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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

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by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Summer in a Quonset Part One

Everything Under Construction

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:

The red letter day was here.
There could be no more stalling - no more postponing - no more compromising.
We had sold our house three months before and we just must move!
All the planning and indecision washed over me like a cold shower.
Nothing had been resolved, though all angels had been considered.
While our new home was being built, should we move into a motel? To a trailer? Rent a house?
All of them were ticked off for various reasons - too expensive, too many children (six when our eldest was home), and homes to rent were not available.
There was one alternative, however.
My rancher/veterinarian husband had built a quonset.
A huge quonset (100 feet by 40 feet).
And it had a cement floor, smooth in the center and rough at one end where he eventually planned to build a barn with stalls for convalescing animals. (The rough floor would keep the animals from slipping.)
It had a cold water outlet and a sewer outlet at the rough end.
I don't know how the great light dawned, but we suddenly came up with this fantastic idea.
Why not move into the quonset for the summer?
We could assemble our living area in the center near the water outlet and carry all our waste water to the sewer outlet in the future barn space.
It would work.
We still had many misgivings about living in 'the shed' and they seemed to multiply as the day for the move drew nearer.
So, it was with many the doubts still swimming through my head that I set myself to the task of packing.
The confusion grew as the moving van arrived and it progressed steadily through the length of the day until by late afternoon my mind and limbs were numb.
Finally, though, I was looking about the nearly-empty home I loved.
It was as if I were viewing a funeral procession of a dear friend.
The car was packed to the roof. There was room only for me as the driver, and my littlest child, Anita, on a heap of articles beside me.
Thank goodness the others were all in school and didn't have to witness this agonizing transformation. (Although I had reason to suspect that they were entranced by the whole idea - anything so unusual would be a great adventure!)
They could not possibly perceive all the 'mechanics' of the operation. And definitely would not experience the re-organization and planning that would have to be done before our family would resume a smooth day-to-day living.
No one could help me with this.
I felt as if I had been prepared for slaughter and my unwilling body was being swept toward the surgeon with scalpel poised and grinning teeth mocking me.
Life's necessities and comforts had gone.
I had to accept that.
So, with a firm grip on the steering wheel and quivering lip clamped firmly in my teeth, I shifted the family car into reverse and drove resolutely toward my 'summer home'.

4 comments:

  1. A three month camping trip in the biggest tent of all, it didn't leak and no latrine to dig! I'm in awe of your parents.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your mother's writing is beautiful!

    With that said, I just want to cry for her. (You know what? I think I WILL cry for her. I feel like crying today and this is as good a reason as any I have!) I can't even imagine what that would be like. The weight on her shoulders was understandably heavy. I will stop griping and complaining about my miniscule trials in comparison. Thanks for reminding me that my life isn't as hard as I sometimes think it is!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I just wanted to let you know I left you an award on my blog :)

    Thanks for being a follower!

    www.theclumsycoquette.com

    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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