Dick Hunt's Blog

January 25, 2010

Two Stories: Great Riches + Minus 30 Degrees F Beside the Kitchen Stove

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Great Riches;
by Dick Hunt, January 25th, 2010

Years ago, the once renowned TV program called “Front Page Challenge”  had two newsworthy guests as their secret  people. You will remember that two of their challengers were Pierre Berton and Gordon Sinclair.  The first guest was probed and asked many questions and finally came on stage, identified as Frank McMann, a  man who, with his two brothers George and John built McMann Stadium in Calgary.  He was oil rich and lived in a  lovely home in South West Calgary.  I recall that when he was being questioned on stage, Gordon Sinclair asked him this question;  “Mr McMann , with all your  wealth and notoriety, do you believe in God”  Frank, who was a nominal Anglican on the Parish list of a thriving Church in his neighborhood, squirmed in his revolving chair and said, “well Gordon, it’s a good thing to support the Church” That answer pleased Gordon very much.

The next guest was duly  questioned while they were off stage and when identified was revealed as Sir Bernard Lovell, head of the Joddrell  Bank Tracking Station in England and a International leader in the Science of Space.  He too was finally asked by Gordon Sinclair if, with all his world known excellence in the field of science,  he believed in God.  Sir Bernard, turned straight to the camera and said with a broad smile, “Oh yes, Mr. Sinclair and I play the organ in my Parish Church every Sunday morning”.  Gordon slid down in his chair in great dismay.  Sir Bernard too was an Anglican.

I was well acquainted with Frank in a small business sense, having sold him a small piece of land on which to build a hunting lodge.  I knew him as a man who was well meaning but who suffered great tragedies in his personal life.

Minus 30 degrees F beside the Kitchen Stove.
by Dick Hunt, January 25th, 2010.

Dick and Ruth under one of the trees Ruth planted

Ruth and I were married in Calgary, October, 1944.  I was in the R.C.A.F until January of 1945, when I was supernumerary, that is part of the overstaff in my trade, which was Radio Technology.  I was given a Honorable Discharge to return to Agriculture in which there was a desperate shortage of manpower. Ruth and I moved back to the Family Ranch, moved into a small bunk house and I resumed the employment I had set aside in 1941 almost as though I had never been away.  We owned nothing we could not put in our suitcases and my old kitbag.
When summer came, plans were made to move a substantial house from a site three miles away to the Ranch headquarters for us to live in. We dug a basement, poured the foundation and the house was duly moved on large trucks and placed on the foundation. There was nothing in the house.  No cupboards, no storm windows for winter weather. No insulation whatever. No chimney as it had been removed in the moving process. So in the midst  of my now regular work on the Ranch, I set to work when I could to ready the house for the coming winter.  Ruth and I built concrete steps to the back door, I set up the little coal burning furnace in the basement, had a bricklayer rebuild the chimney, hooked up a coal burning kitchen stove.  For that winter to come we had an outdoor biffy, carried water from the main house, , bathed in a  tin tub, heated water on the stove, invested in Hudson Bay Point Blankets to keep warm in the night.  And winter came!
I well recall that one morning when I rolled out of bed and quickly dressed and with the fire well filled with coal in the kitchen stove overnight, the temperature on the thermometer a few feet from the kitchen stove read thirty below zero Fahrenheit!   Water had frozen in the kettle at the back of the stove. I hastily built up the fire in the firebox and  went to the barn to help with the before breakfast chores – milking the cows and feeding and harnessing the horses ready to feed the thousand cattle outdoors.
We survived and worked hard to fix the house for more winters. Step by step we had a plumber put in the necessary septic tank and field (we dug all by hand) and put in the inside plumbing.  I was able to do the electric wiring myself, having learned the trade in the Air Force, basic to Radio Technology.  We had a crew come in, cut two inch holes through the exterior of the house and blow “rock wool” insulation into the wall spaces and in the attic.  We worked very hard to dig a ditch 8 feet deep from our house to the old Ranch house with the help of one of the young men, 120 feet distant and installed the water supply pipe. It was customary in those prairie regions to lay water pipes at that depth to prevent freezing in the winter. The second winter there was much more comfortable than  the first!

Crab Apple Tree and Ruth

The third year there, I built cupboards throughout the house, a skill I had learned both in Agricultural College and in working with highly qualified Cabinet Makers of Scottish and Norwegian ancestry down the years.  I made all the paneled doors of clear pine without the sophisticated machines now available to the trade.  The cedar roof absorbed 30 gallons of paint, bright green. Even in those early years, we knew a great deal and practiced careful management of the environment.  And  Ruth was right there beside me, all the way and worked up a storm, gardening, housekeeping, cooking up a storm to feed the hungry men. She laid out a beautiful and extensive flower border with annuals and perennials in great  profusion. She dug a fish pond, mixed the concrete by hand and plastered the ten foot  long, kidney shaped pond by hand. She then installed the goldfish.  She planted beautiful shade trees which are still thriving. The apple tree and two crab apple trees she planted are still bearing fruit 65 years on.  And the lilacs are still a riot  of color every spring.  What a mate the Lord gave me! We rarely see all that beauty which the Lord God made happen under our care and love, but we know it is still there in spite of many setbacks and hardships and inclement weather.  What a life we have had and are still having!

Same Cement Steps that Ruth and I poured

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