It is 6:00. I’m about 50 km from town waiting on some secluded dirt road for a ‘legal’ animal to simply appear and just make my day. I have seen and investigated all the signs and I am convinced that a large animal is in the area. The sky is clear and shades of an early morning sunrise can be seen on the eastern horizon. The wind is evident but gentle as it removes some of the remaining leaves of the poplar and aspen trees. Occasionally a strong gust of wind will pick up a whole bunch of leaves as if to throw them toward my vehicle. The drivers window is all the way down and I am simply resting my left arm, enjoying the scene and the scent of dying and decaying remnants of nature as the warm wind blows into the truck. The silence is deafening and the feeling is euphoric. I am fully awake and on high alert but my mind is beginning to drift – drifting back to days of youth. I don’t know how long my musings lasted but I went back to sixty years and my first day of school. On that eventful day, September 7,1954 I was escorted to my kindergarten class by one of my older siblings.
During my musing moments I quickly realized I was just a boy but in many ways a man already. In the youth of my generation responsibilities and work expectations went through the roof. Our family culture was such that you seldom had to be told what to do relative to work and your area of responsibility. It was not unusual that if my task was not completed because of its enormity then another sibling would quickly jump in and give a much needed hand. There was always personal satisfaction when a task was completed and well done in a meaningful way.
As a boy I remember the Summers being long, lazy but meaningful and productive. With the cold and bitter winds of Winter giving way to warmer and gentler winds of Spring there was always excitement in the air. Ice was now disappearing from favorite fishing ponds, small lakes and slow moving rivers. Generally, domestic animals were released for Spring and Summer grazing while new-born lambs were dutifully marked before being released into the general sheep population – the Rowe mark was a slit on the right ear and a hole in the left.
We prepared the fields and gardens in Spring for a bountiful harvest throughout the Summer and the Fall. I have very fond memories of Dad guiding both horse and plow as the ground was turned into perfect straight rows waiting for potatoes to be planted. Many hours were spent in spreading horse manure on grass fields, broken down fences were repaired or replaced and sometimes winter driftwood would be gathered from a beach adjacent to our sea-side property.
In my musings I was reminded again that practically every hour spent in manual labour was purposefully planned to be a time of fun and family bonding. Cutting, bundling and transporting hay (dried grass for the younger readers) brought hysterical laughter of such ecstasy that watching and inquisitive neighbors would join in. I still have vivid memories of carrying large bundles of hay wrapped in old blankets or large fish nets only to have one of my siblings take an advantage of the situation and tickle me until I had to drop the heavy burden.
Trout fishing and berry picking were always exciting hobbies during the warm days of Summer. Our fishing poles, several of them, were cut from the forest in the fall. Trimmed with all bark removed and then placed in the barn or ‘under’ the house so that all the sap would evaporate over the winter. In the Spring this fishing ‘stick’ now became our favorite fishing pole for the Summer. It was not unusual for me to leave the house early in the morning and with a berry pail and my fishing pole walk for almost an hour through a broken trail to one of our favorite fishing places called the Long Pond – along the way I would hide by berry pail somewhere on the trail.
When I finally arrived at the Long Pond I would stand on a place called ‘the flat rock’ and there I would fish for hours. In those days there was no limit to the number of trout you were allowed to catch – the number you kept depended on the number of fish you could carry. After I caught my limit, the number of fish I could carry, I would leave the pond and picking up the trail make for a long trek back home. Remember the pail I left in the trail? On my return trip I would retrieve the pail and would always find a patch of wild raspberries. I arrived home late in the afternoon or early evening always with a fine catch of fish and a pail filled with berries.
Suddenly in my musings there was an intuitive conviction that I was not alone. My musings gave way to a reality check and about fifty meters down the road a large moose, but illegal as per regulations, was staring me down. I’m sure it was wondering how a Ford Ranger even dared to get so far into the back country under such hazardous road conditions. When the animal walked off the road without any fear of being taken by the hunter, I quickly drifted off to other far away events.
My musings were not choreographed in any kind of chronological order but simply bounced from one scene or event or time to another. I was not quite a teen when my youngest sibling Dennis, was taken to the local hospital some distance from our community. He came down with some kind of a flu virus and was left in the care of the hospital staff until the next day when he was to be released again. In my musings I remember coming home from school the next day for lunch (12:00 noon) and discovered my Mom in deep, deep distress to the point of being almost inconsolable. I had never given any thought to the possibility that the condition of Dennis would have deteriorated because he was suppose to be home later on in the afternoon or early evening. I can’t remember who else was in the house but I blurted out, “Mom! What’s wrong?” I will never forget the sound of her voice and the look of sheer shock on her beautiful face when she said, “Dennis is dead!” Shock waves had penetrated my entire body. I ran outside and with my body pressed against the house I banged my hands against it and shouted, “No! No! No!” In my musings my thoughts seemed troubled and I was thus awakened and reflected on this time/event in my life and that of my family. I found myself smiling and very grateful for the life and extended family that I cherish so much (During the Rowe Family Reunion in 2013 I visited the grave of Dennis and thanked God for this wonderful gift He had given us for just six short months).
In the next moments of time I’m not sure if I was just musing or in a deep dream. Scenes were vivid, voices were clear and events were like yesterday. School and church related activities and events caused me to shiver and get goose bumps as I recalled concerts, graduations and Sunday School. At one point I was standing on the beach adjoining our property and heard the sound of sea gulls, saw large and small fishing boats coming and going as fisherman worked hard to put food on the table and a roof over their head. I remembered the tragic scene of a funeral procession through town where a horse-drawn carriage carried the body of an aged fisherman who had committed suicide by hanging. Once again I was drawn into the shadows of death as I saw the passing of my grandparents and their funeral services. I could now hardly keep up with the many and varied scenes that I was now reliving.
There were scenes of my father leaving home and going away for long periods of work – sometimes for months. Then there were the emotional scenes of my Dad coming home and embracing our Mom and then praying to God with thanks for looking after the family. Family worship at church, it was mandatory that you attend but we never had to be pushed, family Sunday dinners and guests practically every other Sunday was now as real at the day of the event. In fact it was so real that I found myself stirring to the point of opening my eyes and for the moment found my bearings with just a little bit of difficulty. I was still sitting in my Ford Ranger but in a matter of a few moments I had travelled and retraced scenes and events in my life that will continue to influence the full stature of the man that I am yet to become. Wow! I was awakened to bright sunshine that reminded me once again that regardless of the scenes and events of life, the sun is always shining.