This story is written in memory of my dad, Laverne Connell.
National Tell a Story Day was a few weeks ago and it got me thinking about all the great stories that have been told over the years but never written down. I imagine all of us have had an experience at one time or another when we have said, “I should write a book about that.” But the fact is, most of the time the situation, whether funny, happy or unusual is never put on paper and the memory of the event is stored only in our minds. These anecdotes, which are part of our history and could provide an insight into the culture at the time, become lost forever. How sad it is to not have first-hand access to this wealth of information. Without a written account, the story dies.
The ways of society are always changing. Every generation has lived under different circumstances from that of their parents and from that of their children, take seniors for example. Look at the changes that have occurred in their lifetimes. Look at the things they have done that we will never experience. Look at the knowledge they have gained from their mistakes and their successes that could be passed on to us. Unfortunately, people under the age of 50 are busy pursuing careers and raising families so they are not really interested in hearing stories about their parents’ pasts. Their main focus is on the ‘now’. There is an old African proverb which says, “When a senior dies, a library burns.”
I have been guilty of burning a library. My mum was an English war bride who worked in London during the war. Imagine the stories she could have told me about the first 22 years of her life. She died when I was in my early 40s and I really wish I had asked her more about her childhood, her young adult life or how it felt to be a young city woman transported to a different country to live in a rural setting with absolutely none of her family or friends around. Imagine the stories and the insight I could have gained from her. I’m sorry I missed this opportunity to know more about her early life.
One library of stories we were fortunate enough to save was my dad’s, thanks to my brother and his wife. Dad was recuperating in the hospital after a heart attack and he was bored out of his mind. To keep him quiet and to make life easier for his nurses, Dennis gave him a tape recorder and encouraged him to talk about some of his childhood memories. The result was some really amazing, funny, informative tales that would have been lost forever if this action had not been taken. Hard copies were made and over the years, Dad’s stories have been passed around and enjoyed by the Connell clan.
I would like to share one of my dad’s stories. It takes place when he was around eight years old, which would have been in 1931. Dad talks about his adventures in the horse and buggy days – no, it is not the wild, wild west. It is about real life growing up in Grey County in the 1930’s.
I will summarize the introduction to Dad’s tale.
My dad’s young neighbour, Tom who was probably around twelve at the time, was given the task of taking his father’s cow to another farm for the summer to eat in that pasture. For two young boys, this seemed like an easy enough job to do. After tying the cow to the back of the buggy with a rope, Tom climbed aboard and sat down beside my dad who was in charge of the horse.
The story continues in my dad’s exact words.
“We started off and were getting along quite well until we reached a bridge over a river. It was made of steel girders, with wooden planks on top. The planks were loose and made a lot of noise when you crossed them. The horse didn’t like crossing the bridge and as soon as his feet hit the planks, he shot ahead. The old cow didn’t like the sound of things so as soon as the rope tightened on her neck, she dug in with all four feet. Because I couldn’t get the horse to stop and the cow wouldn’t move, they picked the buggy right up off the ground. There we were, swinging back and forth in midair with a fast-flowing river ten feet below. Tom untied the cow from the buggy and jumped out. I got the horse across the river and tied him to a tree on the roadside. We finally got hooked up again and reached home without any more thrills. You have never lived until you have swung in a buggy over a river with a ton of horse flesh pulling one way and 1200 pounds of beef pulling in the other.”
Stories like this not only give us facts and information about everyday life in the past but it also gives the reader a great insight into the personality and character of the writer. Even though my grandchildren never met my dad, through his writings, they feel like they know him. What an amazing gift he has given us. Thanks Dad, from all of us.
Each of us has a story just waiting to be written. I hope, no matter what your age, you start to write down some of the happenings that have occurred in your life. What wonderful Christmas or birthday presents these narratives would make. You will have so much fun reliving these memories and sharing a part of your history with your family. This gift would be priceless.