Sometimes, when I think about where I am today, I feel like I’m a million miles away from my childhood. Our lives can take so many crazy, unpredictable twists and turns that it almost seems as if we’re ruled by chance.
Luck has certainly played a role in my life’s journey. Yet in many ways, we make our own luck, by recognizing the right paths when we come to them. Looking at it that way, my real luck began with my parents. The outlook and ideals they instilled in me have helped me to make good choices throughout my life. For instance, when chance sent a young fellow named Ted Hole my way, I was able to sense that he was the man for me.
Growing up in the tiny town of Buchanan, Saskatchewan, I often imagined the kind of man I would marry. Like any young girl, I continually changed my image of the perfect man, depending on how old I was or what movies I had seen that week. However, I knew exactly what I didn’t want in a husband. I always told my mother, “No matter what, I’ll never marry a farmer.”
To me, farms seemed like the lonliest places on earth. I much preferred the feeling of being surrounded by people and activity, even though Buchanan wasn’t exactly a bustling metropolis. Once, when a friend’s mother convinced me to come for a holiday at their farm, I ended up crying myself to sleep for four nights straight. I wasn’t invited back.
No, the husband of my dreams was definitely not wearing bib overalls. But then I met Ted.
In 1950, Ted was in the middle of his Bachelor of Agriculture program at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. I was involved with a person that my mother called “a good prospect,” a dashing, responsible young man who had a managerial position with Trans Canada Airlines. As far as my mother was concerned, I had it made. I was pretty happy with my young man, too. My future seemed set.
But fate intervened. My friend Sheila, a nurse, happened to be friends with Ted and had promised to be his date for a Faculty of Agriculture dance later that week. But she got called in to work at the last minute and couldn’t attend.
She didn’t want to leave Ted without a date, so she offered to set him up with one of her friends. Before Sheila could open her mouth to make a suggestion, Ted said, “Sure. How about that blonde one…Lois?” Ted had seen me a couple times in passing, although I have to admit that I hadn’t noticed him at all.
Sheila had been about to name another friend but she couldn’t see any graceful way to refuse Ted’s suggestion. “All right,” she replied, “I’ll ask her.” And so I received a phone call shortly afterward.
“Well, sure I’ll go,” I said agreeably.
Those simple words sealed my fate. Ted turned out to be a pretty handsome guy—I thought he looked like Charlton Heston. I could tell right away how sincere and honest he was.
After a few more dates, he told me that he wanted a farm as soon as he graduated, that even though he had a trade as a plumber, he felt a deep connection to the earth, that he couldn’t imagine a better life than on a farm. He spoke with such passion that I found myself being caught up in the romantic notion of marrying a handsome farmer—despite my childhood vow.
Ted brought me out to the property he had in mind, a small patch of land on the banks of the Sturgeon River. Because the farm was so close to Edmonton, my childhood fears of isolation were crowded out by other, much happier memories.
As a girl, I spent countless helping my mother in the garden. Though I didn’t always realize it, they were some of the happiest times in my childhood. For my mother, gardening was more of a pleasure than a chore, and she instilled the same feeling in me. If I helped her weed the carrots or water the tomatoes, it wasn’t because she made me do it. I did it because I wanted to. As I looked at Ted, it suddenly seemed to make sense for me to build my future life around growing things.
My mother also gave me a love of music. She was an organist in our local church and played the piano at home almost every day. On days when I was less than enthusiastic about helping in the garden, she’d say to me, “Why don’t you go inside and practice the piano?” As a teenager, I became the church’s substitute organist, and eventually I earned a diploma from the Toronto Conservatory. Ted wasn’t a classical musician, but he loved to play the saxophone—and sometimes even got paid for it! If I ended up with him, I knew there would always be plenty of music in my life.
I also thought of my father. He was a strongly principled man, with deeply held convictions. He raised me to look at life with clear eyes: to judge for myself what was right and what was wrong and to act accordingly. He also showed me, through his example, the value of good, hard work. Standing next to Ted, I sensed the same kind of strength in him.
A few days later, I faced the awkward task of breaking up with my Trans Canada Boyfriend. Mom was not amused.
“Lois, Ted seems like a nice boy, but really, didn’t you always tell me you would never marry a farmer?”
“Well, yes, Mom, but…”
“You always said that farms were the loneliest places you knew.”
“I know, but…”
It went on that way for a while. Ted was hard to resist, though, and he won Mom over soon enough. Dad was even easier to convince: he’d always backed me in whatever (or whomever) I chose to pursue. “Marry the one you love, Lois, whoever that happens to be.”
Ted’s father, on the other hand, presented more of a challenge. Mr. Hole was an impressive figure, and I trembled a little the day he invited Ted and me home for a “chat” about our future plans.
“How are you going to handle farm life, Lois? You know it’s not easy. How are you going to help make ends meet? Are you prepared for a lot of backbreaking work?” The questions came thick and fast. Mr. Hole paused only occasionally to take a puff from his pipe.
To this day, I wonder whether he simply didn’t think a city girl was up to the challenge or whether he was trying, in his own gruff way, to warn me about the hardships that might lie ahead. Was he remarkably insightful about the important role that women play on the farm or simply chauvinistic? Still, I found it ironic that I was getting grilled, even though Ted was the one who wanted to pursue this whole notion of farming.
It was quite an ordeal, but I kept my composure and answered honestly, determined to prove that I was “right for the job.” At the end of the interview, Ted’s father seemed reasonably satisfied. Ted and I breathed a sigh of relief. With parental barriers hurdled, all that remained was the wedding.
When the big event arrived, it was the happiest day of my life. Everything went exactly according to plan—until after the service.
Rather than a car, Ted and I were to drive off in a horse-drawn carriage. We were sitting at the back of the cart on a couple of bales of hay when something startled the horses, causing them to leap forward suddenly. I lost my balance and felt myself tipping over backwards, my feet flying into the air. Several people gasped, sure I was going to crack my head open on the pavement.
But like a knight in shining armour, Ted came to my rescue. He scooped me up in one arm and kissed me, as everyone applauded and cheered.
After the wedding, Ted’s mother came up to me and said, “Lois, you’re very lucky to have married my son.” I could only smile and nod. “You’re right…Mother.”
Thanks to luck and good judgement, not only did I marry a farmer, I became one.
And together, Ted and I have been growing great things ever since.
-Lois Hole I'll Never Marry A Farmer