By Margaret (Kopeck) Gentle – Saskatoon, Sask.
I started dressing and playing with our orange Tabby cat after I lost my rag doll. I’d left it in the farm yard and a horse stepped on it and crushed it. I was brokenhearted. The orange Tabby was very patient with me. He didn’t mind being handled and dressed in baby and doll clothes and rocked in a cradle.
I was born in Canora, Sask., and grew up a farm seven miles southwest of the town. We played outside a lot and my sister and I made a playhouse in the maple trees. We spent a lot of time there when the weather was nice and sunny.
The school was a four-mile trek for us 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 neighbours by horse and buggy. We’d 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, we would sometimes make toast with our leftover sandwiches from lunch on our way home from school.
Dad to the rescue
We would sometimes go across the fields to take a shortcut and make it to school on time. One time we were going across the field and went off the beaten path into deep snow. The horse got stuck and could not pull us any further.
Being the driver of this one-horse caboose, I decided I had to unhitch the horse and ride horseback back home to tell dad. I told my two sisters to stay put in the caboose and that dad would come and rescue them. He did.
Our winter holiday from school was two months long, but we didn’t get a break as we had many chores to do. We’d milk the cows and separating milk, feed 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 with the harvest of the garden later in the summer and canning. We had no electricity so there was no freezing of vegetables, though we did have an icehouse to keep our cream and other perishables from going stale.
Bringing in the sheaves
Later on in the summer, we helped with the haying and stooking of sheaves in preparation for harvest. Harvesttime was a busy, 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 looked forward to visiting our grandparents especially at Christmas. They only lived three miles away and we would look forward to the great Christmas Eve Supper of 12 meatless dishes prepared by grandmother and our aunts.
After supper we would help with the cleanup and then we’d do some carolling. Soon enough, it was time for bed. We would spend the night at our grandparents’ house sleeping in their soft feather beds.
We were poor, but were fortunate enough that we never went hungry. Our parents provided well for us. Even though we had to work hard, I have no regrets and hold many happy memories of those early days.