Lynn's Comments: The kennel you see here was based on the kennel we (much later) put our spaniel, Willy, in. Situations, which were based on reality, didn't appear in a chronological order. I relied on ideas and imagery, which came from the disorganized mess that is memory!
Lynn's Comments: My first husband, Doug, and I once left our house in the care of a friend. We were going on a road trip for a few weeks and he needed a place to stay. When we called to see if everything was ok, we could hear the sound of a party in the background. Our "friend" had let friends of his move in, and they were turning the place upside down! We cut our holiday short, came home, and threw out the lodger and his crew. Nothing was destroyed or stolen, but it took awhile to clean up. Sometimes generosity can bite you in the butt!
Lynn's Comments: This was long before the strict security measures of today. In Toronto, however, Aaron suddenly pointed the gun at a man in a uniform and we were immediately stopped, searched, and reprimanded for trying to bring a weapon onto the plane. It was funny, but we should have known better!
Lynn's Comments: In the story, I had pity on the security guard and made him human. After all, it's a thankless job with guidelines that have to be met. The guard we encountered, however, took himself and his position a bit too seriously, and I wished I'd remembered what he looked like so I could draw a better likeness!
Lynn's Comments: This storyline came from a real life adventure, which I wanted to have fun with and share. I used photographs of my sister in law, Beth and her husband, Don in order to get a likeness and although it's not easy for me to do caricatures, I managed to draw "Uncle Danny" so well, he was once recognized on the street in Winnipeg!
Lynn's Comments: Two prominent features of the prairies are the endless flat spaces and long, straight roads. A city person might wonder why cars and trucks cruise these roads at a snail's pace, but it's all part of the job. Farmers like to drive slowly and do their "crop-watching," while searching the horizon for rain. It often seemed that crop watching was more important than getting to where you were actually planning to go!
Lynn's Comments: The real farm story began before Katie was born. Rod and I were newly married and Aaron was about three when we drove west from our home in Dundas, Ontario and became farm hands for the summer at Don and Beth's place in Miami, Manitoba. For Better or for Worse wasn't even an idea at the time. Rod was still in Dental school and we needed the work!
Lynn's Comments: I soon learned not to look at the landscape for respite from our labour, but to look up instead. There is nothing more beautiful than a prairie sky! It goes on forever. The pink and purple sunsets, and brilliant stars in a cloudless sky made up for the featureless land around us. I soon understood why folks who live on the prairies love it so much.
Lynn's Comments: People in rural areas watched this series closely--to see if I'd "get it right". I soon got letters telling me that the bailing twine was going the wrong way in this illustration! No matter what you THINK you know, it's best to check your references!
Lynn's Comments: Anyone who uses the word "farmer" in a derogatory way has no idea what the term means! A farmer is a biologist, a marketer, a mechanic, and a vet. Farmers have to plan ahead and be willing to work all day and all night in order to succeed in a world of unpredictable events.
Lynn's Comments: There was a single rooster on the farm and he had become downright mean. Don figured that the hens had all been eaten by pigs or other animals while they slept in the barn, so the old bird had nothing to do and took his frustrations out on everybody. We were told to wear boots and to use them if we had to--since the rooster would often pull a surprise attack. He frightened Aaron, who was low to the ground, so we figured we had a choice: get the rooster a partner or put him down.
Just about then, the washing machine died, so Beth and I set out to find a replacement. An ad in the paper took us to a neighbouring community. The folks who were selling their machine just happened to have some nice white hens, so we added the price of a fat one to the price of the washer, loaded them both into the back of the truck and drove home. The men folk had stopped for a beer and were standing in the yard when we returned. Beth held up the burlap sack with the hen in it and announced that the rooster's new mate had arrived.
If there was opportunity for a wager out on the farm, the guys were keen. How would the new lady be received? Beth and I said she'd be attacked as soon as she hit the floor. The guys were more circumspect. They bet ten bucks that the rooster would be a gentleman. He'd welcome her to the pig barn, show her around, and THEN get to courtin'. Beth carried the sack and hen to the barn. The upper half of the doorway was open and the rooster was resting on a hay bale just inside. Beth lowered the sack over the barrier and shook it gently. The hen bounced onto the straw with a startled "AWWWKKK?!" The rooster awoke and was instantly on her--wings flapping and legs astride. We told the guys to pay up.
For a few days after that, we saw the hen and rooster together. They pecked around the yard and seemed to be happy. Aaron found eggs in the sod pile--a sign that the marriage was successful--and then the hen disappeared. Like the rest of the chickens, she had simply vanished.
For awhile, the rooster looked for her and then he got mad. He attacked Aaron and then me. He flew at Don's face while he was putting out feed and that was the last straw. Beth and I were getting dinner ready when we saw Don take his rifle and go into the bush behind the barn. We heard a sharp crack and then he returned. He had solved the problem "the way it's done on the farm." The rooster was gone forever...but his story lingers on.
Lynn's Comments: Regarding the disappearing hens: they were free-range birds, locked up in the barn only at night. We didn't know why, but they were gone. When asked if he knew for sure what had happened, Don smiled and said, "It's a pig-eat-chicken world." A quote worth repeating!
Lynn's Comments: What I wanted to say here, was--Michael had a kind heart. He wanted to cheer up an elderly neighbour, but was embarrassed by his own actions and played down the gift by saying the flowers were something his mother wanted to get rid of. I don't think the punch line worked too well and this strip sort of missed the mark. Sometimes the hardest thing about describing a situation like this is...well, describing a situation like this!!
Lynn's Comments: I asked Don to let me know when one of the sows was having her piglets so I could be there to watch. What I learned was babies of all kinds come when they're ready, and it's often very late at night!
Lynn's Comments: I dressed fast, got my boots on, found a flashlight, and followed Don out to the barn. Don was often alone when "farrowing" took place and was glad to have the company. This was a wonderful opportunity to attend an actual birth--my own experience having been clouded by anaesthetic, excitement and pain.
Lynn's Comments: The sow in labour walked around the pen, her babies visibly squirming in her belly. When her contractions came, her belly became firm and smooth. She'd lie down and pant for awhile, then get up and wait for the next one. It wasn't the most comfortable place to be--but still, we were waiting for a miracle.
Lynn's Comments: There were two pig barns on Donnie and Beth's farm. One was for farrowing and had the "honeymoon suite" at the back. The boar was brought here when his services were needed. The rest of the stalls were like a maternity ward. It, too, was clean and well ventilated. The babies came at all hours of the night and watching a sow give birth was interesting. Her tummy ripples, she lies down and SQUIRT! Out pops a piggie. Don would wipe it off on the straw and put it aside so mom wouldn't step or roll on it and the process would begin again. The thing that struck me was how fast these babies were born. I struggled and snorted for hours to produce my offspring. This "pop 'em out" method just didn't seem fair!
Lynn's Comments: Once the piglets recovered from their ordeal, they quickly lined up for dinner. Teats were evenly spaced, and there was enough milk to go around, but they still scrambled over each other to get into position--the stronger ones shoving the weaker ones aside. Mother pig didn't get involved. She just lay there. One of the piglets had a small hernia and would eventually be mauled by its siblings, so Don decided to hand feed her. I thought this was a sweet gesture until he said she'd make a great roast when she fattened up. Surprisingly, I still like pork!
Lynn's Comments: The day Aaron was found playing in a grain bin the guys were preparing to empty, was the day my in-laws took him home with them. If we hadn't spotted him in time, he could easily have drowned in the seed or been caught in the auger. I was unprepared for so many dangers. On a farm, you have to be vigilant and prepared for just about anything!
Lynn's Comments: One morning, I awoke to a strange noise. I looked out the window to see the wheat field parting like the red sea. In a cloud of dust, smoke, and flying chaff, Freddy Parkinson (Don's brother-in-law and neighbour) was driving towards the house on an old snowmobile. He roared into the yard and then calmly announced that he'd come for coffee.
Lynn's Comments: During the harvest, we had to get a full meal plus cold drinks and dessert out to the fields every lunch hour. The hired men needed lots to eat, and real home cooking was expected. When I had the chance to drive the swather, tractors, trucks, or combine, I took it fast. Sitting in an air conditioned cab and going around in circles beat the hot kitchen job any time.
Lynn's Comments: Driving the combine was like piloting a ferry. These machines are enormous. They grind their way around the fields, picking up swath left to dry and crushing the seed out of the grain heads. The seed is then augured up into a box where it's stored, and when the box is full, it's augured again into a truck running parallel. Both machines work in tandem until the work is done. When the weather is threatening, crews work from dusk until dawn. Fields look like harbours as lights from the combines float across them like ships in the night.