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True Winter Tales: Today's pick

In The Winter of 1939 by Linda Dowhaniuk

When my father was a twelve year old, it fell to him to go on a rescue mission in a blizzard.  His aunt and her six month old baby were stranded in an old farm house with no heat or food. Her nearest neighbor was an older lady who was concerned about my father's aunt so she called the farm house where my father was visiting, to ask that someone go check on the woman and her baby. My father was alone at the farm when the call came in and without hesitation he took it upon himself to go to the rescue. After leaving a note for his Aunt May, he hitched up the two large draft horses to a sled and headed off into the late afternoon. The snow was getting deeper and the wind whipped the snow into drifts all along the narrow road . He had to keep the team lined up between the rows of trees and shrubs along the road way, at least the ones he could still see . It took him two hours of plodding and coaxing the horses along in the deep snow. He finally reached the old farm and when he drew the team into a shed he was cold and shivering . When he went inside he called out but his aunt didn't respond. He entered the cold dark front room of the house and he was so worried that he was too late and they had perished. His aunt finally stirred from under a pile of quilts piled onto a day bed and the baby began to cry. His aunt didn't recognize him at first as if she couldn't believe her eyes, then she began to cry and reached out to him. He bundled the frail woman her small baby into the sled under quilts and a horse blanket and let the horses wend their way through the deep snow drifts. It was dark and cold but the horses sensed they were on the way back to their barn so they sped up a little or as much as the snow would allow. My father delivered his Aunt Olga and his little cousin to the waiting arms of his Aunt May & Uncle Joe. With half frozen hands, he  put the horses into the barn and watered them and put blankets over their backs. That's he sat down on a hay bale and cried. He told me he cried from relief and from the realization of the danger he had overcome as well as the relief that his aunt & cousin were now safe. That is the way my father did most things in his life; do what must be done and deal with the fear afterward. A lesson I learned and a tradition I have tried to keep in my way of life.

Linda Dowhaniuk is from Edmonton, AB

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