When I was a kid my daddy told me about my Granddad. I never met the man because he had passed away when my father was in his late teens. My father told me, how my uncle was knocked out by a blow with a shovel by his father. My father never hit me with a shovel, though I suspect I made him angry enough to want to at times. Progress.
When I was four my father had a cornfield out behind the barn. When family friends with older boys came visiting, we went looking for blackbird nests to raid, and I first encountered the stomach wrenching reality of death as the boys killed the baby birds. The boys were performing a farm service, in eliminating crop destroying, pests.
When I was seven, I first went to work on the vegetable fields, picking tomatoes. I was not strong enough to carry a full hamper down the tomato rows, and so was allowed to only fill them halfway, so that my older brother and father could dump two together when they carried them over to where the wagon would pick them up. We left home in the back of a half-ton truck before daylight, and we returned home in darkness. School, for us, began when the tomatoes froze. My parents were progressive. Unlike my peers I was payed two cents for each hamper I picked. (My cousins were paid in cigarettes.) The remaining thirty cents was to help pay my keep. I was not a victim. I was proud.
One Sunday we went visiting my cousins and piled seven kids into an old leaky boat and boated around the pond. There was no adult supervision. When we wearied of bailing water we patrolled the corn cribs looking for rats, and killed scores of them.
My father bought a young steer, and all summer long, when I was eight, we treated it as a pet. My older brother carried water to it every day. A steer consumes a lot of water. In fall I watched when it was shot, and dropped like a bag of bricks. I felt sick. I hadn’t expected it to impact me that way. This was meat for the winter.
The point of this is not to tell how tough it was when I was a kid. We didn’t consider things to be tough. This was life. Not life in some third-world nation, but life in Canada. We were lucky. It is easy to condemn the actions of mine and the previous generation from the comfort of modernity. Please consider this. We worked from childhood into adulthood assuming one truth with absolute certainty. It was our duty to make the lives of the next generation better and easier. Where will you go from where we placed you young judges?