Stuart McLean’s latest contest

For a giggle – and a writing contest

Her appetent appetite was galvanized by the threat of starvation as the barbeque charred into coal; worse, her innately plebian character was mightily affronted by the mendacious toadies at that unctuous event.




As a farmer there is a pattern, a rhythm to your life that is unavoidable. Much of it is tied to the rhythm of the year, the change in the seasons and things that have to be done when they have to be done. Haying is a prime example. Haying happens when it is hot; full summer, with its long hot days, not a whisper of the fall that is to come. Haying happens when the timothy grass is long and lush, fed by days of sunshine and rain, ready to be cut. The army jeep is pulled out and gotten serviceable, our version of a tractor – hey don’t knock it, at least it has brakes that work! –the mower teeth sharpened. Into the field, bumpety bump, and down goes the mower arm, scything through the grass hundreds of times faster than the original scythe could.

Then, an anxious time as one hopes and prays that the rain – normally much heralded for its gentle feeding of the garden – stay away as the grass dries on the fields. Then! To work! A great bustle of activity as one gets in to drive (usually father), two stand in the back of the open backed jeep with pitchforks to pack the hay down and some walk behind the rake to pick up errant bits of hay and shepherd them into the truck. The work begins. Hot prickly musty work as the hay rolls inevitably into the truck and another rhythm establishes itself. One person towards the back of the truck forking the hay in, and the other further back, tramping it down as it comes in. The success of the tramping is measured by how high the load can be piled. The higher the load the fewer the trips.

Hay seed gets in everything! Below the breasts, down the back, into the underwear, everything becomes scratchy and itchy. Sweat burns as it drips down off the forehead, into the dry sweet smelling hay. Occasionally a halt is called, lemonade and food shared around. Then, back to the tamping down of hay, tamp tamp tamp until the load is precarious and high, towering above the roof of the jeep, hay mounded, sloping outward until the pitchforks become a necessary tool to stay on top of the load.

Bounce bounce the truck ponders its way back towards the barn, everyone sighs, movement stills, hay prickles make their fierce announcement of their presence. The barn slowly fills with the fragrance of summer, a reminder in the months to come of the sunshine and heat of late July.


It’s Cold Outside

It was cold outside. Very very cold. It was in fact one of those nights when the sky stretches up up up to eternity and the stars blink coldly down. There was no moon. Throughout the house the night cold pushed bitter fingers through each window as I walked past. Our two wood stoves pushed heat back and the coziness of the indoors was only exacerbated by the bitterness outside. Night chores were done, dinner was long past and I was ensconced in a comfy armchair, legs dangling over one arm, reading. But I was also aware that I had to pee. And the urge to pee was fast becoming something I could not ignore.

Until I was thirteen, this cold night air and the need to use a washroom were two utterly disconnected things, but now I was living in a century farmhouse that only had warm water running in the kitchen when the stove was well on. The bathroom was, in fact, an outhouse, and I needed to go. Cold or not, I was going to have to go outside.

Slowly and yet with a mounting sense of urgency I put on my boots, scarf, tuque, mittens, and thick down coat. I was as ready as I was going to be. I stepped outside, my chest constricting with the first inbreath of the icy night air. The house lights dropped behind me but I knew where I was going. The white outhouse gleamed in the starlight, pointing the way.

It was only when I get to the outhouse that the full awfulness of the situation became understood. Despite my urgency, I had put all my layers of clothing on. Sweater, followed by a scarf and then thick coat over all. However, what I had not remembered was the pair of overalls I was wearing under everything else. Overalls that could not be pulled down to do the necessary.

It took me a long time to get warm again once I was back in the house, even with both stoves pumping out heat. I knew that I would never again forget the lesson I had learned that night. Never ever go to the outhouse on a cold winter night with overalls under everything!!