Dick Hunt's Blog

January 9, 2010

Sleighs

Filed under: Current — Dick Hunt's Blog @ 12:24 pm

Sleighs;
By Dick Hunt, January 8th, 2010

Yesterday I clipped a small item  copied  from the Stettler Independent Alberta paper which was a reprint from their files of September 1919, one year before I was born.  It had to do with a petition being signed in the agricultural district to  widen the spacing of the runners on sleighs from 36 inches to 54  inches the latter being the width for wagons and cars.  I then remembered that in the years following, my Father had progressively taken our heavy sleighs to the local blacksmith shop where Ed and Walter Keibel restructured all our sleighs to the new width.  The result was that the sleighs were much more stable and resistent to tipping and also the snow packed trails fit the spacing of the horses feet, making their labor more comfortable and effective.

In the winter of 1947 – 1948, in East Central Alberta, we had a major blizzard on September 28th. The roads were immediately closed to all wheel traffic and we did not  “turn a wheel” again until May 15th, 1948.  My eldest brother and I were partners on the Ranch where we were born and raised.  He had his wife Alyce and their first child, Gordon born in 1944. Our first child, Joy, was born to Ruth and me in 1947. Our wives and the children were unable to leave the Ranch premises from September to the following mid May.  What  a relief it was for them to be able to get  away  when the roads finally opened. The run off from the massive snow pack created lakes miles across in the western prairies and increased the ground water acquifer for a number of years.

My brother was a great mechanic and an excellent cat skinner. We had a International WD9 Crawler Tractor with a Bulldozer blade on it to haul feed to the 900 odd cattle  and horses.  We pulled sleighs with large “basket  racks”, one behind the other to move hay  and straw etc., some of it  from more than 10 miles away. All the fodder was “loose’, that is, not bailed at that  time and had to be handled with four tined forks, on and off the hay racks. Talk about labor intensive! We fed 1500 tons of hay that winter plus 45 stacks of new and old straw. With all the labor saving technologies of today the “blue collar workers” in our developed world know nothing about hard labor. We moved across country as much as possible.  To add some variety to our work, those of us who were not driving the cat  skiied behind the Sleighs at  the end of ropes.  When the snow melted in the spring, the snow packed road was still there, ten feet  above the surrounding terrain.

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