Business at the farm

By Elizabeth Donaldson
Special to the Times

Mother always worked outside but she always tried to be prepared for the occasional visitor that came. She had many cousins who liked to come and there were also several business people to deal with. We did not often have company in the winter as the sideroads were not snowplowed. In the summer if we saw a car coming up the road we ran to tell Mom as this was not a common occurrence.

The cattle buyer Elmer McEachern drove a big truck with wooden slats on the sides of the box. He was fair in his dealings. I recall that one time in the winter after parking his truck at the corner he walked up to our farm and then led the animal he was buying to his truck and my oldest brother Alan went along to help. It became quite dark and Elmer put the animal in the truck and walked the mile back with Alan. My mother was so touched by his kindness.

Another person that we saw yearly was Mr. Songhurst, an older man, from Emo who was an insurance agent. Their conversation never interested me but Mom liked talking with him.

Ab Whiddon also seemed old and he was partly crippled as he suffered from arthritis. He was the Assessor and came to check out the condition of the buildings as this affected the taxes. We knew that taxes were serious and accompanied him as he made the rounds of the buildings which were in no way elaborate. I always wondered what Ab was writing down in his official notebook.

The telephone man, Cecil Kellar, added a bit of excitement and we loved seeing him strap on his “spurs” and climb nimbly up the telephone pole to make some adjustment. Mom enjoyed talking with him as she knew his wife Mildred and Cecil always had a bit of community news to pass on.

My sister recalled when the government vet Dr. Nealy who came to test the cows for TB. He also came when our pigs had hog cholera and our fam was quarantined. There was a local vet that came a few times also who would talk to my brothers who liked to help him if they could. He always wanted to wash up after.

It was a thrill when the ‘Raleigh Man’ opened up his big black suitcase to show his wares. Mr. Persson lived in LaVallee I think. He sold spices and flavourings as well as ointments and liniments for both man and beast. Mom always had a supply of both. She bought Petrocarb which was kept in the barn for the cow’s udders when they became sore and chafed. This came in large red and yellow can and smelled of carbolic- not unpleasant. For us she bought Medicated Ointment which came in a blue and silver can. This was used for respiratory ailments and I still love the smell of it. It was the Raleigh Man who gave us our first taste of a drink made from a powder. It was for lemonade and we ran to the well to get a pail of the coldest water we could and Mom mixed it up in the big glass pitcher. We pronounced it wonderful! Mr. Persson often gave us a pack of an odd flavoured bright pink gum to share so he was a favourite visitor.

As these visitors often showed up in the summer we were allowed to listen in and even comment. Patt Kerr was the man that came to see Mom about her Widow’s Allowance of $40 per month. He had the job to do of seeing that my mother told him about any money that she took in. He knew about the small cream check that she received about twice a month and I am sure that mom tried to abide by the rules but one time she sold an animal and did not want to tell him about it. We were admonished to say not one word! At one time it was questioned whether families on this allowance should have a luxury item such as the radio- our link to the outside world.

At that time “dinner” was at 12:00 noon and was often the heaviest meal of the day and supper was about 5: pm. Often some of these visitors showed up in the forenoon and my Mother would invite them for dinner. Sometimes, knowing the contents of our cupboard, I would wonder what she would give them but my mother was one of those women who could “make a meal out of nothing.” No doubt some of those men knew where to stop for a good meal.

We were shy as children and would often disappear when a stranger came but curiosity would bring out. I know that my mother was respected by all as the widow who was farming and raising her children.