Issue: July 2019
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Next deadline: August 29


Written by
Published on January 2018

I do not really know how to describe Linus Cameron. He was a private sort of person.

   As a farmer, he had a good average mixture of animals suitable for his needs and butter, hens for eggs and other uses, if required. A couple of horses, if and when required, and an old Ford car which was quite serviceable. I used these facilities when required, subject to his approval, for hauling slabs from the local mill to the school and the home if and when it was required. He had a good-sized barn but, unlike Harry Powell at Egerton, he did not go in for growing vegetables on a large scale. He always seemed to be busy, but I like to remember him as being a sort of Gentleman Farmer. He was getting along in years and was most kind to take me in and look after me and later, my sister Bessie, for a period during the WW2 years of our sojourn in Barney’s River.

     When the time came to get the ‘hay’ in, he and I went to the Bannerman’s. This was the custom - to help your neighbour with his big projects and in return he was to come around and give a hand to collect the spuds and other major activities on your land.

     At the weekends, when the hay was ready, Alan and family would pitch in (no pun inferred) and Alan, Donald, three girls, Linus and I, made ourselves available. As the hay was dry we forked it up onto the waiting wagon, which grew in height, level and firm it so as it did not get too high.

     Donald, who was doing this task, shouted down to me, “Come on up Ronald.” with a twinkle in his eye. “I will show you how to stack it firmly on the wagon to make sure that it does not fall off.”  Doing so we managed to fill the wagon up and at Alan’s signal we turned to take the load to the barn which was a good quarter of a mile away. Donald and I ended up on top of the mound laughing and singing and joking with the girls following us. Donald knew all the angles!  “Beats walking,” was Donald’s comment!

     After some hard work of gathering the hay and packing it away into the barn for the winter and taking care of the livestock, we all moved off to the house.  Mrs Bannerman and Grandma waited for us to wash up and we sat down to a meat and potato dinner followed by apple pie topped with ice cream.   Umm yummy my favourite!

      With the hay gathered in as a joint venture with the Bannermans and Linus, and the potatoes stowed away, the weather was turning a little on the cold side, so Alan Bannerman suggested that now would be a good time for me to have some tuition regarding the school boiler/furnace.  So Alan and I went one day when school was out to light it and learn how to turn this valve and that valve at the appropriate time, fill it with kindling and once it was going fill it with the tree slabs brought from the mill.  Alan advised me to check it about one to one and a half hours later to make sure that it was roaring away, then check the temperature on the furnace’s thermometer to make sure it read 90 degrees centigrade and open up the outlet valve which let the warm air up into the schoolroom. Then check it at one to one and a half hour intervals, keep it going until about 3:00 PM and then let it die down as lessons would finish for the day.

     Of course, I was on my own the first day of school but I had the foresight to make some notes as Alan was talking to me.

     Saturdays I had to go to the school and rake the ashes out and lay it ready for the next school day. This had to be done five days a week so that I would be ready for a new week.

     I certainly earned my renumeration. Sometimes, if there was a parents’ meeting, I was requested to stoke up for an afternoon or evening or perhaps a concert in the evening for the Mums and Dads. It was an extra load for me but I was treated most generously for my efforts.

     I began to feel a little important and so one day I put my hand up to catch the teacher’s attention (furnace duties).  She nodded and I slipped down to the basement and stoked up the fire. Having done so, I sat down for a breather and as it happened, I had a packet of Sweet Caporal cigarettes in my pocket. Pulling one out and feeling grown up I lit up, puffed and felt very satisfied with myself until the basement door opened and in walked the teacher.

      Her first words were, “SHAME on you.”

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