Saturday, November 27, 2010

Surreal Moments and Church Calves

(Hi, Tricia!)

Our household is now official virus free once again. That’s a lovely feeling. Nothing like being really sick to appreciate how good it is to be healthy.

And while we’re talking about ‘official’ moments, the holiday celebrations have officially commenced for Bryan with tonight’s consumption of the first post-supper rum and eggnog of the season. Just as I prefer dark ales to pale lager, I prefer dark rum to light, but that’s his mix of choice. Last Christmas up at Marlon and Krista’s we were snapping back cranberry juice and spiced rum – nutritious and delicious!

I’ve been sewing this week. That does not, unfortunately, mean that the account books are up-to-date. I may have to buckle down on that this weekend. Nor does it mean that the fabric stash has been diminished in any way (heaven forbid). In the pursuit of recipient-appropriate Christmas gifts, I’ve been popping into the fabric store lately – they have stuff on sale!!! – but I can’t tell you what I’m making because the recipients (those who are old enough to read) are sometimes known to visit this site. Perhaps there will be a modeling session after Christmas complete with photos.

That and curling were the highlights of the week, such as it was. Snow and iffy road conditions dampened the urge to get out and about other than to work and back.

Bryan’s just informed me that due to some long-standing subscription screw-up that has recently been resolved, he’s paid up for Cycle World magazine to May 2014. Ergo, that’s his ‘best before date’ because he intends to get his money’s worth. There’s been a long-standing joke between us, what with all his health issues over the years, as to his ‘best before date’ – I can’t find it stamped on him anywhere. Doesn’t that violate some Consumer Standards regulation?

And now my life just got another little bit surreal. First I learn my husband’s expiry date. Then CKUA radio (available throughout the world on-line) proudly announced they are solar-powered, wood-fired radio. Things that make you say Hmm.

Ah, a Lindt chocolate! That settles the world properly back on its axis.

I worked on a long-ago promised essay this week, have been working on one last revision tonight. It got me thinking about a small but very interesting (at least I think so) bit of history from my hometown that might get lost in the mists of time if I don’t write it down. I’ll send a note of it to my folks to get all the details correct but in the meantime will tell you the gist of it, and maybe a few of you will be reminded of it.

I was raised just east of Airdrie, Alberta, a community immediately north of Calgary.

The Airdrie United Church was and probably still is the only church with a registered cattle brand. Back in the day when Airdrie was a village and there were more ranchers and farmers in the congregation than town folks, inventive means were required to keep the church fiscally afloat.

Those who live off the land know that ready cash is sometimes scarce and a farmer only has income when he sells his crop or markets the livestock. I don’t know what year it started, or who thought of it or how many were involved (little help, dad) but the livestock producers of the congregation each donated a calf or calves to the church, as well as enough grain to feed it to market (or maybe the grain producers donated the grain – told you I was a bit vague on details).

I do know that the calves came to my folks’ place. Legal transfer of ownership was made, the price of the calves credited to the donors. We calves were branded with the church brand (AUC, of course); we provided the bedding, roughage and labour to get the calves to market, then did the marketing as well. All proceeds from the sale went to the church. At one point there were 27 calves in the church herd – that number sticks in my memory.

Even in the days when raising church calves ceased, the majority of the church’s income arrived in the late fall when the farmers and ranchers had the cash and knew what their financial situation was. My mom was church secretary and treasurer for several years. She told me once about a minister they had (long after I’d left home) who was not familiar with rural habits; he was in full fledged panic at the church’s financial situation at mid-summer and spoke bitterly about the parsimonious members of the community.

Mom patiently educated him about the ways of the country, how the congregants would be generous when they could be. He didn’t believe her, but had cause to repent of his harsh judgment later in the year when not only did cash donations arrive in amounts to make his eyes pop, but he and his wife were recipients of the time-honored tradition of ‘fruits from the field’ – farm raised chicken, turkey, vegetables and preserves.

If I recall correctly, it was also the custom at one time for ranchers to provide a half a beef, or at least a goodly portion of cut and wrapped meat, when they butchered for their own use. Bet you didn’t know that, Cheryl.

In all the community histories that I’ve read, including a few from my own home town, nothing has ever been written about the church calves or the bounty that farmers and ranchers supplied to the church and ministers. Overdue, don’t you think?

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