Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - March 5, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
TuMday, March 5, 1974 THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD Southern farmers 1 I V. 1 make good neighbors By KEN ROBERTS, Herald Staff Writer Harvest time and Donald John- ston's, combine broke down. It was Saturday and he couldn't get the part be needed until Monday. During harvest time every hour when the sun is shining is vitally important. So Mr. John- ston, a Pincher Creek farmer, went to a nearby Hutterite colony and asked if he could borrow one of their combines until he could get the part for his. The next morning five Hutterites appeared on five combines. They finished the harvesting that day much quicker than Mr. Johnston could have done it if his machine hadn't broken down. It's a familiar story in Southern Alberta. In most cases fanners will help other farmers without any questions asked. But has the helpfulness, friendliness, and neighborliness, so characteristic of farm life in the past changed at all in the last few generations as farms have become bigger and more mechanized? In Ontario things have chang- ed, according to a government report. "The daily visiting and mutual help once characteristic of farm communities are now the report says. A new type of neighbor relationship is developing that is much 'ess personal and interdependent than that of a generation ago. In Southern Alberta, neighborliness is alive and well, farmers say. The Herald spoke with several farmers and all say when they ask their neighbor for help they are never refused. Pitch in If a farmer is ill his neighbors will pitch in and do his chores for him. If its in the spring or fall they will do his seeding or harvesting. A few years ago there was an old-fashioned barn raising in the Enchant area, about 40 miles northeast of Lethbridge. after a farmer's barn burnt down. About 20 farmers built a new barn in less than a day. And there are still examples of farmers working together, reminiscent of the days of the old threshing machines. In the Pincher Creek district ranchers get together to do their branding. Near Taber four farms use the same equipment and farmers in several places have cut the cost of heating their homes by establishing natural gas co-operatives. Still, farmers are much busier today. They realize their neighbors are just as busy. So for many jobs help is hired instead of calling on a neighbor. "If I ask a neighbor for help he will drop what he's doing and says Rick Jack, a Pincher Creek rancher. "I'd rather hire help than take a neighbor away from his work." Dennis Stretch, district agriculturist at Vulcan, says farms have become so business- like farmers can no longer depend on volunteer help to get things done and would rather hire somebody: Also, if he asks someone to give him a hand he feels obligated to pay him back at a later date when he might not have the time. This isn't how it was in the days of the threshing machines, Fred Gottenberg, a retired Vulcan farmer, says. Mr. Gottenberg who claims to have been the prettiest baby in North Dakota in the 1890's (he was the only one, he chuckles) says at threshing time the women would do the cooking and the men would do the work. The farmers would hire themselves out for a day and go from farm to farm with the threshing machines until the work was done. A fanner would pay so much per bushel to have his crop harvested, Mr. Gottenberg says. Farmers don't visit back and forth as much as they used to and aren't as socially active, say most of the farmers The Herald spoke with. One of the main reasons for a decline in social activities is the centralization of schools. There used to be a school every 10 miles along the railroad track, one farmer says. The school was the center of social activity for about 10 farms surrounding the school. The teacher was also a recreation director. "The old rural school was the center of Mr. John- ston says. Most of the entertainment was nearby picnics, baseball games, tug of wars. "You don't see that around any more." Clarence Jespersen, who has a dryland farm about 12 miles southwest of Taber, says: "There used to be a lot of good dances at the school houses in the middle 50's until the schools closed." When-the schools closed people were drawn to the towns and cities for recreation, he says. Says Jim Cousins, professor emeritus at the University of Lethbridge, "When they took away the rural school they took away the heart of the community." When there was schools in small centers like Grassy Lake, east of Taber, farming parents would come in at noon to see their children, pick up mail and do some shopping, Dr. Cousins says. When the schools in these smaller centers closed the farmers stopped coining to town and many small country stores closed. There once were three stores in Grassy Lake but now there is only one, he says. Many other factors contributed to their closing but the centralization of schools speeded up the process. Farmers say there are other factors which have contributed to a decline in rural socializing. Television is one factor. As one farmer puts it: "After you've been out in the cold all day it's nice to snuggle down in front of a good program." Improved roads and cars make many more things accessible to farmers. Now they can go to major towns and cities almost year round. These bigger centers offer a greater choice of things to do. A fanner can go to town every night if he wants. The one sheet natural ice curling rinks and the outdoor hockey rinks in the smaller towns also used to be great meeting places for farmers. Many of these have long since disappeared and farm families go to the bigger centers which have covered artificial ice. Group travel Another change in farm life farmers who used to get together at the local schoolhouse and nearby church for activities now get together in places like Hawaii. Mexico and Australia- Many fanners travel hi groups to these places. Has family life changed? One farmer recalls as a lad sleeping curled up in a corner in some coats at a country dance 'a less common occurrence these days. Now, farm social activities seem more often to be parents socializing with parents and children socializing with children. Families do less together. And farm families have a wider scope of friends at the bigger schools. Farm children meet children who live up to 40 miles away from them. At the rural schools students met only the children who lived in the immediate area. Farming parents meet more people because they go to town more often than they used to. Also, farm children aren't home as much as they were in the past. This is because the schools are further away and some children leave at dawn and don't return until dusk. Frank Jankunis, professor of geography at the University of Lethbridge, says although farmers may not socialize as much as they used to, community spirit in small rural towns is still very strong. Dr. Jankunis lives in Nobleford and says the people there get together for dances' and sport activities. A few years ago there was a "return to Nobleford year" and people from as far as Toronto and California returned to the town to socialize and talk of old times. Example He says families still get together as families in smaller towns to watch hockey games and there is good family participation in many activities. The rural communities participation in the 1975 Canada Winter Games is a good example of rural community spirit, Dr. Jankunis says. He doesn't think centralization of schools has resulted in much of a loss of intimacy in rural communities- Rather, it's reunited in many more opportunities for rural children in activities such as snowmobiling. skiing, curling and hockey.