When religious zeal interferes with good farm sense, my sisters save the day
| It was near suppertime one fall Saturday afternoon when I overheard my Dad telling our hired hand, Little Oskar, that he intended to cut oats the next day. The field in question was a small triangular one next to the farm buildings. There could be no delay because the oats had grown tall and were at risk of being blown out by the wind. My Dad was surprised by Little Oskar's reply. Oskar flatly refused to cut the oats on a Sunday, saying to do so was a sin - and that furthermore, if Dad did the work on Sunday himself, his soul would be in jeopardy. Taking advantage of my Dad's surprise, Little Oskar pressed his case. Not only would he not cut oats on a Sunday, he refused to handle any such contaminated oats in their subsequent processing. This meant he would not stook the bundles that the binder had cut and tied into sheaves, he would not pick up and move those sheaves into the barn for winter storage and he would not retrieve them later to feed the livestock. As Dad processed the full extent of Little Oscar's refusal, he winked at me and wondered aloud if on Sunday morning, Mother was to make a delicious breakfast of steaming, hot oatmeal, would Oskar refuse to partake? After reminding his hired hand that he was being paid wages by the month, and that the level of those wages could be affected by the stand he was taking, my Dad considered his options. He first thought of a local United Church minister, new to the community, who had already been a willing worker on the farm. He had always appreciated the extra work as well as the fresh eggs, butter and cream that he took home to his wife and young daughter. However, on Sundays the minister had three church services to conduct so Dad realized that he would have no time to help out.
Later that evening a neighbour drove up to the house. He had come to give Little Oskar a lift into Macrorie so he could attend church services the next day. Dad agreed to Little Oskar's day off in Macrorie but added there would be no need for him to return to the farm. The same neighbour said he knew of several Lutheran farmers in the district who needed help. The idea of relocating to a more rigorously religious community appeared to suit Little Oskar just fine so we knew he wouldn’t be out of a job for long. But this left Dad still needing help for the next day’s task. Although he had been taken aback by the afternoon’s revelation, Dad was in no way at his wit’s end. He had six daughters - my older sisters - the eldest who was nearly full grown. Dad called upon them to save the day. They willingly undertook the challenge and stooked the oats that were cut on Sunday. When the stooks were sufficiently aired and dried, my sisters then helped move them to the barn to be stored for winter feed. And thus was my sisters’ valour extended into the weeks and months ahead as our hungry horses and cattle gratefully munched their daily rations.