Sunday, March 24, 2013

Born early enough

Branching out on the family tree
Can you find the nut in the family tree?
I was born early enough in the century (1941) to remember what it’s like to sit in the front seat of a buggy and watch the wheels twirling up dust in the tracks of a dirt road. If I close my eyes I can still smell horse, and the sensation of pulling a hair from the horse’s tail off my lips. Phew!

I was born early enough in the century to remember what a classroom smells like on the first of September when all the excruciating delight of July and August with no-Math-to-be-done had worn off and the newness of fresh things to read, sharpened pencils and notebooks still crisp waiting to be written-in, beckoning like sirens.   

I was born early enough in the century to have felt the joy of sunlight flickering through spinning poplar leaves, and to have heard the soft moan of a warm and wandering wind in the treetops. To have dreamt the future there under the boughs, a future that beckoned from east, west, north and south like barkers at an Exhibition.

And the dairy barn, the shuffling, munching sounds of Holsteins feeding in their stanchions, the impertinent braying of hungry calves and the snort and stamp of impatient horses in wood-floored stalls. The mixed smell of fresh horse, cow and calf manure, pungent in the frosty air billowing in from the door.

I was born early enough in the century to know the politics of family working the land together, tilling the summer fallow, taking turns cleaning seed grain in a dusty granary, feeling the chafe of oat dust under the collar and marvelling at the stream of grain from the auger at harvest time. Shovelling the heap in the bin, bent over under the roof rafters, the wheat dust piercing my nose like needles, shoulders screaming for a break.  

And evenings, yes. The work done, the reluctance to sleep, the urge to stretch the plum part of the day with a book, with a game of whist, with Wilf Carter on the radio. I marvelled how mother’s hands could keep the tatting shuttle flying back and forth so quickly, so persistently, and how father would snore at the radio, asleep, waiting for Earl Cameron to announce the world from pole to pole at 8:00 p.m. C.S.T. And the weather forecast, of course; will it finally rain?

Of such are the occasional thoughts of one born early enough in the century.

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