Everything is Better With Some Cows Around

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Yesterday was my step-father’s birthday. He would be ninety-six if he were alive, but he died ten years ago. We still miss him. Lloyd Samuel McGibbon was quite a man, you know. Kind, strong, patient. He had to be to take on us lot all those years ago. Ha.  
 
Lloydie on wheels. Making good use of my step-brother’s old bike. Sometime in the 1980s.


I still remember our first glimpse of this man who was to become such an important part of our lives, a farmer and a widower we’d been told, arriving to take my mum to dinner on their first date. Our mum who had never been on a date before, not in our memory anyway. I remember our anticipation, my sisters and I crowding into the bathroom to fix our hair, the knock on the door of our apartment, Lloyd appearing in the living room wearing a suit, topcoat, and hat. We sat on the sofa sizing him up, and discussed him endlessly after Mum ushered him out the door. “A hat! He wears a hat! Like Humphrey Bogart. How old fashioned,” we shrieked. Teenagers are so judgemental. Poor Lloyd. 

I remember how we laughed when we heard that his friends and neighbours called him Lloydie. It seemed an odd diminutive for an old fashioned name. And we laughed even harder when we heard that in the small rural community where he, and later all of us, lived there were three men named Lloyd. And everyone referred to them as farmer Lloydie, backhoe Lloydie, and ferry Lloydie. Our Lloyd was “ferry Lloydie” because he ran the farmer’s ferry in the summer. I did too eventually, as a kind of summer-replacement help. But that’s another story, and one I’ve told before

 

View of the Saint John River from the farmers’ ferry
Besides ferry-operator, Lloyd worked as a mechanic, a fisheries warden, a snow-plow operator, a woodsman, and a farmer. He could turn his hand to anything. He was wonderful with old boats; when someone on the river needed a scow to transport sheep, or cows, or other animals to the islands Lloyd would build one. If he needed a wagon to haul hay, he built it. After he died, Mum was so tickled that a young farmer wanted to buy Lloyd’s old homemade hay wagons that she gave them to him instead. When Lloyd came home from fighting in WWII, he found a ramshackle timber mill in someone’s back field, dismantled it, and brought it home. He operated it for years and years to mill and plane the timber that he cut on his woodlot, the boards eventually used to build machine sheds, and barns, and pig sties, and even our kitchen cupboards. I helped him one day. One day. My stellar career as a millwright was about as long as my career working in the woods. Ha. 
 
 
Part of Lloyd’s old mill, ramshackle once again
 
I’ve been laughing with Hubby as I write this. He interjects to ask, “Did you tell them about…?” and I reply, “I’m not writing a book, you know.” But I will tell you that after that initial date, Mum and Lloyd settled into an unusual courtship. I remember a phone call a while ago, Mum and I fell over laughing when I said, “Remember when you and I were dating Lloyd?” You see, their ensuing “dates” often involved me and my soon-to-be step-brother David, Lloyd’s son, two years younger than me. Mum and I visited the farm most Sundays. I learned to drive the tractor and explored the farm with David; then Mum always made dinner. She says she and Lloyd courted round the kitchen table. I’m pretty sure that Mum’s cooking sealed the deal, especially for David. Ha. Mum’s a wonderful cook. But Lloyd, well, Lloyd could boil potatoes and “burn a steak,” as he used to say. After two years of his father’s cooking, David must have been over the moon when we finally moved in. I know I was.  
 
 
Lloyd walking me down the “aisle” at my wedding. Wonder what happened to the rest of his tie.

 

I remember their wedding. The reception at my grandparent’s house, my uncles marking the places at the table for the bride and groom with brand new, shiny, matching pitchforks, decorated with pink and blue ribbons. Such jokers, my uncles. Then the happy couple drove off on their honeymoon with one of my sisters in the back seat. They were driving her back to school in another city before heading out for … wherever they went. Where did they go, anyway? I have no recollection. I was too excited about my new kitten, the prospect of moving to the farm, and that tiny back bedroom with its own staircase down to the kitchen which would soon be mine. 

 

Mum and Lloyd and the hay wagon. 

 

What a perfect step-parent Lloyd was. And how seamlessly our two families fit together. To me, as a kid, it seemed such an easy transition. But when I think about it, the huge transformation that took place in both Mum and Lloyd’s life must have been difficult. 

 

Mum, after years as a single parent, moving lock, stock, and barrel into someone else’s house. The endless hours of work she put in sprucing up the old farmhouse, papering and painting, plus adjusting to a new husband after many years alone. And Lloyd, taking on a whole family, a new wife and four kids. Granted my brother was married by then, and both sisters were away at school during term time. The first winter that Mum and Lloyd were married my brother had a brain tumour, and had to be flown home from Newfoundland,where he and his young family lived, to be operated on in Saint John, and then home to us on the farm to recuperate. That would be a difficult winter for everyone. And Lloyd, he just took it all in stride, supported my mum, and made room for one more. 

 

It’s hard to believe that my kind, strong, endlessly patient stepdad has been gone for ten years. But we have so many wonderful memories, that, really, it’s like he never left us. 

 

I thought of him when I heard this on the radio today. A song about cows. You know, as a kid it seemed as if everything was better when we moved to the farm. I guess I think everything is better with some cows around. And I know he thought that too. Have a listen.

 

I’ve so many stories about Lloyd and our life on the farm, far too many to tell in one post, so I’ll stop now. I’m not writing a book, you know. I guess what I really wanted to say is: 

♫ Happy Birthday, dear Lloydie ♫ 

Wherever you are,

may you always have cows around.  

Love,
 from Hubby and me. 

Thanks to the CBC radio program “Q” for playing that song by the “Hurtin’ Albertans.” I love that show, and I think it’s so cool that the executive producer is the son of my good friend Susan. 

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22 thoughts on “Everything is Better With Some Cows Around”

  1. Always my favourite posts Sue , your family memoirs – beautiful writing , I’d buy that book . Isn’t it strange how paths crossing can be so important & life changing for everyone . Sometimes good , sometimes not so good . How lucky for you all that they came upon each other .
    Wendy in York

  2. Such a loving tribute to a "man like they hardly make anymore". My daughter would feel likewise about her stepfather – my husband now. He's been a modern version gem.

  3. Such a lovely post. He seems like the kind of man we mourn to have lost not only himself, but in a larger scope.

    And, if you don't mind a somewhat shallow aside, I love the bouquet you carried at your wedding:).

    1. Thanks, Lisa. Lloyd was a stalwart member of our small rural community, that's for sure.
      P.S. My bouquet was just daisies and baby's breath with a white silk ribbon. I didn't want a formal bouquet.

  4. What a great title for a post and how beautifully you've written about your stepdad. He always comes across as such a lovely man and how lucky you were to have him in your life. The cow song was a suitably quirky touch!Iris

  5. Lovely tribute to your step-father….the influence of a caring person in our lives is felt for many years whether they are related biologically or not. He seemed to be a gem of a human being and his loss is indeed a true loss. Cheers, Alayne

  6. Sweet story Sue. Lloyd sounds like a man with a big heart with lots of love to share! You were blessed with a kind stepfather!
    I have memories of visiting my grandparents who live "at the farm". The adventures I had. One fond memory is walking thru pastures, looking for spring flowers with my mom and aunts. The cows were grazing. I was never comfortable with that. I perfered to be on the other side of the fence looking in! Ha!
    Have a good one!
    Robin

  7. Wonderful stepfathers are such a gift. A man (or woman in the case of stepmothers) who is able to take on a new spouse and child/children with grace and love shows remarkable character. My husband is a stepfather, and it has always amazed me that he sees no difference between his stepson and his son by birth. Three cheers for Lloydie!

    1. Thanks, Lynn. I think that neither David nor I ever felt that Mum or Lloyd favoured one of us over the other. That must be hard to do when one child is your own and the other not.

  8. Always so nice to read about your childhood memories. Lovely recollection of your stepdad-he really seems special, nice and kind man- your fondness of him lights every story.
    I liked that song (and cows and horses,when I was little. Now,I'm afraid of them)
    Dottoressa

    1. Thanks Dottoressa. Hubby and I have been thinking of you as we watch the World Cup… well… he watches, and I ask for updates. We'd love to see Croatia in the final.

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