Our Echo
Title, story type, location, year, person or writer
Add a Post
View Posts
Popular Posts
Hall of Fame


Story ID:1813
Written by:Richard Laurent. Provencher (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Writers Conference:$500 2007 Family Memories Writing Project
Location:Truro Nova Scotia Canada
Person:Richard L. Provencher
View Comments (0)   |   Add a Comment Add a Comment   |   Print Print   |     |   Visitors


When I first went to visit my precious daughter, Susan and her husband, Dave on their mini ranch in Alberta, little did I know natural farm scents would try to drive me to distraction.

Not being born on a farm meant my nostrils were quite sensitive. And my feet were careful never to step in any kind of cow pie. Nor lift a 5-tine fork, to shunt aside growing piles of manure.

But, holding my nose became difficult as both hands were now occupied with implements on the premises.

This holiday trip with Esther, my wife was a most interesting education for a town boy, from the mining community of Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec. And I learned to work among the animal poop like any worthy farm hand.

My dad always said how hard it was working on his dad’s farm. In 1941 he escaped those chores by enlisting for the Second World War. I always thought that was a bit drastic.

At first, it was easy to hide from outdoor tasks. Although a sudden snowfall followed our early September arrival, singing Christmas carols was not appreciated.

And I soon learned chores must be completed, regardless of weather.

Ernie, the horse required some supervision in his distant pasture. Also the Llamas, especially Buckwheat whose fatherly eye kept watch over four younger males.

Then we helped supervise twelve beef cattle, four donkeys, 20 sheep, two dogs; Storm a proud Pyrenee, Misty a sheep dog and Midnight the cat.

Why don’t the larger animals look after themselves? I wondered. There seemed to be ample grass-munching opportunities lingering about.

But then, as each of knows a friendly contact is most important. A bonding between animal and human is so essential. It was also therapeutic for someone like myself recovering from a stroke.

In fact upon my return to Nova Scotia, my doctor said, “Your blood pressure is the best I’ve seen in the last five years.”

Morning came very early, each day of the twenty-one we spent there. Eeyore’s braying made sure human activity was on full alert. Ever tried to recapture sleep after hollering roars across the sky, from a donkey’s healthy set of lungs? He could easily be heard a quarter of a mile away.

And the previous night’s coyote chorus was almost like a set of pleasant chimes compared to his raucous voice.

First thing each morning, sheep received their snack of grain. We had to do something to quell their combined “Baaing” which assaulted our ears with all exclamation points.

“Okay, you can stop now, treats are coming.” After which the pen was opened and they trooped out for a days worth of grass nibbling. A few older and wiser sheep slyly returned for any last bits of grain before responding to calls from their young ones.

It was more like whining for their mother, as our own children often do.

Thankfully, Kenny the Dexter bull was on our side of friendship. He was a miniature beef cattle and wanted everyone to know he was tough as any old bull. One night he went head to head with an Angus, twice his side.

And they tore up thirty feet of fencing before tiredness and masculine territorial tugs were satisfied.

But Kenny maintained his bellowing all night long.

It is remarkable how easy it is talking to each of these four-legged creatures. The horse, dogs, cat and donkeys stand in rapture as they receive a diet of scratching on the side of their faces. But please do not ignore Eeyore. Though comical, there is nothing pleasant watching the gloomy looking donkey trot off to sulk in the corner of his pen.

And you don’t dare laugh, for fearing to insult him.

Now Buckwheat is something else. I never believed a Llama could be so perceptive looking, even if he did resemble the Grinch, with his pinched up face, discerning eyes and folded back ears.

Whenever one of the other males would charge him, he would chest-butt back. Then turn and jump up onto his two-foot high familiar mound of earth.

From that perch, he proclaiming through a series of snorting, he was King of the hill.

And somehow, after this maneuver, his authority was once again accepted. The challenging male simply bent his head in supplication, joining the other three who resumed chewing on twigs and leaves to supplement their delicious grass meal.

Fences needed mending, pens cleaned out, shrubbery and branches cleared, garage tidied and a dozen other chores came as overflowing water from sloughs on the pastureland. There was always something to do.

Yet, we found time for a little partridge hunting in the backfield, duck hunting a few miles away at Cooking Lake.

And of course, visiting with the animals with one on one conversation.

At night stars were brighter than white coals, the air accepting frosty breaths of appreciation. Giving thanks for a good days work was not really necessary since personal satisfaction meant something special. It was nice knowing, like children, each animal depended on us, trusted us.

And the land also required a caretaker for its needs. We heartily responded, singly and as a family, all pulling together. For without sharing the workload, such a farm could not exist. And we are greater in knowledge for the doing.

Such are steps to fulfillment.

And I know one thing. After this delightful time on the ranch-farm, my wife and I shall one day return.

(c) Richard L. Provencher