Category Archives: Prairie Childhood

Eggs and Grease

May 1942: It’s spring, and my university year is over. I’m heading for my Calgary home. From there it’s out to the farm, where I was born and raised. I love that place, the land, the life, the beauty of the prairies.

I feel very adult. Dad’s having trouble getting help this year, so I volunteered. My help can’t be described as skilled, either in housekeeping or as a tractor driver, but it’s better than no help. This year he needs someone to drive the tractor, while he sits on the machinery being pulled, and operates it.

This is a wonderful summer job and I’ll remember it forever. Things are different now. Both Mom and Dad are treating me more like a grown-up.   Continue reading


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Remember Those Good Old Days

Someone at our table was wistfully longing for “the good old days.” Memories flooded back when I heard her. Nostalgic memories . . .

When I could walk down the streets of our small city, speak to many I knew, and nod to the others;

When the policeman was a friend who lived on our street;

When Saturday matinees were fifteen cents, and I could sit through it twice;

When my parents never let me skip church, and I must always wear a hat;

When I had one good outfit, which did for every important occasion;

When life was good, and I felt safe;

When I believed my parents could handle anything. They always did!   Continue reading


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Beloved Animals Who Have Shared My Life: A Sequel

This is an encore presentation of a blog on another beloved animal –
not a sheep this time, but a chicken.

Spring was here. The farm hummed with new life including newly hatched chicks. Dad arrived at the back door cradling a little chick, about three days old. The mother hen had hidden her nest, and the brood was just discovered. “He’s damaged,” said Dad, “He drags one wing. I’ll have to destroy him but I feel badly, the little guy is so game!”

The chick looked up at us and chirped and, of course, the battle was won. A pen was built in the house yard, hand feeding and cuddling by all of us—talk about bonding! Dad still worried, saying, “This won’t work. Chickens don’t accept anything that is different.” – but we did not want to listen.   Continue reading


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Beloved Animals Who Have Shared My Life

Humans and animals have had relationships for a very long time, about 19,000 years. What pulls us together? What makes it binding? Something mutually beneficial must be happening. I count myself blessed that I have experienced some enriching cross-species relationships.

What holds these relationships together? At least part of the answer is the development of emotional ties between the two species representatives. In their own way, each participant finds many benefits—companionship, affection, excitement, comfort—and all are binding factors. With love I think of my beloved animal friends, starting with a sheep.

“A sheep?” I hear someone exclaim.

“Yes, a sheep. Let me introduce you to . . . Peggy, the only sheep I ever knew.”    Continue reading


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“Eat your porridge, Marjie.
Daddy does, Mommy does
you need it too!”

“Eat your porridge, Marjie.
Teens are so active, so busy
you’ll need good food to stay well.”

“Eat your porridge.” The refrain rings
in my ears.
The microwave is fast, still time to walk
to work along the river path, so beautiful right now.

“Eat your porridge.” Now I’m the one
throwing out the old refrain.
My children, they must learn. Many of the simplest habits
pay great dividends through the rest of life.

“Eat your porridge.” It is part of the rhythm
of my life. Around our breakfast table, I join my friends.
A different group of souls, we share one trait,
we all are old. Life is lived and enjoyed from a different view.
We appreciate –

Porridge – served with coffee, laughter, and toast.
Porridge – dished up with world events and doctors’ appointments.
Porridge – with grave concern for friends ill or suffering, mixed with cheers for the birth of someone’s great-grandchild!
Porridge – accompanied with “Pass the salt, please” and “Who’s heard the weather forecast?”

Porridge – a lifetime – and still with joy I hear
a loving voice calling:
“Eat your porridge, Marjie.
Daddy does, Mommy does,
you need it too!”


Filed under Poetry, Prairie Childhood

Spring For a Prairie Child

The sun’s rays are pouring down.  Warm breezes blow against my face, tossing my hair into my eyes.  I run down to the east corner of the house, and look out across the prairies.

The winter has been long, the snow piled high.  None left now, well, almost none.  A few traces remain under the dense lilac bush which guards that house corner.  Spring is here, it really is.  A meadowlark sits on a fence post singing its heart out.  The smells, the sounds, the sights – I am so happy.     Continue reading


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Memory’s Mysterious Meanderings

The annual physical is almost finished.  The last test is to determine the mobility of my aged knees.  Hand on ankle, the other holding my foot, up and down he raises and lowers the right leg.  There is only a trace of creaking in the knee.

“Good.  Now for the left knee.”

He reaches gently, takes my foot, and then the left ankle.  He is about to lift my foot when I wince and call out, “Careful.  Watch the hole there.  It’s very sensitive.”

The startled doctor lifts his hand and peers at my left ankle.

“Good Heavens!  What happened here?”    Continue reading


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A Penny for Your Thoughts

Summer has arrived, 1935, and it is hot.  Nothing is stirring.  The birds, the crickets and even the mosquitoes are waiting for the sun to set, but Doris and I are not so smart!  Daddy told us there were too many gophers near the house.  They are raiding our garden, and for animals and people their holes are a hazard.  So here we are, Doris and I, 14 and 13 respectively, and hot and bored.

“We have to snare the gophers,” said Doris.

“Why not drown them out as we did in that other bad spot?” I asked.

“You know, Marjie – our water supply is low.  At least we will each get our penny a tail from Daddy, and that does buy a lot of penny candy.”

Snaring is slow work, especially when gophers are running around squeaking alarms.  However we both set up at a hole, and wait and wish for shade.    Continue reading


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They Did WHAT?

Such a hot day!  June will be over soon.  I can hardly believe I’m 14 and Doris 15.  Teenagers and school janitors, too – we are almost grown up.

Our ponies, Grace and Daisy, are just plodding along.  Their barn at school was very warm, and now there is very little breeze to cool us.  Even the mosquitoes and horseflies aren’t buzzing around.  People must be staying home; not one car has passed us on the road.  I call to Doris, who is ahead of me.

“Doris, can you make Daisy move faster?  Please try, and then Grace will keep up.”

Doris gives Daisy a little kick, and for a few feet she trots, but then goes back to walking.  Finally we are at the corner where we turn and start up the slope of the small hill on the side road which runs by our house.  Only a quarter of a mile from home now.  This is where the ponies usually become anxious to get home and are happy to run … but not today.  I say, “Nothing is going to make Grace and Daisy hurry today.”

Doris laughs and says, “Today we could ride them backwards and they wouldn’t care!”

The idea is so ridiculous that I reply, “Let’s try it and see!”

Grace and Daisy have been our mounts for eight years.  We know them as well as they know us.  Still, in a few minutes our bizarre behaviour thoroughly confuses and alarms them.

It turns out to be more difficult than we had expected to reverse our positions on the horses, without dismounting.  There is much twisting, sliding, slipping and balancing precariously as we struggle to turn around and face backwards.  Of course we giggle, laugh, and shout as one or other of us comes close to biting the dust and then recovers.  The horses are beginning to snort and toss their heads, but we scarcely notice.  Finally we are both facing backwards.  How odd and strange it seems.

Our knees are now pressing into the horses’ flanks, our heel into their ribs –neither areas where the ponies expect pressure.  We sit there, looking out over the horses’ rumps and laughing.  It is apparent that we have to dismount and then remount in order to finish the short distance up the hill and into our yard.  As we try to figure out how to dismount from the position in which we are sitting, our movements prove to be the final straw for our ponies.  They become thoroughly spooked, jump around, and then break into a fast gallop heading for the farm.  Doris and I have no choice but to fling ourselves down on the horses’ backs.  We reach out and dig our fingers into the top of the tails, and cling like leaches on a slippery swimmers’ back.

Finally, Grace and Daisy swing from the road into our farmyard.  They roar up to the fence around the house yard and stop dead.  Doris and I shoot out over our horses’ rear ends and onto the gravelled road of the farmyard.  We lie there for a moment, the wind knocked out of us, then slowly get to our feet.

Mother rushes up, pale and shaken and (almost!) speechless.

“What do you think you were doing?” she cries – and our answers are pathetically unsatisfactory.

“Don’t you realize that you could have been killed?” is the next question, and we have to admit we had never entertained the thought that any danger was involved.

As we move inside, we hear only too clearly about the danger that Mother saw.  Glancing out the kitchen window, she had seen our two ponies coming over the top of the rise, running wildly.

“I thought they had no riders!” she said, the fear still strong in her voice.

Her horrified realization that we were lying flat on the horses’ backs, facing backwards, had impelled her into the farmyard—and it was likely her presence that had stopped Grace and Daisy in their tracks.

Later, as we are in the kitchen having our scrapes washed, cleaned and disinfected Dad arrives home.  Mom goes outside to meet him and break the news.  We hear him, almost shouting, say, “They were doing WHAT?”

We two culprits have a sudden urge to laugh.  This we quickly suppress and instead gather our wits to prepare for the tongue lashing which is about to be delivered.

It is 76 years since that afternoon and I still shake my head when I remember it.  I wonder how two experienced horsewomen with reasonably good sense could have pulled off such a senseless and dangerous prank.

Parents who have lived through raising teenagers could likely substitute their own memories of thoughtless and reckless activities which their children survived.  The questions asked, by many generations, are similar:

“Why, during the teen years, do young people seem to lack risk-evaluation skills?”

“Why are young people drawn to dangerous activities?”

“Why do the higher mortality rates for these years not act as a deterrent?”

“What is the force that pushes youth toward risky ventures?”

In the last several decades much research has been done by sound and qualified scientific organizations to study these questions.  There are many theories, and no solid answers.  One group supports an evolutionary theory – that between the protected childhood and the older adults with their family responsibilities, evolution favours young emerging adults who will take risks, and so tackle risky ventures.  The ventures which are successful may favour the advancement of the species.  Other researchers reject this theory completely.  The research and the debates continue.

So it is that parents today, like those through the ages, are still tasked with the job of trying to guide their young folks through those marvelous but perilous years when everything seems possible, and the young believe they are immune to all danger.  May we be wise to guide, quick to celebrate their courage and their successes, and strong enough to bear the price which sometimes must be paid.


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The Lonesome Price of Power

Summer has definitely arrived.  School is out, the crops are planted, the days are warm, long and free!  Doris and I are poking around our favorite coulee – across the road from our farm home.  Small, it has no permanent creek, but there is a catch-basin slough at the south end.  It collects run-off water, grows reeds and is home to many interesting things: red-winged black birds, meadowlarks, dragonflies and butterflies.  To my delight, water in the slough also means my “creepy-crawlies” of all sorts show up.  I spend much happy energy catching some tiny toads that appear when the slough is high, and deposit them in my overall pocket for the ride up the hill to our home.

It is nearing noon and Doris says, “Mommy will be ringing the lunch-bell soon.  Marjie – you’d better collect your things and we’ll head off.”

Just then, out of the corner of my eye I see it – a snake!  A wee, little, young garter snake.  I shout in glee and the chase is on.  Most times the snakes win races like this, but today I am the victor.  Into my empty pocket it goes.  Who knows, it might consider the passengers in my other pocket as lunch!  I brush the dirt off my knees and hurry after my sister.    Continue reading


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