Prairie farmers were a close knit group and the sorrows and joys of one family would echo through the neighborhood. Many of our friends and neighbours were faced with personal tragedies and we would grieve with them. These events both humorous and tragic had a direct effect on our lives and I would like to share these with you, (respecting privacy as deemed appropriate).
I remember Mr. and Mrs. Melzer who lived north of Mannville driving home in a horse and buggy and as they passed the pasture Mr. Melzer asked his wife to let him off and he would bring the cows home. When he didn't come home the community organized a search party and they found him hanging from a tree. He had used a piece of barb wire to do himself in.
Otto Peterson worked one summer for Joe Nafziger (Eleanor's Father), when he came over from Germany. He later farmed north of Mannville. He had stacked poplar poles Tee Pee style so they would dry better. He decided to saw a few poles for firewood so his wife would have firewood over harvest. He got the saw set up. The saw was on one side of the fence and the poles on the other so he dropped the wire so everything would be ready when the kids came home from school. He thought he and his wife could saw a little by the time they came home. The two of them had to carry the poles across the wire. When he was crossing the wire he tripped and fell into the saw. He died almost instantly.
Mr. M. was known to have a few too many when he hauled grain to town in the winter. He would head for home and fall asleep. The team would often stop at the Joe Nafziger farm (Eleanor's folks). "Pa", as the family called him, had a heart of gold and would bring him in and make him comfortable on the kitchen floor and put the team in the barn until he woke up.
I can remember a Mr. G. who lived north of Mannville. He took pigs to town with a sleigh mounted with a wagon box which had a top on. He put his team in the livery barn and went to the bar. He got so loaded that he spent the night in the hotel. The next morning his wife got a ride into town, hooked up the sleigh and drove up to the hotel. She took an open bottle of beer up to his room and showed it to him knowing that he would want another, he followed her down to the wagon. She had already opened the end gate and threw in the bottle of beer, he climbed in and she shut the end gate and took him home.
Another amusing incident happened at the Mr. and Mrs. S. farm a few miles north of town. The police had been called out as they had been having marital problems. She had taken a knife, cut the mattress in half and threw his side on the floor and told him he could sleep there as he was no longer sleeping with her. She reportedly chased him out with the butcher knife and he spent the night in the Hotel.
August and Olga Brokop lived 4 miles west of us, they had built a barn and held barn dances to help pay for the paint. One day in the early morning they were in the barn milking. They had left a lit coal oil lamp on the kitchen table so their little girl wouldn't be afraid when she woke up, not thinking that she would climb up on the table. When they came out of the barn the house was engulfed in flames. There was no way they could get into save the girl.
One of the Golish boys worked for a contractor as a cat skinner. They were working on a steep incline and had one cat stationed a the top with a cable attached to the one down below so it would not roll over. As they were dozing the cable was drug back and forth and eventually frayed and broke and the cat rolled. Golish was brought back to Mannville in a body bag.
Ferby Construction were hauling a cat on a trailer north of Claysmore, it was a muddy road and the trailer slid into the ditch. Gerry Ferby came along and said to his man that they would unload the cat and pull the trailer out. The hired man said that it was too dangerous as the cat could roll, but they attempted it anyway. The cat did roll leaving Gerry's young wife and one child alone.
Ed Wascherol would never stop a a cross road, even Highway 16. People often told him that he should stop and he would laugh and tell them that they could see him coming. One day a transport didn't see him and he ended up in a pine box.
Ernie Schumacher was working with Zelisko at Stettler ploughing telephone cable for A.G.T. Zelisko was backing up the cat and Ernie was pulling the cable back. He never laced his boots and just let the tops flap. One of the tops caught in the track of the cat, the crew hollered but Zelisko couldn't hear their pleas over the noise. By the time he stopped the cat had gone over Ernies legs right up to the rib cage. They rushed him to the Stettler Hospital. He asked for water as he felt thirsty. He passed away shortly after arriving at the hospital. He was one of Don's pals.
Alvin Hess would come over a lot and suggest we go and look at livestock and the crops, he also would do the same with my cousin Ernie Maron. One day he got all his bills together and sent his wife to town with the bills and some money. He kissed her and said "There will be no more tears". When she came home she could not find Alvin. She called the Police and they did not have the people to look for him but they were bringing dogs down from Edmonton. There were about 70 people ready to help by the time the Police arrived. The Police asked Toots (her nickname) for a pair of socks and shoes for the dogs to smell. All the dogs did after they smelt the shoes was run around the pig pen as Alvin raised a lot of pigs and the Police said that the dogs picked up on the hog smell. They checked the hog barns and got us to search the farm walking 10 feet apart in a straight line. We found nothing. Alvin also had a quarter section of pasture across the road and we walked that and he was found in a poplar bluff in the middle of the the quarter; he had taken his life with a 12 gauge shotgun. Alvin had lost his eldest due to cancer, Toots later told us that he had been to the doctor and felt he had cancer. The doctor got the returns too late -
Mr. Dziki and his daughter were on their way home, each driving a 44 Massey and each pulling a 10 foot cultivator. They were crossing a grade not too far from home. The girl took a look back at her father and lost control of the tractor and went into the ditch which had about 4 feet of water. Mr. Dziki tried to rescue her but she was pinned under the tractor. A neighbour came along and found him standing waist deep in the water holding her hand. he never got over the incident. Several months later he got his shotgun and sat in the living room crying with the shot gun over his knees. They had no phone, his wife sent one the the kids over to the neighbours to call the Police. They arrived in time to talk him out of whatever he had intended to do.
Albert Tyler was hauling rocks with a stone boat and the horses ran away and drug the stone boat over him. He died before reaching the hospital.
Andy Schumacher got himself an Ultra Lite plane. He used to fly to visit our son Don who lived on an acreage north of Vermilion. He also had a license to sell and assemble the planes as well as train the buyer how to fly them. A friend from Wetaskiwin flew in to see Andy. They couldn't get their two way radios to work so they flew to St Paul where there also was an Ultra Lite dealer. As Andy came in to land, his plane seemed to nose dive nose first into a little creek with about a foot of water. He was dead on impact. He had always maintained that Ultra Lites were one of the safest planes to fly.
There used to be a temporary railway crossing in Manville between the elevator and the main part of town. Mr. Horicks, who lived east of Manville, took some livestock to Edmonton and on the way home he took the temporary crossing to go up town. The train hit him. A friend of mine that worked for the CNR tld me that the clean up was a horrific experience that would haunt him for a long time.
J.F. was known for having a few drinks and one night he had a few too many. When the bar closed he started for home across the tracks and stumbled into a ditch, he was found the next morning.
Mike and Bernice Chanasyk were going to Vermilion and Jerry and Olive Horman were coming home and they met on the crown of a hill one and a half miles east of Stellaville School. Olive died on the way to the hospital. Bernice had damage to her neck and has had eye problems since; Mike has to walk with a cane or crutches.
Bill McMinis had gone to his sister Martha's wedding at Leduc. He wasn't home yet, when we got a call that Martha and her husband had been struck by a train at Blackfalds near Calgary. Mel Wenzel, manager of the Treasury Branch in Mannville was going to Calgary and happened upon the scene; he said it was the worst he had ever seen.
There was a farmer near Minburn who was in arrears with the payments on a Cat that he had bought. The bank hired a truck to go and bring the Cat back into town. When the truck driver got to the Cat, the farmer had driven it in a slough with about 18 inches of water and it was froze in solid. He said that by the time it thawed out he might be able to raise the money; he was known for doing things like that.
There was a farmer by the name of Parcell who lived on the north side of the lake south of Claysmore that was known to carry large amounts of money. It was said that one day he waked out of the bank with close to $2000 after cashing his grain cheques refusing to leave it in the bank as he did not trust them. (This was a lot of cash in the 30's). Harry Brunnell was thrashing in the Clovelly area and had hired a father and son from Eastend Saskatchewan who had come to Alberta to earn some money after their crops were a failure. One day soon after the RCMP drove into the neighboring Ashton farm and asked Mrs Ashton if she had noticed anything out of the ordinary across the valley. She told them that she did in fact notice a car with bright lights drive into the Parcell yard about one o'clock one night. Mrs. Ashton found out later that Mr. Parcell had been shot and his bachelor home ransacked. The RCMP checked at Eastend Saskatchewan and found that the father and son had spent the night in a Motel. They followed their trail to Montana where they found Parcell's rifle. Ballistic tests proved that it was the rifle that had shot Parcell. The father and son pair were apprehended in Tennessee and brought to Edmonton for trial. Percy, Vern and Jack Willis, neighbours of Percell's, were called as witnesses. Jack later told me that the judge had told the elder accused he was in a tough situation and he replied that he had been in them before. The pair were found guilty and were hung in the Edmonton prison.
Fred Melzer and the Yorkson boy were both dating Otto Petersons daughter. One day Fred went to call on Otto's daughter and the Yorkson boy was there. The two boys had an argument. Fred shot Yorkson in the stomach then went home, went to bed and shot himself. Lauti Melzer was married to a man in the Boyle area who was quite a drinker and when he had been drinking had a tendency to be quite mean. Lautie could not cope with it any longer and committed suicide by drowning herself in the well.
John Yurstowski and his wife lived two houses north of us. She suffered from mental depression. One morning John reported her missing; the police organized a search party and they found her 2 1/2 miles east of Vermilion in the Catholic cemetery between a shrub and a tombstone-
Louis Metrunec had bought a 649 ticket and went for coffee at Sunnyside Bus Stop south of the tracks. On his way back to town the train hit his van and pushed it about 60 rods west down the track before the train could stop. He lived until they got him to the Vermilion hospital. The police claim that he may have survived had he been wearing his seat belt as he was hit on the passenger side of the vehicle. The CNR had 2 rails of tank cars parked on the siding close to the crossing coming from the east so you almost had to be on the tracks to see a third coming from the east. Louis loved to fish and play cards. He worked for the Vegreville School Division and was maintenance man for the Manville School.
Some one came into town and reported a woman's nude body on the highway about 2 kilometers west of Mannville on highway 16A. At first the police suspected foul play but as they investigated further they found it was Lease Kessir of Lloydminster. Her husband worked with our son in law Terry Trachuk at universal Industries. She was on her way to Edmonton to celebrate her granddaughter's birthday. They suspect that she had got off the bus at Sunnyside for a cigarette. The driver or passengers had not noticed and the Police suspect that she had somehow got caught under the bus and was drug until her clothing was torn off.
The son of a prominent business man in Mannville had mental problems, he went to school with our son Don, they were a grade apart. He was on medication but one day he got to think that he owned Husky Oil. he got in his car and drove across to the Husky station and put duct tape over the meters. The attendant told him he could not do that but he insisted he owned Husky and was shutting them down. This done, he headed to Wainwright to do the same thing. On the way he played chicken with the Gibson tankers, at that time there was one every 8 or 10 minutes on their way to Hardisty as the pipe line had not been built yet.