At the top of my all-time favourite memories as a kid was going to Uncle Cecil and Aunt Sylvia’s farm. They owned and managed a dairy farm in Cobourg, Ontario (they moved to Listowel, Ontario when I was much older). Uncle Cecil was one of my dad’s younger brothers and they were good friends. We would spend many weekends at their farm, playing in the hay loft, “helping” Uncle Cecil with the chores, feeding the calves, riding along on farm machinery, and just having a grand old time on the farm.
Holsteins or Jerseys?
As more of a “city kid,” the freedom and beauty of the farm and the countryside drew me in. I remember many a day thinking of how I was going to run my own dairy farm one day. How big was my quota going to be? Was it going to be Holsteins like everybody else or should it be Jersey’s (‘cuz I liked how they looked)?
One summer, my parents sent me and my younger brother Joel to go live with Uncle Cecil and Aunt Sylvia for a whole week by ourselves (we were somewhere around 10 or 11 years old). It was a dream come true! We got to milk the cows twice a day, help feed the calves at feeding time, call the cows in from the pasture, go get the bales of hay from the hay mow, and even drive some of the easier-to-drive machinery! What a summer it was—I was going to be a farmer, and not only was I going to be a farmer, I was going to be Uncle Cecil!
Kittens, Sparrows, and Manure
A few years back, on one of our summer trips to Ontario, Heidi and I took our kids out to Listowel, Ontario to visit Uncle Cecil and Aunt Sylvia on the farm, and watching my own children frolic through the barn, I couldn’t help but reminisce about those days when we would run about the barn without a care in the world. My boys found the new litter of kittens, they noticed a bunch of dead sparrows in the attic of the hay mow and their boots got full of manure and smelled for weeks on end.
Interestingly, I can recall so many things about the farm and all the animals, and even the names of my favourite cows—Betsy gave the most milk, but Charlotte was the only one with brown spots in the barn. But my fondest memories of those times on the farm was just watching and relating with my Uncle Cecil. He was a special guy—and he loved kids. He knew how to help us love the cows, he took a special interest in both me and my brother, he took us in like his own children, and to this day, my Uncle Cecil carries a special place in my heart. Just recently, my Aunt Sylvia sent us a Christmas card with the obligatory Christmas letter, and in the letter it explained that they had given the farm over to their oldest son and were moving off the farm.
An interesting thing happened inside me as I read that letter, even all these years later, there was a part of me that was moving off the farm as well. It made me think about what kind of memories I am providing for my children.
It made me wonder if I could be an “Uncle Cecil” to my nieces and nephews. I might not have a dairy farm, but I’ll just bring them out to one of the dairy farmers in our school community and re-live the good old days.
Anyone have some rubber boots I can borrow?