Saturday, July 9, 2011
My Father, My Future
How did a French boy born into a mining family end up here? It is an interesting tale and it is the seed that grew my love for Agriculture.
My Grandfather came to Canada to make a better life for his family. He settled in Hillcrest, Alberta and began work at the Hillcrest mine in 1911. In 1913 he brought his family from France, my Father, his sister Mary and my Grandmother. It must have been a happy reunion for all of them and the future looked bright. A new country and lots of work. It was not meant to be.
On Friday June 19th in 1914 The Hillcrest mine, a mine noted for its safety had an explosion and cave in. 189 men were killed, 130 women widowed and over 400 children left fatherless. My father was one of those children. Antoine Paul Lagarde was dead at the age of 36.
My father was always determined, it was in his nature even as a boy. He missed the strong influence of a father and was soon one of a myriad of young boys that were running wild in the community. He ran afoul of the law with a friend, they had vandalized a box car full of produce, scattering cabbages and carrots all over the rail depot. The got caught and the Judge gave them two options. Reform School in Winnipeg, Manitoba or being sent to the country to work for their keep.
My father took the country option and his life changed forever. The man who ended up with this stubborn French boy was an Englishman called Ralph Veitch. He took a dislike to my father's traditional French name of Gabriel and called him Billy. He put him up in a shed with a bed and wash basin of his own and set out to make a farmhand out of him. My Father thrived on the fresh air, hard work and plenty of good solid home cooking. He learned to garden from Mrs. Veitch and he learned to slop hogs, feed cows, pitch hay and cut firewood from Ralph. He got used to his new name and learned English but most of all he learned to love the land.
The more he was around the livestock the more he knew he was going to be a farmer. So the seeds were sown for my future, a future involving horses, cattle and crops. A future that would instill in me a love for the land and a desire to keep it well and healthy to be the steward my father was.
When I watch the bunchgrass wave in the wind or find the first crocus of spring I think of my father and am thankful I am more like him everyday....this is an example of the strength that lives in the people who tend livestock and grow our food. The love of what they do makes it all worthwhile. Thank you Dad!