By Margaret (Kopeck) Gentle – Saskatoon, Sask.
I started dressing and playing with our orange Tabby cat after I had lost my rag doll. I had left my doll in the yard and a horse stepped on it and crushed its face. I was brokenhearted as my mother wasn’t going to buy me another doll because I should never have left it laying in the yard.
The orange Tabby cat was very patient and didn’t mind being handled and dressed in baby and doll clothes and rocked in a cradle. We played outside as my sister and I had made a playhouse in the maple trees when the weather was nice and sunny.
We only had three weeks summer holidays during the school year and two months winter holidays. We had four miles to go to school, and the winters were very bleak as we had lots of snow and blizzards.
When we first started school, my older sister Violet and I rode with our neighbours by horse and buggy. Violet and I started school together as we were only one year apart in age.
When the time came for my younger sister Gladys to start school, dad said he would get us our own horse and buggy in the summer and a covered caboose in the winter with a small stove to keep us warm and make toast with our leftover sandwiches from lunch on our way home from school.
Sometimes we would go across the fields to take a shortcut and also to make it to school on time. This one time we were going across the field and got off the beaten path into deep snow. The horse got stuck and could not pull us any further.
Sisters stayed put
Me being the driver of this one-horse caboose, I decided that I had to unhitch the horse and ride horseback back home again to tell dad. I told my two sisters to stay put in the caboose and that dad would come and rescue them which he did.
Even though our winter holidays were two months long we had lots of chores to do; milking cows and separating milk, feeding calves, pigs, chickens, and dogs and cats. We also cleaned barns and chopped wood for firewood until the whole pile was chopped and piled up neatly to dry for the following winter.
Our summer holidays were spent helping mother weed and water the garden and help with the harvest of the garden later in the summer and canning. We had no electricity so there was no freezing of vegetables. We did have an icehouse to keep our cream and other perishables from going stale.
Later on in the summer we helped with the haying and stooking of sheaves in preparation for harvest. Harvesttime was a busy, but happy time as we watched dad and a lot of the neighbours helping to bring in the sheaves and threshing the grain to put into bins. We helped mother prepare the lunches to take to the fields and then preparing supper for the hungry men.
We looked forward to visiting our grandparents especially at Christmas. We would go with a team of horses hitched to the wagon. They only lived three miles away so we would look forward to the great Christmas Eve Supper of 12 meatless dishes that were prepared by grandmother and our aunts.
After supper we would help with the cleanup and then we would do some carolling. Then it was time to go to bed. We would spend the night at our grandparents’ house sleeping in the soft feather beds with our aunts.
Poor, but never hungry
We didn’t exchange Christmas presents, but we looked forward to our brown paper bags of Christmas candy, nuts, and Christmas oranges from our grandparents.
We were also very happy to receive secondhand clothes from our aunts which they had outgrown. It was like Christmas all over again!
We were poor, but we never went hungry. Our parents provided well for us. Even though we had to work hard I have no regrets. As my dad always said, “Hard work never hurt anyone.”
I was born in Canora, Sask., and raised on a farm seven miles southwest of there.