Those First Years

Photo courtesy of Designpics. / Don Hammond

Kinda tough those first years.
No rain, heat hammerin down,
us peelin poplar fence posts
And stackin Russian thistles
after mowin fifteen miles of ditches.
The thistles and an old strawpile
helped pull our cows through
winter. We were young then,
healthy, could work till the hands
on the clock got tired.

The floor in our three-room shack
dropped half an inch
to the foot, never could
fill our soup bowls.

It was drafty, dirt blew in
all summer, snow all winter.
We packed in firewood,
hauled out ashes, trapped the mice
that found their way inside.

Our couch was the back seat
out of a ’51 Monarch.
We treated ourselves to a used TV,
black and white
that second winter.

After our land payment and interest
we had three hundred dollars left,
a cream cheque once a week,
and me pregnant.

We got the flu after Christmas,
both of us, took turns
draggin ourselves out of bed
to stoke the cook stove,
the heater in the cellar.

We got hold of my folks
on the party line. They came
in their ’52 International
through rock-hard drifts
and blowing snow.

My dad harnessed our team,
hitched them up to the rack,
forked on loose hay, forked it off
for our cows huddled in maples
along the creek.
My mother kept the fires
alive, the soup pot steaming
while back at her own house
the plants froze.

Those First Years excerpted from Where Blue Grama Grows by Doris Bircham