Skills learned growing up here

An old friend explained to me that growing up in Fort Frances was the most fortunate thing that happened to him in his education.
I hadn’t given much thought to growing up in a rural area of Ontario before. But in his telling of the things we learn in our area of Ontario, it became clear.
We live in a community, but many of our friends and relatives live just outside of Fort Frances and raise livestock and chickens, and grow hay and barley.
We learned that the Gerber family raised chickens and we could find their eggs on the shelves of grocery stores.
Our parents filled their freezers in the fall with locally-grown beef. Often we travelled to the farm and were shown two or three options of steers ready to be slaughtered, and we picked the animal we thought would have the most tender meat.
We might get to a farm that was raising pigs or sheep, and we would buy up a side of pork or a whole lamb and have it butchered by a local butcher. We knew where our meat came from.
If we hunted, we had to learn how to clean a partridge or gut a deer or moose, and then butcher those animals. We got our hands dirty.
Nearly every family in the neighbourhood had a garden. Our neighbours tilled the soil in the fall after all the vegetables were harvested.
Then sometime in late February, garden and flower seeds would show up in the hardware stores, along with potting soil and containers.
Tomato plants would be started and you could see them sprouting on windowsills.
Later, they were transplanted to gardens about the same time that you put the seeds in for radish, lettuce, beans, and peas. Come summer, all of those gardens produced vegetables.
If our lawn mower or outboard needed fixing, we would take it down to Aimo Marshall’s or Midway Marine, and hover around Aimo or Walter Avis as they tore the motors down. We learned a little bit about small motor mechanics.
There also were lots of backyard mechanics, and we watched as people did oil changes on their cars, as well as wash, wax, and polish vehicles until the reflection was perfect.
Our parents built homes and cabins, and we learned how to pound nails and saw boards. We learned how construction of homes happened.
It was an education that was not a book education, my friend noted. We had hands-on experience and we learned how things were grown, made, and built.
Paper carrying, or working at West End Grocers, Safeway, Shop Easy, or the Drive Inn, gave us great skills in working with people.
Because most of the businesses then were family businesses, we knew what our parents did for a living. Yes, the mill employed a lot of people, but there were great seasonal jobs working in the plant or on the Hallett bringing wood down the lake to the mill.
During our call, we reminisced about being on the lake when a big motor was 25 h.p. and you worried a lot about hitting a pulp stick.
The boats were not as big, and there were no GPS gadgets and fish finders.
Fishing was done by reading a map and trying to figure out where the reefs were to jig for walleyes. It was tougher then.
Map reading and using a compass could get you around the lake or back to your truck when you were hunting.
We agreed we were lucky to grow up learning those skills.

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