Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: childhood memories

Chapter 4 – Scenes from my childhood

I was three and a half years old the first time my parents moved. In the house we were leaving there was a telephone at the bottom of the stairs near the front door. It was on a party line rural phone system and I believe I had been frightened by this box on the wall that would suddenly make a loud ringing noise and sometimes my parents would feel summoned to go and talk into it and other times they would ignore it. This day I caught on that the box was no  longer a threat. I pulled a chair over to the phone, stood on it, picked up the receiver, turned the crank and began chattering into it. My parents had to drag me away when it was time to leave.

Dad had sold his homestead farm just south of the western end of Old Wives Lake and bought another farm just past the east end of the lake. Memories of early childhood are tricky – it is not easy to separate what I remember from what I have been told so many times that I think I remember it. I believe there is a fuzzy memory of the ride to our new home that is genuine and that I was told later that our family vehicle at that time was a 30’s era Buick sedan, chopped off behind the front seat and converted into a pickup.

One day the next spring, when my mother was planting the garden and I was lying in the shade of a spreading maple tree, the breeze carried a sweet scent such as I had never known before. I searched for its source and found a patch of flowers with delicate petals having rings of pastel colours. I knelt on the ground and leaned close to breathe in the fragrance and the intricate beauty of the flowers. Then I ran to ask my mother what they could be. She called them Sweet Williams.

C. S. Lewis wrote that such memories are given by God to make us homesick for heaven. Certainly my childish wonder at the beauty of the flowers and their perfume has not been repeated in this life.

When I was four our dog Penny would not let me walk to the barn. Whichever way I turned to get around him,he would always be in front of me. I think I cried in frustration and my mother came to my rescue and explained that it wasn’t safe for me to go out among the cattle.

Penny was a black and white land race collie and every farm seemed to have one. He was as big as I was and a gentle protector. Many years later my mother said that whenever she wanted to apply some discipline to me she had to ensure that there was a closed door between us and Penny.

A couple of years later I started school, walking a mile each way along the fence line into the little village of Bishopric to attend a one room school. Bishopric was a company town, all the houses, the school, the store and the railway station were built of brick and owned by the company that operated the Sodium Sulphate plant.

We lived in an area of rolling hills that rise up from the plains a few miles south of Moose Jaw and extend to the US border, known as the Coteau Hills or the Missouri Coteau. The buffalo wintered here years ago, drawing Lakota, Nakota and Cree hunters and later Métis.

Not far from us there was a little town called Ardill located on the side of a steep hill. One of the members of the crew who built the road up this hill was an Englishman who dropped his h’s. He called it an ‘ard ‘ill and the name stuck. One winter day we were trying to get to Mossbank and the hill was icy. We got about two thirds of the way up and lost traction. The truck began to slowly slide backwards, edging ever closer to the ditch, then gently laid over on its side in the snow. Dad helped my mother and me climb out the driver’s door and we walked a mile back to the nearest farm, where our relatives Ed and Julia Ludke lived. Ed and Dad went out with the tractor and righted the pickup and got it turned around.

There were no churches nearby. We once attended a service held in a country school house. My Dad must not have approved of the preacher, for we never went again. I don’t think we had family devotions in those first years. As soon as I could write, my parents enrolled me in Sunday School by correspondence and I dutifully did my lesson every week and sent it in. That was my introduction to the stories and themes of the Bible.

Winter travels

Our fall was much warmer than usual, but now it has turned cold and every once in a while we get a little skiff of snow. There is just enough to cover the ground this morning and most of it could disappear if we get a sunny day or two. Nevertheless, this is the beginning of winter here on the flatlands.

Winter was much more formidable when I was a small boy. Formidable for the adults at least, since there was no machinery to keep the country roads open. Even our driveway filled up with deep snowbanks, due to the thick windbreak of trees between us and the road.

The only way to get anywhere was to walk, or hitch up the team of horses to the sleigh and go around the trees and across the fields. We had heavy horsehide robes to place over our laps and my mother often heated stones in the oven to place on the floor of the sleigh to help keep us warm.

I had a one mile walk across country to get to school. I remember one winter morning, I think I was eight years old. It was bitterly cold and there was five feet of snow in the driveway. Dad had the sleigh hitched up and ready to go as soon as I was finished breakfast. Mom fixed my lunch and I dressed up warmly, climbed into the sleigh, pulled the horsehide robe up over my knees and we were off . The sun was just coming up and it seemed that every snowflake over the whole landscape sparkled like a diamond in the light.

We got to school on time, but no one else was there. I was confused at first, then a little spark of memory lit up.

“Umm, Dad, I guess I forgot. Today is a holiday.”

The ride home was very quiet.

I guess I’ve always been absent-minded. This incident is still clear in my memory. The time was probably February of 1950 and the holiday would have been due to a teachers’ convention. Dad may have been upset, but he never scolded me.

Three score and ten

We spend our years as a tale that is told.  The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.  So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
(Psalm 90:9,10 & 12)

There you have it, according to Moses three score and ten years is our best before date.  And I have passed it.  I don’t expect to go sour, like milk does when you keep it around too long, but I realize that the best years of physical strength and stamina are behind me.

It’s hard to believe that 70 years have passed so quickly.  About 15 years ago, or maybe 20, I heard myself telling some youngster about how things were when I was young.  Inwardly I said, “Whoa!  It used to be that only old people talked like that!”  I have gotten over that shock by now and thought I would share a couple memories that prove I really do go back that far.

My earliest memory goes back to the summer of 1945 when I was three years old and we moved from my father’s homestead farm near the southwestern end of Old Wives Lake to a new farm he had bought near the eastern end of the lake, a distance of 25 km.  (Back then they would have said 15 miles.)

We had been living in the small two storey house that my father had built.  At the bottom of the stairs, not far from the front door, a wooden box was mounted on the wall.  Every once in a while, at any time of the day, loud ringing noises would come from this box.  Sometimes when it rang, but not every time, my father or mother would go and talk into it. There seemed to be a difference between the number and the length of the ringing noises that my parents understood.  I didn’t, I was afraid of that box and its noises.

Yet, just before we left that house forever, I understood that now it couldn’t make any ringing noises or talk back to me.  So I stood on a chair, held the ear piece to my ear and chattered away into the mouthpiece.  My mother had to carry me away.

We had a black and white collie dog named Penny who was my protector.  I presume we had him at the old farm, but I don’t remember that.  There was a barn on the new farm, some distance from the house, and I badly wanted to go and explore it.  But every time I tried to walk towards the barn Penny would bar my way and I could not get around him.  I don’t remember this, but my mother told me years later that there had to be a closed door between us and Penny before she could apply any discipline.

%d bloggers like this: