Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Saskatchewan

Another blind lady

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Rose Goodenough, widow of my cousin Ron, has written the history of her family and the community at Barrier Ford, Saskatchewan. Her parents were born in England, to families who lived comfortably, but were not wealthy. They thought to better their lot by coming to the Canadian prairies where free land was being offered.

Rose’s father, Fred Ham, was born in Devonshire in the 1880’s. He had rheumatic fever as a child, which damaged his heart. His parents were told that he would never be able to do heavy work. Nevertheless, he and his brothers came to Canada in 1910. Fred filed on a homestead at Barrier Ford in 1911 and worked hard all his life trying to make a living from the rocky soil in the bush country.

Eva Brown was born in London in 1890 with no vision in one eye and limited vision in the other. She received most of her education in a residential school for the blind, where she learned how to read and write with the braille system. She also learned to type, to weave and many other useful skills. Her mother, then a widow with two daughters, came to Canada in 1913.

In 1915 Fred and Eva married and this unlikely couple made a hard scrabble living, raised two children and came to love the country. By the time she married, Eva had 10% vision in one eye. Yet she managed to cook, sew, care for the two children and even milk their two cows.

I got to know Eva Ham in my childhood when we lived at Craik, Saskatchewan. Ron & Rose owned a grocery store and lived above the store. Rose’s Mom lived with them, having a couple of rooms of her own, including space for her loom. She was a sweet lady and got along well with my mother. I watched her read braille, write letters with a little frame and a punch to make the dots. I saw some of the letters she typed. Completely blind by that time, she said she could tell the difference between a window and a wall, she made very few mistakes when typing.

In 1954 she wrote an autobiographical sketch for a magazine for the blind. Here are a few excepts:

“I was almost eleven when I started to learn braille. Our teacher, a graduate of the Royal Normal College, was one of the finest Christian women I have ever known and had a lasting influence on us all. I had been rather spoiled at home and was not a ‘nice little girl.’ I remember my teacher calling me to her during the recess and kindly pointing out some of my shortcomings.”

After arriving in Saskatchewan: “Like all the English in those days, I had the notion there were no people as cultured as my countrymen. I felt myself superior to the neighbours who visited my uncle and I made up my mind to go home at the very first opportunity.”

Many years later: “Living in a mixed community, constantly coming into contact with people of different nationalities and creeds, has taught me that there are others just as cultivated as the English. I have learned to appreciate the views of different races and to acknowledge my own shortcomings. In my contacts with people I have found blindness to be an inconvenience and a handicap. Combined with deafness it is more serious – it is a double handicap. But even this double handicap can be overcome through developing patience and a good sense of humour, and through friendly co-operation with the many seeing and hearing friends who are always ready to lend a helping hand.”

The COVID conundrum

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Image by Sumanley xulx from Pixabay

Saskatchewan doesn’t have a huge population, perhaps we’re an anomaly in the big picture. The COVID infection rate is edging up to 0.05%, the death rate is 1 for every 200,000 people in the province.

The seasonal flu has infected far more people, the death rate is much higher — even if half of us got the flu shot. Nobody pays any attention to those numbers. I guess the seasonal flu is the devil we know.

Stores that have been closed will reopen on Tuesday. Monday is a holiday and it looks like a glorious long weekend coming up. Golf courses are open, fishing spots and parks are open, but not for barbecues and camping. Churches are still limited to 10 people.

Some businesses are doing well, such as the manufacturers of Plexiglas. The vet clinic where I go to do bookkeeping once a week is busier than it ever has been, even if they keep the door locked and let in only one client at a time.

Meanwhile the government keeps shoveling out money, a little more to seniors like my wife and I. And we keep on spending it — that’s the idea isn’t it, keep the wheels of the economy turning. I really do need new glasses and new orthotics.

What’s your guess on how things will look a year from now? Will we still think all this upheaval was necessary?  A friend today suggested that the government will raise the GST to 10%. Something like that will be necessary to fill the hole they have dug in the budget. To make it politically palatable I think they would call it an emergency measure and promise to reduce it by 1% per year until it is back down to 5%.

For folks outside of Canada, the GST is a Canada-wide value added tax on goods and services purchased by the consumer.

What will be the long-term damage to the health of people whose surgeries and other medical treatments have been cancelled during the crisis? What will be the emotional and spiritual consequences? Will children being home schooled for the first time do better or worse than they would have in a classroom?

The pandemic has given a tremendous boost to online shopping, I think that will be a permanent change in our shopping habits. A lot of people who have switched to working from home will never return to their office cubicle. We need to become more focused and effective in online missions.

What things will surprise us when we look back a year from now?

A flatlander looks at life

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I am a native of the Canadian prairies, like the young fella gazing across the plains in the picture above. We call him a gopher, technically he is a Richardson ground squirrel. When the government asked people to vote for an animal emblem for Saskatchewan, some folks suggested the gopher. He is kinda pesky, kinda cute and you just can’t get rid of him, much like the people of this province. For all folks try to get him out of the way, he just keeps popping up again.

The majority vote was for the white-tailed deer. He is just as picturesque and just as pesky. I’m sorry if I offend you Bambi lovers out there, but we look upon the deer as large cloven-hoofed rodents. Try to plant trees, bushes or a garden in rural Saskatchewan and you’ll soon find out why we are not so fond of deer.

I have travelled a little farther afield than the gopher. For the first ten years of my life my family liven in the hill country of southwestern Saskatchewan, the Missouri Coteau. Then we moved into the flatlands, where, when you left one town you could see the wooden grain elevator in the next town 15 km away.

There is more to the flatlands than meets the eye of someone just passing through. There are ravines and coulees meandering through this country, some of the coulees are a mile wide and have a little river wandering along the bottom.

In my adult years I have done farm work, managed one of those wooden country elevators, worked as a postal clerk and in quality assurance in an auto parts factory. In the process, I have lived in five provinces of Canada.

My father was descended from English Puritans who settled in Massachusetts in 1638. His mother was descended from a man who had been a swordsman in Napoleon’s army. My mother was of Dutch-German ancestry, her grandparents came to Manitoba from Ukraine in 1874. I figure my mixed ancestry makes me pretty much a typical Canadian. My father’s mother spoke French, but he never learned more than a few words. I have learned quite a bit more than that.

My parents were both religious people who were disappointed with the churches of their parents. They both longed for something better, without knowing exactly what that would look like. I didn’t know what I was looking for either when I became an adult, but my wife and I went on searching in a way that seemed haphazard, until we found a place where we could worship God in spirit and in truth and have fellowship with other believers.

We can see for miles and miles out here on the prairies. Perhaps that gives us a little different perspective than folks who spend most of their life in one little valley. Perhaps the variety of my life experiences and my spiritual searching give me a little different perspective than folks who have never ventured far from the beliefs their parents taught them.

This blog is an attempt to give you a few glimpses of the way I see things. Not everyone will agree with me and that’s OK. I just want to do my best to let you see what I see so you won’t think that I’m a little touched in the head for not seeing things exactly as you do.

(Note to readers: this is the first draft of the introduction to a book I am compiling from some of the posts that have appeared on this blog.)

Swan sightings

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Image by Detmold from Pixabay

There is a pond 15 km north of us, near Frontenace Road, where swans pause every spring on their northward migration. I saw a dozen there on Thursday, Chris saw 20 yesterday and today the number was up to 30.

I was disappointed when I looked on Pixabay for swan photos. They have very few photos of Trumpeter and Tundra Swans, but page after page of orange-billed swans. Those are Mute Swans, native to Europe and Africa and considered an invasive species in Canada. The swans in the photo above, with all black bills, are Trumpeter Swans. Tundra Swans, which we also see in our area, have black bills with orange close to the eyes.

The signs of spring

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I had some errands to do in Outlook this morning. There has been no highway maintenance this spring and the pavement is breaking up in many places. The Department of Highways has placed red diamond-shaped signs—like the one in the picture, but smaller—on the shoulder to mark these places. There are dozens of them between Delisle and Outlook, the two towns nearest to us.

On the positive side, with so little traffic on the highway, it is easier to dodge the potholes.

Only an empty box

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Agnes grew up 100 years ago on a farm in southwestern Saskatchewan. Her parents were members of a church which called itself Mennonite and worshipped in the German language. At home the family spoke a Low German dialect called Plautdietsch, and English.  There were 14 children in the family, spaced about two years apart. Agnes was number six.

The church claimed to hold to the original Mennonite faith. In her teens Agnes memorized a summary of the teachings of that faith, a German catechism which dated from 1792 and the bishop baptized her. She was the only one in her baptismal class to memorize the whole catechism, yet they were all baptized. The catechism said that they needed to be born again to become Christians and eligible for church membership, but the bishop said nothing of that.

Agnes was the last child in the family to learn German. As time went on, she realized the church had nothing for her younger siblings. Really, it had nothing for her. The catechism told of a faith that had once been, might yet be in some other place, but had died in this church. All that remained were traditions that could only be taught in the German language.

The church was like a box with ornate German lettering claiming to be the faithful remnant of the ancient Mennonite faith. But when Agnes had opened the box, she found it empty. So she threw it away. She remembered what the catechism said about Christian life, but did not found that life in the box.

Agnes was my mother; I am my mother’s son. That is why I have never found the “Mennonite culture” to be attractive. I didn’t want the box, I wanted to find the faith. In my adult years I searched for a place where the ancient Mennonite faith was still a living thing, not just words in the ai in a language I couldn’t understand. And I found it.

SPRING!

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Image by a-mblomma from Pixabay

We heard, then saw, Canada geese this morning for the first time this spring. A reassuring sign that the wild things are carrying on as usual and spring is on its way.

Use this stuff

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Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Wednesday morning when I went for blood tests, all the staff were wearing face shields and I was asked if I had travelled recently or had contact with someone infected with the Covid-19 virus. Are these just normal precautions or local evidence of a worldwide epidemic of unreasoning panic? So far here have been no deaths from this virus in Canada and not a single case identified in Saskatchewan.

To put this panic in perspective, in an average year 3,500 people die in Canada from the seasonal flu. The worldwide death toll from this new virus is still somewhat less than that. 80% of those infected with this virus will have very minor symptoms, or none at all. The death rate is between 3% and 4%, mostly elderly people with existing health problems. Children appear to be mostly unaffected.

The best preventive measures are to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face. Surgical masks are not really helpful and may be more of a danger than a help as they cause you to touch your face frequently to adjust the mask.

Winter grumbles

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Image by WordWarrior2 from Pixabay

It was -36° when I got up this morning, wind chill -47°. Those numbers are on the Celsius scale, but the Fahrenheit numbers don’t look any better: -33° and -52° wind chill. This is the depth of winter, the whole week is supposed to be like this.

There can be advantages to days like this.  Several years ago we were renovating our kitchen, dining room and front bathroom and the time had come to pick out new flooring. We drove into Saskatoon on a day like this and checked out the selection in four stores. In each place the parking lot was close to empty and  we had the undivided attention of the sales person. We found something we both liked, and it was on sale.

First thing every morning when I get up  I go to my office and  plug in my phone. This morning it was charging very slowly. After an hour and a half I unplugged it, took it to the kitchen and plugged it into my wife’s charge cord. In half an hour it was fully charged. Must be the electrons were flowing sluggishly in the office.

Or maybe the charger is dying. Does that mean it’s time for a new phone? The protective case I put on this phone when it was new is now missing two of its corners. Maybe that’s another sign that it’s  time to trade it in. Or maybe not. Maybe these are just idle thoughts on a frosty morning.

Even our cats have shown no interest in going outside this morning. They were out for twenty minutes yesterday afternoon and that seems to have satisfied their taste for adventure.

Nevertheless, we have reason to hope for better days. Today we have two minutes and 15 seconds more daylight than we did yesterday. Tomorrow will be two minutes and 20 seconds longer. Soon the daylight hours will be increasing by more than three minutes a day.  We know the sunshine is going to win this battle, but we will have to endure weeks of cold and snow before the glorious springtime.

Where is global warming when you need it? Some very smart people are saying that the temperature in Canada is rising twice as fast as the rest of the world. I hadn’t noticed. The first summer we were back in Saskatchewan we had a few days when the temperature reached 37° (that is body temperature in Celsius, 98.6° F). That was in 1998 and we haven’t had temperatures that hot since.

Turns out that the temperatures in Kazakhstan, Nicaragua and every other country in the world are also rising twice is fast as the average for the rest of the world. How is that possible? The rest of the world includes the oceans.

© Bob Goodnough, January 14, 2020

Why wait for spring – Do it now!

I first posted this five years ago. Readers enjoyed it, and nothing much has changed.  So here it is again.

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Image by Emilian Robert Vicol from Pixabay

A few days ago my wife and I got to talking about a catchy advertising jingle of fifty years ago that was heard incessantly at this time of year. My wife even remembered all the words and sang them. It was the theme song of a government of Canada campaign to help building trades people keep working year round.  It started with promoting the idea of homeowners doing interior renovations during the cold months, when carpenters, plumbers and electricians were readily available.

The idea of winter construction work took off from there. Nowadays the construction of new houses hardly slows down in wintertime. With the use of plastic sheeting and construction heaters it is even possible to pour concrete in sub-zero temperatures. The innovative campaign that began 50 years ago has been a resounding success, there is hardly a blip in employment for people in the construction trades during the winter months.

On another front there is still a need for some innovative thinking. It is said of Saskatchewan cities that they have the world’s most efficient snow removal system: it’s called spring.

It might have been better if my wife and I had never lived in Montreal. But we did spend four years in that city, which is reputed to receive the heaviest annual snowfall of any major city in the world. And they knew what to do when it snowed. It took an average of four days after a major snowfall to have all the snow cleaned up – major traffic routes, commercial streets, residential streets, sidewalks included. City crews and subcontractors worked in shifts around the clock; small tracked snowplows pushed snow from the sidewalks into the street, the snow in the street was plowed into a windrow down the centre of the street and then a loader would come along and blow the snow into a steady stream of trucks who hauled it to snow dumps. It was a marvel to watch the coordination and thoroughness of the job.

We had four inches of snow a week and a half ago. My wife and I were in Saskatoon four days later and the main thoroughfares had been cleaned fairly well. That was it, and the city seemed to feel they were doing a better job than in other years. Residential areas will probably not see a snowplow all winter. For most streets of the city the snow is left to be compressed by traffic into a rutted ice pack.

There was another eight inches of snow last Saturday and I have a doctor’s appointment in the city tomorrow morning. That will no doubt further my education on how to drive on icy, rutted streets.

I’m all in favour of reviving the old jingle and applying it to snow removal: Why wait for spring  – do it now!

© Bob Goodnough, December 2, 2014

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