While I have had many memorable summers in my seventy years, one that will forever stay in my thoughts is the summer when I ceased to be a child, and became a young man. The year was 1950, and I was twelve years old.

    My father's parents came from Iceland and settled in Manitoba in the Interlake region (between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba) before the turn of the century. Dad grew up on the farm, but moved to Winnipeg where he worked for Trans-Canada Airlines. My grandfather had died while I was very young, and subsequently my grandmother moved in with us. Each summer, she would visit her sister on the farm near Ashern, Manitoba, and I would accompany her.


    Prior to this particular summer, my time was spent in play with my country cousins, and investigating all the neat things a city kid would obviously find incredibly interesting on a farm. Life there was for me a fun-filled existence with nary a care in the world, with the only decision to be made being what to do the next day. All this changed in 1950 however. My grandmother had passed away earlier that year, but at my parent's insistence, I still made the trek to the farm for the summer.


    Times were tough that year on the farm, so all available hands were pressed into service. Before I knew it I was driving the tractor from dawn ‘til dusk, seven days a week, to get the crops harvested. As you may imagine, teaching a twelve year old to do anything is difficult enough, but driving a tractor? Needless to say, there were many exciting moments as I frantically tried to follow instructions that were given quickly, and generally misinterpreted. Why I didn't seriously damage myself or others was probably just fortuitous.


     The tractor pulled the binder which cut, and tied the barley into sheaves. Then came the "real" work! The sheaves had to be loaded by pitch fork onto a trailer for transport to the thresher. At the start, it was all I could do just to get a single sheave up high enough to reach the trailer bed. Meanwhile my cousins were busy pitching sheave after sheave neatly and quickly onto the trailer. Of course there were also a myriad of other jobs to be done in our "spare" time such as haying, milking, feeding the livestock, cleaning the barn, etc.


     Each night I returned to the farm house completely exhausted and vowing to myself that I would quit the next day. Each morning however, I somehow dragged myself up depending on pride to get me through another torturous day.


     I didn't notice the change, but my appetite had expanded to match the strenuous labour. Farm fare of course is specifically designed to gratify gargantuan appetites. It makes my mouth water just remembering the warm bread, real butter and preserves, roasts, new potatoes, fresh garden vegetables, and delectable homemade pies and cookies for dessert. Also, the work day seemed to be getting shorter and less arduous. I wasn't so tired by evening, and actually bounced out of bed in the morning, full of energy. More importantly, I had learned first-hand just how much strenuous labour was necessary to produce the food that city folk took for granted.


     When the time came for me to return to the city, my 'uncle' Peter drove me to the bus station in town. As we arrived, he thanked me for helping out, and gave me a $10 bill. I was totally surprised, and said I couldn't accept the money. He insisted that I deserved it for all the hard work I had done, and I finally accepted the money. I wonder if he knew how proud he made me feel. I had become a contributor, rather than a liability!


     My parents were totally taken aback when this bronzed, muscular, self-assured young man returned home. This was quite different from the gawky, bashful kid that had left them that spring. I had grown not only in stature, but also in maturity and self confidence.


    In later life I often thought back to that summer, especially when I was presented with some seemingly insurmountable task. I would remember the personal challenges I had faced then, and the rewards I had gained by meeting them. I had learned a very important lesson. Success can only be attained through hard work; the harder the work, the sweeter the victory.



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