Opening the barn door on a winter morning, horses giving
a low whinny, the shuffling of thousands of pounds of bovine
flesh rising from sleep in anticipation; sheep jostling for position
at the manger, was one of the magical moments of our life.
It is interesting how events change lives. Back in the late 1960s, when I was a cinematographer for the CBC in Toronto, I found myself stranded in Ghana where there had been an overnight military coup overthrowing the President of the day. It was also where I met a couple from Roseneath, Jim and Margaret Rapsey, who were teaching there under a Canada/Ghana exchange program. It was one of those many ‘who you meet on the road’ moments before moving on to another country or city. The film crew I was with was stranded for several days in Accra while battles took place until, finally, the military opened the borders and we could move on to Nigeria and the Rapseys returned to school. But – a year or so later, back in Canada, I was reacquainted with Jim and Margaret who lived in Roseneath. One day Jim phoned and told us about a farm for sale in the small hamlet of Morganston (Morganston? Where on the map is …) owned by Jack Carr of local Carr family fame. My wife Glorya and I drove to see it; it was a no-brainer. That was well over 40 years ago. A life changing event? You bet.
Up until this point our lives had been routine city lives, specifically Toronto which, looking back into the late 1950s/mid-1960s, was more of growing large town than a city. At the weekend we commuted to ‘the farm’, acquiring a horse, Beauty, discovering Warkworth and the Co-Op, the Warkworth Journal, the Luv Shop. It was just a question of when? When we could make the necessary life changes – in a year of huge change. I had left the CBC to become a high-risk, fulltime freelance writer, which would allow us to move to the farm fulltime. It finally happened in 1979 – an event (might I add, a daring one) that, over time, found us with a couple of horses, close to dozen cattle, a small flock of sheep, guinea fowl, geese, ducks, chickens – all taken in stride; city-folk who changed their lives totally as though it was the norm.
They were fabulous years, the mow now variously filled to the gunwales with bales of hay, straw and a Jersey cow, Lily Langtree, who probably became the oldest and best known bovine in Canada, ruling the barn with practiced dignity. And, over the years, we became part of the local community. Well, as much as transplanted city people can be. Perhaps the biggest moment was when Glorya ran for a seat on Cramahe Township Council – and won, becoming the first woman ever … ever … to be elected to council in the township’s over 225 year history. What an occasion that was. Me? Realizing living in a small community is very different from the anonymity of the Big City, and wanting to contribute something, to be more of a part of the community, I met with Bill Edwards, owner/editor of the Warkworth Journal (sadly, like all newspapers in Northumberland, no longer with us) and offered to write a point-of-view column on the passing scene in and around our part of the county.
Looking back, I’m amazed when I realize my first column was published on September 13, 1979. Almost 40 years ago. When the Journal closed, I wrote for the Colborne Chronicle and, later, the Cobourg Star and Northumberland Today. Sadly, today, Cobourg has no local newspapers. Ahh, you say, but we have the Internet and all the news you want to …. well, yes, but for me the feel of a newspaper, the rustle of the pages, its uniquness, is part of the charm of the olden days, the old ways, that hooked me when I was about 10 year old.
And what a 40 years it has been = almost My Life Part II, opening up a brand new world to which we adapted, oh so smoothly (well, pretty smoothly) and, hopefully, bringing something in return. Yes, we were 9-5ers ‘from the city’, but our lives changed completely, slowly becoming 24 hourers as we adapted to the demands of livestock. Perhaps, other people’s lives also changed in some ways because of it. Who knows? For us, a whole new world opened, followed by one remarkable experience after another, creating wonderful memories that will last for the time we have left. I’m indebted to Bill Edwards for giving me that opportunity those 40 years or so ago. This being my last column, I can now embark on a new journey, a new experience (looking at a full, unread bookcase) discovering how fully retired people spend their days.
What a fabulous life/journey it has been.
Grahame Woods can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
[Editor’s Note: This is Grahame’s last Post for the Passing Scene. Many thanks for his contribution.]