The obituary read: HOPKINS, Irvine Edgar (Ted) – of Guelph, passed away peacefully, at Groves Memorial Community Hospital, Fergus, on Monday, October 13, 2008, in his 82nd year. Ted was one of my older brothers, seven years my senior. But he was one, when younger, that I never had the opportunity of getting to know too well. There was another brother and two sisters that separated my birth date from his, and having been born in the clutches of what is now written in the history books as the Great Depression, left a discrepancy in the family income that put him out to work on the neighbouring farms to self-support at a very early low teen age.

If my memory deceives me not, I think his first job was helping on the farm of Alfred Croft. Alf was a man who appreciated perfection, and I remember him teaching my brother Ted how to plow. Back then, not one in 20 farms were blessed with the ownership of a tractor. So Ted was taught to plow with a single sheared, long handled plough, pulled by two heavy draft horses.

I happened to be there the first day that he soloed, striking the first furrow on his own. I was perhaps 8. It was a Sunday morning. Mr Croft was away to church. And Ted wanted to show him that he could do it without all the hand waving instructions. He gave me two tall stakes, taller than my head and asked me to run to the other end of the long stubbled field, and stick them upright in the ground where he indicated. The first was near the fence, the second was towards him by approximately 30 feet or so. I remember I had trouble in getting them to stand straight, in the exact location that he wanted. But somehow I managed and then stood well back, quietly waiting and watching.

If my memory sits well, I believe the team were large and black, probably Belgians. They walked slow and steady, and they heeded each gentle tug of the long rope plow-lines that were used to guide them right or left. That’s Gee and Haw on the horsemen’s tongue.

It seemed to take them forever to walk that first furrow, but on reaching the end they immediately turned and with the one horse in the furrow they lengthened their step and headed back to the end from which they had first come. My brother carefully guiding the plough as he followed. The strike was  an eight inch furrow, sitting on edge, as straight as an arrow. Only two more rounds were plowed that morning as he wanted to get the team back into the barn, unharnessed, and rubbed down, before the Croft’s retuned from church. It was not of their habit to work, other than necessary chores, on Sundays.

I remember, too, at the once a month dances held at the local SS # 10 school house. Each time he circled the dance floor, he would pick up a piece of chalk and make a single stroke on the blackboard. By the end of the night all the caricatures of the then popular cartoons, would be smiling down from up high on the wall. There was Pluto the dog, Popeye and Olive, Superman, Jigs, as well as the three little pigs, and Bambi. You name it, he could draw it.

It was that talent that gained him an invitation to apply for a cartoonists job in Toronto. But that didn’t happen. He went to Toronto but before he got to the address given he saw a sign requesting those over 18 to volunteer subscription to the army. Having an older brother already overseas, he walked in, lied about his age, and with six months left in his seventeenth year, he came home wearing khaki.

Less than two years later he boarded a ship on the eastern coast, which we were later to learn was the Queen Mary, but before the boat pulled out of dock, the Second World War had been fought, won, and declared over.

On discharge he never went back to drawing. That was the brother I knew, in a younger year, in a way back time, in a time, forever, not to be forgotten.

Take care, ‘cause we care.


Barrie Hopkins