Dick Hunt's Blog

January 2, 2010

In The Dark

Filed under: Current — Dick Hunt's Blog @ 4:00 pm

In The Dark.
by Dick Hunt, May 4th, 2009.

On Friday, May 1st, the lights went out at around five o’clock, just as I was going to prepare my evening meal.  What to prepare?  Electric stove. Microwave oven.  No barbecue. Well, I thought, I will just go out to supper. But the door closer/opener won’t function to let me get the car out of the garage.  And I don’t fancy disconnecting the mechanism and opening it myself, then repeating the process to close and lock it again  when I return.  And how to find a restaurant open.?

No toaster.  Ah, Bran flakes and milk, and fresh fruit and water.  So I settled down to eat, with a book to read and to wait out the power interruption.  I read until it was too dark to see the print.  Then with trusty flashlight in hand, I prepared for bed and went to sleep, thinking of how programmed we are as  slaves of our technological “advantages”.   No TV.  No computer.  No back up Power plant.  I don’t read Braille and in any case I have no books in Braille.  Cordless phone not working.  How long will the power be off?

I drifted off to sleep and at 11 o’clock,  the lights came on, all over the suite. I got up, turned off most of the lights, reset the electric alarm clock, rebooted the Computer, said, “Thank you Lord” and then lay awake thinking how spoiled we are in our part of the  world in which we take for granted the ever increasing “advances” in technology which have brought us this far. Even in my boyhood we had many more labor saving devices than most of the people in todays world.  We had primitive electric lighting systems on rural farms in Alberta. We had no electric motors.  We operated our washing machines by hand, turning the “dasher” and the wringer by hand.  We pumped the water by hand into a barrel in the attic. The list goes on and on.

Only in 1952 did we have access to 100/220 power when we organizd our own Community Power Co-operative.  We wired all our buildings and water systems for power and our lives became  simpler with switches instead of Kerosene lamps.  We had Yard Lights to enable us to get around in the dark and so we could lengthen our working days by putting in more hours.  We could see where our neighbors lived by glancing across the prairie after sundown. There were so many changes to our lifestyle because of the access to electrical Power.  And when there is a power outage we think!
We used to ride five miles to our Village to make phone calls, to post and pick up our mail and to send Telegrams.  Our first telephone was on the top wire of the barbed wire fence,  our own and the neighbors, by arrangement with them.  And we had an agreement with the C.N.R. Station Agent whereby he patched us into the   Alberta Government Telephone system for long distance calls.  The system of course was erratic as livestock sometimes broke the wires, people left gates open and weather sometimes effectively shorted the system.  So we then leased space on the C.N.R. Telegraph poles and I learned to climb poles with the spiked “climbers”, no mean feat especially with home made climbing harness I cobbled together.  But five miles on, we finally completed the system, not the best but an improvement.   The next step was to erect our own telephone poles and that was when we were able to connect directly into the A.G. T.  Next was the burial of the Telephone Cables which took place after I left the Ranch to study for the Anglican Ministry.  And now of course most people use cell phones to enhance the communication system. Back then we had no idea we wouild one day be able to send and receive messages by Computer almost anywhere in the world,  via Satelite,  in seconds.

I recently gave one our children a Kerosene Lantern which my father had used when he hauled hay and other commodities with teams of horses in the winter.  He hung it on the front of the sleigh and of course the flame was protected from the elements by a glass globe.  I gave one of my children a set  of Sleigh Bells which hung from the horses harness and made sweet music as we traveled along.  I am trying to make sure the old devices we relied on are preserved as historical symbols of where we have come from and how we got here.

I think of the large gambrel roofed barn which was built by an old time carpenter and a group of locally recruited helpers using only hand powered  tools.  The barn is 72 feet long, 40 feet high at the peak of the hay mow, 36 feet wide.  It was built of Fir lumber milled in the Lower Mainland,  shipped to east central Alberta and hauled on sleighs in the winter time to the Ranch, sixty miles the round trip. The roof is as straight and true as when it was built in 1914.  The hand laid stone foundation is sound and all this was the result of hard labor and sound planning and workmanship.  The only repairs that have been necessary have been shingles which have now been replaced by galvanized steel roofing.  The Ranch house which in the summer of 1904 was built from grass sods with a pole and sod roof, was replaced in 1914 with a frame house, built by the same carpenter.

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