All the time that I was trying hard to grow up in and around Ponoka I was considered as one of the ‘town boys’, but once I hit my teens and started roving around the local countryside, I really enjoyed some great adventures down on the farm. When we were finally allowed to venture out with our rustic sets of wheels into the rural districts, the main reasons for going down those bumpy gravel roads was to play ball, go to a curling bonspiel, join in on those great country dances, or in search of girls.
Knowing absolutely nothing about farming, most us of were at first quite shy about going through the big front gate, but were always made to feel quite welcome, at least upon first impression by our congenial hosts. Following are some of our favourite memories of those exciting ‘rural ramblings’, most of which we will never forget.
● As a little duffer living up at the Provincial Mental Hospital grounds we used to hike up the long road to the farm, play in the hay loft, and make a general nuisance of ourselves, but I was never very impressed with the noise and smells of hundreds of chickens, geese, pigs, and other animals.
● When we started heading out into the country we found out the hard way that the proper footwear out there on the farm was high boots, and not fancy white bucks or sandals. Phoning out into the country was a real challenge as everyone was on the party line, we had to be careful what we said, and if we stayed on to long the Hutterite Colony would tell us to hang up our horn. Just getting out to all those farms and acreages was a real challenge and we found ourselves lost or stuck many times. There were no cell phones then so we had to find a neighbour, who was usually happy to pull us out and give us instructions as long as we were polite and respectful.
● The parents of our wanna-be girl friends were always very busy out there on the farm, and to make a good impression we offered to help with the dishes and the chores out and around the yard. We offered to shovel just about anything, but not to get in the way and ask silly questions. If you got to the farm real early you might even be invited to join in on a hardy breakfast of bacon and eggs, which sure beat the boring old porridge that we usually got back home.
● Yours truly was not very good around animals, recalling that I tried only once to milk a cow, but when she turned and gave me a dirty look I fell off the stool and spilled the pail. I did finally but not very bravely agree to ride the slowest and oldest horse in the barn, but most of the time this over-zealous little chicken spent long hours riding the fence or back in the house sampling her mother’s fresh cookies.
● I was way to small (or weak) to toss bails or cut wood, but I loved to ride on the tractor, wearing an old straw hat and trying to look important. While helping to carefully gather eggs one day I was chased by a great big old goose, who managed to take a nip at my backside before I crawled under the fence. Never mind the goose, we also learned really fast that farm girls are tough, and you don’t want to twist wrists, wrestle, or make them mad. Their big brothers are also nice too, but you always had to remember to be good to their sisters.
● If you became friends with the boys on the farm you might get asked to stay overnight, but no matter how long we stayed out the night before we had to be prepared to roll out early and help with the chores. How great it was to sit around the big kitchen table or in the living room and play games and make friendly chatter with those large farm families, who loved to talk sports, politics, work, and just about any other subject, but no arguments or one-sided opinions were allowed.
● One other rule that us guys had to remember was never bring those girls home late, because if you did the yard lights were on, the dog was on the porch, and we may just have dropped out of the district popularity pecking order. Out there you need to always make time for coffee, as well as playing a family and friends game of pick up ball out in the north pasture, where the cow-pies were bases and you needed to watch for gopher holes when shagging fly balls. Community picnics were also a real treat, because there was always lots of food and friendly people as well as so many giggly girls.
● Along the way throughout those wonder lust years of our lives we got to know so many super and friendly people out there on the farm. As we became adults we would meet them all again at the traditional Town and Country Curling Bonspiel, ball games, bonspiels, dances, or special events. We happily realized so many times that the fun bunches from the country are always the first to arrive and the last to leave the party, but will also be the early birds the next morning. Get out and enjoy the Salute to Agriculture celebration, and have a great week, all of you..