I am day dreaming. In this sequence I am my younger self –2 or 3 or as old as 8 or 9. Today, I’ve chosen 5 or 6 and I’m walking along cow paths that wind around whispering poplar groves and through glades of filtered and sometimes piercing shards of prairie sunlight. I am ready for anything. The pasture and its treasures are mine – all mine! I am my father’s “little wild turkey” and wild turkeys often travel alone.
Wild flowers – violets and buttercups, lady slippers, asters, Indian paint brushes, fireweed, golden rod, shooting stars, tiger lilies, crocuses, and many others pop up, each in their season of choice. A few I will clutch in grubby hands to bring back for Mother – except lady slippers and tiger lilies. They must be left untouched. “If everyone keeps digging them up soon there won’t be any left.”
I am unconcerned about farm animals – cattle and horses. We’ve been taught from a very early age how to behave when in close proximity to them. Just don’t surprise them. They in turn don’t pay any more attention to us than they do to other creatures in the pasture – rabbits, birds, gophers, prowling cats and even the odd skunk.
At times I climb trees in order to get a more panoramic view. In another two years my brother will climb too – to collect bird’s eggs - never more than one at a time unless they belong to crows or magpies. These we can destroy. Dad says they are pests. Climbing has its dangers but our parents have certainly cautioned us. Torn clothes are a minor problem. Broken limbs, trees or ours, are not.
In summer we harvest Saskatoon berries, chokecherries, strawberries, raspberries and pin cherries. We help Mother pick the more prolific berries for canning purposes. We will need them for winter. Oranges and bananas are scarce at any time. They are also expensive – a special treat, and few families have extra money or refrigerators.
Cow paths are an adventure in themselves. They require careful footwork because cows don’t worry about where they leave droppings. Stare too long at birds or bunnies or cavorting calves and you may step into a fresh delivery – barefoot or otherwise this is not nice. The good thing about cow patties – the dried versions – is that they can be collected for fall application to Mother’s flower garden – a fine example of recycling. Well- rotted manure from the barn can be heaped into a ‘smoke pile’. Lighting the pile produces a steady stream of smoke for farm animals seeking relief from mosquitoes and black flies when swishing tails are not enough. For the animals the stench is a welcome alternative to being eaten alive by swarms of pesky bugs.