Dad had jobs on mink and sheep farms

From our April 2012 issue

By Elizabeth Harder – La Crete, Alta.

In the early 1940s, my dad, Abe Wieler, bought a quarter section of land near Fort Vermilion, Alta. My Grandpa Braun and family moved there from Carcajou, Alta. to farm.

Dad worked at odd jobs, but they were few and far between. He finally went to Edmonton to tend a mink farm while the owner was out buying trappers’ furs in the winter. My mom, sister Lena, and I stayed in Fort Vermilion.

By spring, dad decided to stay in Edmonton as there were more job opportunities so the three of us took the boat to Peace River, then the train to Edmonton to join dad.

We lived in a small house on the mink rancher’s yard. They lived in a big house across from us. In the back of a large fenced area were the many cages containing mink. Dad fed and cared for them.

From there we moved a few miles west of Edmonton to a sheep farm at Stony Plain, Alta. We lived on the yard and dad travelled to Edmonton to work on construction.

The sheep were pretty well left on their town – bulk fed in winter and occasionally checked on in the summer.

I remember some of them dying for lack of care and the owner just hauled them to the back pasture out of sight. He wasn’t a good steward of the animals.

From there we moved to another farm closer to the city. The owner didn’t live there, but a hired hand lived in the house and we had to share it with him.

It turned out he hadn’t been living there alone – it wasn’t possible to sleep at night because of all the bedbugs! I remember him being very insulted when mom started cleaning everything including his clothes and bedding.

On one of these farms, a large barn was being built. Jake Friesen and his family had also moved to the Edmonton area.

They were over visiting one Sunday and we children were playing in this barn. It had a huge unfinished loft and no stairs had been built yet. We imagined that terrible things were up there and worked ourselves into a awful fright.

When we wanted to leave, the door was stuck and there was no handle on the inside so we screamed, but were too far from the house for anyone to hear. I finally kicked out a window and still have the scar to prove it!

Left: Betty’s sister, Helena, Lena Friesen (J.P. Friesen’s daughter), and Betty on the mink farm near Edmonton in about 1946.