Boyhood Adventures at Island Falls

It all started when Grant Berge forwarded to me a third-party e-mail on the subject of clothing fashioned from flour sacks. My reply, which made a reference to Island Falls, got Grant started on stories about handmade toys and other items from childhood at Island Falls. Here is his e-mail:

Hi Dave,

Yes there were some real dandies made out of scrap. A few that come to mind are birch tree bows and crossbows with butcher string thongs and arrows carved out of old cedar shingles. Go carts made of old apple or produce boxes, with old wagon or trike wheels, and the butcher string again for steering, propelled by friends pushing on the back with a 2x4 until you got over the lip of the hill. We even made one with an old Briggs and Stratton washing machine engine and an old v-belt to drive it. It worked great, (noisy but great) down the back alley... until we hit a culvert down around Southworth's...instant destruction - ha ha.

I remember hunting ptarmigan up on the airstrip road with BB guns and hockey stick spears - looking back, what a laugh... There was a repeater and a single shot BB gun. The repeater wasn't strong enough to hurt the birds; they would just hop a few steps then settle down to eating the willow buds again. The old single shot was much more powerful, but it had the same results until I got lucky and hit one in the head. It went down and stayed down. I threw it back to the road where the younger kids were watching. Gordy Ferg, 5 or 6 years old, grabbed it and was holding it by the neck and looking at it. The danged thing came to and started flapping like crazy. Gordy's arms weren't very long and the thing was flapping close to his nose. He yelled, "Help! What do I do?"  I said,"Wring its neck."

Well if he put both hands on it to wring its neck he would have been scratched pretty badly. I don't think he could have gotten his hands together with all the winter clothes he was wearing anyway. So Gordy just starts swinging his arm around. The ptarmigan made at least two circles, maybe closer to three, when the head and body parted ways. So there's little Gordy holding the head in his hand and watching the body flop around spreading red all over the pristine Island Falls snow. I thought I'm going to get killed by Mrs. Ferg if he's covered in blood. It turned out that he was pretty clean so I was spared an early demise and Mrs. Ferg a lengthy jail term (however there might have been a jury of mothers who would have acquitted her on grounds of instant and justifiable reaction.) Anyways, to play it safe, I gave Gordy the ptarmigan and carried it home for him. We didn't get anything with the spears, so Gordy took the catch of the day. The rest of us had the excitement and memories for years.

Another memory triggered was 'Young People's meeting Sunday nights. Mrs. Christensen and Mrs. Olson would put it on. The home where it was held varied, but we always started by ripping old sheets and other rags for the Red Cross. There would be singing, usually refrains from hymns, a bible story and ALWAYS hot chocolate and cake or cookies. It wasn't always where I wanted to be on a Sunday evening, but looking back it was one of the things about Island Falls that helped me get my 'wants and needs' in their proper perspectives. Some lessons are endless and now I am grateful for people who cared enough to take the actions that would influence young people for life.

Being young in Island Falls is one thing I will always be grateful for. Just the fact that there were so few kids in any one age group made acceptance of younger ones a necessity. Being accepted by older kids and included in some of their activities on the other hand was an ego booster. A win-win situation. Knowing every body, their parents and older siblings always had a dampering effect in the young-old-young relationships. Teasing and kidding around were ok, being malicious was not.  

Yes that Flour Sack note and your prompting has triggered a few things I haven't thought about for years. I wouldn't change young Island Falls for anything, Dave. The lessons still go on.

Geeze did I write all this? That's the most I've written in quite a while. Oh well, some things bear sharing.

Take care and all the best Dave,