Begin forwarded message:
From: Alan Skeoch <email@example.com>Subject: “( YOU ARE A GODDAMN FOOL!” “DAD, YOU GOT THAT RIGHT.”Date: January 11, 2018 at 10:48:08 AM ESTTo: Alan Skeoch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
“YOU ARE A GODDAMN FOOL!” “DAD, YOU GOT THAT RIGHT.”DAD SPOKE IN OPPOSITES…IF HE LIKED SOMETHING, HE SAID IT WAS JUNK. WHEN HE CALLED MEA DIMWIT, HE MEANT I WAS OK. NOT THAT I WAS GREAT…JUST OK. WE LIKED THAT….NO SLOPPY SENTIMENTALITY. NOKISSING AND HUGGING.alan skeochJan. 2018One fine spring day around 1970, I brought this heavy corn cutting machine to the farm. Dad helped me unload.He had a whole string of four letter words when he saw the thing. That meant he liked it even though he said itwas no goddamn good and the former owner had no right to exploit my stupidity.So this story is really about Dad and less about the machine.
“:Dad, give me a hand with this big corn cutting box…runs off tractor belt or stationary engine in barn.”“Now what the hell did you buy that thing for…should be in the scrap yard.”Are you out of your GODDAMN MIND…daft…brainless. Take the son of a bitch back to the smart ass who sold it to you.””“Neat, isn’t it. Circular blade … sort of like a revolving guillotine. Did you ever use one on the Skeoch farm outside Fergus? ”“No. I headed west when I was 14, told you that a long time ago. Are you both deaf and dumb?”“ Harvest Excursion? wasn’t it?”“No, I got in a bit of trouble when I was 14…had to hotfoot it west to Keeler…“Keeler>”“Saskatchewan…spent couple of winters cooped up with 16 horses. Slept inan empty stall. No farm house. Horses kept the barn warm. No corn feed…lots of hay and some oats. No tractor sowhy the hell would we want a corn cutter? So cold around Riverhurst in those winters that a fellow could die fast in the openFreeze balls of a brass monkey as they say.”“Just you alone with 16 horses.”“That’s right, better company than my two sons that’s for sure.”“Get paid? ““Just enough to get me back East with a new pair of boots. Then some bastards stole the boots when I fell asleep and I had to hotfoot italong Queen Street in Toronto to that old hotel at Roncesvales.. Came back with nothing. ““Why not go home?”” Sure as hell wasn’t going back to the Fergus farm.No room for me up there anyway. Too many kids…too little money.”“Couldn’t you go back to school? Grade nine?“Jesus, don’t you ever listen to me. Fergus High School was the reason Iwent west in the first place. i old you about the wood flap at the back ofthe girls outhouse. My schooling ended suddenly when Kelly and I hurled snowballs up that flap in the girls outhouse. We thought it was funny.Hit a girl on the ass. She ran into the school screaming. Dizzy. We just stood there. The principal was not amused, “Arnold, you go home right now and get your father over here.”“What did your Dad do?”“Never told him. Never even went home. Hid out in the swamp for a while, siept in neighbours place. My sisters…Elizabeth and Greta looked after me…brought me food.Couldn’t;t stay there so I lit out for Saskatchewan where brother John had just got himself married and fixed up on a section … 640 acres…nearly seven times the size of our Fergus farm.”“Who put up the money for the fare?”“Maybe mother or big sister Elizabeth…don’t rightly know. Think John had something to do with it” He wanted us all to move west”” My brothers Art and Archie eachbought farms near Keillor but they never lived on them. Had crop put in then buggered off back to Ontario. Let big brother John do Threshing in fall…did it on shares.”Archie made money beating up French Canadians one summer. You know how skinny Archie is even to this day. Skinny as a tent pole. that fooled lots of people.“Is this the boxing story, Dad?”“God that was great when I Heard about it. Word was spread around from Keeler to Riverhurst that A fist fight was going to happen over near Riverhurst. French Canadian against an Ontario Scot. Skinny Scottish bastard…goingto get the shit kicked out of him. Put your money on the Frenchy. Wrng! Wrong! Archie could really fight. Knocked the Frenchy down fast and the boys picked up a bundle. Archie became famous for a while.“How come you were not involved?”“Never wanted to go back west. Try sleeping winters with 16 horses…alone. that will knock any romantic notions out of your head.”“Scared?”“More scared of my dad than the idea of travelling to the West.”Enough bull shit. I Bet dollars to do-nuts you don’t even know what this son of a bitch is supposed to do.”“Chops up field corn.”“For what reason?”“Maybe cut it up green and blow chunks into the silo to make ensilage for winter feed.”“How did a dimwit like you figure that out?”“Farmer I bought it from told me…he was short a thumb and finger…maybe cut off by this machine.”“How much did you pay for it?”“Thirty dollars.What is it really worth?”“He sure saw a sucker coming when you arrived. Not worth a goddamn cent…junk…”“I thought you would like it, dad. Flattered .”“Where do you plan to put it now your barn has collapsed?” (Story to come)“That, Dad, is the big question…I do not know. where to put it.”Wait until your Uncle Norman sees this machine. Shows what a damn fool you are. Why in hell he namedyou as executor of his will defeats me.alan skeochJa. 2018Stories to come 1) The Barn that a Jackas built2) Dad teaching andrew and Kevin how to smoke White Owl Invicible cigars when they were 6 and 8 years old.RED SKEOCH…”’BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME?”ASIDE: Mr. and Mrs. James Skeoch operated a 100 acre farm on outskirts of Fergus (SW) and, like many farmers they had a big family. Greta, Elizabeth, Sarah, Lena, John, James, Archie, Arthur, Arnold, Norman. The oldest, James Skeoch was killed by artillery shells on one of the lat days of World War One, sarah died ofthe Flu epidemic that followed the war. The rest thrived. John bought land near Keeler, Saskatchewan and both Archie and Arthur also boughtsome western land although they never moved west. Had their families in Ontario. Uncle John looked after things in the west. Arnold (‘Red”) and Artur became tire builders in Toronto. They became city boys. Norman, the youngest took over the home farm in Fergus and cared for his mother and father unto their death.When Norman died, his will stipulated that each of his brothers and sisters should get an equal portion of the estate. This meant that the farmhad to be sold and the machinery put up for public auction. My cousin John (long John) Skeoch and I were named as executors. Nasty job.Never met my grandfather Skeoch. By all accounts he was a tough man. Grandmother Skeoch lived on the Fergus farm util she died. She becamean oil painter and made sure that all her kith and kin were given one of her paintings before her death. There were so many relatives that I neverreally got to know her. Which is too bad. The first Skeoch boys, James and John, migrated to Canada in 1846 with their grandfather Mr. Watt. and an aunt who was terrified the boys would fall overboard as they spent a lot of time running along the deck of the sailing ship. Why were the little boys brought out while theirfather was not? I think he came later but there was a little mystery about the migration. I have never been able to convincingly join the dots. Trouble withthe family tree is the repeated use of James and John…from generation to generation.If you have read this far you might be comforted to know therewas only one Arnold in the family, my Dad, but henever went by that name. To everyone he was just “Red” because he was born with red hair. No signoff red hair when Eric and I were born but the name Red stuck. He was Red to everyone including my mother. She had another name for him when hegot in trouble which was often. Then she said, “Oh, Red, you Fathead! Her name was Elsie but he never called her that. His name for his wife was “Methooz”,a shortened form of Methusalum. Why? Because Methusala was the oldest person in the bible and Mom was a year older than Dad. No I did not misspellMethusala. Dad added the “um” because it sounded better. It was a love affair that defied reason. I think most real and deep love affairs are like that.Some people we knew well as boys felt sorry for us. They thought we lived in a dysfunctional family. Are you kidding? We lived inside a cyclone with fasc[nating things whizzing by every day…and remarks that were hard to decipher. What? Meaning what? Indecipherable remarks? Sorry, maybe only Mom, Eric and I would understand. For instance, Dad never used our real names, Alan and Eric. Instead he always said, I have two sons one is a gutsy bugger and the other is as stupid as Joe’s dog/“ He never said who these terms of endearment applied to. Do I sound like a gutsy bugger or stupid as Joe’s dog?” Your call.He had a disparaging label for everyone. Catholics were fish-eaters. English people were sparrows or cheapers or broncos. Snobs, smooth talkers and creditor were ,’meally mouthed sons of bitches.’ Dad turned a lot of people off. But he also made a lot of friends for he had a twisted kind of charisma. As proven, I suppose,by the fact he remains vivid in my mind decades after is death.Dad … caught him in a pensive mood. Rare. Shows a side of him he did not want the world to see. Much preferred the tough guy pose. Or the cigar smoking arrogant man of the streets and racetracks. Under all that was the real man. Red was strong as an ox from his AIaly labour making tires for big trucks. Slapping HEAVY slabs of rubber onto spinning wheel day in and day out. “Careful of that roller boys, saw a guy go through that, came out as flat a Gumby.” he told Eric and I when we visited Dunlop Tire Company week before he retired. Dad was proud of his work…he made thingswith his two hands that our society takes for granted…huge rubber tires. Deep down dad probably wished he had gone to high school…wished he hadnot thrown those snowballs at the ass of that poor girl in the back house. Mistakes in life can do damage. If he became an educated son of a bitch hewould have been a different man. Eric and I loved him the way he was even when he pilfered our wallets for a few bucks to take to the track. Or forged a check that emptied my bank account just when needed for first year university fees. Or emptied that prize bottle of Henessy’s cognac brough back from the job in Ireland. Mom felt thesame way even though she slept on the couch in our three room house using her purse as a pillow. Would you lend Dad twenty bucks if he came aroundto see you. Most of my friends had been hit for a few bucks now and then. They seemed to like dad in spite of himself.Dad did not take pictures. This shot of his must show the horses he caredfor in the winter in that lonely barn. The west was won by horses…thousands of them. Dad kept 16 alive in a frigid Saskatchewan barn when he was a kid. Alone. Alone!The west was won by horses…thousands of them. Dad kept 16 alive in a frigid Saskatchewan barn when he was a kid. Alone. Alone!This is one of the few pictures he ever had. Hardly glorious.Hardly glorious.WHO WERE WE?In 1846, our wayward branch of the Skeoch ‘clan’ left Scotland under mysterious circumstances that I have never properly understood. Just two little boys, James and John Skeoch, with their mom and her father, Mr. Watt. The grandfather was the prime mover…wanted out of the Scottish Lowlands near the west coast… not too far away from the placewhere Robert Burns had his love affairs and wrote his poems. 1846 was a bad year al across Europe and Britain. Potato crop had failed and starvation stalked humanity like the fabled gym reaper. Starvation, however, was not the push factor. Old Mr. Watt was an economic migrant. He had money. I am not too sure he felt his daughter had married wisely. Hart to understand why his son-in-law, Skeoch, was left in Scotland when the children and wife shipped out for Canada.My Skeoch grandfather, James Slkeoch, was the son of James Skeoch, one of the little boys on board that 1846 ship.This story is not a documented family tree…instead it provides a little flesh and blood to the family history.By the end of the 19th century James, son of James, was building an immense field stone house and an equally giant barn on their Fergus farm. He also seemsto have been quite busy in the marital bed when darkness fell.Mr. and Mrs. James Skeoch operated a 100 acre farm on outskirts of Fergus (SW) and, like many farmers they had a big family. Greta, Elizabeth, Sarah, Lena, John, James, Archie, Arthur, Arnold, Norman. The oldest, James Skeoch was killed by artillery shells on one of the last days of World War One, sarah died ofthe Flu epidemic that followed the war. The rest thrived. John bought land near keillor, Saskatchewan and both Archie and Arthur also boughtsome wester land although they never moved west. Uncle John looked after things in the west. Arnold (‘Red”) and Artur became tire builders inToronto. They became city boys. Norman, the youngest took over the home farm in Fergus and cared for his mother and father unto their death.When Norman died, his will stipulated that each of his brothers and sinners hold get an equal portion of the estate. This meant that the farmhad to be sold and the machinery put up for public auction. If you think that was pleasant, then you have a brick for a brain.Never met my grandfather Skeoch. By all accounts he was a tough man. Grandmother Skeoch lived on the Fergus farm util she died. She becamean oil painter and made sure that all her kith and kin were given one of he paintings before her death. There were so many relatives that I neverreally got to know her. Which is too bad. The Skeoch boys, James and John, migrated to Canada in 1846 with their grandfather Mr. Watt. and an aunt who was terrified theboys would fall overboard as they spent a lot of time running along the deck of the sailing ship. Why were the little boys brought out wile theirfather was not? I think he came later but there was a little mystery about the migration.NEVER BROUGHT GIRLFRIENDS HOME…WITH ONE EXCEPTIONI had a lot of girlfriends. Platonic girlfriends that would never understand Dad. Many would bolt in fear. So I never brought a girl friend home to meet dad with one exception. Marjorie was different. They got along like a houseon fire. He loved her almost immediately. Both loved horses so they had common bond. One of my graphic memories is Dad and Marjorie glued to the rail that surrounded the Fort Erie racetrack. Racing form in hand. Assessing the flanks of race contenders. And she understood him even when he was at his worst. She found him amusing. Warm. And he dropped in at our apartment and eventual house so often that Marjorie had to give up trying to breast feed the kids because Dad kept popping up at the most inconvenient times.We miss him.alan skeochJan. 2018The TEST: Who called me a “gutsy bugger?”Must stop here…more will come…