Farming Fun Alexander Manitoba


Farming Fun Alexander Manitoba

(rough copy)

When I moved to Alexander Manitoba in 1974 there was lots for an 8 year old kid to work at and make money. In the fall the boxcars of coal would be delivered to the Paterson Elevator to be unloaded in to the coal shed. This was fun work because the scoop had wheels and you just scooped the coal and roll it in to the coal shed to dump the scoop. Since I was young and skinny I never got a full scoop. Then when the farmers came with their grain trucks to get a load of coal for winter heating. I got to work loading the grain truck then a ride to the farm to help unload the grain truck of coal. The farmers always needed a skinny kid when unloading because the coal went in to the basement of the house in to the coal bin beside the coal furnace. I was skinny enough to be in the bin when it was full to the top. The best part about helping out was the meal after the work was done. The hard part was getting hold of dad and mother to telling them where I was. The farms were usually on a telephone party line so when you went to use the phone some one down the telephone line was chatting on the phone. Then when the phone lines were clear and you could call home someone at my house was on the phone and it rang busy. Or if no one was home at my place there was no answering machine or call display to say that I called or leave a message. Once the work and meal was done I got a ride home and put my money away for buying something useful. Mother would be mad because I was dirty and that means more work for her with laundry. By the early 1980s the coal heating was basically done because everyone had switched over to clean means of heating the house. I had found other work by mowing lawns or helping out on farms. To get work people would phone dad to see if I could work or help out or they stopped by the pink house in Alexander to pick me up.

As I got older and people seen all the motorized wheeled death traps that I built and could keep running. That is why I got asked to drive farm equipment at a young age. The fall harvest time was the busiest and I made good money and ate well. Yes ate well because back then when you got asked to help you never talked and about what the pay was or what the food will be served. If the cash was good in the envelope and the meals were good then I would return. If the was little cash in the envelope and they served Klik sandwiches then I did not return. Being a good worker and not breaking anything I had lots of people asking me to help out. Plus common sense was important too back then because starting at the age of 12 driving grain trucks you had to think things out and not make a mistake. Once the harvest was in full swing you worked till 11pm or 1am even on school night. Get home and sleep then go to school. After school ride the school bus to where the farmer was last working the night before. The bus driver would drop you off even if it was not a regular stop on the bus route. If all the equipment had been moved because the field was finished then the bus driver had an idea where they moved to. If not he dropped you off at the main farm. Back then there were no cell phones or a way to communicate like we have today in the year 2020. Everyone helped out as a community.

But if the bus driver had seen the grains truck parked in a different field when he did the lunch hour kindergarten school kid run then he would drop me off at that field. It was very rare for the grain trucks to have FM Radio for communications because they were expensive in the early 1980s. When you arrive where the grain trucks were parked you hope to get the same one you had the night before. It is easier to drive a truck you have already driven because all truck shift differently, handle differently and most importantly stop differently. Usually when you arrive at the grain trucks it is a rush to get going because the combine driver seen the school bus and knew the staff was arriving. The signal for the combine having a full grain hopper was the discharge auger being extended out to the side of the combine for unload. Then in the dark of night the combine would flash the work lights to signal being full. I would get in the grain truck and head across the field but learn the field because it will be dark soon the darkness makes the field a lot different to drive on. Once at the combine you had to drive under the discharge auger and keep your speed even with the combine. They never wanted to stop to unload because a combine 40 years ago was basically a shaker that shook the grain out of the straw. As long and the feed was correct everything was shaking good and nothing jamming up just don’t stop because it is hard to get going again. Now the new fancy computerized combine will allow to do stop and go because the computers control the shaking actions.

Most times when the combine was dumping in the grain truck we could not see each other and once the discharge auger was pulled back in to the combine the unloading was complete. That is when I learned how to watch the mirrors to see what was going on. As you pulled away from the combine the operator just waved because he could not lose concentration in watching the feed entering the combine or he would have a jam up. Now I head across the field learning it and making mental notes for when it is dark. Then once up on the gravel road it was a nice drive to the farm yard to unload. We never “bagged drove” the grain truck but just let the engine pull the loaded truck along because it was overload for what it was designed for. When you arrived at the farm yard you made sure to use the gears to slow the truck down because brakes were not always the best. The brakes were usually saved as a last chance effort in stopping the truck. At the farm yard you hoped some one was there because things have changed since you last here 16 hours ago. With any luck the auger was set up and all you had to do is back up to the blocks on the ground and dump the load of grain. While the truck was dumping the load, you climbed up the grain bin to see how much room there was in the bin because the last thing you want to do is over fill the bin.

On these farms it is usually the oldest male member of the family taking care of the farm yard and the grain bins. When he arrives to help unload the first thing he asks how much room is in the bin because at his age he is not climbing up the bin to see. That is what us young kids are for. Supper was usually out in the field because the combines stop to take on fuel and have adjustment made. The ladies from the house would drive out and put on full spread of supper on the tail gate of the ¾ truck. Of course they would get upset if we didn’t stop right away because we were all working on a combine to make a quick repair to keep it going while the others were fueling the machines. But once we stopped and ate it was a good quick meal. If the combines were going good it would be steady work for us in the grain trucks going back and forth. But if it was slow going we would have to wait and that is when the Playboy Magazines in the trucks were enjoyable reading materials. When I got older and had a job in Brandon the younger kids took over the farm work like they did with the mowing of the lawns.

Sept 2020 -- My Wasted Youth Alexander MB Book 5th book