As we walked up the slight incline, the whole world began to open up like a kaleidoscope; in a panoramic view much like a 3D movie; a giant spectacular, super wide-screened movie...cinemascope. An entire valley lay out before us; 560 acres of flat land that could be cultivated, trees (forests) all around the valley...wide sky; and this is WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHEN, and WHERE the 15 city-folk came...this was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, this was beautiful!
The first people who came to Graham River was the family who bought the land; they came in May, 1972; they moved into the original log house, planted a few potatoes. His brother and family also came; they had to go back to Vancouver in June, when the baby was born, but they came right back to the farm.
Other families from Ohio had come in June, 1972. There was one, small cabin already on the farm, and an old barn. They set up a large tent for eating and meetings; it had endured the strong winds that came with the rain storms they had just had, and the tent was pretty well torn to shreds.
They had all been busy that summer, cutting logs and they had built a large Tabernacle - 40 feet by 60 feet - it was for meals, school and meetings. They had just finished it the day before we arrived. Sam Fife had just ministered there the night before we got to the farm; we must have passed him on the road, coming in. The windows and doors were on, but the logs were not "chinked", yet, the wind blew through them. It was a tremendous building - and when you consider that nobody, except the owner, knew anything about building or farming...it was a real miracle!
The brethren showed us around the farm - which consisted of a few cabins that they had also built in just 2 months; they had accomplished a great deal. Some of the people had to stay in their campers, across the river, in the nighttime, until enough cabins could be built - we had to go back and forth every day and night, to our school bus, Rotondi's to their camper. It was a small boat and just our family (10 of us) took two boat loads, but they didn't complain.
The very first night we were there was a scheduled church meeting; in it somebody mentioned..."when we go farther in the bush." This set us back quite a bit; for us, THIS was the "wilderness"; we had never felt to go any deeper. This was something we would really have to ponder, through the following years.
We had bought a galvanized steel bathtub back in Massachusetts, and we now used it for our laundry. We heated our water outside, over a wood fire, in a boiler - put it in the bathtub and bought a "Yukon plunger" in town (Fort St. John) to agitate the clothes (it looks like toilet plunger, except it had a metal cone on the end of the pole, instead of the rubber suction cup), and we wrung them out by hand. With 10 people working on a farm and building, we went through a lot of clothes, it was hard wringing the jeans out by hand - at least it was good weather to dry the clothes.
The early morning trips across the river, in the boat, were really taking their toll on me - it was nerve wracking. And, the late evening trips back across the river, were even worse...sometimes we stayed on the farm quite late, because there was a church meeting, after the meal and dishes were out of the way. Of the 60 people on the farm, not a single one could swim, and I think my fears were founded...trusting God is one thing, and trusting the brethren to run the old boat and motor is another thing; at the very least, it was another way that fear could get a hold of a person.
We were there only a few days, when another caravan of people came...this time, from Pennsylvania. One of the ladies was a little older than I, and she looked and acted just like "The Sound of Music" lady (Maria von Trapp). I thought for sure she was --- in disguise. She was so cheerful, so vibrant: she had a singing voice that would put the meadowlarks to shame, or any opera diva...every "note" was right in place, and the force that she "belted them out" with, was overpowering...it made everybody and everything stand up and take notice. The entire valley was never the same again --- her melodious voice reverberated up and down the entire length of that farm. She had three children; one of which was quite young...he needed a "father figure", and soon latched on to Joe...following him around the farm all the time.
Every morning, she would be up at the crack of dawn; then she would let loose with the praises of God...all of nature responded: you could hear the moose far off, answer her call; the birds chirped their joy for another day; the brethren on the farm side of the river came across to get us, bringing us over for the day.
Joe quickly learned how to shave with cold water - there wasn't the time or the conveniences to have warm water...you can toughen up yourself for just about anything, if you put your mind to it.
All us girls went to work in the kitchen. The boys were on a wood chopping crew every day. It was hard for a "Mom" to see her 7 1/2, 8 1/2, 9 1/2 year old sons chopping wood...she did a lot of praying for them. The chopping was one thing, but we didn't have adequate axes for them; neither did they have the gloves they needed, so many times their hands were all blisters.
A few years later, it got so bad (they needed axes so very much), that I sold my wide band wedding ring in town, to buy them new axes. (We had traded my white gold engagement ring, wedding ring, and Joe's wedding ring for the wide band wedding ring (back in Massachusetts), because it was more practical for "wilderness" living.)
One of the original families had this "wilderness living" down to a fine art. They had a laundry set up outside their cabin, that would put any coin-operated laundry to shame. First there was a pile of wood, chopped to just the right size. Then, the cook stove with a two large boilers on it - these always had hot water in them. Next, on the assembly line, was the washtubs with the Yukon plunger, a hand-wringer, and another rinse tub...the laundry basket was on the ground, next to the hand-wringer; further off, to the right, was a clothesline. This woman was the envy of the camp - she had three small children, but she also had a husband who was sensitive to her needs.
The men always had building chores to do; at this time we didn't have any animals, just five dogs that some of the people had brought with them. The women had the usual meals to make, children to care for, the laundry...it was more fun doing it with others.
One family brought a black lab called "Bellow" (and he really could bark, especially late at night...at the moon). They also had a mongrel dog named "Buddy", who was spayed and quite old. Another family had a German shepherd named "Jack", and a small, old dog called "Harriet". A young couple had a mongrel dog called "Rinny". It didn't seem quite fair - we had left our dog behind because we had been told, "No pets".
One day, I was walking through the small vegetable garden that the first people had planted...there was always great solace in anything green and living. I was still having a hard time with all the new surroundings; all the new way of living. I happened across the "Sound of Music" lady, she was so happy - singing to the plants! She asked me how I liked it there. At last I had a listening ear...I said that I hated it and I wanted to go home. She said that it would get better, and both of us parted. I found out that evening, at one of our church meetings, that she was an elder...normally I wouldn't have complained around an elder (I had always had a problem with "authority figures".)
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Pen Name: Aimee Love
The Graham River: the only way to the farm was by boat, in 1972.