Just call me Mom

Just call me Mom.  I’m working at a group home in Tillsonburg.  This is my 2nd weekend and only 4 people around (7 residents in total).  I arrived this morning about 7 am so they got cold cereal and toast for breakfast, but I did make my favourite bannana crunch muffins in time for morning break!  Only two for lunch so I made toasted western sandwiches.  Tonight for supper I’m making a home-made chicken pot pie with biscuits.  The recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa recipe book and I made it once before for my sister Rosemary, her husband and my Dad  and it was really good – especially the biscuits! 

All this cooking is reminding me of when I used to cook for the harvest gang on our tobacco farm.  At this place they get 2 additional snacks so I’ve got to come up with more ideas.  Not only am I the cook, but I have to stay overnight at the house – I hope the bed is comfortable.  The residents are very nice and friendly and they like my cooking.  Last weekend I made them chicken paprikash with rice and a pear crisp and they loved it.  Hey maybe I’ve found my new niche. 

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The Mink Ranch circa 1965

I was eating strawberries with my Dad and that brought us to some reminiscing back to when I was 8 or 9 years old.  I bought these strawberries at a roadside stand on Highway # 3 right across from the farm where we lived for about 3 years.  It was also known as the Mink Ranch although we operated it as a cash crop farm.  It was a fun farm to live on as there were some interesting places to explore.  There were a number of long, low, open sheds where the mink were raised along with some empty cages the mink were kept in.  There was also an old abandoned two storey house that I remember playing in – it was the ultimate play house.  I asked Dad about the walnut tree we had and he said that the shells were so hard that by time you cracked them, you’d only had a little piece of walnut left. So I don’t think we harvested them after that first year.

Now that I’ve started to think about this place, I have lots of memories from this time period.  My sister Rosemary and I attended the one room public school – S.S. Malahide #14. All eight grades in one room!  I did grades 2 & 3 there in one year.   There were only two of us in grade two, if I remember right, and once I got my work done, I would join in with the grade 3’s who sat in the next row.  I always considered myself lucky for going to that one room school especially since it was the last year that it was open.

There was a long laneway on this farm.  I must have been in grade 4 and attending school in Springfield.  It was early September and the rest of the family was working at the Gabor’s in tobacco.  I was too young to work so I got to go to school right from the beginning of the year.  So I was on my own – everyone had already left and I had to get myself on the bus and to school.  As I said, there was a long laneway on this farm and it was scary having to go byself.

On this one particular day as I got near the end of the laneway, I could hear dogs barking viciously coming from the house across the road and to the right.  I didn’t know these neighbours or the dogs so I was afraid.  The school bus wasn’t in sight and the dogs kept barking.  I was so scared the only thing I could do was go back up the long laneway to the house.

I was still frightened and all alone in the house.  I telephoned to our neighbour, Mrs. Owen who lived on the farm beside us.  Unbelievably, my only choice was to either stay by myself or make my way over to their farm.  Mrs. Owen’s husband and son were working somewhere on the farm.  Mrs. Owen didn’t drive and couldn’t come to get me.  And because I couldn’t go back down the laneway because of the dogs, I had to walk across the corn field between our farms.  Mrs. Owen told me to head towards the big Maple tree in the middle of the field.  So there I was, walking in the tall, dewy corn.  I was already scared because of the encounter with the dogs and now I was crossing through corn stalks that were taller than me.  I’m sure by time I met up with Mrs. Owen in the middle of the field, I was a big mess – my clothes were wet and I was crying my eyes out. Mrs. Owen got me back to her big farmhouse where they had a wood cookstove in the kitchen.  I don’t know how well I knew the Owen’s at this time, but after that, I’m sure we bonded forever because of my harrowing episode with the dogs and crossing the cornfield.

We moved away from that farm but I always remembered the kindness shown by Mrs. Owen, her husband and her son.

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