Lee headed to the orphanage
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 farm just down the road. And that was where my parents set up housekeeping 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 head.
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 great-grandchildren.
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.
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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