Scary experience has stayed with him

From our January 2014 issue

By Gene Chura – Moose Jaw, Sask.

The longest, most frightening, and also the most lonesome four days and four nights of my life, happened in August 1938. To this day, I vividly remember every hour of it.

Depression-era Saskatchewan was still in a drought. Farmers had little to no crops. Grasshoppers, crows, and gophers did their share in destroying any small crop that did grow. This also meant the hay production was also non-existent.

Since hay was food for all animals, it was vital to find a good growing acreage of it. To help the farmers with this problem, the municipal office had been scouting all over northern Saskatchewan for a good field of hay.

My brother, Paul, and his brother-in-law, Mike Krysak, were also scouting around for hay to harvest. They were offered a field of hay that had to be cut, baled, and shipped back home via CNR boxcar to Krydor, Sask., where they farmed.

The hay field was located where the CN Railway was, between Prince Albert and Glaslyn. About halfway between the two locations, there was a small post office and telephone area called Mildred. It was about 20 miles straight north of Blaine Lake.

Timing worked out well

The three of us went to Mildred taking six horses, two hay mowers, a hay rake, food, blankets, and a shotgun and ammunition. I was the extra help and there was no pay.

I’d completed my Grade 12 and was waiting to hear from the University of Saskatchewan about a special two-year administration course they were offering that could be completed in one year. The governments, both provincial and federal, were offering special courses to the public. They’d hoped young people would take the opportunity and enroll.

I heard from the admission office advising me to report to Saskatoon on Sept. 2, 1938. It 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.

Over the next two weeks, we made good progress with our hay harvest and none of the equipment broke down. The owner of the property had a two-story house that was still under construction. The frame was completed and the roof was completely shingled.

All door and wind areas were cut out and framed, but no windows or doors had been installed yet, so the wind created its own ‘musical’ array of sounds. We bunked here and could hear the wind play its melodies all night long. It was spooky, but at least we were under cover.

Left alone in the ‘haunted’ house

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. The family requested the two of them come home for the funeral.

They had little choice. They would be gone approximately four days and four nights. I would have to stay behind and look after the four horses and live in that ‘haunted’ house.

I will never forget my loneliness – living out in the wilderness – the closest human being about six miles away. Th area was surrounded with bush and tree and coyotes barking all night, keeping the four horses on edge.

Trying to sleep in this house, I listened to the horses acting uneasy because of coyotes all around and, of course, far too close for comfort. There was no way I was going out at midnight or later to settle the horses down. I was so scared, I cradled the loaded shotgun and stayed in that haunted house until daylight.

Experts have told me that when something really, really impresses you – good or bad – it will never leave your mind. More than 75 years after my experience, when I think of that haunted house surrounded by bush and wild coyotes, my mind is very clear and I vividly remember my experience.

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