Monday, July 22, 2024
Chris Judd

Warned by Fred’s bird

About 80 years ago, one Saturday in the spring, dad was cropping and even though he had called the town barber to find out if he had time to cut dad’s hair, he didn’t want to leave seeding grain just to get his hair cut and didn’t go. Later in the day, when the barber had no customers ahead, he put a towel, scissors, the old hand clippers, and a little jar of mink oil into a pillow case and walked up to our farm and found dad still sowing grain in a field that could get quite wet if it rained. Fred the barber walked down to where dad was sowing, and he told dad to just sit on the seed box of the seed drill and Fred cut his hair. As this was going on, a bird was circling very high above making a “hoo, hoo, hoo” sound. Fred the barber said “it’s a good thing that you’re sowing today, Louis, because when that bird is shouting, it’s going to rain soon.” The next day, and for another two days, it rained. Neither Fred nor dad could see the bird up high in the sky, nor tell if it was a male or female. From that day on, dad just called it “Fred’s bird” and if it was shouting, rain was coming.
On May 15, we woke up at 6 a.m. to “Fred’s bird” shouting, and it continued for an hour with about ten seconds between shouts. That was the first time in my life that I have heard it continue for that long, but dad always said “if you hear Fred’s bird continue for a long time, don’t cut any hay until it stops raining.” It’s been quite wet for trying to make good dry hay since Fred’s bird woke me up several days ago. Some of my friends tell me that “Fred’s bird” is a morning dove, but I still have never seen it close enough to tell what it is. Eighty years ago, how could a little bird know that rain was coming when our weather forecasters with all their scientific tools still have trouble giving us a reliable prediction?
Last week was not just a wet week, but a very sad week, as well, in the valley. We lost Dr. Roly Armitage on Wednesday, June 19 in his 100th year. While some strong, healthy, young men had refused to go to war and defend our freedom, Roly lied about his age so he could join the military when he was just 17 and fight in France to help save our democracy. Roly returned to Normandy many times on D-Day to commemorate the thousands of young men who had died defending our freedom, but this year Roly was just too weak to go.
When the war was over and won, Roly studied and became a veterinarian. Most old farmers or retired farmers can smile and tell stories about Dr. Roly barreling down a rough gravel road, speeding through a muddy barn yard day or night to save the life of an animal who couldn’t tell you how they felt in either official language. Roly not only saved the lives of thousands of animals, but was instrumental in getting a sewage system installed in Shawville and getting an arena built that could be used for Shawville fair events and as an ice rink in winter. A couple years later, I can still remember Roly and my grandpa Gorden sitting on a bale of hay figuring out how to get artificial ice installed and paid for in that hockey rink for the hundreds of young hockey players that would make their mark in the hockey world for years to come. Later, Roly was the official veterinarian at both Quebec and Ontario race tracks and became very involved in harness racing, but wouldn’t leave his farmers in the Pontiac until he had found an excellent vet, Dr. Grant Rogers, to replace him. Yes, Roly will be remembered by our free world, his country, his valley, and his farmers.
Last Thursday, June 20, our Ottawa Valley also lost a very talented, enthusiastic young 15-year-old dairy farmer to an undiagnosed heart condition. From a very young age, Patrick van Lindenberg became an accomplished young dairy farmer, large farm equipment operator and a rising star in our Ottawa Valley farming community. Sincere condolences to Patrick’s entire family and may happy memories of his numerous accomplishments and marks that Patrick has made in his very young life never be forgotten.

Chris Judd is a farmer in Clarendon on land that has been in his family for generations.

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