Ontario 3: St. Mary’s

Ontario 3: St Mary’s

As a young girl on the farm I held our rural veterinarian in high esteem. It seemed to me he worked miracles. This memory connected me to St. Mary’s and thus a reading in their library.

Each day I helped Dad with the evening milking of our 12 cows and one afternoon my parents had not yet returned from business in Brandon and I began milking alone. Daisy, one of our best milkers, had given birth to a fine calf the night before and dad had kept her in the barn for the day. But something was very wrong for when she tried to stand, she collapsed. I rushed to phone Dr. Shaw, eight miles away in Glenboro, who came within an hour with his little black bag and took one look at poor Daisy. He took out a smallish bottle and huge needle and with one puncture injected her is the bottle’s contents. She was on her feet almost instantly. I vowed on the spot to become a vet when I grew up. Curious about the magical fluid, I rescued the empty bottle Dr. Shaw had tossed in the alley. The words, however, were beyond anything I had ever encountered. The  names encircled the bottle. I was a good reader, but spelling was my downfall. Even plain ordinary words caused me grief, and the letters on this bottle were endless. Instantly I realized, I’d never be able to spell such names and my vet career died on the spot. But the memory lingered and after two years of teaching I had enough money to continue my education and choose MacDonald Institute, Guelph, Ontario. At least I could study on the same campus as the Ontario Veterinary College.

1955-56 was a wonderful year. I made many friends and among them Lois, who grew up on a Jersey dairy farm near Embro, not far from St. Mary’s. We’ve been back and forth many times over the years and this time, probably my last trip to Ontario, we were going to connect at my reading in St. Mary’s and after visit her at the farm.

But it was not to be! At 4 AM I was awakened by my husband’s plaintiff call from the bathroom. “Oriole! Help!” I fought into consciousness and found him on the toilette desperately clutching the back of the toilette with one hand and counter top with the other. He felt as if he was being thrown off the planet. Sweat poured off his body, his clothes drenched. Fortunately, we were staying with his university classmate, Gordon, who called the ambulance. Off it went, lights flashing, while we followed as soon as Gordon and I could dress and gather such necessities as identification etc. We were soon seated in the London University Hospital’s emergency beside Art’s bed while the Doctors followed up on the clues. Once sedated and motionless, the terror left him. By 10 o’clock, the doctors gave us an update, “Not a heart attack, and apparently not a stroke.” They would run more tests to check out any other possibilities, but there was no immediate danger.

It was at that point that we all agreed, I could make the hour drive to St. Mary’s to keep my commitment to do my ‘Book talk’ at 2 o’clock, and return to Art in the London hospital. Fortunately our hostess, Dorothy, calm and capable, rescheduled her day to accompany me.st-marys-library-reading-room Somewhat unnerved by the sudden turn of events, I really enjoyed the gathering in their beautiful old Carnegie Library. Several people had read ‘For Elise’ which gave credibility to my words. st-marys-libraryFormer colleagues had driven from Cambridge, and Eloise, who had written her own Nova Scotia family story, added spice to the conversation.


The downside; my friend Lois did not appear. She, I learned later also had balance problems and we connected only by phone.

The conclusion to Art’s episode is that it was a severe case of vertigo, and although not life threatening, was indeed very scary. They kept him in hospital another day until all signs of dizziness disappeared. In the meantime, I left him in the capable care of his friend Gordon, and set out alone next day to the Bruce, Lion’s Head, and Wiarton. Those two days are briefly mentioned in Ontario 1.

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