Well the old farm couple that looked after me for the past
60 years are both gone now. I am officially an orphan. The outlook isn’t good.
As I said at my Mom’s funeral last week, my sister, Brenda and I are
now officially orphans, if anyone wants to adopt us we are available. No one
came forward with a serious offer. I think my sister is holding me back on this
deal. I may have to just market myself and leave her behind.
It has been a busy, sometimes stressful and very reflective
past couple weeks.
My Mom, Marion Hart (nee McConnell) died April 25, the
funeral was April 30. She lived her entire 86 years within a 15-mile radius of
the long-gone brick farmhouse at Gallingertown, Ontario where she was born.
She married my dad, Roy Hart, in 1942. They raised three
adorable children, farmed together for more than 30 years, both took on new
careers a bit later in life…and overall had a pretty rewarding and successful
life in the community of Colquhoun, which everyone knows is about 10 miles south
of Chesterville (and if you’re still lost that’s about 35 miles south of
Ottawa, not far from the St, Lawrence River). She lived in the same farm house,
looking out the same window on an ever changing world for 70 years.
My parents met when my mom was a housekeeper and my dad was
a farmhand at the Ballantyne Farm in Eastern Ontario. The stately home and
dairy farm was owned by Senator Charles Ballantyne of Montreal. He was born in
the Colquhoun community in 1867 and lived most of his life in Montreal.
My grandparents, who had emigrated from England both worked
at the Ballantyne farm, but my Grandfather Hart also bought his own place – a
after they were married. They started with one Jersey cow, but over the years
my Dad built the place up. When I was a kid, it was a pretty typical Eastern
Ontario dairy farm. Dad owned about 240 acres, with a milking herd of about 35
In the late ’50s the St. Lawrence Seaway Project was developed
and as part of that project, the government developed a tourist attraction
along the St. Lawrence River known as Upper Canada Village. It was/is an
operating village and museum recognizing the life of the United Empire
Loyalists who settled the area.
In 1961 my Mom was recruited for a temporary, two-week stint
to work as a guide in The Village. And that lead to a 30-year career mostly in
crafts department where she demonstrated the skill and art of spinning wool and
weaving fabric. When my Dad retired from dairy farming in the late 70s he too
worked at The Village for a number of years, becoming a skilled cooper, using a
range of period handtools to make wooden pails, barrels, wheels and axe
handles. And he loved to visit with people.
After retiring from The Village they continued to live on
the farm, renting out the land to another area farmer Tony Logten, who ran a
few beef cattle and also grew corn and soybeans. My parents grew a big garden,
loved to travel on bus trips, did a lot of visiting with neighbors and friends,
and enjoyed an ever-growing family that included seven grandchildren and four
Mom had to bury her oldest son, our brother Mark, six years ago, Dad passed away three years ago in July and Mom succumbed to
pneumonia in April. My parents lived full and honorable lives.
One of the biggest realities to hit me in the last few
weeks…you go through your whole life thinking your Mom will live forever, and
then you have to face the cold hard fact that that isn’t the case.
Another scary reality at my stage of life, is going through
my day and realizing how much I am like my parents. As a teenager, I remember
that being a pretty depressing thought, that should be avoided at all costs.
But now, I am thinking, it’s not a bad thing at all. And in fact there is
regret I will never be that good. They set the bar pretty high.
Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or
by email at [email protected]