Sunday, February 28, 2010


Earth, Fire and Water is my father's title for the album page. This is spring, 1920. I always thought my father had potential as a scholar -- indeed, so did everyone else -- but I was the only one who slowly realized that he was weighed down by conventionality. What he thought was an education was merely information. Education is about learning how to think. It also has to do with developing oneself morally and ethically, even emotionally. He was so rule-ridden that he never did grow much. He never allowed himself the experiments that might have opened new territory.

If you remember that hay meadow that used to be a beaver pond, here it is again, temporarily restored to pondness by the spring runoff. The back says, "May Strachan and Rose Henderson on flooded meadow on SSS Farm." The album caption says "Launching the New Boat." It looks suspiciously like a box to me.

People of this kind, once called "mechanics" are constantly inventing and improvising. I suppose it is one of the things that keeps them from feeling like "peasants" when they are farming, since they take a great interest in the machinery. In those days (and still, to some degree) farmers invented and improved machinery. The back of this post card says "Roaring River. Strachan kids in paddle-wheel boat." The album caption is "The boat becomes a paddle-wheeler on the Roaring River." May, Bruce and either Seth or Glenn in the boat, leaving either Glenn or Seth to take the photo.

Even modern prairie roads are never finished. Grading, compacting, graveling, scraping go on endlessly. Of course, it was arguably more fun as well as more stately when the machines ran on steam instead of diesel.

The back of this photo says "Burning willow brush on SSS Farm." The album says "Glenn feeds the fire to burn off land before the breaker." The breaker is undoubtedly another of those big slow steam bulldozer ancestors that will tear out roots and make furrows in the earth. The ash from the burning is good for the soil. No worries about air pollution in those days.

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