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Being neighbourly

Socializing with our country neighbours has changed significantly in the last 40 years.
The benefits of being neighbourly, as recalled by our humour columnist. Photo: Metro Creative

Socializing with our country neighbours has changed significantly in the last 40 years. Not so very long ago, it was common for friends living just down the road or even several miles away to unexpectedly pop in for a visit on a cold winter's night. They'd pile through the door in a gust of frosty air, muffled to the teeth in warm clothes. Then, laughing, they'd stamp snow from cold feet and clap their hands to restore a tingling warmth.

The evening's entertainment ahead was of their own making, and a fine time was anticipated. Cards were shuffled as folks gathered to play rousing games of canasta, rummy, or whist. Monopoly was pressed into service, or perhaps a thoughtful round of Scrabble was enjoyed.

Discussions took place over grain or cattle prices, farming in general, and how the year had been. Plans for the next growing season were mulled over while everyone washed down homemade cookies and cake with mugs of steaming coffee.

We kids would play outside until our boots were full of snow and our feet half frozen before coming in to warm them in front of the wood stove. Dad sometimes got his guitar, and we sang lustily with mom leading in her high soprano.

Often, visitors were sent home with a jar of preserves, some fresh bread, or other baking tucked under their arms. On more than one occasion, I remember cradling a sealer jar of Lois MacTavish's saskatoon berry preserves for the dark ride home. What tasty recollections I have of the rich purple fruit she so generously gave.

If there was a musician in the group, there would be tunes. Songs were known and sung by all, particularly carols during the Christmas season. Electronic devices and television were not options back then, and it could be argued we were the better for it. Families and neighbours found time for fun and one another. It seems people don't get together in quite this way anymore. All the busyness of life has taken over, and we collapse in front of the television at night, content to mindlessly while away the evening.

I'm as guilty as the next person. Home, with its peace and quiet, is an excellent place to stay after a long day of work, and I find myself settling in with a good book or plopping down in front of the tube before bed. Nonetheless, spending time with friends and family is essential and should be a priority.

Impromptu gatherings, such as I've described, were integral to the country way of life back then and were appreciated by all. As a result, life was less complicated, and the farming community seemed closer-knit. Looking back, I'm grateful for these memories and realize how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to experience them.

As is with everything in life, the old passes away and is replaced with the new. Country folk may never have the same social patterns again, but perhaps, with effort, we can revive a little of this practice that was so enjoyable in our past.

Why not invite someone over this week, get out the cards, a guitar, and put on the coffee. Heck, I'd come.

Helen Row Toews is an author and humorist and resides on the family farm near Marshall, Saskatchewan. She’s written humour books and stories, a fantasy series for young adults and a sweet romance set in the south of France. To contact Helen or check out her books, go to