Loss of an arm never fazed Bill MacGillivray

The Glengarry News - Glengarry Supplement - - News -

Farm­ing is the first hu­man oc­cu­pa­tion and is ab­so­lutely vi­tal to our sur­vival. Gen­er­a­tions have toiled away on the fam­ily farm and, as such, these peo­ple have pro­duced their fair share of sto­ries. Here are some tales of the Glen­garry farm, told to our man­ag­ing ed­i­tor, Steven War­bur­ton.

One-armed grand­fa­ther

When Bill MacGillivray was 16 years old, he lost his arm to can­cer – the ex­act same kind of can­cer that Terry Fox had.

“It was his right arm and he was nat­u­rally right handed,” says Michael MacGillivray, 46, Bill MacGillivray’s grand­son. “So he had to re­learn ev­ery­thing.”

Los­ing one of your limbs so early in life can be a dev­as­tat­ing blow. All Cana­di­ans know that Terry Fox rose above it. Michael MacGillivray and his sis­ter, Al­li­son, 43, say their grandpa over­came it, too.

“He never com­plained,” Ms. MacGillivray says of her grand­fa­ther, who passed away in 2007. “When he was get­ting older, the doc­tor once told him that he could get a hand­i­capped sticker for his truck. My grand­fa­ther told the doc­tor he wasn’t hand­i­capped – he even of­fered to give him a swat to prove it.”

The MacGil­livrays grew up next door to their grand­par­ents, who op­er­ated – what was then called – a “di­ver­si­fied” farm in Kirk Hill. There are nearly 200 acres there and the drive­way to ac­cess them neatly cuts the land in half.

Ms. MacGillivray ex­plains that there are ac­tu­ally two farms – one is 100 acres and the other is 96. The rea­son one is smaller is that a long time ago, one of their an­ces­tors deeded four acres to the United Church of Canada. It’s on that land where Kirk Hill United Church is sit­u­ated.

Ms. MacGillivray says that one of her ear­li­est mem­o­ries is watch­ing her grand­fa­ther sit­ting on a three-legged milk stool while he milked a cow.

“He mod­i­fied his equip­ment be­cause he only had one arm,” she says. “The one peo­ple were most en­thralled with was his chain­saw. He mod­i­fied it so he could work the throt­tle with a bi­cy­cle lever. He had a board that was at­tached to the bot­tom of the saw and he would hold that board against his leg.”

Bill MacGillivray also built furniture – roll­top desks, dea­con benches, cedar chests – many of which can be found through­out Glen­garry. He even be­came a fairly ac­com­plished bil­liards player.

His grand­chil­dren say that his “hand­i­cap,” cou­pled with his strong work ethic, was a life­long in­spi­ra­tion.

“He in­stalled a ‘can do’ at­ti­tude in all of us,” says Mr. MacGillivray. “He showed us you can do any­thing if you put your mind to it.”

The grand­chil­dren say that Christ­mas on the farm was a truly mag­i­cal time.

“Ever since we were kids, grandma (Janet) would dec­o­rate the house and it was al­ways over the top,” says Ms. MacGillivray. “There wasn’t a part of the house that wasn’t touched. She made her own dec­o­ra­tions.” Another me­mory – mak­ing maple syrup. “We prob­a­bly had 300 taps and my grand­fa­ther had a Ford 8N trac­tor with half tracks,” says Mr. MacGillivray. “He used that to gather the sap.”

He re­mem­bers bring­ing home maple syrup in eight-gal­lon milk cans. Since the syrup was fresh, it was hot. He re­mem­bers wrap­ping his arms and legs around the cans to keep him­self warm on the cold rides back to the house.

She re­mem­bers in the Spring and Fall when the work­load was heavier how she and her mother, Joan, would make meals, pack them in boxes, and de­liver them to the men work­ing out in the fields. One of those men was her brother, Rory, who died of an asthma at­tack in 1999 at the age of 20.

To­day, the MacGil­livrays run the farm. They both have chil­dren of their own. Ms. MacGillivray, who lives in Van­kleek Hill, has four chil­dren who all “love the farm.” She says her old­est daugh­ter, Kyla, 17, wants to pur­sue agri­cul­ture as a ca­reer. Her fi­ancée, Jef­frey, is also on the farm a lot. She says he is the res­i­dent “pig ex­pert.”

Mr. MacGillivray lives in Burlington but drives to Glen­garry ev­ery sec­ond week­end to help out. He has three kids of his own and the youngest, Matthew, will get mar­ried on that farm in May of 2018.

“My kids helped out on the farm too,” he says. “Any va­ca­tion was spent on that farm. They loved it. My only wish is that I could have given my own kids the same farm child­hood I had. That work ethic on the farm was in­stilled in me and it helped in my ca­reer” (man­ag­ing the weld­ing de­part­ment of Na­tional Steel Car in Hamil­ton).

To­day, the MacGil­livrays want to re­store the farm, Kirkview Farms, to the way it was when their grand­par­ents ran it.

“Our phi­los­o­phy is sim­ple,” they say on their web page. “We are com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing our an­i­mals with an en­vi­ron­ment that will al­low them to nat­u­rally ex­press the unique­ness of their species. Pigs can be pigs. Chick­ens can be chick­ens. Tur­keys can be tur­keys. Cows can be cows. Horses can be horses….You get the idea! We only feed non-GMO feed to our an­i­mals with the goal of even­tu­ally pro­duc­ing as much of our own feed as prac­ti­cal.

“You are what you eat ap­plies to an­i­mals as well and we want to en­sure that they are given the proper nu­tri­tion, which aids in their health and doesn't re­quire the use of an­tibi­otics. We are also com­mit­ted to en­sure that when the time comes for them to be pro­cessed, it will be done in a hu­mane and eth­i­cal man­ner in ac­cor­dance with ap­pli­ca­ble govern­ment reg­u­la­tions.”

Dairy farm mem­o­ries

The pick-up truck may be a nec­es­sary ac­cou­trement for any farm, but that’s not al­ways the way Bev­er­ley “Bev” (Sloan) Was­tle saw it.

As a teenager, she re­mem­bers the day her fa­ther, Cor­nelius Sloan, said he wanted to get a truck for their First of Kenyon dairy farm.

“I told him I wasn’t go­ing to ride in a truck be­cause it wasn’t classy,” she says. “Then I came home and saw he’d bought a nice new truck and it said ‘C Sloan and Sons’ on it. I was a lit­tle up­set and I asked my dad why I wasn’t men­tioned and he laughed and re­minded me that I didn’t think trucks were classy.”

To­day, when Mrs. Was­tle tells that story from her home in Kelowna, Bri­tish Columbia, she does so with a laugh. She may live in the west now but her heart is def­i­nitely in the east; she could spend

all day telling sto­ries about grow­ing up on a dairy farm near Ap­ple Hill.

Her grand­fa­ther, Wil­liam John Sloan, had the farm be­fore her fa­ther. She says it was her grand­fa­ther whose team of horses helped level the ground in Ap­ple Hill in or­der to build St. An­thony’s Church. she says. “They would dis­cuss all the prob­lems of the world. I thought they were all so old. They weren’t.”

In­deed, af­ter Mrs. Was­tle grew up and then came back to town to work as a nurse, she saw that a lot of those same men were still there and that they all had canes. “As a young­ster, I thought they were au­thor­i­ties on ev­ery­thing they talked about.”

She says that Dan­cause’s was the news out­let. There was no TV so peo­ple had to rely on gos-

“We had a party line,” Mrs. Was­tle ex­plains. ”Our num­ber was 21 ring 6. Dr. Ge­orge McDon­ald – one of the best coun­try doc­tors in the world – was on that party line too.”

She says there was a great temp­ta­tion to lis­ten in when­ever some­one was talk­ing about med­i­cal prob­lems with the doc­tor. When the phone rang, peo­ple would “break their neck” to get to it. They could pick up the phone with the pre­ci­sion of a sur­geon (so that they wouldn’t re­veal their pres­ence) all to lis­ten in on some­one dis­cussing their stom­ach pains.

She re­mem­bers Dr. McDon­ald with great fond­ness. It was an era when physi­cians were known to make house calls. Young Mrs. Was­tle was prone to bouts of pneu­mo­nia. She re­calls the good doc­tor vis­it­ing her in the mid­dle of the night dur­ing a rag­ing bl­iz­zard.

“He would show up with a hat full of snow and ask how I was do­ing. He said he’d buried his car in the snow and my dad would pull him out.”

When she tells her sto­ries, one of the con­stants in her nar­ra­tive is the sweet yet wise pres­ence of her fa­ther, a man who would cut the pa­per dolls out of Ti­mothy Ea­ton cat­a­logues so his daugh­ter could play with them.

“As a child, I’d go out and I’d ask what time I should come home and my fa­ther would say I should have enough sense to know when to come home. That made me so proud, know­ing my fa­ther trusted me. He would say, ‘All my life, I taught you right from wrong. If you can’t use that knowl­edge, what good are you to your­self or any­one else?’”

She re­mem­bers be­ing a teenager and lov­ing rock and roll.

“We would play the ra­dio in the car,” she says. “We had one of the older farm boys from the com­mu­nity park his car on the gravel road and play the ra­dio. We’d dance jive, waltz and then I’d come home and tell my dad we were danc­ing on the gravel road and he’d say, ‘Yeah, I

heard you.’”

Another con­stant in her life was the Farm Fo­rum Meet­ing. Farm­ers would meet in dif­fer­ent homes and they’d lis­ten to a ra­dio pro­gram. The pro­gram al­ways came in from Corn­wall and there was ev­ery­thing from ra­dio doc­u­men­taries to corn and beef prices.”

“They would lis­ten for half an hour and then they would dis­cuss their farm prob­lems,” she re­calls. “Us kids would al­ways have to go and do our home­work but we would al­ways lis­ten in. Al­ways they lis­tened qui­etly and then there was a

lengthy dis­cus­sion and then the lady of the house would serve re­fresh­ments.

Mr. Sloan had horses and cows, but no pigs. He didn’t think there was any money in pigs. The rail­way went right through the farm and one day, a train hit and killed six cows. She says the rail­way paid her dad for the loss “but it wasn’t a whole lot.”

And she re­mem­bers those warm sum­mer nights when she was per­mit­ted to sleep out­side in a tent.

“My dad would tune his ra­dio and get WWVA Wheel­ing West Vir­ginia and hear the ra­dio sta­tion and the news and the coun­try mu­sic,” she says. “There was good re­cep­tion be­tween 10 and 11.”

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