Clearing the Land

My Uncle Fred (Dad F) sold his farm back about 1958. This was the original home place, the farm he’d inherited from his father, Thomas Forsyth. He did, however, retain one quarter section —160 acres — a couple of miles south of the farm; this was rented to neighbours as pasture.

After Bob and I were married, I longed to make a “sentimental journey” back to Pathlow, where I spent the first four years of my life and visited many times after. Dad mentioned this land he still owned so we made a stop there to have a look around.

We parked our car by the side of the road, got out and looked around. Tall grass grew in a small area — this would be where the renter pastured his cattle — but most of the quarter was covered with native poplar bush. A spindly tree every meter.

We’d driven up on gravel roads, past miles of fertile fields, but my mind went back to the original settlers, who’d maybe got off the train at Melfort, seventeen miles NE, to outfit themselves and begin the search for their land claim. For those who came later a road of sorts had been made through the bush, but the first homesteaders would have wandered in the woods or followed creek banks until they came to the part that matched the land description in their hands.

And there they stood. Maybe with a backpack containing some food and another sack holding their tiny tent and a blanket. Likely they’d bought an axe, hanging from their belt. Now go for it. Start chopping, clear this land, build a farm.

Back around 1908 Thomas Forsyth, born in Glasgow, Scotland and a coal miner heretofore, carved his farm out of bush just like this. He called it Hillside Farm because the house and buildings were built on a rolling upward slope. My great-grand and grandfather Vance would have faced a similar situation when they arrived at Spy Hill, SK. A few farms had been wrested from the bush, but most of the land was forest, except where creeks meandered through it.

Thankfully clearing the land wasn’t the daunting prospect our forefathers faced when they landed in Oxford County. Our grandfather Allen didn’t face chopping down maple trees a meter thick such as great-grandfather Sam felled when he moved up to the Listowell area. Old timers in Ontario talked of a time when you could travel the trail from Kitchener to Sarnia without ever seeing the sun because there was such a dense canopy of spreading maple branches overhead. Can you imagine launching into those woods with an axe?

Today we see fields of waving grain all over Saskatchewan — because those who came first were willing to start swinging that axe.

Originally posted on the Vance-Turner Connect blog – March 2014

Amateur Poet

by Robert W Service

You see that sheaf of slender books
Upon the topmost shelf,
At which no browser ever looks,
Because they’re by . . . myself;
They’re neatly bound in navy blue,
But no one ever heeds;
Their print is clear and candid too,
Yet no one ever reads.

Poor wistful books! How much they cost
To me in time and gold!
I count them now as labour lost,
For none I ever sold;
No copy could I give away,
For all my friends would shrink,
And look at me as if to say:
“What waste of printer’s ink!”

And as I gaze at them on high,
Although my eyes are sad,
I cannot help but breathe a sigh
To think what joy I had –
What ecstasy as I would seek
To make my rhyme come right,
And find at last the phrase unique
Flash fulgent in my sight.

Maybe that rapture was my gain
Far more than cheap success;
So I’ll forget my striving vain,
And blot out bitterness.
Oh records of my radiant youth,
No broken heart I’ll rue,
For all my best of love and truth
Is there, alive in you

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oh, how wonderful that we now have the internet
where we can share our poems with the world
and it doesn’t cost us a mint!

Of Flowers and Weeds

I was working in the garden one day when I started to feel blue. I didn’t know why life suddenly felt so overwhelmingly sad, but I prayed that the Lord would help me deal with this feeling. I know it’s not His will that we spend time wandering in a blue fog, thinking how sad life is.

Awhile later when I was walking to the corner store my neighbour came out to intercept me and asked how my garden was doing. He was a retired widower who enjoyed visiting with anyone, and though I doubt he was much for going to church, he did have a reverence for God and his creation.

After we’d chatted a bit he made this comment: “I was weeding in my flowerbeds and wondering why there have to be weeds. I came to the conclusion that the Lord made weeds so we would appreciate the flowers more.”

His thought was like a little light that pierced through my dark mood. I am too much inclined to see all the weeds in life and miss seeing the flowers. In fact, too many times I don’t even believe there are any flowers!

Through my neighbour’s words the Lord was able to nudge me and remind me that there is hope, there are flowers, there are many things to be thankful for. Life isn’t all bad and days aren’t all blue. And maybe these blue feelings help me appreciate the joys more when they come.

I whispered a little prayer of thanks as I continued on my way to the store. He had given me what I needed and through this I could feel again His love for me. So many precious little jewels the Lord scatters on our pathway every day because he truly cares for us and wants us to enjoy the beauties He has created.

“Blessed be the Lord, because He hath heard the voice of my supplications. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: Therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise Him.”
Psalm 28:6-7

“What’s A Miracle?”

Years back a young minister would make the rounds of his parish at random. Being a bachelor himself, he never gave much thought to the time of routines in other homes. He seemed quite unaware of what time most people ate their dinner and that sort of thing. Consequently he was very apt to knock on a parishioner’s door not long before the family was ready to sit down to a meal.

One day he arrived at one family’s home not long before dinner and was invited to sit in the parlor until the man of the house finished up a few chores. Then he was welcome to  join them for the meal if he wished. While he sat there, the couple’s small son came in. After shaking hands and saying a polite the lad looked up at the minister and asked, “Sir, can you tell me what’s a miracle?”

The Minister tried to come up with a simple enough explanation that the lad could understand. Then he asked, “Why are you wondering about miracles?”

“Because when Mom saw you coming up the walk she told Dad, ‘Here comes the minister and it will be a miracle if he doesn’t stay for supper.’ ”

As Grandma used to say: “Little pitchers have big ears.”

Diners on My Driveway

Mourning doves, prim and proper,
strut along, poke among the pebbles
for windblown seeds.
Their muffled cooing
mellows the morning air
while a jaunty flicker nearby
jack-hammers ant homes.

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May Doings at Our Place

The tree swallows have been back for several weeks and are busy building their nests now. One pair has found our bathroom exhaust fan vent to their liking again so we’re hearing tiny scratching noises in the cavity. A few mourning doves have returned and I think I’ve seen some wrens in the last couple of days, as well as different warblers and the first goldfinches.

A couple of days ago a small flock of thrushes landed in our yard and have been foraging in our garden and on the driveway ever since. There are three kinds of thrush that come through here: hermit thrush; Swainson’s  thrush; gray-cheeked thrush. These are either Hermit thrush or Swainson’s, but it’s pretty hard to tell from pics in bird books.

They are still scattered around the yard this morning. Such cute birds with their pudgy white tummies, speckled at the throats, white eye rings. They won’t stay around; their nesting grounds are in the pine forests farther north, but I enjoy seeing them passing through every spring and fall.

It’s YOUR Face

Photo prompt © Roger Bultot

Time for another Friday Fictioneers tale. This group is hosted by the kindly and ever-smiling Rochelle Wisoff-Fields over at Addicted to Purple. As usual she’s presented us with a picture that should unleash our creative energy — and then it’s cut, cut, cut. A most valuable exercise for learning concision. If you wish to participate, check her blog for details. Everyone is welcome to submit a story.

A special thanks goes to Roger Bultot for supplying us with this photo. Since it’s his photo, lent to the group specifically for this week’s prompt, it must not be “borrowed” by anyone for any other purpose without asking permission.

My mind bounced around on this prompt and finally came up with the following 100-word tale:

It’s Your Face

There she is, conceited, backstabbing brat. Hanging out with my former friends. Probably flirting with that server like she does with all the guys in the office. She makes my blood boil!

I feel a hand on my shoulder. “Too much lemon in the drink today,” Mike from accounts-receivable asks.

I nod toward the giggling trio. “If you only knew!”

“I do know… some at least. Yeah, she’s annoying, but let it go. It’s disfiguring your face.”

I hear her laugh and grit my teeth. “She’s so fake!”

Mike shrugs. “It’s your face,” he says as he turns away.

My Friends 

If you ever wonder what to say to someone who’s grieving, this post is a must-read. While it specifically addresses the death of a child, I think the wisdom here is useful for anyone who’s lost a loved one.

kathleenbduncan

I have friends who have had miscarriages.

I have friends who have had stillbirths.

I have friends who lost a baby to SIDS.

I have friends whose child drowned.

I have friends whose child died from cancer.

I have friends whose child died in a tornado.

I have friends whose child died from suicide.

I have friends whose child was murdered.

I have friends whose child died in a motorcycle wreck.

I have friends whose child died after a skateboard accident.

I have friends whose child died in a freak accident.

I have friends whose child died from heart disease or asthma or diabetes.

I have friends whose child died from drug overdose.

I have friends whose child died in a car wreck.

None of them like to take about the details of their child’s death.

They all love to speak of how their child lived.

When you meet a…

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