This page is a text version of the Forest to Field History Book. You can purchase a PDF copy of the book in our online store. The PDF copy is an exact page by page representation of the original book. This text version has been reformated for the web and contains text recognition mistakes. These mistakes do not appear in the purchased version. The purchased version also includes each image in the original book.

Page Index of Forest to Field Volume One

Previous - Page 48 or Next - Page 50

him rich, and he gabbled on about moving to the city. His old grey hands nearly spilled my coffee when he told me how he had heard just the other day that his friend, Otto Jacobson had moved into a nursing home opened recently in Brandon. If he still had his licence, he could drive up and visit him, but now, he guessed, they would have to communicate by mail.

The old man followed me around his cluttered yard as I checked the machinery and made ready for the work that was to follow. John always insisted on seeding the first round himself, so I stood back to watch until he rounded the far bluff of poplars and was out of sight. I turned and went into his house, painfully aware of its shabbiness. They say men never notice things like that, but I did then. From the undone dishes to the overturned dog dish in the corner, the place was a mess. Yet everywhere I looked I could see a reflection of the old man. Whether it was the snoose box on the table, the yellowed pictures on the mantle, or indeed, the very bachelor smell, John could never leave this place, even if he did insist that he wished to move to one of those so-called "fancy places." The squeaking of the drill was getting louder, and I left the house to relieve John of my duty.

Several weeks later I drove past John's farm, pleased to note the green sprouts marking his land. So far, there had been no need for us to spray the field with weed killer, anyway, I doubt if he could have afforded it. The weather could have been no better than it was that year. The rapeseed grew tall and its beautiful yellow blossoms adorned the entire field. It promised to make John, if not rich, wealthier than he had been for a long time. If things worked out as they promised to, he could be moved into the city by Christmastime.

At the end of August there were weather forecasts for hail, but almost miraculously the storm passed over John's farm, hitting the fields on either side of his, but not touching a stalk of his "gold."

John's daughter appeared out of nowhere one morning to urge her father into the city. She even hinted that there was an opening in the home Otto Jacobson lived in. John nodded and agreed, all the while watching his beautiful field, now having dropped its blossoms and turning a pleasant mellow gold color.

Swathing started the next afternoon, and I worked, sweating, while John fought with his daughter and himself. I couldn't figure why, surely John had told me enough times how he wished he could live in the city, now he was fighting for his farm. Perhaps, I thought, he is getting senile in his old age. I had to smile at that.

I quit as usual at six, as I was about to go into the house I heard John bellow, bull-like at his daughter, that he would leave. Just as soon as he got enough money to support himself, without any of that "government charity" he would go. His daughter kissed him good-bye. She could leave now, she had proved her point.

John never said a word, just sighed and went up to bed. I often wonder if he even knew I was there.

It was soon harvesttime, the real rush time for a far­ mer. John was in surprisingly low spirits. A bitter wind had blown up suddenly and I found I had to wear gloves while making the minor repairs on his outdated combine. John watched for a while and made some small talk.

Then he did a very strange thing. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a dog-eared twenty dollar bill, and pressing it on me said that since he was practically rich now, he might as well spread it around a little. That was the first time he ever paid me for the work I had done.

John refused to watch, and turned his back as I drove into the field. I think he knew he would have to make good his promise to move into the city. I watched, fascinated, as the rusty monster, in my power, swallowed up those golden swaths. It was the light brushing on my cheek that woke me from my reverie. Snow! The tiny flakes were coming down faster than the combine was moving.

We had to leave the machine in the field, for that was the beginning of our longest and harshest winter on the prairies. John never got to see his "black gold," not that it was worth much after a winter under all that snow.

He died in January, never having been rich nor lived in the city. And yet, I cannot help but remember the smile on his face when he saw that snow, and how strange it looked against his tears.

BLACKSMITHS

by Lily Wilmot

Webster's dictionary defines a blacksmith as a smith, that works with iron and fits horseshoes. A smith, one who makes and repairs metal objects, a metal worker.

There are very few blacksmiths left, but in the early years, they were a very necessary part of the community. The shops were a gathering place for farmers regardless of the season. Repairs were always necessary for their equipment, and to get their horses shod.

A blacksmith shop was equipped with a Forge, an open furnace where metal was heated to soften, so it could be easily shaped. The coal fire kept blazing with either a hand crank propelling a fan, or a set of large bellows kept working by suspended pully ropes. An Anvil, an iron or steel block on which the heated iron was hammered into whatever shape needed. A large Tank of water in which the red hot object was plunged to temper the metal. The blacksmith wore heavy asbestos gauntlets and a heavy leather apron. It took many hours to fashion, hor­ seshoes, plough shares, rims for wagons and runners for sleighs. There were few things that a blacksmith could not fashion out of a piece of scrap metal.

The shoeing of horses was an art in itself. The blacksmith would fashion the shoe to fit the horses hoof. It would either be a summer shoe, or a winter shoe. The latter having sharper cleats on the bottom to keep the horse from slipping on the ice and snow. The horses would be brought in, and the Smith would lift the horses foot, place it between his legs and remove the old shoe, trim and file the hoof so that the new shoe would fit. It was then firmly secured with regular horseshoe nails.

A few farmers in the Rural Municipality of Clan­ william had their own shops on their farms, doing work

49