By Herb (Buster) Brown – Pinawa, Man.
I had a short, but very enjoyable, farming career. In 1945, farm help was scarce. I was asked to drive a tractor on a farm west of Holland, Man., near the elevator siding of Landseer.
The Mahon farm was operated by three brothers: Cliff, Lynn, and Norman Mahon. Mother Mahon and Olive, Norman’s wife, also worked on the farm. Their farm was in transition from horses to tractor. There were a couple 12-foot horse-powered binders and one 14-foot power binder.
The brothers were all big men. Norman, who was always whistling and singing, liked his food. He had good reason to be in a good mood too. He’d just married one of the prettiest teachers in Holland School. There was only once that I ever see his other side, when he was angry.
We’d been cutting crop about a week and I was feeling a little cocky and a lot bored. When I spotted a different sort of vegetation growth in the field – it was about the width of the binder and 20- to 25-feet long – I thought, “I can take this out in one shot!”
Green and white fluff everywhere
I got about halfway through when the tractor under my seat exploded and stopped dead! Norman, the jolly farmer, was suddenly not so jolly anymore. I heard words I had never heard before, at a volume I’d never heard before either.
When I turned around, the binder had all but disappeared. All I could see was a large ball of green and white fluff. Even the reels were full. I didn’t know if I should jump off and run. Instead I froze to the seat and started to cry. (I was only 12 and terrified.)
When Norman came from behind that mess and saw me he immediately calmed and said, “No, no, it’s not your fault. I should have been watching and warned you. It’s called Canadian thistle and it really plugs things up.”
A few hours of clearing out the thistle later and we got going again. I never went near it again!
The field lunches served to us were like Thanksgiving, complete with pie and cake. We ate like kings. Those ladies could really cook. One day the cake came with candles. I had forgotten it was my birthday!
Had a stooking team
We cut until nearly the end of August and we only had one wet day in three weeks. Cliff ran the threshing crew outfit and helped unload the grain which went on the ground. Lynn, Norman, and I had stooking teams. The hired man was the field pitcher.
I think at this point, I was more hindrance than help because I’d never had anything to do with horses. I couldn’t even hitch or unhitch them. The brothers said, “just go out and put on whatever you can,” even though I could hardly get the sheaves off the ground.
After three days of this, I had to go back to school. It was the only time I was glad to go back. I imagine they were glad too!