Thursday, September 16, 2010


What can three teenage farm boys do for entertainment?That’s before they started dating.Well they could borrow their dad’s cars and go to town for the Saturday night picture show.They could go bike riding or horseback riding.They could go fishing in the spring of the year.They could go shooting groundhogs with their 22 rifles,or just do target practice hitting tin cans set up in a row.In the fall of the year when the goldenrod was in bright colour,they could spend a couple of hours having sword fights.
            Here is how it worked.Across the road from our farm was a hundred acre pasture field.I had never seen the field ploughed up.Maybe fifty cattle pastured on it all summer.A ditch ran through it  and there was lots of water for the cattle to drink.Near the back of the farm a long way from the road were mounds of earth where a cabin had once been.A dug well was in the midst of a poplar grove that had grown up around it,wild lilac bushes flourished too.There was an old abandoned orchard here also.There was an old tree of Tomman Sweets,an Astrican and a shiny red apple but the tree I remember best was the old spy apple tree.Its trunk had been hit by lighting and split.The winds and storms had knocked the tree over years ago and half the tree was dead but one large branch which rested on the ground had shot up new growth getting its sap from the old twisted split trunk.Every year this branch grew the best and most delicious red northern spy apples.We would always wait for a good frost then make sure we walked back to this tree to stuff our pockets with the best eating apple you could ever imagine.We would take enough home to get an apple pie made too.
            Anyway this field was just covered with clumps of beautiful yellow goldenrod.They would grow three to four feet high on stiff woody stems.We boys would pick 8 to 10 stalks and make a bouquet of flowers,then start using them as swords to slash and poke ,and whack each other over the wrists,body and face if you didn’t duck or get out of the way.By the time the game was finished we had some red marks and welts on our arms and wrists and sides.
            Such was the entertainment for some farm boys on a lazy sunny fall afternoon. Goldenrod season brings back these memories.


Monday, September 6, 2010


I had a cousin who lived on a farm four miles from us across the highway and by the river.Sometimes she would ride her horse to our farm and we would go horseback riding. Her horse was a beautiful Palomino.It had white legs,white mane and tail and was a very high stepper.She called it Eldorado.Doris was a good rider and taught her horse tricks.She would ask him how old he was and he would paw the ground.Eldorado would also shake his head,turn around in a circle and stop on a dime.Doris would stand up on his back on bare feet while the horse cantered around in a circle.She fell off once and broke her collar bone.

Eldorado would often lead the parade on the First of July.Doris would spend time washing and brushing and combing his mane and tail till the horse shone.The western saddle was finely carved and the silver on the stirrups and bridle sparkled.Doris made a striking figure sitting tall and slim in the saddle dressed in her cow-girl outfit her curly black hair sticking out from under her stetson and her riding boots gleaming.Eldorado knew he was on show and high stepped and pranced in the front of the parade.

Eldorado lived a life of ease on the farm for many years.He was always out if the front field grazing in the tall grass or standing contentedly in the shade under the tree.He lived for 31 years.That seems to be a long time ago now but I always think of him when I go to Fall Fairs and see pretty Palomino horses.


We had a number of horses on the farm when I was a boy.Most were work horses but we had one thoroughbred,a road horse and a great riding horse.We called him Prince.He had a shiny brown coat and there was a white star on his forehead.I was riding horses when I was five but it was years before I was allowed to ride Prince.Then I had to be able to stay on his back riding bareback before dad would let me ride him with a saddle.This was our favourite horse to ride for getting the cows each night and bringing them to the barn for milking.Prince could even sidle up to a gate so that we could open it off his back,then he would side step with the gate until it was fully open.Then after the cows had gone through we could close the gate again off horseback.Prince liked to run and gallop,you would be going so fast it even made your eyes water.He had one bad habit.He always seemed to think when you turned him around that it was time to go back to the barn.He would take off at top speed and you had to duck your head as you went quickly through the stable door.

We had five horse stalls in our barn and one box stall.The horse stable was the first part of the barn you entered,then you went through to the cow stable.I will try to tell you the names of the horses we had and a little about them.

Barny and Dobbin were two work horses dad brought back from Saskatchewan when they came back to Ontario in 1930.At age 24 he had married mom and they had gone west to start farming on a quarter section of land.They stayed for six years.All the work out there was done by horses and it sounded exciting to me to hear them tell of driving four and six horse teams.The stories of the dirty 30’s and the hardships trying to make a living on a farm in Saskatchewan showed that mom and dad were always glad they had made the decision to return to Ontario.Of course farming in the depression years no one was making any money.They told stories of selling hogs after raising them from little piglets and feeding them until they were market weight for only five dollars a piece.Dad loaded his horses and farm machinery onto the train and had them shipped to Ontario.In 1932 he bought his father’s farm.

Dobbin was a black Percheron and a very gentle horse.He was good with children.It was hard to get up on his back.I remember climbing into his manger,walking across the top of it,getting a good hold of his mane,then pulling myself up on his back.Some times we had rope reins and sometimes we had leather reins.We stood on the manger too to put the bridle on the horse.Often we would lead the horse by the reins out the stable door and close up to a rail fence and jump from the top rail onto the horse’s back.

Barny was a brown Percheron but he was bigger than Dobbin.He was always used on the stone boat to clean the manure out from behind the cows and pull it to the manure pile.Dobbin and Barny made a good team and they worked well together a lot.They pulled the hay wagon and they pulled the mower to cut the hay.They lived to a good old age.Dobbin was over 30 when he died.He always reminded me of the horse in Black Beauty.

Floss was another Belgian mare we had. She was a big black horse with a very broad back and your legs stuck away out to the sides when you rode her.She was gentle and walked with a limp.I used to ride on her back when she was hooked to the scuffler and mother and I would scuffle the garden. Floss had a colt we called Pixie.She was a pretty black mare and full of life.She wanted her own way too.When she was a two year old and we were breaking her and training her to drive on the bob sleigh in the winter time,the milk truck came up behind us on the road and scared her.The team took off running and one of the reins broke.The horses got away on us and ran for half a mile down the road.Ever after that Pixie would try to run on us when a car or truck came up behind us.Pixie made a good saddle horse and we had lots of great rides on her.As I said she wanted her own way, sometimes she refused to do what she was told.One time we were pulling a load of hay through the ditch,she stopped in the middle and wouldn’t move.We had to unhitch the team and hook another team onto the wagon to pull the load out of the water. Dad got tired of Pixie’s balkyness and decided he was going to sell her.He traded her on a new one-way disc or plough.She was put in a field by a train track.One day when the train came by and blew its whistle Pixie jumped the fence and ran three miles down the track in front of the train.That was the last we heard about Pixie.

Molly was another work horse we had, a Clydesdale I think ,but not a very big one.She was brown and white a sort of roan colour.Molly was the horse we used most in the winter to take us to school.I would usually ride on the horse’s back and my sister and the neighbour’s daughter rode on a large handsleigh which was hooked onto the thirty foot rope tugs attached to Molly’s harness.We filled a sack full of hay and placed it on the sleigh and the girls sat on top of the sack.When we got to our rural one room school two miles away we put the horse in the neighbour’s barn and put the hay in the manger.The other children always wanted a ride on our sleigh.

Molly raised a colt for us.We called her Bonnie she was a big brown gentle mare.Molly and Bonnie made a good team on the hay wagon,the side rake,and the harvest wagons.

The last horse we had in the 1960’s we called Ruth.She was a big heavy Clydesdale,brown in colour with a lovely long mane.She was the biggest and tallest horse we ever had and the only horse we had at that time.We didn’t have much work for her to do either.She would clean out the stables with the stone boat. At Christmas time I would put bells on her,fill the stone boat up with clean fresh straw and give all the children on our rural line living near us a ride behind the horse with the sleigh bells ringing.

Such are the memories of the horses on our farm when I was growing up.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The 1948 Commander-in–Chief Studebaker

It was 1955.I was nineteen and had just graduated from Teacher’s College.I had been hired to teach at a one room country school at Brodhagen Ontario 15 miles from the farm.I would be needing a car.

I looked around on my own and found this lovely sleek black shiny 1948 Commander-in-Chief Studebaker with wire wheels and a radio! It had lots of chrome,the steering wheel looked fancy and special and the dash board was better than any I had seen.This car’s style was ahead of its time!The lines were smooth not boxy like other cars of its day.I wanted it.It cost $500.00.I thought I could manage it.I bought it.

Well the car had been over the roads and had more miles on it than I knew.The body sure looked good though and I was proud of that fancy car.I did a motor job on it then decided to drive it up to Copper Cliff Ontario just past Sudbury to visit my sister who was teaching there.It was a long drive in those days about 300 miles. I probably shouldn’t have driven the car so hard just after a motor job because when I got to Copper Cliff I was nearly out of oil! Ever after that the car used oil.It ran well and ticked along like a sewing machine.A couple years later I was still driving it but in the hot summer weather I was pouring axel grease in for oil.The oil gage would spring right over to top pressure when you started the car then after a lot of driving it would fall lower and lower. The car had bench seats which were very comfortable.It steered and held the road nicely.It was a pleasure to drive.This Studebaker had one feature which I never found on any other car.It was a hill hugger.When you pressed in the clutch when the car was on a hill a brake came on and the car would not roll backwards. I loved that car.

Now the next car I got about 1958 was a 1952 Ford V8 sedan. Boy did that car have power!


Dear Bill Sherk

While reading the article about Art Fishenden’s 1933 Dodge Brothers Model DP Deluxe sedan in today’s March 5 2009 Hamilton Spectator it got me dreaming about some of the old cars in our family.

The year was 1944 and as farmers could buy new rubber tires for their cars dad decided to buy a 1935 Cheverolet sedan from a man in Listowel Ontario. This car was going to replace dad’s old 1928 Cheverolet sedan with wooden spoked wheels which he had driven all the way back from Saskatchewan with his wife and 2 year old son in 1930 when he quit farming there and bought his father’s farm near Atwood Ontario.

I rode to Listowel with dad in 1944 to pick up his new car .I was all excited.We had 4 flat tires driving the car home to the farm that day and I was pretty tired and weary when we finally got there.Dad took the car to our mechanic in Atwood to do a motor job and general overhaul.He had a push button starter installed on the dashboard as the starter switch which was below the gas pedal was giving a lot of trouble.I remember the brakes would freeze up in the winter time and the heater didn’t give much heat. He had a suction cup glass with electrical wires in it put on the windshield for the winter and when that was plugged in the frost was quickly cleared off the windshield. The car had a canvas roof whick leaked.He had a new one put on. He installed a trailer hitch and we always pulled a trailer filled with bags of grain which we took to Atwood chopping mill to be made into chop for the cows.That car was a regular work horse ! I learned to drive in it when I could barely see out the window. I got my driver’s license when I was 15 as farm boys were able to do that as they were needed to work on the farm.Of course this car had no turning signals you just used your arm.I don’t remember having any more trouble with the car for all the years dad kept it. He got a brand new Pontiac in 1950.

In 1963 I was teaching in Kincardine Ontario.Everyday I would walk by this old 1936 Cheverolet sedan parked behind the woodshed of this home.I would often stand and stare at it.One day a man came out of the house and said. “Are you interested in the old car?.All it needs is a battery and it runs fine”

I said,” I don’t know.How much do you want for it?”

He said,” 25 dollars”

I said .” What !” I bought it and took it home to the farm.For 4 or 5 years whenever I dropped a battery into it, it started right up and I would take it for a ride down memory lane.

Now I remember the first car I bought with my own money in 1955. It was a shiny black Commander in Chief 1948 Studebaker with wire wheels and a radio! But this is another story another dream and another memory.

Jim Love

Grimsby Ontario