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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Summer in a Quonset Part Four

Coldest summer on record - and no heat!

In the summer of 1968, my parents sold our home ranch out on the south fork of the Milk River, and bought another place nearer to town.
There were myriad challenges.
But the most important was that it was bare land.
Absolutely everything needed to be built.
Construction was immediately started on a new home, and at the same time, on several barns, corrals and outbuildings.
The ranch buildings arose much more quickly than the house.
And that left us in a further dilemma.
Where to live.
The people who had purchased the ranch were justifiably anxious to take possession and our new house was far from completion.
My parents decided to move us into the newly-completed, steel-ribbed quonset.
It was an adventure.
And it's told here by my mother, Enes, from her journals.
(If you missed part one, you can find it here. Part two. Part three.)

Mornings were always very chilly - as was the whole summer!
With the exception of about two hot days, who could have foreseen the coldest summer in history?
Well, maybe Grey Eagle Child who forecast the coldest summer or fiercest winter every year. Sooner or later, he's right!
We never lingered over dressing in the morning, for with a Swish! Swish! on would go our clothes, socks, sweater, snow boots and usually jacket.
I would shiver my way over to the stove and turn the oven and all four burners on at once, even if I only needed two.
They must have given psychological heat because any heat calories were certainly lost in the voluminous stratosphere of the shed.
All plates and bowls would go into the oven while I prepared the meals and in order to conserve every calorie of heat.
And every one would be seated at the table and the blessing asked before the plates and food were brought out.
Then, if we hurried, the first mouthful of food would be too hot and the last one would be too cold!
Most of the time, we could see our breath. Our youngsters had great fun huffing and puffing about.
Every day brought a whole new series of unusual experiences.
Friends dropped in regularly for a momentary cheerful exchange and we enjoyed their ribbing.
"When's the auction?" one asked as he came through the one huge sliding door.
"Should get a blueprint of this," said another. "House, barn, shop and garage, all in one!"
Meanwhile, our new house was slowly taking shape.
Our amiable carpenter was trying to keep a dozen people happy by spreading his services around so thinly that he managed to put three nails in our house each week - and I believe sometimes he only managed two.
It was most frustrating and when the rain poured down along with the temperature, my temperature rose.
"Oh, what I would like to do to that carpenter," I fumed.
However, there were other days.
We were constantly amused by the sudden flood of traffic past our 'summer' home.
Necks would crane and eyes would stare.
One gal drove clear off the road!
Usually we made an effort to give them value for their effort.
I would come out with a bin full of garbage or we would scoot one of the youngsters out to the outdoor privy.
It was most interesting to watch the children on the school bus.
When it stopped, there would be a sudden surge of eager youngsters to the 'viewing side' and the bus would lurch dangerously over the roadside ditch.
I would dispatch our youngsters with a cheerful smile and a kiss and a tiny prayer in my heart that they would not be ostracized from humanity.

5 comments:

  1. Like Delores, I'm also enjoying this "series". I have to keep catching up on the days I miss... I've been so busy these last few days!

    I wish I kept a journal like your mother. What a treasure you have there. You should type it all up and have it made into a book! It is wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I knew this would be a fine adventure and looked forward to the chapters I missed. Now looking forward to chapters to come! Great stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  3. WOW what a great story (all of them) Your Mother was an amazing women for being able to make that into a home for all of you. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Diane, what an amazing story this is turning out to be! I have to read part two which I haven't read yet but this part is so beautiful, it stands on its own. "Most of the time, we could see our breath. Our youngsters had great fun huffing and puffing about." This line reminds me of a winter when our central heating unit broke. My sisters and I entertained ourselves by blowing our breath into the air. My mother, delicate rose that she is, whined the entire two days it was broken. Makes you appreciate what you have, doesn't it?

    ReplyDelete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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