“In another six months I’m gonna be 96. I was the youngest of six, three sisters and two brothers. (He is, in fact, the oldest resident in the Hilda district.) My dad, Jacob left Odessa, Russia, lived in the US for two years then came by covered wagon to homestead west of Hilda. He moved one mile east to the present location in 1929. I took up the homestead when Dad retired in 1948. That barn is here as long as I can remember.
“We needed a barn in those days for the horses and we had lots of them -six for the cultivator, six for the seeder and horses were used for plowing and harrowing. Plus me and my brothers each had a pony to ride. At noon the horses were put in the barn where there was shade and feed and rest. And the same was done at suppertime after an afternoon of work. Each stall had a 2×4 sticking out where a set of harnesses, the collar and bridle was hung. In the winter the horses spent more time in the barn. The west lean-to was for the cattle and the other one stored our grain. There wasn’t much to store in those days.
“My brother Slim (Emil) was only two years older than me. Upstairs we hung two sacks filled with straw to practice boxing. Often in the summer when it got too hot to sleep upstairs in the house, us boys slept in the west wing of the barn. Close to the window was where we set a bed spring with a kind of mattress on top, but it was harder than the one in the house. One night a sound woke us up. We listened again trying to figure out what it was. It came from under the bed. It was rattlesnakes, two of them. We scrambled out the window and raced to the house as fast as we could. That was a pretty good scare.
“When I was about 17 we had a horse, Shorty, that always jumped the fence into the neighbour’s pasture. I remember it being January when Dad told me to use Charley to get that horse home. When Shorty kicked out, he hit my foot and broke it, and with rubbers over my shoes, my foot got twisted and was caught in the stirrup. Luckily I was able to get it out or I’d a-probably been dragged to death. Then I had to crawl through a double fence to get to the house. Imagine Mom’s worry because there were no cell phones to let Dad know to hurry home. It took three pillows to soak up the blood. When Dad did get home, he had to hurry back the four miles with the buggy to get my uncle’s truck. They rushed me to the Medicine Hat hospital where I stayed for three weeks in an apparatus to stretch out my bones that were overlapped. I could a-bin a dead pigeon that day.
“When we were first married, my dad came out from Hilda to help. At noon this one day a big electrical storm came up. It was pouring rain. Dad didn’t want the salt block in the middle of the yard to dissolve so he sent my wife and me out to put it inside. Just as I picked it up, lightning struck and cut the salt block in half like a knife. My ears were ringing for three days. That was a close call.
“When my wife and I were first married, we milked a bunch of cows, eight of them. There were always cats around. One day a cat jumped from the feeding hole of the loft above us onto the cow’s back. The startled cow jumped and kicked. My pail had been almost full but now all the milk in it was gone.
“The barn loft is where we kept straw and sometimes hay. It was pitched up by hand from the hayrack below. There was someone up there in the loft to dig it away. I’m telling you, that was hard work. Later on we had a hammer mill with a belt from the tractor to chop it up and blow the feed upstairs.
“We also baled feed, Violet, my wife on the tractor and my daughter and me on the stack. We sat on this one bale while my wife would bring yet another jag of bales. When we picked up that last bale to finish stacking, we were horrified by what we saw. Three rattlesnakes had been cut in half on the very bale we’d been sitting on.
“One time we had a bale stack that had a chicken nest on top. Every day my daughter would gather the eggs there. When she went up there one day, it was a different story. There was a snake, a big rattlesnakes curled up in the nest. How did it get to the top of that bale stack?
“You know, no one’s on that farm anymore. There’s a few trees left, the house is empty and the barn isn’t much good anymore. Then last year a big storm came along and tore all the doors off. There’s no use fixing it up.”
Interview conducted and article written by Jen Zollner, President MHCPF, April 2021.