Harry Forbes Remembers -1

When I Was a Baby and Preschooler

“I don’t remember much about this, but they tell me that I was born in 1918 on April 11th, seven months before the First World War ended. They fought for four years; that was long enough so I stopped that war! I don’t know how I done it but it worked, if you’ll let me take the credit.

“I came into the world weighing 3 1/2 pounds, stark naked. Imagine that! No clothing! No place to put my hands! I was named Harry Leo Forbes. Many people throughout my lifetime have known me as ‘Soddie’. How did I come by that name? My parents called me ‘Sonnie’. When I was learning to talk I tried to say it, but it came out ‘Soddie‘ and so it has remained through the years. Some people know me by no other name.

“The first thing that I can remember was sucking the middle finger of my right hand. Someone told me that if I didn’t stop doing that it would rot off. This must have been when I was more than two or even three years old. One warm spring day I went to sleep on the step of our homestead house with my finger in my mouth. When I woke up, my finger was all wrinkled and white. It was rotting off!! That was the last time I sucked my finger!

“I remember being chased by a calf when I was three or so years old. It really scared me. It happened out by the barn corral when I was with my dad and a neighbour. The milk cow’s calf was playing with me, butting me in the rear end. I ran and it chased me 40 yards or more. The faster I ran the faster the calf ran. Maybe the calf enjoyed it but I sure didn’t. Then I saw that Dad and the neighbour thought it was funny. I was mad at them because they laughed instead of helping me.

“The next thing I remember was my dad going to help the neighbours thresh with a team and bundle rack. I wanted to go along but he wouldn’t take me. I was maybe four years old. After he left I took off down the road after him. The adults had been telling me about brown bears attacking and eating people. I got about half a mile along the road and there was a brown thing by the fence near the road. Is that a bear or what the heck is it? I was petrified. Fortunately my aunt, who was visiting our place, came along and rescued me; took me home. Later, when I inspected the brown thing, I found that it was a rusted tin can about 16” high and 12” square. It was wired to the fence and filled with rocks to hold the fence down in the dip in the ground at the coulee.

“When I was four or five years old, my parents and sisters took the passenger train from Kincorth to Medicine Hat. (At one time Kincorth was a little town located 12 miles from Maple Creek.) They were visiting my mother’s sister and family for a few days. Dad got Mr. Anderson to stay with me on the farm to do chores and look after the place. He told Mr. Anderson which day they would be coming back to Kincorth on the train. That’s the day we drove the team and wagon to Kincorth to meet the train, but it didn’t stop, just sailed on through. The next morning at breakfast we were having cream of wheat (we called it ‘grits’). Mr. Anderson commented, “We’ll eat lots of grits for breakfast so we’ll have lots of grit because if that train doesn’t stop today, we’ll jerk the wheel right off the engine.” The train must have stopped that day because we didn’t jerk a wheel off the engine.

“During those same years we had neighbours, the Harvey Halls, living a half mile away. One day, whether I had told my mother or not, I wandered over to their farm and was still there at suppertime. They must have had something special for supper because when they passed me the potatoes, I replied, “No thanks! We’ve got potatoes at home!”

“One day when my sister Agnes and I heard about someone running away from home, we decided that we would run away, too. We got two sticks, tied our bundles of clothing on the ends of them and put the sticks over our shoulders, like the hobos did. We headed west in the evening, just before sundown, then returned home. Our parents asked us why we came back. We said it was getting dark so we’d wait until morning. When morning came we had forgotten all about running away.

“The first trip to Maple Creek, that I remember, was with my dad when I was five or six years old, with a wagon and team. We put the team in the Palace Livery while getting supplies and having dinner. It was a beautiful white barn, clean, made of brick with, if I remember right, double-wide doors on each end facing north and south. I thought it was the most beautiful building I had ever seen, a palace and have never forgotten it. It must have been torn down in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s.”

© COPYRIGHT: This material is protected by copyright and has been copied by and is used solely for the purposes of the Medicine Hat Cowboy Poetry Foundation. You may not sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of this to any other person. Where provided to you in electronic format, you may only print for your own private study and research. Failure to comply with the terms of this warning may expose you to legal action for copyright and/or disciplinary action.