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Christmas Then And Now

DEC. 25, 2008

It is Christmas Day and I am sitting here in my house in Glentworth. This is the second Christmas since my wife Lorene passed away after living three years in a nursing home in Assiniboia. Later on today, Lloyd, my son, will pick me up and I will go out to his ranch for dinner. Lloyd’s wife, Nyla, and their three boys will be there and other friends from as far away as Calgary and Moose Jaw. Distance is not a problem anymore, which is much different from what Christmas was like when I was a boy.

Today, I want to remember back to some of my earlier Christmases on the ranch or elsewhere. I can well remember our Christmas on the ranch in 1928. I was eight years of age at the time. It was a clear, cold, crisp day and at about noon, a team of horses pulling a cutter pulled up to our kitchen door. It was my granddad, Abe Price, with my grandma, Lula Price, riding with him. My Dad quickly put on overshoes and an overcoat and went out to greet them and to help Grandad into the house. Grandad suffered badly with diabetes and had part of one leg off. Never the less, he was driving the team seven miles. He and Grandma were safely under a warm robe and blankets. Grandad knew horses and conditions on the frontier areas. He had been a school teacher in the state of New York when the western frontier of Dakota territories had called him, and then in 1911 he and Grandma Lula moved up to southern Saskatchewan to get in on the free land and a chance to build up a ranch.

Dad very quickly got Grandpa and Grandma into the house and drove the team to the barn and put the horses away. Later on that day, a Scottish neighbor arrived and also another couple, the Sinclairs, who were great singers. With my mother playing the piano, the singing went on far into the night. My mother had bought orange, black, green and red crepe paper and she had made ringlets of these colors to hang around the rooms giving the house a Christmas appearance. Our Christmas tree was a small poplar, which the older boys had found and had brought to the house. At that time, I had three older brothers at home and two sisters and one brother younger. So along with neighbors, my mother had about 20 or more for Christmas dinner. The presents at that time were very practical. I can remember getting long black stockings, woolen mitts, and two traps to catch weasels, one deck of cards and a jackknife.

The next morning, Dad got the team hooked up, helped Grandad and Grandma into the cutter and off they drove seven miles to go home. That was the last time I can remember seeing my granddad. That summer he died and I can remember being at his funeral where relatives and neighbors sang “The Old Rugged Cross”. Many days and evenings, I played cards with Grandad to help him pass the time. My Grandma Lula kept the little ranch going for ten years and then I made a deal with her for the ranch. My grandparents bought the ranch in 1919 and our family has been on it since.

Other Christmases stand out in my memory. One was in 1933. I stayed in a sheep camp over winter alone with 700 sheep. On Christmas day, my brother Gene came for me with a saddle horse and I had dinner and stayed overnight. Another time, in 1941, I was home for two months. I had dinner alone but what I remember was that the next day, Boxing Day, my brother Gene and I got a ride to Moose Jaw with a neighbor and watched a hockey game that was between Moose Jaw and Regina. It was the first hockey game I had ever seen.

In 1942, I was a soldier and I was in Regina for Christmas. Another soldier, Willard Morgan, invited me to go home with him for dinner. Willard Morgan was a rancher’s son. He had joined the army early. He was a good musician and was in the army band. Willard is still living. He is ninety-five years of age and lives in Nokomis, Saskatchewan. Even now he will phone and play a tune on the phone for me. In 1944, I was in a German prisoner of war camp and I remember another prisoner giving me a turkey sandwich. He and seven others had pooled one thousand cigarettes and bought a turkey on the black market.

In 1948, Christmas was at our home ranch. By that time, Lorene and I had two small children and many of our family came to our place for dinner. With a small house and a bunkhouse, Lorene looked after over 30 family members and neighbors. The pastime that year was playing cards and sliding down the hills. In 1959 our new house was built and we had over 50 relatives and friends at our place. The highlight was a five-generation picture.

As time went on and our family increased it became harder and harder to get together. Our oldest son, Arnold Boyd, went to school in Montreal and later in England. Our oldest daughter, Marion, married and lived in Ontario and so it became harder to get together. However, we always did when we could. One year when Marion and her husband, Dave, were living in Listowell, Ontario, we gathered up the remainder from Saskatchewan and we took the train from Williston, North Dakota to Detroit. Our son, Arnold was working at Sarnia, Ontario at the time. He picked us up there and we went with him to Listowell. Everyone enjoyed the train ride.

Christmas has always meant a lot to our family and now with our group so spread out we try to get together some place when possible. Today I will be at Lloyd and Nyla’s. Tomorrow I am going to Medicine Hat and will meet up with two families that will come from Calgary. Right now I am hoping that the roads will stay in good condition.

This fall at Edmonton, one of our local ranchers, Murray Linthicum, won first at the Edmonton finals in team roping with a partner from Alberta. This area has always produced good rodeo competitors. Two former World Champions were Carl Olson and Mark Roy.

Our little town of Glentworth is a very busy place these days and nights. The Waverley Sports Gardens is busy most evenings with hockey, figure skating and curling. We also have bowling going on. The hockey teams come here from as far away as Gull Lake, Maple Creek and Fox Valley. People now, are indeed traveling long distances in the winter months.

Boyd Anderson is a mostly retired rancher from Glentworth, Sask. and has been a columnist for Grainews for many years.



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