The Rakings by D. L. Greene

Chapter 14

     As a variation from my usual routine I had a four day visit with two life insurance agents. I do not remember whether we slept three in a bed, or I borrowed a cot for one. They "worked" the district in company with Malcolm Santy, the local merchant, who also became an agent.

     We had some long and involved theological discussions. I doubt if those men had ever come in contact with a cleric before. I claimed that I was in the insurance business too, and that my company offered better and cheaper policies than theirs, for they extended into Eternity, covered fire risk as well as life, and were not cancelled for non-payments of premiums. One of the men was interested in prophecy about which he had some hazy notions. So for hours we studied Kirkpatrick's "Doctrine of the prophets" to our mutual edification.

     My sick visiting and funeral services that summer required an abnormal amount of driving. I found a sick woman in the Snake Bite country lying on a pole bunk bed built into the end of a granary. Her husband seemed helpless, and the task of caring for her was beyond the ability of her two little girls. They had no money to summon a doctor fifty miles from town.

     I reported her case, and that of a boy in the Demaine district, who had lost the use of his limbs, to the Public Health Department in Regina. My letter brought a doctor and a nurse. They took the woman to hospital, where she underwent an operation. That fall she helped a woman to feed a threshing gang. The boy's case was pronounced progressive muscular atrophy. For him I provided a wheel chair to provide a measure of comfort in his affliction.

     A German woman died following childbirth, the doctor not having been called until too late. The family lived on the border between my Mission and Mr. Legge's. I was returning from a sick visit in his Mission and called at the stricken home.

     The man who came out to the buggy said the family did not speak English so there was no use going into the house. I turned reluctantly away, but was called back, telling me the parents of the deceased would see me. It was true that they did not know much English, but they understood the atmosphere and language of prayer. Though they were enemy aliens and very conscious of the fact, deep answered unto deep. The old lady thanked me for my call, saying "Same God, same Christ". They came for me to conduct the funeral the next day. I drove sixty miles taking that duty, but used Mr. Legge's pony for part of the way. We laid Mrs. Behmer to rest beside a great alkali slough, known as Lucky Lake.

     During the following week I drove one hundred and thirty-six miles, had a baptism on Saturday, and spent that night with Mr. Legge. Next day, Sunday, I had another baptism, performed a marriage ceremony in his territory, and then drove back for two services in my own Mission.

     On Monday I returned to Mr. Legge's Mission for a private communion, covering forty miles that day. Mileage for that month of June was five hundred and thirteen, with fifty visits.

     Eclipsing local hardships there was always the overhanging cloud of war, and fears for the loved ones overseas. For casualty lists were daily mounting with alarming totals. Sunday services had to be partly abandoned because it was so difficult to heat the schoolhouses, so my work became largely visiting. By this time I had bought a second horse, and with a strong team was able to make my rounds despite distances and heavy trails.

     We gathered in homes for sing song. "Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag" and "Tipperary" were enjoying a great run. And little Velva Russnell was just learning to sing, and she persisted in piping out "Good bye Picadilly, farewell Mr. Greene", while her mother picked one of her delicious cornmeal Johnny cakes for my special delectation.
     In another district there was a woman with a very strong voice, who used to sing the six-line verses of Rock of Ages to a four-line tune. When she ran out of music she doubled back on a couple of lines of tune. Not content singing about The Rock of Ages, she sang about all the rocks of ages. But these little inaccuracies did not matter so much so long as expression was given to the soul's emotions.

     When Spring opened we were isolated for the usual two or three weeks, waiting for the ice to go out. Shortages of certain commodities occurred at the store causing inconvenience. That year there was a famine on pepper and writing paper. But more serious troubles developed. Just as the break-up threatened Hazel Loyst died.

     The men went to Elbow for a casket, but could not take their horses across the river. They attached a long rope to a toboggan and hauled the coffin back, stepping gingerly floe to floe of rotting ice. We held the funeral like all the others, without the services of an undertaker.

     Hazel had passed away in her youth and when the year was at its spring. Her death sorely tried her mother's faith. I reminded the little group gathered in the home how once the Psalmist demanded "Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath He shut up His tender mercies?" and then how he had concluded "This is my infirmity; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High."

     On April 8th we held a meeting regarding the building of a church, and arranged to circulate a subscription list in aid of the building fund. Mr. Rusnell donated an acre of land at the corner of four townships for a site. It was a mile from the store and post office, but otherwise a central location. From the Missionary Society we received a substantial grant. Everything at last being in order, we engaged the carpenter who had built my cottage.

     One of my college friends used to say, "Life is like a badger; sometimes you are on top of the ground, and sometimes you are down in a hole."

     A party of us young men went out to Moose Jaw to see a stampede. It was a regular wild west exhibition of roping, riding and bull dozing. We arrived back home on a hot July Saturday, still under the spell of rodeo thrills, to learn that tragedy had struck our community.

     Chris Loitz, another of our young men had been drowned while bathing in his pond. The funeral was set for Monday, but as I was returning home late from a Sunday afternoon service, the women who had prepared the body for burial told me the funeral would have to be held that night. It took some hours to notify the parties concerned, so the service did not take place until dusk. We held it in the open air outside the family home.

     It was dark before the cortege got underway for the Norwegian cemetery five miles distant. A strange young man in the company volunteered to drive my team for me. "My father was an undertaker in Norway," he explained, "so I know what to do." I was extremely grateful for his assistance. Millions of mosquitoes tortured us, as we moved slowly along, and while we stood at the grave. Someone held a stable lantern for me to read the word of committal. As at the burial of Sir John Moore, so in the case of Chris Loitz. "We buried him darkly at dead of night."

     Skeptics scoffed at these predictions while others who had learned to rely on our weather prophet believed. On the second of July there was a cloud burst which filled all the sloughs and dry lake bottoms, submerged portions of the trails, and left some homes stranded on islands. Still more rain fell, and a very heavy crop of wheat grew. But continued damp weather brought on rust.

     We had difficulty in getting the lumber for our church hauled on account of muddy roads and shortage of men due to war enlistments. I volunteered to
draw out loads of wheat and bring in lumber. On one of these trips I drove a team for Mr. Anderson.

     At the river we doubled up as usual. He hitched his team ahead of mine and we attempted to ford a channel formed by high water due to snow melting in the mountain. One of his horses was a colt which had never crossed the river before. This animal, instead of keeping to the fording place turned downstream and Mr. Anderson, who was riding the other horse, could not stop her, until we had drifted some rods off our course. By this time the water was coming up on my wagon box. When the teams did turn, they cramped a wheel under my box and nearly upset wheat and driver into the river. I looked for a soft place in the river to jump, and abandon ship if necessary.

     However we managed to navigate back to the ford without dropping into a hole in the riverbed. Then we made our way over a strip of land, and aboard the ferry. The next day we brought our loads of lumber back home safely. On the last day of July we commenced building the church, and for several days thereafter I worked with Mr. Heggie on construction. He ate lunch with me every afternoon, he supplying the strawberry jam sandwiches, and I making the tea. One day I drew his attention to my kitchen cupboard, remarking that I had made it myself. "Ay", he said, "I can well see that". There was no mistaking hi opinion of my carpentry.

     In August my mission was visited by the student who had followed me in 1911, the Rev. C. S. Ferguson of Mortlach. I borrowed Mr. Sutton's democrat and met Mr. Ferguson and his family at Gilroy. We re-crossed the river and climbed the hills in black darkness, an experience which terrorized the two women in the party. Sheer exhaustion forced us to seek shelter and rest at the home of Mr. And Mrs. Christopher. Next day I installed my visitors in my cottage, and departed for Moose Jaw, via Morse, leaving Mr. Ferguson to take my Sunday services and renew old friendships. When I returned the following week my guests wished to go to Spring Lake and spend a few days at the old Ronald house. I borrowed the democrat again, and took them.

     Upon my return home from this trip I discovered the impression had gone abroad that I had been married. I had been seen bringing home two ladies from the railway station. People were not to know that the second lady was Mrs. Ferguson's companion help.

     Eager to believe the best for me they concluded she was my bride. I had hearty congratulations thrust upon me. The news was disseminated from all the post offices in the country. When the question was asked "Who was the bride?" the answer came readily. "She must be that school teacher Mr. Greene took to the picnic at Demaine."

     Arriving at the Demaine school for Sunday morning service I was greeted with a bowl of lovely flowers on the teacher's table, looks of disappointment on the people's faces, and the question "Why didn't you bring Mrs. Greene?" To this query I replied "Oh she did not care to come". It took several weeks for official denials of my marriage to reach the outposts of the empire. But I enjoyed all the thrills of being a matrimonial hero without any of the responsibilities.

     In order that Mr. Ferguson might get home for his Sunday duties I had to borrow the democrat and drive to Spring Lake on Thursday for them. Mrs. Ferguson suggested phoning home and arranging to stop another week at the lake. She had not yet realized how far they were from a telephone. We reached Sunkist noon Friday and proceeded to Gilroy in the afternoon. My friends caught the train Saturday morning and I returned home the same day. Thus, on account of pioneer conditions it took three days time and ninety miles of driving to take my summer visitors to the train.

Back to Chapter 13     Onward to Chapter 15

Return to the Main Page