Our Friend

Every single one of us who knew Doug Anderson immediately thinks of words like kind, helpful, gentle, eager, fun-loving, when we hear his name. It’s a long list of qualities that we all strive for, but qualities Doug had in spades. Our friend has gone ahead, parting the grass and underbrush through the wilderness we call life, to leave a path for us. That’s how I like to think of it. It helps. I see Doug in my mind’s eye in his green stake truck, driving down the River Road, enjoying the scenery, and pondering what it all means. I was a lucky kid who had the great fortune of growing up “down the road” from he and Blair and Cheryl. Our farms were only a few miles apart and there was a lot of going back and forth, sharing information and ideas on farming, and there was a whole lot of horseback riding.

Stormy was Doug’s trusty steed, an Ojibwe Pony, also called a Lac La Croix Pony with a proud history, though I don’t think we knew that about Stormy until we were all done being kids. Stormy pranced, always in a hurry, never too keen to walk, his nose tucked into his chest, his ears flipping back and forth as he listened and waited eagerly for Doug’s signal to “run”, and run Stormy did, like lightning.

Doug and Blair helped my dad with haying when I was too small to be of much use. I couldn’t wait to be big enough to throw bales of hay the way they did. I think I’m still waiting. They helped move our cattle from winter to summer pasture and back again. And while they helped, they rode horses with my brother Laurie and I can still hear the laughter, can still see the fun, can still feel that precious connection. Laurie reminded me that Doug used to eat a Spanish onion like it was an apple and they played road hockey together in our driveway, forming a team called The Crozier Manure Pilers. They were rascals of the best kind.

I was thinking of the wonderful parts of Doug when I heard of his passing, the way he smiled with his whole self, his eyebrows rising, his eyes lighting up, the breathless sound of his voice when he had a story to share. He had one of those laughs that was easy and automatic, always at the ready. He loved being a farmer, being a country dweller and I can see still Doug and Blair fixing fence as clearly as if it was yesterday, Blair throwing me up in the saddle on Rock, his big steady palomino. We were in 4-H together, and they hauled my calf to the Emo Fair along with theirs for our 4-H achievement with the Devlin-Crozier Calf Club. Doug and Blair were the big boys, someone to look up to and admire, and, as I like to call them, my very own superheroes.

Perhaps the biggest part of Doug was how he loved his family, how proud he was of his sons, how happy he was to have found Ann. I remember him telling me when he was a brand-new dad, his eyes full of delight and laughter, his shoulders tucked up to his neck as if he couldn’t believe how incredibly lucky he was. Doug was, before his health interrupted him, writing the story of “growing up in a pink store”, honouring the legacy of his grandmother, of her tenacity and courage, who instilled in Doug her love of storytelling. How I wish there could have been more. Doug loved stories.

I never walked into Betty’s that I didn’t feel the joy of seeing Doug and Blair, the years falling away immediately, and we were farm kids once again. There are many things to be grateful for in life, those moments we hold close, the details clearly etched on our hearts, to pull out on cold dreary days to remind us of a time when life was perfect, when happiness and joy were in abundance. Doug is one of those “moments” for me and I’m certain for many of us. Lucky we were to have known him and called him our friend.