Saturday, October 18, 2008

Remembering the Farm - Working on Sunday

Sergey gave me the day off today so the skin on my back would heal up a bit. The trick is always to inflict as much pain as possible without killing the...uh...patient. This sometimes means giving a day or two to recover from the tortures so they can endure more. He likely learned his trade at the Russian equivalent of the School of the Americas. I wish he’d give me tomorrow off too. Beating people on Sunday is just wrong. Especially for pay.

My dad never worked on Sunday, other than the necessities of looking after the livestock. Spring seeding and fall harvesting were the temping times. Technically there were three weeks in spring to get the crop in the ground and two weeks in the fall to get it in the bin. But it always took us longer. In those days we had a 12’ International Harvester discer and an Oliver 88 gas tractor so it required long days.

When farming was done with horses, Sunday rest was obligatory because the horses needed it, even if the farmer didn’t think he did. But once tractors replaced horses on Prairie farms, Sunday off was a matter of religious observance, not practical horse management.

Our neighbours, Volga-German Catholics mostly, would get permission from the Priest to work Sundays after Mass in spring and fall. Dad always stopped at midnight Saturday night and didn’t start again until Monday morning. He said there was no need to work Sunday; there was always another day and if there wasn’t, then it really didn’t matter, did it?

That is not to say he was not pragmatic. He rented land for a few years from an eccentric elderly spinster (there is no other word to describe her) who was very religious. So religious she had a ten year old cow which had never had a calf and was very proud that the cow had been able to maintain her virginity. Dad was seeding late Saturday night and had less than an hour left to finish. He knew if he went past midnight, the woman would have a conniption. Then he remembered that she was on Mountain Standard Time while everyone else in the province had switched to Daylight time. (Saskatchewan switched in those days). So he finished the field before midnight by her clock and all was well.

Another time, he was working late and had less than half an hour to finish the field. He thought he would finish it off. The tractor ran out of gas at 11:55 pm and he had to walk home. Our close neighbours had been watching his light and knew how much dad had left to seed. They were so impressed that he would quite at midnight with so little left to finish just so he would not work on Sunday. Dad always laughed about that. He said, “You never know who is watching or what impressions you leave so best always stick to your principles”.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Those are great stories about Grandpa, Dad. I think you should make stories like this a regular feature on here. I'd love to hear more good stuff about Grandma and Grandpa and growing up on the farm.