|Notice the trees. Please.|
When I was fourteen, Dad decided to combine the best of all worlds.
He sold the old family ranch twenty miles from the town of Milk River and bought a new spread.
The new Stringam ranch grew from the ashes of the old town slaughter house.
Situated immediately adjacent to the town – and I do mean immediately – it retained all the charm of living in the country.
Within walking distance of everything ‘town’.
There was just one drawback.
Remember when I mentioned that the ranch grew from the ashes of the old town slaughter house?
Well, that was, quite literally, true.
The slaughter house had burned to the ground.
And the town butcher had taken it as a sign that it was time to retire.
Dad was only too happy to help him out.
And bought an almost bare patch of ground.
Oh, there was pasture. Plenty of it.
But no buildings to speak of.
My parents had to start from scratch.
After several months of construction, corrals, barns, outbuildings, quonset and finally, home, appeared.
That was the easy part.
Now, I should point out, here, that Milk River lies nestled in a crook of the actual Milk River.
On the prairies.
The rolling, grassy, windswept, breathtakingly beautiful, treeless prairies.
Our recently vacated old ranch had been planted, sometime in the thirties, with acres of trees.
Thought it had many, many amenities, the treeless state of this new place was achingly obvious.
Mom set out to do something about it.
And roped us kids into helping.
We planted trees.
Acres of them.
And then, if that weren’t enough, we watered trees.
Acres of them.
Oh, we used the garden hose – for as far as it would reach.
Then we used a little water tank on wheels.
It was aching, back-breaking work.
But who is going to sneak away to happier pursuits when one’s mother is out there, sweating beneath yet another bucket of water?
No one could be that heartless.
Okay, well, we couldn’t.
Dad would have had something to say about it . . .
We hand-fed those trees the entire time we lived there.
Then dad, he of the itchy feet, bought another ranch, this time near Fort MacLeod, Alberta.
One that was, mercifully, well treed.
Happily, we packed our buckets and moved.
But we often drive past the old place, whose trees are now forty years old.
They stand tall and straight and look like they’ve been there forever.
I guess we gave them a good start.
And that’s all that matters.