The Way It Was

A mem­o­rable sum­mer spent with a real-live hero

More of Our Canada - - Content - By Wy­man Atkin­son, Cot­tam, Ont.

Way back in 1941 or maybe ’42, I ex­pe­ri­enced the most ex­cit­ing sum­mer of my life. This was back in the days be­fore tele­vi­sion, air con­di­tion­ers, re­frig­er­a­tors and cell­phones. Back when Bor­den’s milk was de­liv­ered by a horse-drawn milk wagon, as were the 25-pound blocks of ice, for your ice­box.

Party lines were nor­mal; we all had our own num­ber of rings. Food tasted bet­ter. Ev­ery­thing was grown nat­u­rally. My sis­ter Betty and I lived with my grand­par­ents, in Amher­st­burg, Ont., while my mother and dad worked at John Inglis in Toronto, mak­ing guns for World War II.

I had a rat ter­rier named Teddy and tiny metal toy sol­diers to play with. The radio was our only source of en­ter­tain­ment. My favourite pro­grams cen­tred around the cowboy he­roes of the day: The Lone Ranger, Hopa­long Cas­sidy and Gene Autry—they were the good guys. You used your imag­i­na­tion and the Wild West mag­i­cally came to life.

Back then, my grand­par­ents had what you might call a hobby farm. A black man by the name of Oswald Simpson, a.k.a. Ap­ples, was the man who worked the land for them. He was a large man—he weighed more than 300 pounds—and he had a team of horses he called by name. Mr. Simpson would show up at sun­rise and leave at sunset. He wore bib over­alls and a straw hat. The work was hot and dif­fi­cult. Mr. Simpson and his team would work the ground as he sat perched on a spring-loaded seat on his three-fur­row plow. Back and forth, back and forth, as the sun pun­ished all three of them.

For breakfast, my grandma made oat­meal por­ridge. This stuff would not only stick to your ribs but it could also be used in wall­pa­per­ing. I didn’t much care for oat­meal por­ridge, so when Grandma went to her sewing room while Betty and I had breakfast, I would take my bowl and place it on the floor for Teddy to gorge him­self. Thank good­ness for Teddy; I ate the toast, he ate the por­ridge.

Af­ter breakfast, Grandma would sug­gest I go out­side and play. With straw hat in hand, I would make my way out to the field and watch Mr. Simpson. Wher­ever he hap­pened to be, he would yell “whoa” to the team and mo­tion for me to come over. Once I ar­rived, “Ap­ples” would put my hat on my head and pick me up, plac­ing me on the back of one of his gi­ant steeds. He told me to “hold onto the horse’s mane and hang

on tight!”

Boy, it was a long way to the ground. The smell of a horse and freshly ploughed earth are odours you never for­get. It was won­der­ful.

When Ap­ples said “giddy-up,” the two match­ing drafts knew it was time to work. They plod­ded along, plough­ing their fur­rows, but imag­i­na­tion en­abled me to be whomever I chose. I could pre­tend to be any one of my cowboy he­roes. I whiled away my time in a cloud of dreams on a horse that could fly.

“Whoa, whoa,” Ap­ples would shout; my dream in­ter­rupted, it was time for lunch. Ap­ples lifted me like a feather and placed me back on earth. It’s hard to walk af­ter you’ve been rid­ing a horse at break­neck speed. I got my bal­ance as I walked over to the shade of a tree. Be­fore any lunch was eaten, Ap­ples took care of his du­ti­ful drafts. They came first be­cause, as he said, “they worked the hard­est.”

The two of us sat un­der the shade of the tree and ate our lunch. Oh, my, if any­one ever won­dered why Ap­ples weighed 300 pounds, I think I found the an­swer! Not­with­stand­ing the fact that he had brought both his lunch and din­ner, Ap­ples un­leashed a cor­nu­copia of food. Most of it was home­grown or home­made, ex­cept for the half roll of bologna. Any­thing served on home­made bread is de­li­cious.

Once lunch was fin­ished, he would tell me to lie down and take a nap. He’d place my straw hat over my face and the next thing I knew, I’d wake up to see Ap­ples and his horses hard at work.

Now, Hol­ly­wood can have all of their cowboy radio he­roes, but for me, that sum­mer, Mr. Simpson was my real-live hero. Thank you, Ap­ples. ■

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.