Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Tails From the Farm

X Marks the Spot

Part of growing up in the country, and being the child of parents who survived several years of war, was having a huge garden. Not only did we have a huge garden, we also had two huge freezers that were filled with garden produce. There was a cold storage room, for keeping potatoes and all the canning, my mother did. You didn’t buy what you could make yourself. Fast food was pulling a carrot from the earth, or picking a tomato off the vine. Money wasn’t wasted on restaurants, not when it could be made at home.
There were chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits. A typical meal was meat and potatoes, along with some over-cooked veggie. There was no such thing as el dente when it came to my parents. Everything had to be cooked, very well indeed. I was a picky eater as a child, not something that was tolerated by strict parents. I sat at the table, long after everyone else was done and gone, many a time. It wasn’t completely my stubborn, little self to blame. So many foods made me shiver with disgust. Some of them, were vegetables that I swear, were meant to be cattle feed. Sure, they’d survived years of near starvation during the second world war, eating vegetables just like that, but the war was over. There was no need to grow and eat it on purpose. I can remember many times that we sat down to supper, only to find that we were going to have one of these dreaded meals.
“The war’s been over for ages,” I would wail and whine, “we don’t have to eat this anymore. No one has to eat this on purpose.”
All the laments in the world didn’t help me, not even once. We continued to grow and eat the pasty, awful vegetable that looked like a giant chick pea, along with a few others I had no use for. Growing a huge garden, meant tending a huge amount of plants. Instead of powdering potatoes for potato bugs, we were sent out as children, to pick the bugs off the plants, then drop them into a bottle of soapy water. This wasn’t within my capabilities, for you see, I hate bugs. Not all bugs. I’m okay with butterflies and really pretty moths, maybe a few others, but potato bugs, no way. Still, it was one of our chores and not open for negotiation. Needless to say, there were never many bugs in my bottle. I simply couldn’t touch them. Sure, I used all kinds of sticks to move the occasional one into the bottle, but I wasn’t all that successful.
Another big part of that garden was, weeding. An acre of garden takes a lot of care. There was no slacking. Though children, we were expected to do our share of chores. Though the daughter of Dutch parents, I wasn’t born with a green thumb. I would much rather have been catching frogs and tadpoles in the ditch, playing with the dog, or coaxing the neighbour’s horses over to the fence. Weeding wasn’t fun, not fun at all. It was even worse on a hot, summer day. If it had been up to my father, we kids would’ve worked all day. This didn’t sit well with mom, though. She put her foot down. We would do chores in the morning then, the rest of the day was ours. Oh, and sleeping in was not a thing. We rose with the chickens.
So, we were busily working in the garden, one fine, sunny day. Each kid with a rake or hoe, cleaning between the rows of vegetables, and likely thinking of doing things that were far more fun, than cleaning a garden. I know that my daydreams were usually of ponies and horses. If we worked hard, mom would give us, fifty cents each, and we’d bike to the local swimming resort, a couple of miles away. I loved to swim, but even more than that, I loved to admire the trail riding horses. If I was really lucky, the guide would let me sit on a horse or pony, while they waited for the next ride to go out. I would sit there for ages. Hot sun beating down, slapping the horseflies that dared bite whichever horse I was on, and I was in my glory. I don’t know what the other kids were thinking about, yet I’m pretty sure, not a one of us was really paying attention, to what we were doing.
How do I know this, you ask? Well, while as I was attacking weeds with the hoe, I stepped on a rake. Away I went, bawling my eyes out, hobbling to the house and mom. She would make it better. Mom always made everything better. I had to sit on the steps for a little while, my foot soaking in a pail of very warm water and Arm and Hammer washing soda. It was the remedy for all sorts of injuries like that. Get a splinter, soak it in the mixture. Puncture yourself, soak it in the mixture. I didn’t get to sit there long. As soon as the wound was deemed clean, it was bandaged and back into the garden I went. After all, I had to pull my fair share of the work. My siblings certainly weren’t about to let me slack off.

So, back to the garden I went. I’d barely entered a row, when it happened again. Yup, I stepped on a rake. Away I went, bawling my eyes out all over again as I hobbled to the house, crying for mom. Out came the bucket of warm water with washing soda. Not only did I step on a rake, it lined up with the original holes. Well, not holes, but the middle hole was a perfect fit.
There I sat for a considerable amount of time. My gardening time was done for the day, but so were my big plans for an afternoon of swimming and drooling over ponies. My father took one look at me, slowly shook his head, and didn’t say a word. The others left on their bicycles for the cool waters I had been dreaming of. I missed out on what I’m sure was, a wonderful time, but my parents weren’t without sympathy. My father brought me out a popsicle and we shared a bit of quiet time, just sitting there on the steps, on that hot afternoon.
For the longest time afterwards, I had a perfect x on the bottom of my foot. All that’s left now is a single scar, from the double puncture. The memory though, remains with me forever.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB