Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Saskatchewan

Changes in the weather

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay 

It is mid-winter in the great white north country, but yesterday morning the temperature shot up to 6°C and it rained. The rain stopped by dinner time, then the wind came up. It started snowing in the afternoon and the wind came up higher – gusts up to 100 km/hour.

We were cosy and warm in our home, even with the wind howling around us. Then the electricity went off at 9 pm. I started a fire in the wood stove, then bundled up and went out to the wood pile in our back yard to get more. I made it to where the wood pile should be. I am sure it is still there, but now it is buried under thick, hard-packed snow. I came back inside and decided there wasn’t anything else to do but go to bed.

The electricity came back on at 10:30. That means there was a SaskPower crew out there in miserable weather, working hard to take care of us. Thank you folks.

In texting with our daughter this morning I mentioned that we couldn’t open our front door. The storm door opens out and the snow was packed tight against us. It didn’t take long until our oldest grandson was here shoveling the snow away and shoveling the front walk. I could have done it myself, maybe I need to be careful what I say to his Mom. Thank you Nathan.

I’m feeling kind of pampered this morning.

The first car my mother saw

My mother, who was born in January of 1908, told me that the first automobile that she ever saw was a Gray-Dort. Her uncle bought it when Mom was still a little girl and it was a sensation in their little community in south-western Saskatchewan.. I don’t know what colour or model her uncle’s car was, but it would have looked something like the picture below.

Gray-Dort Motors of Chatham, Ontario produced 20,000 automobiles from 1915 to 1925. The company was a successor to the William Gray & Sons carriage company which was founded in 1855.

Dreams and happiness

Let me ask you a question — if you achieve the thing you are dreaming of, will you be happy?

Tom Sukanen came to Saskatchewan from Finland as a young man with immense strength and talent. He was a friend to all. He helped neighbours build their homes, work their land, repair their machinery, thresh their crops.

Through tragic circumstances he lost his family. He withdrew from his neighbours and began building a small ship that he would float up the Saskatchewan River to Hudson Bay and return to Finland. He built every part of the ship himself. He knew his business, he had charts of the river system, he knew the seas – it would have worked.

Tom Sukanen’s ship, now in a museum south of Moose Jaw

The drought of the 1930’s intervened. Tom Sukanen almost starved to death, and died a broken man in 1943 at the age of 65.

Would he have been happy if he had managed to return to Finland and receive a hero’s welcome for his accomplishment?

Or did he experience true happiness when he was helping his neighbours, only to turn his back on that to follow his dream?

We all need to follow a dream. But if it is a selfish dream, we will not find happiness at the end. Let our dream rather be of helping others find happiness. Then genuine happiness will sneak up and surprise us.

He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he. Proverbs 14:21.

Good news, somewhat disguised

1918, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. People began dying from the Spanish Flu in the first week of October. Sick soldiers returning from the European front were housed at the Moose Jaw Armoury and the disease spread from there.

The Moose Jaw and District Medical Officer, Dr. Turnbull, ordered all gathering places closed until further notice. That included schools, places of worship, pool halls and so on. He asked for volunteers to work with the sick and for people to wear masks and not gather. The military district sent soldiers home directly and stopped housing them at the armoury. Their discharge papers would be mailed to them. Dr. Turnbull converted Prince Arthur School and the hotel on the South Hill into hospitals.

When the war ended in the second week of November, thousands of people thronged the streets in celebration. Dr. Turnbull feared a renewed outbreak of Flu , but it didn’t happen. The five weeks of closure got Moose Jaw through the worst of the outbreak. It wasn’t over, but the rapid spread had been stopped, infection and death numbers were lower. Dr. Turnbull re-opened schools, pool halls, places of worship, gathering places and closed one ‘relief’ hospital.

2020, France. A month ago, in the face of an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases, the government decreed a strict shutdown. At first the number of cases and deaths continued to increase. But during the past week the number of infections and deaths have decreased every day. President Macron has now announced a gradual relaxation of the confinement rules, beginning this week.

Meanwhile, back here in Saskatchewan, COVID cases continue to rise and the government says that new restrictions will be announced today. That should be good news, shouldn’t it?

Image by Please support me! Thank you! from Pixabay 

Shelley didn’t live in Saskatchewan

Image by Richard Duijnstee from Pixabay 

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

That line comes from Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley. This morning, here in Saskatchewan, spring seems far away. It’ll be five months until this snow is gone.

STATISTICS DON’T LIE

BUT HARDLY ANYONE UNDERSTANDS WHAT THEY SAY

Public opinion polls are not infallible. At best they give a snapshot of what people are thinking at the moment the polling agency spoke to them. At worst, the snapshot is poorly focussed and the results unreliable. Polling results are presented as being accurate within a certain range (±1.5% is about as good as it gets), 19 times our of 20. It is always possible that this poll is the one time out of twenty the sample was not representative and therefore the results are not to be trusted.

A provincial election took place here in Saskatchewan on Monday. A month ago, shortly after the election was called, a public opinion poll reported that support for the incumbent party was 27% higher than support for the main opposition party. Shortly before the election two other polls showed a difference of 18%, leading the opposition party to rejoice that it was on the verge of major gains. Now that the votes are in and counted we see that the incumbent party received 31% more votes than the opposition party (62% for the party in power, 31% for the main opposition party, the remainder split between an assortment of small parties).

What happened? I can’t answer for this particular case, but a lot of things can go wrong in gathering and interpreting statistics. For the results to be trustworthy one needs a sample that is representative and random and questions carefully designed to obtain a clear answer. The results need to be intelligently explained, something most media outlets don’t have the expertise to do.

There is a group of major polling companies in Canada whose results are generally reliable. They are Ipsos-Reid, Léger, Environics, EKOS and perhaps one or two others. The first Saskatchewan poll was produced by one of these companies. The two later polls were produced by smaller companies that do not have a history of producing remarkably reliable results. The stated confidence levels for these polls was ±3.9% and ±4.4%. Even with that generous margin of error, their predictions were far off the mark.

During a Saskatchewan election campaign 20 years ago, results of an opinion poll weree widely reported in the media shortly before the election. It was a poorly executed and poorly interpreted poll, but I believe it influenced the election results. One major flaw was that the results showed something like 35% of voters were undecided. This was compounded when those interpreting the results ignored that number, assuming that those people weren’t going to vote. This resulted in a definite edge for one party. But when you subtract a vary large group of respondents from the results, the margin of error balloons from ±1.5% to some stratospheric number.

That poll was an amateur effort by a small consulting company and should never have been published. In publishing those results the newspapers were showing that either they didn’t have a clue what they were doing, or they were deliberately interpreting the results to favour one party. Take your choice, I don’t know which it was.

Seldom Seen Saskatchewan fauna

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Image by Bernell MacDonald from Pixabay

I have hardly ever seen a live porcupine. They are nocturnal, reclusive and prefer wooded areas. We know they are around by the steady stream of dogs brought to veterinary clinics with their snouts full of quills. We occasionally see a porcupine lying by the side of the road, a result of trying to cross the road in the dark. They move slowly and wear no reflective gear. They never run from predators, their quills being an effective deterrent. Automobiles, however, do not know that and dogs appear to be slow learners.

The northern pocket gopher spends most of its life underground in its network of tunnels. We do not have moles in Saskatchewan, the mounds of soil that appear in fields, gardens and lawns are the work of this little guy. The underground activity of the northern pocket gopher provides ecological benefits to the soil, but at great inconvenience to farmers and homeowners. We only know of their presence by seeing fresh mounds of soil appear in our fields, gardens and lawns. And by the occasional one that falls victim to our nocturnal cats.

It took twelve years

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The photo is from Shutterstock, not from our garden, but we finally have a rhubarb plant worthy of the name.

We moved onto this yard in the fall of 2007. The house had been placed here a few years earlier and trees planted around it — poplar, caragana, lilac, Manitoba maple — the kind of trees that grow quickly and survive in our cold winters and dry summers. But there was no rhubarb, and a place can’t be called a home without a rhubarb plant or two in the backyard.

The next spring I bought a rhubarb plant at the Canadian Tire garden centre. I planted it in a back corner of the garden. It grew — but so did the trees. That poor rhubarb plant did it’s best, coming up every spring and trying to survive, but never amounted to much.  The trees shaded it and their roots sucked up the available moisture.

Last fall we prepared a new spot for it, in an open area far from the trees. I dug deep so as to get all the root and we transplanted it. This spring it rewarded us with prolific growth. This is what it had been waiting for all along.

Today we had rhubarb crisp for dinner dessert, and was it ever good! I’m not sure what variety this plant is, but it is the least astringent-tasting rhubarb that I have ever eaten. I wonder if I can find a second plant, so we can eat rhubarb all summer long in coming years?

Listen to the falling rain

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Image by Benjamin Nelan from Pixabay

In the nineteenth century an expedition was sent to survey the Canadian prairies to determine its suitability for agriculture. They reported that a large part of the prairies were far too arid to be farmed. That area is still known as the Palliser Triangle, after the leader of that expedition.

The Triangle has now been farmed for 100 years. In the 1930’s it seemed that the Palliser expedition was right. The rains all but ceased, nothing grew and the dust began to blow.
Farming methods have changed since then and this land produces good harvests in all but the driest years.

This year has been dry. The grain has germinated and is growing, but rain is needed. We had good rains here where I live ten days ago, but other areas received little or nothing. Days of heat and drying wind have depleted the moisture in the soil.

A light rain began at supper time and increased as the evening went on. The forecast says it will continue until dinner time tomorrow. This is what we call showers of blessing! Soon the growing crops will cover the soil and limit evaporation.

Here is a test for Christians: Do we rejoice when others get rain and we don’t?

Jesus said: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

God is not a respecter of persons, and he does not want us to be either.

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.”

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