys was shoved down into the load of hay and end prongs turned up by a handle lever.

The horse pulled the rope to lift the large forkful of hay up off the wagonload to a track under the peak of the barn roof. The mechanism atop the fork locked into a trolley and was then pulled sideways over the loft.

A small rope trip suspended from the corner of the fork was then pulled releasing the hay to fall into the loft haymow.

The empty fork was then pulled back down for another load and the lift exercise repeated. Four good forkfuls was the average to empty a wagon load of hay.

Determined to go home

At times, to me, things were not too congenial in my ‘homesick’ state, never having been away from home overnight before in my life. So one morning I got up determined to go home.

When I washed my face at the basin in the corner of the kitchen and brushed my teeth I unobtrusively stuck my toothbrush in my shirt pocket.

With my aunt and uncle busy milking cows in the barn and grandmother preparing breakfast, I slipped away, out the lane, down the road to the corner and headed west on Fifteen sideroad leading homeward.

I’d made a clean getaway and was making good time when two dogs came out of a farmer’s front gateway and, barking their fool heads off, made threatening approach to me on the trot.

Meanwhile, my aunt had discovered my absence and after a quick search phoned the neighbours immediately to the south of their farm.

That lady had indeed seen the young fellow heading down the road and turning west at the corner not far past their place.

My aunt jumped in her fairly new Ford car and set off in pursuit. She came along just as I was beset in the ditch by the two dogs.

Had it not been for the seeming ferocious animals, I would have hidden in the tall grass and shrubs, not to be discovered.

‘what would neighbours think?’

However, faced by the two quadrupeds with sharp looking teeth, I felt I had no choice but to show myself and get in the car before the dogs got me.

I received a tongue-lashing all the way back to their farm: what would the neighbours think? However, if that was what I wanted, I would be taken home, but not, by gum, until I had been fed breakfast.

I suffered the verbal onslaught in silence, relishing the thought of going home again. By the time I got there I discovered that I had lost my toothbrush on the intercepted escape attempt. That was a matter for teasing and laughter for years afterward.

They had no other hired hand at the time, so my aunt had to drive the horse on the hayfork lift, which I had been doing.

Their girls were too young to perform the task. That was a disturbing turn of events for a somewhat high-and-mighty woman, so eventually only two or three days later, my aunt prevailed upon dad to send me back to finish the job I had started.

I was far from enthusiastic about the prospect, but dad explained as part of growing up I should learn to finish what I began.