This story is mostly true but there is also some fiction based on fact. The conversations are fictitious and the sequence of events are not necessarily correct.
My grandfather Epp had three children: Kathrine, Bertha (my mother) and Jacob. Jake was named after his father, Jacob J. Epp. He was the favourite of the family.
The Epps lived on a small rented farm about 4 miles west of Manitou, Manitoba. Grain fields surrounded the yard and livestock filled the barns. A plentiful garden fronted the frame house on the south side and massive trees shaded the east. Within easy walking distance from the back door was a wagon shed that provided shelter for a buggy and a shop for making simple repairs. A few steps farther a domicile for a few horses, eight to ten milk cows, a couple of dozen chickens and a pen of pigs marked the other side of the yard. A gentle dog kept the family members company on their regular treks to and from the barn. Around back a couple of hay and straw stacks rested within easy reach of a pitchfork.
All pull-type labour was accomplished with horses, whether to take grandpa to town on his buggy or to work the fields to grow a crop. Two horses were needed to plough the summer fallow, two horses pulled the seeder and cultivator at appropriate times and three horses pulled the small binder before harvest. A tractor never marked the surface of Grandpa’s yard except at threshing time. A gang of men with teams of horses pulling hayracks would arrive behind a huge tractor towing the grain separator. Grandpa would never go near the thing. He was slight of build and weak in confidence in mechanical things.
Let the strong and the young deal with such monstrosities, he thought.
Grandpa was a soft-hearted man who loved children. He never resorted to spanking. He did not punish his children. When he saw other parents explode in impatient anger he would softly admonish them:
“Nicht so … Nicht so schlagen.” (Don’t so hit).
Tears would fill his eyes when children misbehaved and were subsequently scolded. It hurt him to see unfair treatment of children or adults. His sympathies went with the underdog.
The Epp household was simple. There was the back door with its outer shed where the cream separator sat. Every day the milk was “separated” into cream and skim milk. Cream was used to make butter and the skim milk was fed to the pigs. This outer shed also housed a large kitchen stove where summer cooking could be done. The door into the house revealed a large dining room where a huge harvest table consumed most of the space. Further into the dwelling a parlour room welcomed guests. This room had windows that opened to the west and a front door with an elegant stained glass transom window. Immediately through this front door a small verandah hugged the house. This door was never used. No one ever sat on the wicker chairs edging the verandah. A giant bedroom completed the downstairs space. More bedrooms filled up the upstairs living area.
Grandma was a petite woman who had trained as a nurse in the old country. She managed the household with absolute rules of conduct and demeanor. She harboured no doubts as to what was right or wrong and expected her children to learn from her as they grew older. There was no time in her life for rest and relaxation. Only a sloth would take time to sit and be idle. She could always find something useful to do on the farm no matter how small the job, particularly since there was no money to pay a hired man.