• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Garth and Jean Forsyth on honeymoon in 1948.  Mom says they went shopping
 in Great Falls and this is the blue shirt and pants he bought her as a gift.
 Car owned and loaned for honeymoon by older brother Ken.

My father and mother met and were married about 1948 while working on a ranch in Southern Alberta.  She came to the Ranch as help for the house when she finished 10th grade in June. On her 18th birthday in September they got the day off, caught a ride to Cardston where they could take a train to Lethbridge and they bought a diamond ring. The train home went through Hillspring (it had a daily loop it traveled) so they stopped there for him to meet her parents for the first time and tell them the news.

My father tells me that he 'jingled' or brought in the horses for the other men in the bunkhouse.  He did it because he was an early riser and had to get his own horse so figured he might as well get their horses while he was at it.  The boss noticed and at the end of the pay period added a quarter - yes 25 cents - to the 3 dollars (plus room and board) that he was being paid for each day - do the math ... 3.25 X 30 is about $97.50 per month. They worked every single day including Sunday. 

His habit of getting up early and giving unasked, willing service to those around him put extra money in his pocket, gave good will among his associates, and self esteem in his soul.  He says the praise and appreciation from the boss meant more to him than the money that he "blew just like all the rest of it".

Jean Campbell Forsyth centre back

My mother earned $50.00 per month to tend children, help keep things clean, cook for the men in the bunkhouse as well as the family and any other general house and yard/harvest chores required.  She lived with the family as part of the family and was expected to do what ever needed to be done.  

When they married they moved into a small house at the 'Horseshoe Bend' on the St. Mary's River and earned $80.00 per month (house included without charge).  Dad says that during harvest season the men earned $5.00 per day. Motorized vehicles were still uncommon but the ranch did use a small tractor for plowing, seeding etc.  Horses were still the main method of travel. Horses were also used for much of the work on the ranch.

Little house at Horseshoe Bend 

To get to their home they drove across the prairie to it, over hill and dale,  whether in a car or a horse drawn wagon.  They tell me that 1948 was a rainy year. Dad says he got about 60 acres seeded before the rains started and then it was too wet to do more. 

As wheels and feet traverse the same place again and again a path is worn into the land as the sod is packed hard and the grass and other vegetation cease to grow.  These 'roads' generally went the shortest (or easiest) way between any given destinations.  

These dirt 'roads' became almost cement like when heavily used but grass etc still grew in the center areas that were not as packed between the wheel tracks. When it rained the tracks quickly softened and became a deep mire of mud. Ruts formed might be several inches or (even much more) deep.  In rocky places the ruts would not be too bad but in some areas the road would become impassable. That didn't worry them too much, they just stayed home or rode horses. 

Mom tells a story about their first car quitting and from then on they would just hitch the horses to it to get where they were going.  It was warmer and more comfortable than any buggy or wagon and the rubber tires rolled easily and made the ride not so bumpy.  She says they didn't do that often but that when people couldn't afford gasoline or the car wouldn't work that hitching the car to a team of horses was an option. 

They tell a wonderful tale about getting the car stuck one winter on the steep hill going down to their house. They walked home and left it there until spring.  It was too much work and effort to move it and they usually couldn't use it in the deep snow anyway. When they did pull it out finally (one nice day) the debate was whether to take it down to the house or up to the top of the hill.  They took it to the top - there was less snow going up because winds scour the hills free of snow and drop it into the valleys below.

When I was a child my parent's visited the 'old place' many times. We picked berries and gathered rhubarb etc or swam and played in the river.  They have many wonderful memories of their early married years there. The ruts were so deep that once the car started on the road it could be very difficult to get out of them or change direction. Many times dad drove along beside the road (but then you had to be very careful because a rock could scrape and damage the 'oil pan' and ruin your car). 

My dad had a steady hand and also sometimes drove with the left wheel on the hump in the centre and the right wheel on edge of the road to the right, just up and out of the rut. This only caused problems if he had to get that left wheel across the right rut for some reason (perhaps another car coming along in the rut. There were flatter areas (likely rock underneath) where the ruts were not worn quite as deeply and that is where you could get out of the rut or turn around or cross them.  Yes, it was almost impossible to cross them, and you did have to follow along until one of those more shallow or flatter places to 'get to the other side'.  

There were also areas that were 'problem' areas with deep holes, dangerous rocks sticking up, or other hazards caused by those struggling with the misfortune of becoming stuck! - and you literally could get stuck in such a way that you absolutely could not move the vehicle. I watched (and rode through) many a miracle - I think my dad could take a truck or car almost anywhere with or without a road! He also has a very creative mind and relies heavily on inspiration to warn him to 'not go there' or give him the idea of how to solve what seems to be insoluble.

 A son traveled to Ohio and back by car last year.  He met his share of road hazards and needed to be rescued in Montana. A very kind church leader, that lived in the wild foothills along an unimproved road, took him home for a couple of days. He saw a deeply rutted road and heard a story about the man that lived up at the end of the road. Apparently the man likes to drink a bit much, now and again, and it is a worry to get home in the dark.  When he is drunk he is always relieved to get to the dirt road because he knows that now he is safe - the ruts will 'take him home' even if he goes to sleep or passes out.

That funny story seems pretty far fetched but it has me thinking ...

Do I have ruts / habits in my life that make it hard to get where I want to be? Do 'ruts' prevent me from changing the direction I am traveling? Do I have 'safe' ruts that allow me to continue to do what I often do and know I should stop doing? 

Yep! sure do!! 
Now how am I gonna get out of them?
And stay out of them?

How about you?