Seeing the bright side | Pioneer farmer wasn’t one to lose his temper
BORDEN, Sask. — At the age of 18, John Newbold travelled alone by train to market the family’s cattle with his spending money pinned to the inside of his clothes for safekeeping.
The money was intended for a hotel room for the night, but instead he chose to take in a live show and sleep in the caboose.
It’s just one of many tales from John’s 100 years of life operating a farm in central Saskatchewan.
He also once rounded up 300 pound pigs after they escaped from his truck while en route to Saskatoon from his Borden farm.
His niece, Mary Jane Newbold, said he chased all seven of them, tackling and wrestling each one back into the truck box, all without injury.
“Must have been quite a funny sight,” she said.
Just a decade ago, Mary Jane re-called seeing John sprinting across the yard to move the truck forward to avoid grain spilling out the top.
John related another incident when his brother, Ted, was driving the tractor and the wheels fell off, causing the tires to roll into the discer being pulled behind.
The tractor came to rest on the axle, tilting the cab so badly it was difficult to get out.
“We sure laughed about it,” said John.
Another chuckle came for John and a group of men while watching his brother-in-law, Colin Foley, drive through three fences before coming to a stop after his truck brakes gave out.
Mary Jane said John kept good humour and an even temper through such ups and downs in farming.
“He was cool as a cucumber,” she said. “I’ve never seen him mad in my 57 years.
“He is a gentleman and always thought a handshake was a man’s word, and he’s been royally ripped off on that a few times.”
Family and friends keep close tabs on John, who continues to live in the 1960s-era house he built in Borden with his late wife, Lillian.
The Newbold family gathers each spring and fall to seed and harvest wheat and oats on their 1,100 acre farm.
The annual work bees follow a tradition set by John and his siblings. The families park their RVs in John’s yard, visiting, eating meals together and squeezing in some dancing, a favourite pastime of John’s.
“They did it because they loved to do it,” said Mary Jane.
“We come because our fathers did it.”
Mary Jane said John and Lillian did not have children, but they taught their nieces and nephews about farming, running equipment and how to inspect grain.
Wheat remains John’s favourite crop to grow.
“It can be straight combined and it holds its grain well and doesn’t shell out,” he said.
Borden has been home for all of John’s 100 years. He was one of six children, including Earl, Ruth, Olive, Ted and Don, born to Abraham and Florence Newbold. They had emigrated from England in 1913 seeking free homesteads offered by the Canadian government.
John married Lillian in 1937, “a terrible dry year.”
He rented land in 1942 and harvested a bumper oat crop, so the next year he bought a half section for $4,000 and started producing grain and cattle, which numbered as many as 300 head at one time.
All but $1,000 was paid in cash, with the remainder paid the next crop year.
“He’s a man that likes to get things done,” said Mary Jane.
John added quarter sections to the farm operation through the years and used summer fallow in his rotations.
Herefords were his preferred breed.
“They have a thick hide and can take the cold weather better than other animals seem to be able to.”
He said cattle made up the shortfall when crops were poor, citing one incident where hail damaged all but 10 percent of his uninsured crop.
“I had cattle to sell so I didn’t get taken down to the ground,” said John.
John also dabbled in trucking grain and raising mink. He once shipped pelts to New York hoping for a better price. John found the price was lower than the $7.50 that was offered in Saskatoon, so he had them shipped back.
The Newbold brothers established many businesses in Borden through the years, including Abraham’s butcher shop, Don’s restaurant, Earl’s hotel and Ted’s butcher shop.
Looking back, John is glad he got to farm.
“It’s nice to get out there in the fields in the morning when the sun is shining. It’s a good life, really.”