Wednesday, July 31, 2013

CREATING MEMORIES


We just finished the 2nd Annual Hubbard Family Pike Lake Camping Trip and it was great. Again! The weather could have been better but it wasn’t terrible; having only a few hours of rain to interrupt the festivities.

            Pike Lake Provincial Park is located 32km southwest of Saskatoon on the shore of Pike Lake, an oxbow created by the South Saskatchewan River. It’s a great place to go to if you ever get the chance.

            Last year, after we were done our week of camping there, Deb and I headed back home to Kipling heading east on the Yellowhead Highway and then wound our way down through some Saskatchewan countryside that we hadn’t seen much of. This year we came back down the other side of the river through Outlook, Lucky Lake and made our way across Lake Diefenbaker on the Riverhurst Ferry. It was also great.

            The Riverhurst Ferry is how Highway 42 crosses Lake Diefenbaker. Highway 42 also goes by, or close to, a couple of body parts towns like Elbow and Eyebrow and meets up with Highway No. 2 at Tuxford. We chose this route for two reasons. 1.)-to cross the lake on the ferry and, 2.) to follow 42 Highway through some old stomping grounds of mine as the highway goes through Brownlee, Keeler and Marquis. I had lived in Marquis from 1965 to 1970 while Dad was the United Church Minister for the Marquis, Keeler and Tuxford Pastoral Charges and I had also spent some time in the Brownlee area as I worked on my then brother-in-law’s farm at Lake Valley in the ‘70’s.

            Debbie, our youngest daughter Emily and I made the drive and I showed them many spots that I hadn’t seen in years and years. I was reminded of old hockey games in the Brownlee rink that’s still standing and we were this close to Tugaske, which isn’t on the highway but very close, where Barty Backzuk and I spent a memorable few hours in a drinking hole there in the summer of ‘77.

            We pulled in to Marquis and then the old stories really started flying. Here’s the Manse house where we lived and the one-room schoolhouse I attended in grades four through six and the church where Dad did so many services and here’s where my brother Gordie fell on that broken bottle and ripped up his knee that Halloween so many years ago. Here’s Dora and Con McCann’s store where we had to meet the bus to get to school in Moose Jaw. Here’s Brad Duzan’s old house where we played a couple of thousand ping-pong games and snuck smokes out of his Mom’s purse and here’s where we built a state-of-the-art snow fort and here’s where I took that tomato juice can off the noggin playing kick the can in our back yard. Oh, the memories!

            The drive from Marquis in to Moose Jaw threw me back to the old school bus riding days and I was surprised that there are still so many of the landmarks along the bus route that I had used way back when to figure out how much longer we had to go to get to school or home. I was reminded of how the panic would set in when we passed the anhydrous station on #2 Highway and I knew that we were this close to school and I hadn’t gauged the time properly to get my procrastinated homework done in time! Some things never change.

            I’ve seen mountains and I’ve seen oceans and I’ve even seen a tropical paradise but there is a particular beauty that only the prairies hold and maybe it’s just us old farmhands who can appreciate the Saskatchewan flatlands but that drive through the green and yellow and blue fields was priceless. And then throw in a dip into the old nostalgia pool and now we’re making memories with memories. What a ride.

            “There’s a certain nostalgia and romance in a place you left.”-David Guterson (1956-).

Sunday, July 21, 2013

NEW POSTS

Hello there Dear Reader. I haven't had a post on this site since May 27th and there are a number of reasons for this. If I have to explain myself to you, which I feel I do, hence this posting.
Anyway, there are a few times throughout the year that circumstances take me away from my word processor and springtime in Saskatchewan is one of those times. Especially after we had just endured the full-on nasty winter that started sometime back in October, and it was still snowing on us on May 1st, so when the weather finally allows us to get into the yards and gardens and golf courses there aren't a lot of indoor minutes left.
I work full-time at my job at Seed Hawk Inc. and I work full-time on this 1919 house and yard to keep it up leaving very little writing time. I know...whine, whine, whine.
On top of that on the 21st of June my dear ninety-one-year-old Mom passed away after a full life lived. She lives about a six hour car ride away so we took a couple of trips out to where she lives to say our goodbyes. It was a tough month. You'll find a couple of postings below about my Mom and Dad.
Now we're off for a week of R&R at Pike Lake near Saskatoon. We found this place last year and we're going back because we liked it so much.
I'm not sure if I will take the time to post on this site while I'm gone but I will try. We here in Saskatchewan have so little warm-weather time to take advantage of that I am going to spend as much time outdoors as I possibly can before we're forced back inside in the all to near future.
I'll be back.

BERRY PICKING...FUN?

A recent high temperature day had me thinking back to the hot summers of my youth while we were living in the United Church Manse in Marquis, Saskatchewan. I was nine-and-a-half years old and July was my month.


One day, Mrs. Parker, an old friend of Mom’s from Alberta, came to visit and I came in to the kitchen early that morning looking for some breakfast and Mom and Mrs. Parker were chit-chatting away over coffee. Talking about Saskatoon pie or something…I wasn’t’ really listening.

Mom says, “We’re going to do something really fun today!”

“Oh, great!” Says I. “What’re we doing? Going to the beach? Going to the Wild Animal Park in Moose Jaw? Are we going somewhere where I can swim?”

“No…better…we’re going BERRY PICKING!”

“MAH!!! No, no, no…not berry picking! Mommmmm. That’s not fun! I can’t go berry picking I had a lot planned for today…Clifford and Kevin Bittner have their go-cart running and they promised I could drive it today and I think Mr. Thul boo-stoned the dugout and we were going to go swimming ‘cause it’s so hot and then we were going to get a bunch a guys for 500 and then…”

“You are not allowed to drive a go-cart…you’re 9!”

“Nine-and-a-half!”

“Don’t get smart with me, Young Man! You are too young to drive that thing and you can’t go swimming in the dugout, either, I don’t care how much BLUE stoning Mr. Thul does if there are no adults around…Oh, nevermind… none of that matters because we are going berry picking. Today! So, eat your breakfast.”

So then we pile into Mrs. Parker’s BLACK non air conditioned Chevrolet Impala in the 37C (98F) heat. It was a beautiful car but it was a sweat box that day. Mrs. Parker was driving; Mom was in the front, too, and my sister Shelly was in the middle of the backseat between me and my year-and-a-half older brother, Gordie, who was sitting behind Mom. I got behind Mrs. Parker where she kept a hairy eye on me in her rear-view mirror for the whole drive. She gave me the willies. I don’t know if I ever heard her first name. It was always just Mrs. Parker.

I’m going, “Do they HAVE Saskatoon berries in the North West Territories??? How far are we going anyways? I’m melting here.”

Gordie says, “Shut up.”

My guess is that we would have passed about four thousand berry bushes between Marquis and our eventual destination…Buena Vista Beach on Long Lake. A two-hour drive but we had to find THE spot, you know. Which didn’t look much different than the thousands of “spots” I’d seen along the way. But what do I know? There were berries galore.

I’m pickin’ and eatin’ and pickin’ and eatin’ and throwing a few in the pail and pickin’ and eatin’ and then I get a little cuff behind the ear and wouldn’t you know it…there’s ol’ Mrs. Parker grabbing my ear and telling me to, “Stop eating them all! You’re supposed to put them in the pail.”

“I’m not eating them.” I lied through my purple teeth.

I slipped her grip and ran the other way. I made sure I was far, far away from her for the rest of that tortuous berry picking day.

It was an amazing haul, though, I must say. I almost made my self sick eating so many berries so I ended up putting more in the pails than in my gut anyway because I don’t think I could have eaten one more berry that day.

We did have some amazing Saskatoon pie the next day and there was an odd sense of satisfaction in knowing that I had helped pick those berries. Ol’ Mrs. Parker even tickled me a bit; seeming to have forgotten my earlier transgressions and me hers. I went to bed tired and full and anxious for the next day’s summer adventure to begin.

“On the motionless branches of some trees, berries hung like clusters of coral beads, as in those fables orchards where the fruits were jewels.”- Charles Dickens (1812-1870).

WORK THAT GARDEN!

My Dad loved his garden. Mom loved it, too, but it was always Dad’s garden and he did most of the work in there. He did the tilling, the hoeing, the planting, the watering and a lot of the weeding. Mom would weed as well and did a lot of the harvesting before it ended up on someone’s plate as part of one of her delicious meals or in the “cold room” in a mason jar or somewhere in the freezer. Our family could hardly wait for the garden to be ready to supply the ingredients for Mom’s Hungarian green pea soup and her garden fresh creamed bean soup. Delicious!


Of course Dad’s children/slaves were expected to do their share as well. In the fall, during my youth, it would not be unusual to come home from school to find a small load of manure in a pile on his garden with a couple of forks sticking out of it. No one had to tell my brother Gord or me who the forks were intended for. Football, the Hub Café or hanging with friends be damned--get that caca spread! And do it right! Don’t be throwing it around willy-nilly and then run off to the playground. Oh no. There was always a method to be followed and you can never, ever rush the process.

The garden was Dad’s refuge. It was his escape from the stresses of life. To me, not having the green thumb and all, it was a cause for stress. You see, I never really took to the work involved in gardening. It just looked too much like…well…WORK to me and I had a great aversion to work. Garden/yard work, I should say, you know, physical, slave-labour-type work. Hoeing and shoveling and bending and picking and mosquito slapping and…oh my goodness there was nothing appealing to it at all. I preferred having my sweat manufactured on a playing field not on a vegetable growing field, if you know what I mean? I could work. I didn’t even mind work, so much, I just picked a different outlet for my labour. When allowed, that is.

After the forced-labour gardening days of my youth/adolescence there were a few care-free years when I was gone from home and living here and there and nowhere near a garden. Ahhh, the good ol’ free-man days. Then…I married a farm girl. A garden-loving farm girl, no less. And now it’s Déjà vu all over again.

“You want to help me in the garden tonight?”

“Ah, you know, I wouldn’t mind but I got this sore toe.”

I do what I can to get out of it but you can only hide so many places and so many times before it catches up to you. You see, my wife has a very valid point…I love the finished product so one has to produce to get the produce, you know? If I want those peas and carrots for that soup then you got to grow them now don’t you? If you want the lettuce to taste like lettuce…then you got to grow it now don’t you? So now I’m back to helping in the garden…like it or not.

Oh, I suppose we could market garden it or revert back to the old garden raiding days but I’m a lot more honest now than I was at fourteen and I can’t run like I used to, either, and, besides, it tastes better when you earn it. Or so I’m told.

All joking aside, that first steaming ladle of the Zoldborsoleves, csipetke tesztaval (green pea soup with pinched noodles) out of the pot with the garden fresh peas and onions and carrots…mmmmm, makes it all worth it.

“Gardens aren’t made by singing, ‘Oh, how beautiful’ and sitting in the shade.”-Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936).

I LOVE JULY!

Regular readers of this column would be able to tell you that I am a heat lover. I love it! Weatherwise that is. I also love July. It is my favourite month of the year. To me, July is about three of my most favourite things: barbeques, baseball and beer. Not necessarily in that order, mind you, and best if all three are combined together.


July was named by the Roman Senate in honor of the Roman general, Julius Caesar, it being the month of his birth. Prior to that, it was called Quintilis. Really? Thank goodness for Julius Caesar. “Quintilis” just doesn’t have the same ring to it now does it?

Apparently the Romans were also responsible for the naming of the “Dog Days” of summer. They referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the "Dog Star" because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). Sirius is also the brightest star in the night sky. According to my sources the Romans used to sacrifice a brown dog at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather. I don’t think anyone’s doing that anymore, though, or at least I hope they’re not!

Canada Day is celebrated here on July 1st and the Excited States of America celebrates their Independence Day in July, too. I have attended celebrations in both countries, and, as with many things, I think we do it better in Canada. Compared to the July 4th celebrations that I have attended.

I am unsure as to why so many countries have found independence in July. Somalia, Belarus, the United States, the Philippines, Algeria, Venezuela, Argentina, South Sudan, Bahamas, Columbia, Belgium, Maldives, Peru and Vanuatu all celebrate Independence Days in July. Maybe the original rulers were too hot to fight. “Nah, you can have it! I just want to sit here in the shade with my iced tea, thanks.”

Based on memories from my youth the greatest attraction to July was its absolute freedom. As children we didn’t have a worry in the world. School was out and the summer was fresh. No homework or early morning bus rides. Clothes were even easy. Just a pair of shorts worked pretty much every day. I didn’t live on a farm so there were no stones to pick or bales to toss onto racks or chickens to water and feed. Either my brother or I had to cut the grass the odd time and that was the extent of responsibility for those few fleeting years. I still get a sense of those bygone days when the sun is at that particular July angle and the smell of swimming pool chlorine is in the air. Ahhhhhh!

July is National Hot Dog month and National Ice Cream month and one doesn’t have to think too hard to know why. July is also picnics at the lake and watermellon and fishing and sunburns and mosquito bites. It’s campfires and sleeping under the stars and hide ‘n seek and swimming lessons. It’s visits from family and summer camp. Long car rides to vacation spots and air conditioning. July is summer.

I hope you have a great July, Dear Reader. Savour it. You could love it, too.

“Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world.” Ada Louise Huxtable (1921-2013).



IT NEVER RAINS IT POURS!!

You know that old idiom "it never rains it pours"? Well that was the week that was around our house very recently. Figuratively and literally. I couldn't help but feel like we were getting dumped on. Maybe more than a little bit. At least more than our share, anyway.


The first thing to go was our kitchen faucet. For some reason the darn thing decided to leak for a while oozing an undetected stream of water into the bottom cupboard where it was then sucked up into the particle board material that the cupboards were made of which created an odour similar to a feed lot or something. Yuuccck! To some, a feedlot smells like money, to me, it smells like…well, a feedlot, if you catch my drift. Not a great smell if you ask me. It took a while to detect the oozing stink-making culprit and by then the tap had thankfully given up the complete ghost. Strike one.

It was only a couple of days later when a big wind, (tiny twister?) came through our yard knocking down one of our trees which then pulled the SaskPower line connected to the house off of the wall. The live line was coiled up on the wet grass ready to fry any intruder when our quick-thinking town foreman, and our next door neighbour Kelly Kish, surrounded our house with caution tape making it look like a crime scene but keeping anyone in danger away. Thanks Kelly.

Through the quick response efforts of electrician Norm Pander, his assistant and the SaskPower boys we had power back on to the house in record time. That was the good news. The bad news is that the power hook-up was Grandfathered Electrical code but because the old way isn’t good enough any more we have to completely upgrade the power coming in to the house. That’s the bad news and strike two.

Sidebar here: a quick thank you to Benny Baker for quickly cutting up the damaged tree and to Bob Balogh for taking out all of the branches so we were cleaned up by supper time. Thanks guys. Oh yeah, by the way, thanks also to Linus Blackstock for, once again, finishing up another one of my home plumbing projects. This may be the fourth or fifth or sixth time I’ve had to call him in when one of my repair jobs has gone awry. Next time I’ll heed your words, “No more plumbing for you!”

After the trees were cleaned up and the power line reattached the rains came again and lo and behold if there wasn’t rainwater pouring in through a couple of windows. “What the deuce?”, or words to that effect, I asked. Apparently, this past winter’s record breaking icicles and ice dams had put some extra weight on the eavestroughing rendering them useless as the rain water flowing off of the roof fell in between the eavestroughs and the fascia board and poured into the windows. Strike three.

They also say that things come in threes and I was expecting that the above three would be good enough. But, as it turns out, all of these things happened on or before the 20th of June, and, fortunately, they could all be fixed. Unfortunately, on the morning of the 21st of June, the first day of Summer, I received the call that my ailing Mom had passed away. Strike four. And nothing can fix that.

I am grieving but her death put life into perspective for me. Things will go wrong and things will go right and you have to roll with the punches and move forever forward and it will all work out in the end. My mother taught me well.

My Mom went out on her own terms. A life well-lived. And she was full of life until the very end. It is of special note that Mom left twenty-three years to the very day that my Dad left us in 1990. Always in sync those two. It was the first day of Summer. It was their favourite day of the year.

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”-Albert Pike (1809-1891).

A TRIBUTE TO MOM


My ninety-one-year-old mother had nine children and those children had twenty-four children and their children have had thirty-three children and a few of those children had five more giving us a total of seventy-one, that’s 71, direct descendants of Rose Christine Hubbard. That’s quite a legacy.

            Mind you, she didn’t do it all alone because Dad factored into the equation, too. For a couple who were only going to have two children they kind of overshot their target a bit. I was number eight out of the nine so I am extremely glad that they did!

            On top of her own immediate family members Mom was always very close to her large extended family. Her sisters and brothers and their children and their children and their children…

Mom and Dad were also Foster Parents having had three foster children as well as her own until Mom found it too hard when the little ones were adopted out and had to leave her nest. My parents’ home was always open to anyone and it was not unusual to find one, two or three friends of their children sleeping somewhere in the house when they were having trouble in their own homes or just needed sanctuary until they could safely get home. Or sometimes they’d only come over to the house for one of Mom’s famous cinnamon buns and end up staying for days. Mom and Dad also mentored children through the church in youth groups, summer camps and Confirmation classes.

            Many of the regular readers of this column will be very familiar with my Mom as she has many relatives in the area and had lived in the Kipling/ Bender/ Inchkeith area as a little girl and returned to those Hungarian roots in 1970 after Dad accepted the job as the United Church Minister for the Kipling/Windthorst Pastoral Charge. They lived in Kipling for the entire decade of the 1970’s before moving back to Alberta in 1980 and they formed lasting relationships with many area residents that continue to this day.

            Mom has always been a fantastic cook and put those skills to work as her talent and passion for cooking became her vocation, as well, while she was a member of the kitchen staff at the Kipling Memorial Union Hospital during her time here in Kipling. Mom also cooked for several summers at Camp McKay at Round Lake while Dad was the Camp Director.

            Her recipes and cooking abilities have been passed on to her children and their children and while they might not be quite able to meet her lofty standards it is another legacy that Mom can be so very proud of.

            Our entire large family has been fortunate and blessed to have had Mom around into her nineties. Her mind is still as sharp as a tack and her sense of humour still keen but her outstanding memory is the thing that sets her apart from all others her age. She is the family historian and has written several stories about her long life and the many lives she’s affected along the way. Whenever we need to remember an event or a date or who was even in attendance at something way back when we can just phone up Mom and get all the details that we need.

            Mom’s health has always been very good for “a woman her age” but recently she’s been showing her years. I had a conversation with our youngest daughter Emily about Mom’s deteriorating health and Em said, “I know she can’t live forever but I really thought that she’d be the one to beat the system.” I wish.  

            I know this is a very public forum for such an intimately private matter but it is also a convenient way for me to let so many people who care about Mom know that she is comfortable and surrounded by loved ones but time marches on and as much as we wish it to be she will be not be able to “beat the system.”

 

“A Mother’s heart is always with her children.”-Proverb.

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