Copyright 2020 by Lew Goddard
Father was a Drayman. As long as I can remember my Dad was a
to Webster a dray is a low cart without sides used for carrying heavy
loads. My Dad altered the definition by placing long planks embodied
with twelve-inch metal steel bolts that were flattened with two bolts
attached to the planks. These metal fasteners were inserted into
appropriately located holes in the bed of the dray. In the event of a
loose heavy load the one-foot sides kept the load from falling off.
When I was five years old, we lived in a small house
that had a hard-earthen floor in the kitchen and dining area. The
rest of the rooms, a large bedroom and another room that we would now
call a living room were provided with one by four-inch unfinished
wood. Two sisters slept on cots in the “living room” and
I slept on a hammock shaped cot in the bedroom with my parents. This
was a house provided by the Farmer/Owner of the property. It had no
indoor plumbing, water supply system or furnace. The cook stove was
the only means of heat. My Mother baked fabulous home-made bread in
the oven with huge slices that covered a plate.
was accomplished by hand using a large metal tub and a scrubbing
board. This board held a rippled glass surface surrounded by a wooden
frame. The clothes were scrubbed using up and down motion with Lye
soap to help remove the stubborn soils. It was hard physical labor
for my Mother and older sister. Sometimes I would get a bath in the
left-over laundry water outside when the weather was warm.
back at that after some seventy years I’m sure that’s why
we usually find it necessary to indulge in a daily shower to remove
that accumulation from bygone years.
moved about fifteen miles south to the next farm that same year. With
a horse pulling a small wagon and a milk cow tethered behind it took
most of one day.
arrival it was noted that the cow’s belly was bloated and it
was suffering. I first learned of some of my Dad’s knowledge
and ability that day. It seemed odd to me when he reached into his
pocket and opened his jack knife and plunged it into the side of the
cow while it was lying on its side. The odor expelled from this
opening was indeed not very nice. The insertion of the knife must
have hurt but obviously it was compensated by reducing the belly pain
that the unfortunate animal was experiencing. The cow survived.
was much better and larger. This time my Mother and Father utilized
the “living room” with their double bed and dresser on
the main floor. The second story contained two bedrooms and I had one
to myself and one for one sister. At that time my older sister left
school and went to work away from home.
living conditions were not much different from the previous place
with the old cook stove being the principle heating facility. My Dad
would come home from work and he would immediately pick up the axe
and begin to chop wood at the ever-existing wood pile. A supply would
be brought in to the “wood box” for over night and the
next day of heating water in the reservoir and cooking.
day my Mother approached my Dad from the rear at the time he was
chopping wood and touched him on the shoulder. It startled him just
at the time that the axe was at its highest elevation. The story was
reiterated for a number of years afterwards that Dad attempted to
take the axe to my Mother as she told it.
Eggs provided the main staple with the delicious
home-made bread taking second place. Meat was scarce as well as
vegetables until the early fall harvest. Potatoes and carrots along
with a few other garden vegetables were savored at that time. There
was a cellar cold enough to keep some until the next spring.
was hauled by horse and buggy once a month from town five miles
distant. Because my parents were far from wealthy the government
provided 100 pounds of flour per month that was termed “relief.”
In today’s language it is social assistance.
the winter the chickens had to be cared for on the other side of the
barn. It seemed to be a long distance in my young mind. Again, my
Father showed his ingenuity by stretching a thin rope from the house
to the barbed wire fence that travelled to the barn to guide him in
the times of winter storms and darkness.
were no street lights and no yard lights--- no electricity. Winter
nights were pitch black unless the moon was shining. It was said that
farmers could become lost in storms on their way to and from the out
buildings if they didn’t have a system of guidance.
turned six the next year in March and attended the Red Fox country
school with my sister. Until the snow was gone, we travelled to and
from with the horse and buggy. Later in warm dry weather we hiked the
half mile across the field.
summer we moved to the small town of Sintaluta in Saskatchewan that
changed my Dad’s occupation to a Drayman.
Jackson sold the only business of drayman to my Dad along with two
work horses and necessary equipment to perform the duties as
determined by customers.
week day morning found the drayman at the railway station to load
groceries, beer in bottles and kegs, freight and vehicle parts to be
delivered throughout the town. Mr. Jack Stewart was the station
master. In stature he was the exact opposite of my Father. Mr.
Stewart’s girth was estimated to be in excess of eighty inches
and he carried it proudly. On a certain day he would buy a dozen
stout as it was taken off the train and give the money to Dad for the
hotel beverage owner.
remember tasting stout when I was older but it didn’t appeal to
me and still doesn’t.
and perishables were to be delivered first to the hotel and to the
three grocery stores on Main Street. The kegs were very heavy and
were left at the rear entrance to the beverage room. There was no
beer in cans at that time, only glass bottles. Perishable groceries
were taken directly to the coolers in the stores.
duties were usually completed before eleven A.M. in a matter of three
the weather was extremely hot the horses were taken back home and
frequently watered. Feature a two-gallon pail of cold well water! I
used to watch the horse consume this so quickly that I’m sure
that he never took a breath. The look of satisfaction was obvious.
Then back to work.
Wednesday of every second week it was garbage collection throughout
the entire town. Census stated that there were about two hundred and
fifty residents in Sintaluta but the number of homes was never made
known. Considering that the average family consisted of 3.3 occupants
placed the number of houses in the neighborhood of seventy-five. Each
household had some refuse, some in galvanized metal containers and
some in paper bags that originated at the grocery stores, and some
just lying on the ground. Plastic grocery bags were not existent
was thrown away to be collected by the drayman. This included old
mattresses, old lumber, used oil filters and vehicle parts, tree
limbs, newspapers and magazines, household appliances some as large
as wood and coal heaters to name a number of items that were loaded
on to the dray and taken three quarters of a mile south of town and
dropped in the “dump.”
wasn’t until some time in the 1960’s that refuse was more
carefully controlled and covered on a regular basis and the disposal
site became known as “The Landfill.”
you can imagine this task was not completed in a few hours. Often the
remainder of the homes and the commercial buildings were serviced the
hot long day my Father arrived home obviously sweating and worn out
sitting on the side of the dray with his feet hanging down. Held
between his knees was an open metal can that probably had contained
canned corn or peas but now housed two perky ears and big round eyes.
While my Father was realistic about wild animals and pets, he just
couldn’t see why someone would be so cruel to abandon a one or
two-week old kitten at the “dump.” I was ecstatic of
nurtured her and a little to my surprise Dad enjoyed her playfulness
when he removed his son, she would viciously attack them and move on
to Dad’s long underwear and his toes. He even picked her up on
she gave birth to four kittens. Heaven on earth! No, Dad said that we
couldn’t afford to feed five cats. I suggested giving the
kittens away but he sadly said that they had to be disposed of.
Naturally, I was heartbroken. It was even worse when he showed me the
disposal method and put me in charge.
horses were stabled in the barn belonging to Mr. Jackson. I don’t
know if Dad paid for the use of the facility. We walked over to the
barn each night to make sure they had enough to eat and drink.
Arrangements were made with another owner whose property was
comprised of two regular town lots that were fenced with barbed wire.
The owner was pleased to have his fence repaired and of course it was
an easy way to keep the grass and weeds to a minimum. Sometime during
a stay in the “pasture” the horses had a disagreement and
one placed a hoof on the others flank with a very distinct shape of
the horseshoe. It must have hurt but she didn’t seem to limp or
favor that leg. What really hurt was the liquid dressing that we
placed on the wound to prevent infection. The horse was securely tied
to the manger and we stood behind the huge timber that also helped to
hold up the barn as Dad reached out with the disinfectant rag wrapped
around the end of an old hockey stick. As he slapped the solution
onto the sore, she kicked back and hit the wall of the barn and the
old building shook. This application was administered twice each time
and twice a day. Fortunately, the wound healed over in a couple of
days leaving a huge scab but no infection.
the winter ice was hauled for the butcher’s ice house in town.
The ice was obtained from various dugouts in the area and when it was
convenient time and weather wise, we would haul ice in the dray with
the horses. One such cold sunny day about a mile and half south of
town Dad had a problem lifting a chunk of ice out of the water. As I
remember it was more than a foot wide and a similar size long and all
of eighteen inches thick. He slipped and went into the water up to
his waist. Together we managed to get him back on solid ice. I picked
up the ice saw and tongs and helped him on top of the ice on the
dray. He always brought a cushion to sit on but that day at twenty
below zero he needed something else to protect him so we covered his
legs with my parka. I grabbed the bridle of one horse and ran beside
until we reached home. By this time his dentures were rattling like a
John Deere tractor and he was cold! My Mother placed a couple of wool
blankets for a brief period in the oven and made some hot tea. Dad
never drank coffee just tea. He was English. It seemed like it took
forever for him to get warm with the blankets over him and his feet
on the oven door. He mentioned that it took a couple of days before
he really felt warm.
moved again to a somewhat larger home. The real reason was that the
property included a barn and the horses would always be at home. The
house was a one and half story complete with one large bedroom on the
upper level. Now that my sisters were both gone to work the bedroom
was shared by me and my parents similar to the first home, I recall
on the farm north of town. That arrangement didn’t last long
Dad fashioned a bedroom on the main floor for him and my Mother.
Nothing wrong with that now I had a bedroom all to myself. I found
out that there was no insulation in the sloping walls and it was
nipply cold in the winter.
following year Dad hit a bump in the road. Business had been good and
he was always thoroughly played out each day. That may have
contributed to his suffering from Hemorrhoids that led to surgery to
relieve the growths. I still shudder to think of that time and
sometimes I felt physical phantom pain when I knew that Dad was in
the day that surgery was planned my Mother and I waited in the
hospital room for Dad to come back from the operating room of the
Indian Head hospital. There was no hospital in our home town.
was evident that he had under gone Ether as an anesthetic. It
certainly has a distinct odor. He roused and opened his eyes and his
words were slurred, “What is it, a boy or a girl.? I knew Dad
was going to be all right.
was quick and he was soon back to work.
was spring and vegetable gardens had to be prepared for the
townsfolk. Nearly every one had a garden of varying sizes and Dad
sharpened his single plow. He didn’t actually sharpen it he
just shined it so that it would slide easier through the soil. It had
handles much like a wheelbarrow and connections at each side for
traces so that one or two horses could pull it. It always seemed
awkward to me at each end of the garden where a 180-degree turn had
to be made. However, my Dad made it look easy even with the weight
being in the neighborhood of one hundred or more pounds. He would
continuously speak to the horses and they would move just as if they
knew exactly what he was saying. Plowing kept him busy for up to a
month with all the other work. In the fall it all started over again
once the gardens had been harvested.
the summer months the grass in the boulevards was cut with a horse
drawn mower. There were several pointed blades mounted on a long flat
shaft that when the two heavy metal wheels tuned forward the gearing
prompted the shaft to rapidly move back and forth. Hence, grass was
left at the point of cutting. After a suitable time of drying the
grass, (hay), was gathered by hand and thrown on to the dray. It was
then delivered to the barn loft. I think I was about twelve when I
started helping with the hay gathering.
one afternoon after collecting a full dray load, we were throwing it
into the loft and for some reason the horses were startled with
something and jerked forward. I happened to be at the rear end of the
wagon where the upright caught me about a foot up on my leg and
toppled me on to the ground. There I was lying flat on my back with
Dad looking down at me. He questioned if I was hurt and I said no
before he burst into raucous laughter. He said that was about the
funniest thing he had seen for a long time. Arms and legs flying with
the pitch fork thrown over the fence into the garden. What a
the end of August into early September a few railway cars arrived
filled with coal. Most residences were heated with wood and coal
because natural gas had not been trenched throughout the town. This
meant that moving the coal from the rail cars to bins beside the
railway was part of Dad’s job. Can you imagine the magnitude of
this endeavor? Twenty ton of coal, 40,000 pounds had to be moved.
Prior to my coming of age my Dad used to accomplish this all by
himself. I later helped until I graduated from high school and
coincidentally my Dad retired at that time.
started moving coal after the delivery of materials to stores was
complete. A slide was provided in the rail side bin so that the coal
would approach the far wall as closely as possible, Planks were
removed from behind the sliding door of the car and they were taken
one at a time until we had an entrance to the floor. We must have
walked miles, back and forth, with a large lump in out arms or a
shovel full. Once we had space, we took turns filling and emptying a
wheel barrow. About thirty-two hours later all the coal was in the
bin. Even with a small volume of oil spray that was provided on the
coal it was very dust clogging work. Our appearance at the end of the
day was very different. That’s where the comment “black
as coal” originated.
school was equipped with a stoker feed furnace. That meant that the
coal was converted to small chunks that would move through the stoker
and maintain a regular temperature as set by a thermostat. Loading
and unloading was by shovel only. The railway car held about the same
tonnage as lump coal but it meant considerably more walking with
shovels and wheel barrow. Five tons were immediately delivered to the
school. A metal slide was placed in the basement window and the coal
slid down into a concrete room. At about half full it was usually my
job to crawl into the bin and move the particles back until the room
was full. Once that was completed, I was in dire need of a bath.
remainder of the coal was shoveled into a rail side bin next to the
always made sure that the horses were well cared for, plenty of hay,
oats and water. At the end of the day he would brush and curry them.
The bond between man and animal was obvious. Dad vary rarely imbibed
alcoholic beverages but one day when my Mother and I were away
visiting relatives in another town, he was persuaded to have a few
beers in what was then called “the Beer Parlor.” How many
he consumed is still unknown but the horses brought him home and he
managed to unharness and feed them. Some time later he awakened lying
on the bedding between the horses. They had patiently waited until he
was mobile before they shook and stretched themselves. If a horse
happened to step on your foot she would move away and almost
apologize. They are great animals.
occasion they, the horses, did cause problems. We had just finished
unloading some car parts at the Ford Dealer’s garage on Railway
Avenue opposite the railway crossing when something frightened them,
they took off Hell bent for leather over the crossing and passed the
first street when a pick up truck turned toward them. Immediately
they took a sharp left-hand turn into the ditch and discovering a
fence made another abrupt left-hand turn and were now facing in the
direction from where they started. How they then cleared the fence
and the electrical transformer station I’ll never know because
there couldn’t have been more than a couple of inches on either
side of the dray. Still in full gallop Dad stood in their path and I
held my breathe; he was going to be run over. No, they skidded to a
halt. I was standing about thirty yards from them but I heard the
hard crunch of his fist as he nailed the closest horse. It shook its
head as if to say, what did I do? That was the only time I ever
witnessed Dad loose patience with his animals.
the horses were retired and Dad purchased a small tractor with an
air-cooled motor. He looked proud sitting on that metal seat formed
to fit his derriere with the dray following behind. There had to be a
number of ingenious adaptations to change from being horse drawn to
tractor drawn and he made all of them.
most difficult adjustments were for pulling the plough and the hay
mower. When I watched him plough a garden it seemed that he would
wear the steering wheel out before he was finished. No matter, the
gardens were still perfectly ploughed.
a rail car arrived full of 80-pound fertilizer bags. In our very
small town, the only retail sales for that type of fertilizer was the
Co-op. Their warehouse was part of the retail store on Main Street.
The floor was originally constructed of two by ten lumber, however,
over the years it had seen too many tons and too many feet that had
caused damage and breakage. Each bag had to be carried by hand from
the front of the building to the rear a distance of about forty feet.
I never discovered the total tonnage but I’m sure that it was
close to the weight of a car load of coal because the fertilizer
arrived in the same type of car. At least it wasn’t quite as
dusty as handling coal.
task originated with the railway. New ties arrived and were placed on
a loading dock that was the same level as the floor of the rail car.
Railway workers unloaded the ties but someone had to distribute them
to the locations where replacements were necessary. That someone was
my Dad and most of the time I was the helper. Again, this was back
breaking work loading them on to the dray and then hauling them
sometimes a few miles parallel to the railroad. Of course, the
ditches and borrow pits were not easily traversed. At times when the
dray was fully loaded and it had to be pulled up the side of a ditch,
I road on the front of the tractor to make sure that it didn’t
flip over and land on the driver. Dad would always say that if I
couldn’t hold it in place I was to yell and jump off allowing
him time to jump off too. Fortunately, that never happened but as I
look back on the process that was indeed a stupid thing to do.
the worn-out ties were cast by the rail line, we would collect them
and pile them in locations determined by the maintenance personnel.
of the nastiest jobs was sewage collection and disposal. Two
buildings, the school and the Town Hall were the only places where
human waste was stored in holding tanks buried in the ground. The
tanks were under washrooms with a huge “drop tube”
allowing waste and associated material to descend into storage. You
probably have an idea about the smell. Dad called the collection
vessel a “Honey Wagon.” It was a wooden barrel shaped
tank with massive straps around to keep the boards together and
tight. A hand operated pump with a long handle with a hose attached
drew the effluent from the drop tube tanks. It usually took more than
two hours to fill the collection vessel. We took turns pumping.
one such occasion the pump ceased to work properly. Evidently
something had blocked the hose or the pump. I do honestly believe
that several words were added to my vocabulary that particular
afternoon at the Town Hall. My Dad had a bit of a temper but
obviously this was just too much for him and I understood when he
said that we had to dismantle the pump. Can you imagine a dastardlier
deed? I think I remember wanting to up chuck.
came the tools, mostly wrenches that fit the four bolts around the
head of the pump. With his bare hands he held one wrench at the head
of the bolt and the other ratcheted the bolt off the bottom. One bolt
had to be removed from part of the handle and “woila” the
guts were revealed. Dad reached for something that was protruding
from the belly of the pump and showed it to me.
looked me in the eye and softly said, “I know that you aren’t
supposed to know what this is at your age, but I think you do.”
It was a sanitary napkin.
the tank was much easier. We backed the tank part way into a ditch
about a mile east of our town and next to a slough. No farm within a
half mile and no animals in sight. The release valve was opened at
the lower rear of the tank and within minutes the honey wagon was
about this time Dad was asked to clean up debris and garbage from the
local cemetery. It was located and still is, about three quarters of
a mile north of town. He headed out with the tractor and the dray and
stopped facing the gate. The gate was never locked because often
people liked to drive in and place flowers and visit their lost ones.
Unfortunately, Dad did not secure the brakes on the still running
tractor and it rolled catching his right leg between the steering
shaft and the still securely latched gate. A bone close to his ankle
was fractured. With great difficulty he managed to move the tractor
just enough to release his leg and he limped along the side of the
tractor crawled up on the seat, turned around and drove home. A good
neighbor took him to Indian Head and Dad returned home in a cast that
reached his knee.
a person like him used to continuous physical activity was worse than
a Yellow Jacketed Wasp. His mind told him what needed to be done but
his body could not respond.
Mother and I filled in for him. I knew how to operate the tractor and
it was decided that the morning freight delivery and any other easy
looking job would be my responsibility until Dad could function. It
was summer holidays and I was not attending school and that was one
busy was no problem and I must say that I managed quite well. One
afternoon I raced the freight train over the crossing. I made it with
the throttle wide open but probably no faster than ten miles an hour.
The engineer offered much more on his whistle than normal and shook
his fist at me. That was one thing that I never told my Dad.
recovered quite well and was back to work before the cold weather
arrived. We were still partnering most of the time and we both worked
hard. I actually outweighed him by some twenty pounds when I was
seventeen. He never said that it was a good or bad thing but once or
twice I bent over in front of him and raised him over my shoulder in
a fireman’s hold and carried him part way from the garage to
the house. He used to chastise me and said @#%&) $@. Then we both
next year a friend and a Legion Member arranged for Dad to receive a
pension called a Burned-Out War Benefit for his service in the First
World War and because he suffered what was called Trench Fever during
that time. Dad was sixty years old. It was the same year that I
graduated from high school and obtained a full-time job.
home one weekend at the first part of September Dad made a short trip
to a service station not far from our home and south of the Trans
Canada highway. His little Terrier that used to be mine always went
every place he did. The dog ran across the highway just as a motorist
was travelling east at probably the speed limit and made no attempt
to miss the animal. That was the one and only time that I had seen my
Dad cry when he brought his companion home in his arms.
lived for nearly twenty more years. The first ten in relatively good
health but gradually it deteriorated to Dementia and brain mishaps.
is laid to rest in that cemetery where he broke his leg.
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