Cream Money

4 September 2015

Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People
Compiled and edited by Deana J. Driver
Published by DriverWorks
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$19.95 ISBN 978-192757019-7

I didn’t expect this. While reading Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People, I stopped several times and thought: we have no idea. “We” being anyone who did not live in rural SK in the early to mid-1900s, when even children worked hard to ensure that life ran smoothly on the farm. It was the era of large families and tight budgets, of rolling up one’s sleeves before the school bus even arrived, and of smothering foods of all kind in rich, delicious, straight-from-the-cow cream.

Editor Deana J. Driver has collected 29 short and interesting anecdotes (plus several black and white photographs) from residents of the prairie provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan who well recall how hard they worked and how different life was in earlier times, when cream was regularly sold to creameries.

It was not uncommon for farmers of that time to own at least one dairy cow, and the much-needed funds earned selling cream kept many families financially afloat during lean times. Within these pages we learn about specific animals, milking techniques, the cream-separating process and equipment used, the storing and transport of this precious cream, what earnings were used for, the various ways in which cream (and skim milk) were used, and about familial and community relationships.

There are commonalities, ie: no one expressed joy at washing the separating discs, and several writers fondly remembered some of the candies they were treated with: Cracker Jacks, Lucky Elephant popcorn, Mojos, and jawbreakers (three for a penny). More than one writer expressed gratitude at receiving a dairy cow(s) as a wedding gift. Having a mouse fall into the cream can – or learning your cow got into stinkweed and cream quality was diminished- was also commonly bemoaned.

Bryce Burnett, from Swift Current, presented his reminiscence in the form of a an ode called “Cream Can”: “At the country dance it served as a stool for the fiddler of the band,\Or was beat upon its bottom by the sticks of a drummer’s hand.” Weyburn writer Jean F. Fahlman poetically begins: “Thick farm cream ran through rural life, a river of richness and financial survival.” I chuckled about her Jersey cow that had learned to “[suck] herself dry before milking time.”

This is an important book, both historically and culturally, as these plain-spoken reminiscences preserve the stories regarding a way of life that is now decades behind us. In many ways Cream Money is a cousin to “community books,” where people also include what family members got up to and where they are now, family photos, and even journal entries.

Leroy-born Jerry Holfeld sums the experience up nicely: “In my young mind [dairy farming] seemed time-consuming and inconvenient when compared to the profit in the whole enterprise but in thinking about it now, it was rich in regards to the memories and the thinking process … in establishing values and character based on love … obedience … and honest work …”.

Yes, a rich time. Rich as cream.


No Comments

Comments are closed.