I was six years old and my sister, Eunice, was three-and-a-half. It was late August, 1931, in southern Saskatchewan, and my parents planned to take us down to the old farm three miles south of town to pick chokecherries, a wild sour cherry used for jam or jelly. This would be a big outing for us prairie kids so we were restless to get going.
Mid-morning I looked out the window into the back yard and suddenly realized that my father’s Model A Ford truck was gone. At the same time, there was no sound in the house so my six-year-old brain concluded with a bit of shock that our parents had gone without us.
In retrospect, my father likely had gone to gas up the truck and my mother was quiet in the bedroom upstairs. But in the moment I thought they were on their way and I was set to get my sister and me there on our own.
So we started our journey. This meant crossing the alley behind our Fourth Street home to Third Street. We followed Third Street a block-and-a-half east to Souris Avenue which ran diagonally south. After walking about three or four blocks on Souris we went down a first slope and then, at the edge of town, down a second much longer hill dropping gradually into the three-mile-wide valley south of town. There were no sidewalks; we were walking on the road.
Where the road became level on the valley floor, a man was sitting on a flatbed wagon pulled by a none-too-energetic nag. I asked for a ride and he stopped the horse so we could climb up on the flatbed at the back, our legs dangling over the edge. He didn’t ask where we were going. I helped my sister up and then climbed up myself.
Half a mile or so farther south along this road another road veered off to the southwest and rounded the base of a large, treeless hill. Just past the hill the road swung straight west, crossing a bridge that spanned a narrow river. At this point we were a good two miles from our home.
During our silent ride under the big-sky prairies the only sound we heard came from the incessant crunch of the gravel under the metal wheels of the wagon. The driver had nothing to say to my sister and me. It was as though we weren’t there, but I knew we were on the right course.
One or two hundred yards beyond that bridge, on the left, was the entrance to the Pawson Nursery. It opened to a long single lane and it was the last road we must take to get to the farm.
I called to the driver and he stopped his nag so that we could get off. Still no words were exchanged. I estimate we were already well on the way to three miles beyond where our adventure had begun. Now we had to walk the long narrow road south past the nursery and on toward the farm.
After reaching the Pawson house, a narrow single lane went west towards the next property where the chokecherry bushes and our parents would be waiting, I thought. This lane was the scariest part of our venture because the trees on both sides of the lane had grown to meet overhead. I remember this portion as shady and eerie to a little boy, but it opened eventually to a clearing with an old farm house. To my surprise, our parents weren’t there.
The occupants of the house became aware of our presence — two little unknown children in their yard. There was something strange in their reaction. It was probably consternation mixed with a degree of shock. They asked our names and we told them and we said we had come to pick chokecherries. They gave us a brown paper grocery sack and showed us a bush near the house where we could busy ourselves.
They then disappeared indoors. I know now they must have done some furious telephoning. Even as a six-year-old I sensed their uneasiness, but had no idea why. Soon, the Model A Ford came chugging out of the shaded lane. Our parents were half frantic about our disappearance and half joyful to have found us.
Everyone of us who has reached adulthood has come through childhood episodes that were perilous — close calls, serious illnesses, life-threatening accidents, or unusual escapes from danger even if we didn’t perceive it as danger at the time.
When we review such memories there’s a word we should use. It’s called providence. It means that “God governs and guides in all the affairs of our lives.” At these moments of recollection, let’s give Him thanks for His gracious protection.
Photo credit: Sharon Mollerus (via flickr.com)