Front Row Seat

By Ruth Anne Savage in Community

“All the world is a stage” is a well known quote. In the normal scheme of things, the closer you are to the stage, the better the view and the pricier the tickets. But in my little corner of the world I’ve been privy to some pretty amazing sights — and it didn’t cost me a dime.
We live in the country on a scenic ‘back road’. Over the years we have witnessed some interesting, sometimes bazaar events. These include stunning sunrises and breathtaking sunsets, trees bent double in a raging wind, or bowed and broken in inches of ice. Various species of wildlife exploring our property and birds serenading sweetly. And then there is the human element.
Many years ago on a soft, lazy evening I was outside with the kids when we heard voices wafting on the breeze. But the sound seemed to be coming from an elevated source. Kind of spooky, really. Aliens? Angels? Alfs? Suddenly the mystery was revealed as a beautiful hot air balloon emerged over the treetops. It was gliding so quietly and low that we could see the people inside the basket. They leaned out and waved to us and we called back and forth in the few moments they were above us. They were heading to Guelph but we couldn’t catch where they had set out from. What a peaceful, romantic way to travel in such a busy, noisy world! We watched until the vividly decorated vessel was just a dot in the sky. That was one air show. There have been others.
For many years there was a private airstrip near Teviotdale. The owner had small planes and he would pull people up on hang gliders. We often heard the planes overhead and knew when the glider had been released by the sound change in the planes engine. Then the show began. The hang glider would soar, making graceful turns silently like some mysterious prehistoric bird. I have no idea how that works but the freedom must be exhilarating. It certainly is fascinating to watch. They can stay aloft for quite a long time. I never saw one come down so don’t know how that is accomplished either. But the time in the air, the view from above, the peace and solitude. Wow!
Then there was the rather startling sight of a small airplane in the ditch at the side of another back road. The pilot had some kind of trouble but managed to land just under some hydro wires, upright and with no major damage. Both people walked away unharmed. Wow again.
It is also quite exciting to see planes and helicopters crop dusting fields right beside you. You can actually see the pilot’s face. They really have to fly low and then make sharp up sweeps to avoid treetops and power lines. An enormous amount of skill involved there. As good as any air show to watch.
One very windy day in April we were outside. I was filling a bird feeder when I saw the fire engine racing down our road, sirens wailing and lights flashing. It was so windy, the sound of the sirens were almost unnoticeable until they were nearly abreast of our place. Startled, I looked around to see where they were going in such an urgent hurry and was horrified to see the neighbour’s barn fully engulfed in flames. We watched mesmerized, as that stalwart old giant’s entire shape was outlined in vivid red. It was almost like an artist’s drawing, the roof line and rafters etched in black silhouetted against vibrant colour. The wind was so high and the flames so intense that in mere moments it folded in on itself. I have never see such destruction at such speed before or since. The firefighters could do nothing but water down the farmhouse close by and drench the dead grass leading into acres of dry stubble all around. Flying debris blew across the road and threatened another neighbour’s house. If the
fields caught fire we would all be in danger of losing our buildings too. Fortunately the barn burnt so quickly and a slight shift in the wind controlled the danger. Scary!
Just this summer I was outside cutting grass with my little electric mower. Howard was out touring in his wheelchair somewhere so when I heard a loud rumble I looked up to see if it was lightning. The sky was a cloudless blue. I turned just in time to see an enormous dust cloud enveloping our neighbour’s barn. What on earth? When the dust settled I was shocked to see the back part of the barn had collapsed! I immediately called over to see if everyone was okay. They were all safe but saddened by the demise of such a grand old piece of farming history.
One performance I witnessed was very amusing but also potentially dangerous. Some young fellows were baling hay across and up the road from us. One guy was on the tractor and baler, two were building the load on the wagon behind and a fourth was waiting with an empty wagon to replace the fully loaded one. They made the wagon switch on the shoulder of the road. It happens there is a slight grade there and before they could hitch the loaded wagon to the extra tractor it began to roll backwards down the hill. With instant reflex one guy grabbed the tongue but of course the heavy wagon could not be stopped. One of the other fellows was on top of the load and could see clearly as the wagon gained momentum on its runaway course. So he yelled down to the one holding the tongue. “A little to the left! A little to the right!” With the load going ever faster, bales swaying crazily, that boy steered the wagon by the tongue, running like a marathoner to keep up. I watched in terror as the wagon veered to one side of the road and then the other, its passenger atop calling directions all the while. At last the wagon came to rest in the middle of the road right next to our laneway without tipping over or landing in the ditch. All four boys collapsed with laughter once the danger was passed. Then they hitched up the wagon and carried on.
Another exciting event for which I had a front row seat was a drug bust. Yes, a just-like-in-the-movies drug bust on the road right in front of our house! When I heard sirens screaming close by I rushed to the window to see if it was ambulance, fire or police. A cruiser went flying around a small dark car and then pulled across the road in front of it. Immediately an unmarked van pulled in behind, effectively blocking the car in. Then the action began. The occupants of the car were ushered outside and searched. A young man and woman. She was taken to sit in another police car that had come rushing in. (At one point there were four cruisers). The ‘suspect’ car was searched thoroughly. Everything was removed and gone through meticulously. They looked under the hood, in the trunk, around the wheel wells and even the gas tank! This took quite some time so I pulled up a chair and got comfy. It was interesting to see how the officers worked. They wore marked police vests and spoke into communication devices on their shoulders. I guess they found what they were looking for because finally both the man and the woman were taken away in handcuffs, each in a separate cruiser. Then a tow truck came and winched the car onto a flatbed truck. And once again our quiet roadside reverted back to its easy pace, with no trace of the high drama and hour earlier. A paragraph in the paper confirmed the bust.
Other events observed at close range were fields turned into lakes complete with water fowl after a deluge. A fully loaded sweet cherry tree toppled in a wind storm. Ice snapping tree limbs and leaving us in the dark for days. Lightning blowing up our hydro transformer. And the everyday rhythm that is life in the country. Priceless!