17 September 2009

Josie's Story

Josie told me this family story.

"My grandpa came over from the old country all by himself. Left my grandma and their two kids behind. He worked in a sawmill and he saved his money so one day he could buy a small farm; a small farm like the one he left behind to come here. But the price of a small farm kept increasing. After a while he gave up on the idea of buying land in Canada. He sent his savings back to the old country so his family could buy more land there. One day, he thought, I'll return to the old country as a big landowner. After he had bought a lot of land the Commies took over and stole all his land.

"So he started all over again. And one day he finally bought his small farm, so close to the sawmill he could walk to work. A little after that his family joined him in Canada. His youngest daughter, two when he left her to come to Canada, was now twenty-one. That was my mom.

"When I was growing up my brothers and I would visit the little farm all the time. It was only two acres. They always had a cow, a goat and some chickens and rabbits. Sometimes they had a pig.

"They were unlucky with their cows: every time they calved they produced a male. The male would be allowed to fatten up some before it was sold as veal. When my brothers got old enough, maybe thirteen, they were given the pleasure of killing the fattened calf. They were given a ballpeen hammer and shown where to strike the blow. They liked doing it. I didn't ever get to kill a calf. That was man's work.

"There is one scene from the farm that is still vivid for me today. My grandpa in behind the house killing a muskrat with a shovel in the snow. There was fucking blood everywhere."

I love stories like that and told Josie so before I asked her, "I bet your grandparents never once voted NDP, did they?"

"Fuck no," laughed Josie. "In fact he once chased an NDP door-knocker out of his yard with his muskrat shovel."

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