Eli Barish: Pioneering During Sasktachewan Winter
Date:Wednesday, April 9, 1969
ID:Digital audio recording #: 19.69-05
EB: I remember one time when I was a kid, you see, we used to go to Moosomin, that was a town where we would take loads of wood to sell and we used to go with oxen. I used to take a piece of bread in my pocket and it’d freeze. And I’d chew it frozen and it could go all night because it was about 20 miles from our place to Moosomin and with oxen it takes a bit more than a whole day. We started out at night after supper and then we’d go all night, you see, and in the morning we’d come into Moosomin, you see, and sell our loads for a dollar, I think, a dollar and a quarter. If I had of put all the oxen in the stable, that would have taken all the money, you see, so the fellow that ran the stable used to say, 'well, we have a place outside where you can tie the oxen.' I had a bundle of hay with me to give the oxen food and he’d let me sleep on the floor there, in the office. They had a stove there, you see, and I’d put out my coat out on the floor and lay down and sleep down there. So we didn’t have to pay any hotel stuff. And that’s when we were pioneering.
And I remember one time I was coming home and it was 40 below zero. And I couldn't keep myself warm, you see, we were facing the wind, a very strong wind. Even the oxen, you see, they were going straight ahead and blowing their noses, you see. It was cold facing the wind. You see, an ox, it generally...to go home...whenever there was a road just like that going around to come out, the ox would go across, you see, to make a short cut. And in order to keep myself warm...I could've [kept] myself warm following the oxen but it was too slow so I had to go back half a mile, you see. And while I was there, the oxen were about three quarters of a mile away and I started running because I had to catch up to them. I was running and that's [how] I warmed myself, you know. And I was afraid to lay down on the sleigh to sleep in case I would freeze to death. So I kept awake by walking after the oxen.
And I came to our neighbour, about three or four miles from our house, and when we came down there, the oxen, being so cold they went in with their tongues right into the house. And the neighbour came out and asked, 'what's the matter?' This was Mrs. Pelenovsky. Came out and got a hold of me and said to me, 'well, you're going to freeze to death, you can't go home, you have to stay the night.' Well, I said, 'how can I stay here over night?' I said, 'my people will think that I froze to death.'
So I went to work and I wrote a little note and I tied the little note to the oxen's horns, telling Dad that I was staying over at the Pelenovsky's house, you see. And I let the oxen go home. So the oxen came home and the dogs started barking and my dad came out and he was unhitching the oxen and thought, 'Eli must be frozen someplace, [I] don't see him around and the oxen came home.' So he started going back. And my brother, you see, when he was taking the oxen apart to get them into the barn, he saw a little note on a horn. And the little note said that I was staying overnight at the Pelenovsky place. And they called Dad back, he had been looking for me."