This is part 1 of a new series, called Addlesence.
Sleighs were our chief method of getting around in a Saskatchewan winter, that or saddling up and riding into town. Or, you could walk. My Grandpa often did. Before leaving he soaked his feet in ice-cold water! Why? I was never sure.
There were few cars around. Wondrous things they were, but not in a snow storm with snow dunes building up and obliterating the road itself. It was best to keep a team of horses as a backup for your car. Dad kept Ranger and Daisy long after he really needed them. They had all-season hoofs and were trusted beastly friends.
When Dad took a break from our Daphne farm to work as Animal Husbandry Foreman at the Melfort Experimental Station one of his chores was to collect farm children from Vaughan, the elementary school nearby. By then there were more trucks and cars. However, during the winter months Dad and the other employee who shared this task liked to drive an open sleigh taking a short cut across the fields. We needed to be well-padded to keep the prairie chill away.
When I had completed my Grade 8 at Vaughan I went on to attend Melfort High School. Dad was still picking us up, now from the High School. If there was a lot of snow he could still take horses and drive along snow filled ditches. If roads were clear he could use a truck.
Unfortunately I tended to be late arriving at the pickup point. I was a day dreamer and frequently lost track of time. A wristwatch would have been helpful but was still considered a luxury. After more than one warning that he would leave me behind if I continued to dawdle, Dad finally made good on his promise.
On this particular night I‘d walked to the pickup point only to find no one else waiting there. Reality hit home. Dad had done it. He had left without me. What was I to do? I didn’t know any families in Melfort. I knew of no restaurant where I might get access to a phone and beg Dad to relent. Perhaps he’d consider an alternative punishment? I decided that I had better get walking. It wasn’t very cold that night so I thought I’d be okay and I guessed Dad thought so too. Winter temperatures can be fickle. That night they were. I don’t recall the distance involved – two miles sticks in my head – but if that were so I’m not sure I’d be telling this story.
I headed out with a marginal amount of determination that was soon overridden by a rising degree of apprehension. Slowly, at first, the weather began to change. Although my upper body was well padded and I had warm boots, my legs were not so lucky. My slacks were not lined. There were farm houses along the way but all were set well back from the road. Furthermore I felt somewhat ashamed that I had let myself get into this situation. How would they have greeted a strange thirteen year old suddenly appearing at their door at supper hour? And their dogs? What about their dogs? I kept plodding along. Would Mom hold supper for me? Were my brother and sister already having theirs? What were they thinking?