Saturday, October 29, 2016

Boo! A Halloween letter from 1938

 Halloween letter , circa 1938.........
 Dear  Gavina: I finally sat  at the kitchen table to write this. Those darn coyotes are hollering again.  Just me in the cabin tonight. Dad will be back tomorrow . With the barrel of soft water from Pilsons. The Halloween dance is  at the hall. I hate those things.  I suppose I will have to bring my pickles. Something easy to pour in a bowl. Most won't have costumes. Kids running around. I warned Mrs. Millar about that. She's on her 4th marriage now. She works. Scandalous.

 No measles this year.  No one dead this fall, either. About time. Got tired of  going to funerals. Always had to have a potluck at them. Why do people always  want to eat at those things?
 This Halloween we're going to just plain enjoy ourselves.  Our boys are coming as well. Both Mac and Harry have dates. Well, they're going to meet some friends there at least. Today they went  to Lumsden. Back tomorrow. All the old cows, for miles and miles have been sold, every since the drought.They went to see. The Beach Orchestra will be playing at the party. You be sure  that there will a be a ton of dancing. 

 I have four sacks of cabbage been given to me. Maybe I should make something  for the halloween dance. Instead of pickles. Dad says that Mac and Harry are going as dead people. Says it's all the rage. Going to smear dirt all over their faces and wear  old clothes. What a silly thing to do. I'll just have to mend them afterwards. 

 There go those darn coyotes again. They come closer every night.  I wonder  if they'll come right up to the house again. Last year they hung around. Wasn't enough that I turned out the turkeys for them. Now they want to move in. I wonder why they are so close tonight? They're louder than  before.

  Mrs. Jelly said she is coming to the party as a ghost. Well, I wouldn't be too surprised at that.  She's so thin these days, everyone says she's given up the ghost, as it were. And she wears so much hairspray it's unnatural.
 The other day, Dad butchered a calf.  One dressed at over 300 pounds. It's going to be served at the party. I hope they appreciate it. Everyone's bringing something. Other day, young Toby Bing chased a skunk out of its den. He stuffed himself with it. Cooked of course. But you never know with those Bing  boys.  Apparently, he was sick for days. Serves him right. Way too many of those Bings . Rodent eaters, the lot of them.
 Seems that Mrs. Bing had some sort of nose trouble this month.  Cost her $2.50 per nostril to get them washed out.  New treatment . She even went to Regina for the week. Must be nice to be able to afford that.Not sure it's worked yet. I saw her the other day. Still has the sniffles. I told her to snort mustard. That would cure it.And wouldn't go costing  all her money. Something's thrashing at the side of the house.

 Those damn coyotes. I can hear them . Sounds like they caught something. I wonder if it's those Bing boys.Pretending to be coyotes, of course.  Like last year. Last halloween Dad found them hiding in the outhouse. Dad nearly shot them through. Thought they learned. Dad told me to ignore the coyotes.
 Took out the mattresses today to be beaten and washed. That is a chore I do not  look forwards to. Did I tell you that  Dad went to Pilsons to get a barrel of soft water so we can do laundry tomorrow?Just me in the cabin. With the coyotes outside. They're making squealing sounds. Fighting amongst themselves, I bet.
 We just came back from the fall fair in Regina. Bought a new suit  for Dad. A blue pencil stripe. He can wear it to the new church. Maybe even to the halloween party. Not sure about that. I bought a nice  dress . Has  a zipper. All the rage now. Black with a white collar. We might go dressed up. That dress cost me $1.59. So it had better last.  The hem is  a  little shorter than I would like it. Comes just between my knee and shin. I was told it was the "new length". Well, it had better be, for $1.59.
 Damn those coyotes! The howling. It's miserable. Like they're right at the window. Better not be those Bing boys.  I'm going to pretend they aren't here. I just yelled at them to go away. Black night.  Wish Dad was back from Pilsons.
 Today it blew a dust storm. Everything I touched was grubby and the farm hands were helping the pigs, picking up  feed and stacking it.I have a pile of cabbages to chop, I guess.  And pickles to count. And the coyotes are fighting  again. But I don't think they're coyotes. I don't know what they are. But they must be. I'll keep the door locked. They keep hitting the house with their bodies. Banging . I have cabbage to chop. And pickles to count. 

 The farm hands have all gone home. Sure wish it were morning.   Seems to be right beside me. Coyotes hunting turkeys again. That must be it. Yes.  Last week they got two turkeys  by the barn. I hope they leave me the rest of the turkeys for Christmas. I hope the wind stops wailing. I can hear them . Sure wish Dad were home.I can hear them. And it won't stop......

Photographs : Michelle McConachie Woods 2016 and may not be copied
Story: 2016 M.Woods written from family info circa 1930-1945

Monday, October 24, 2016


 TO AUTUMN by JOHN KEATS  (1795-1821) (excerpts)
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees.
 To sweet the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
 With a sweet kernel;to set budding more.
 Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind:
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep...
 Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers.

 Steady thy laden head across a brook...
 Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
 Think not of them, thou hast music too...
 While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day.
 And touch the stubble-plains  with rosy hue...
 Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
 Among the river sallows, borne aloft
 Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies:
 And full grown grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn...
 And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
 Photographs from Campbell River, B.C. (Michelle McConachie Woods) 2016
To Autumn by John Keats  from "One Thousand Beautiful Things" (1948) (Peoples Book Club)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The GRAPES Fell..

 "In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage."
                             -John Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath, 1939, Pulitzer prize)
 Yesterday was the day to pick the grapes. Storm or no storm. Dull earth to mud. Worms flying.Ghosts of summer gone. Cold and biting, a hint of sun. Then no more.

 Chill and cold. Rainy and Blustery. Descended from the calm that was and the turmoil that be.
 Even the hummingbird, still humming ,  was not whirring about. He sat on empty branches waiting his turn  in the wind.  As the grapes fell. And the mud sloshed at our feet.
Ocean strangely quiet. No waves. No turmoil.  Just silence as the storm of all storms came out of the east.
 The grapes fell. The forest plumetted into an abyss of darkness and apprehension.
Skies once lightened as if a tiffany lamp somewhere burned...... And those who knew not of grapes and storms and days of toil,  relinquished  all and  basked in the moment.
 It was not to be, however.......

 As the last of the grapes fell...... juicy  mounds piled into bags and buckets, exploding with the slime of green eyes.  It was time to go. The day was late. The time fleeting like wind upon the rooftops.
 The Crusher waited . To embrace the  grapes that had fallen. In their silent screams, they became vague and abstract.
Resulting in  green, gooey pulp. Not far from  that awful green jello someone always brings to dinner parties. Green like a crayon had melted into its depths.
Liquid  glop in one  continuous thread of  pungent green flesh.
 Forcing the fruit to bleed green blood.Lamenting in the death of the grapes.
 Pouring. Draining . Piling into carboys. A new home. A new place to be.

 An interlude  to sit and stir . Stir and sit. Waiting  for the carboy  to ingest  pounds and pounds of sugar  dumped into  its belly. A pivotal moment in the life of the grape. A pivotal moment  for all.

  We mark time by watching the crystals  fall.

 It seeps. It melts and oozes into the juice.  The grapes are as one.
 Last prize is  leftover juice. Dark, unfiltered. Tart, sweet and fresh.So fresh it sings.
 The stuff before wine, after the grapes fell.  In five or six months it will waken from its winter sleep. And we will greet it anew, knowing that the grapes have fallen to be brought forth anew  in the spring.
 "The sun , with all those planets revolving around it, and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do...." -Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Photographs: M McConachie Woods