Growing up down on the farm in the early days

In the early days of the settlement of our town and surrounding districts everyone always faithfully pulled together to help each other.

In the early days of the settlement of our town and surrounding districts everyone always faithfully pulled together to help each other in many times of need. This classic early 1920s photo features the Town of Ponoka off in the background

In the early days of the settlement of our town and surrounding districts everyone always faithfully pulled together to help each other in many times of need. This classic early 1920s photo features the Town of Ponoka off in the background

Samuel Doran came to the Ponoka district from Marysville, Oregon in 1903 and homesteaded the N.E. 20-44-27. After living with his brother Lawrence for four years, Sam married Mabel Bates  from the Home Glen district and lived in a little log house until their spacious new home was completed in 1911.

Together they would work very hard farming and raising their cattle, got very much involved in the community, and along the way raised their family of 11, including Hazel, Walter, Edward, Francis, Patrick, Bill, Mary, Julia, Dorothy, Irene, and Joseph, who died in infancy. The children enjoyed their many adventures and chores while growing up on the farm and attending school, then looked forward to getting married, raising their own families, and beginning their new lives in the local districts and far beyond.

Bill Doran married Maureen O’Dougherty and they were blessed with a family of four while Bill enjoyed a long and successful career of teaching school and agriculture. In his retirement years, he loved to write the many delightful memories of growing up on the family farm, and we are pleased to share some of these tales with our readers in Reflections.

From the pen of Bill Doran

During the 1920s and ‘30s, I can clearly remember many Indian tribes moving through the country. In their groups of about 30,  there would probably be eight to 10 colts trying to nurse as they trotted alongside their mothers, who were doing all the pulling of the heavy loads. Along with lots of horses and dogs, there were also lots of kids.

They would often be hired by the farmers in the district to clear land, pick roots or do some stooking, and what seemed very strange to me was that the women worked as hard, if not harder than the men. I can fondly recall one group that Dad had hired to do some land clearing, they set up their tents a few hundred yards from the house, and before long they were borrowing sugar, flour, milk, and other items from our mother. The dark skinned children, particularly the babies, really attracted my attention. They were very shy for a while, and then they gradually accepted us into their play and games, but I am afraid that at first some of the settlers and farmers did not accept the presence of the Indians very well. As a young boy, I was always very intrigued by the method that the groups used to transmit messages to the other Indians. Usually by a crossroads, they would arrange twigs and branches in such a manner as to indicate the direction and distance to the next campsite. Their unique system was often referred to by many a white man as the ‘Indian telegraph’.

During those tough but exciting pioneer days, various travelling salesmen used to wander through the countryside in covered wagons dispensing their wares and buying junk, on which they might, or might not, make a profit. Many used to have meals and sometimes spend the night at our place, and one who used to avail himself of the ‘Doran hospitality’ was a red- headed Jewish traveller who had a real sense of humour. He explained the red hair to all of us by guessing that a red-headed Irishman must have gotten mixed up with his ancestors sometime in the past. Anyway, he wouldn’t eat bacon and pork, and we kids always used to wonder why not? One Wednesday morning, which was always ‘hog day’ in Ponoka, he was helping us load a bunch or market sized hogs into our old truck to ship them to market, and we were having a lot of trouble getting them into the loaded. One big bruiser finally broke away, and when that Jewish chap tried to stop him he ran right between his legs, and dumped him into the mud. As he picked himself up he looked us kids right in the eye and said, ‘Now you know why I don’t eat bacon….it’s because there’s a bit of the devil in all of those xxooxx pigs.’

A very familiar sight in the early 1930s was Mr. Carl Dimant and his team of Shetland ponies pulling an undersized two-wheeled cart. Carl was a dwarf less than four feet in height, but was very strong in the arms and shoulders. This delightful little gentleman was liked by all and welcomed by everyone, including the patrons of the local pubs, and with his very high pitched voice, was constantly chattering as well as being great source of all of the community news. His specialty was travelling through the country with his ponies and cart, offering to sharpen everyone’s scissors, saws, and other items.

When I was 15, I read in a magazine about a boy who had carried out an interesting experiment involving both crows and magpies, so I decided to duplicate it. I very carefully robbed three crow’s nests and three magpie’s nests of the eggs and placed four hens’ eggs in each. Keeping a careful record of the date, I went back exactly three weeks later to check the results and found that I hadn’t fooled the magpies as they had destroyed and ate the hen’s eggs; but those wily crows had dutifully incubated the eggs, the young chicks were healthy, and not one had yet fallen from their nests high up in the trees. In fact, at one such nest there must have been at least a 100 crows, either perched in the nearby trees or flying close by, and I assumed with joy that it must have been a case of the proud parents showing off their strange new offspring to the quickly gathering crowd.

Please watch for more stories of our colorful history from town and districts in Reflections, and if you have some information or old photos for us to share with our readers, please give the Ponoka News a call.