Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Road Trip to Canada - Gopher Hunting and the Hutterites

I'm a little uncomfortable putting the pictures from these two activities together.  Hunting and the Hutterites are on opposite ends of the violence spectrum.  However there were so few pictures of each - it will just have to be so.

Once Dawn's brother Ross learned that certain members of our family (ie Shawn and Miles) loved shooting guns, he was more than willing to take the "boys" gopher hunting.  Gopher hunting is another local past-time in Magrath.  Isaac and Wes aren't real gun enthusiasts and I wondered if they would enjoy such an activity.  I shouldn't have worried.  Wes and Isaac had a grand time! 
My dad and I were content to join Dawn and the little girls for a trip into town to go shopping at the dollar store, the quilt shop and the mall. 

The guys spent much of the day driving along the country roads with their guns pointed out the car windows waiting to shoot one of the many gophers that would pop their heads out of the grass.
Like father, like son.
As much as the guys enjoyed showing me pictures of the carnage from their kills, I decided not to include the photos in this post. 
The next day we went on a much more peaceful excursion.  We visited the New Elm Colony of Hutterites.
There are many Hutterite colonies in Canada and even some in the United States.  They trace their roots back to Austria originally and live similar to the Amish and Mennonites.  However, they all live together in a compound and all property is owned by the colony.
Ross' wife Jolayne was a school teacher about 20 years ago for a few separate Hutterite colonies, including the New Elm Colony.  Although the Hutterites are very good about giving tours to outsiders, Jolayne arranged for a special tour for our group given by these lovely women.  They have a special connection with her because some of them were her pupils those many years before.  These sweet women and girls were kind, genuine, interesting, bright, funny and almost untouched by modern society.  It truly was a beautiful thing and I developed a great admiration and respect for them. 
They took us on a tour of their compound where about 80 Hutterites live (most of them are related to each other) and out of respect I didn't take any pictures although they probably would have agreed if I asked.
They first showed us their shared laundry with several really nice industrial size washers and dryers.  Then they took us through their kitchen.  The members of the colony eat together and the women rotate through the committee that cooks for everyone.  They eat 3 meals a day in a large dining hall where men and women sit on opposite sides (the children are fed earlier in the day and do not join the adults for dinner).  There was a huge rack suspended from the ceiling on the mens' side for them to hang their hats.  The kitchen was huge and immaculate.  It was full of restaurant style appliances and everything they needed to feed that many people.  They had 2 huge walk-in refrigerators where they stored their food most of which they provide for themselves.  Each individual family lives together but doesn't usually eat together.  In the basement of the dining hall, they each have their own freezer mostly filled with treats.  They gave us each an otter pop from one of their private freezers.  Also in the basement they have more cold storage where they keep their shelves full of bottled fruit and vegetables from their garden.  The dining hall and kitchen were extremely clean - almost sterile with no extra decorations except some beautiful tile work on the walls and entry ways.
Before dinner each day the adults meet in the adjoining chapel for a service.  The men and women sit on opposite sides.  Again - the chapel was without decoration and almost stark in its' appearance.  We had a very sweet moment while we were in the chapel with this group of women and girls.  When Jolayne was their school teacher, she taught the children LDS Primary songs.  So we all sang "Give Said the Little Stream" together.  It was beautiful.
We then toured the school building where the young children were just waking up from their naps.  The children only speak Hutterite German and couldn't understand English.  
After that, one of the Hutterite women named Anita generously allowed us to see inside her home.  She comes from a large family, 8 children, and her father has a leadership role in the colony so they actually have 2 adjoining homes.  All of the homes are the same and are lined up like barracks.  In her home there were some decorations on the wall.  There is so much work to do to run the colony, they rarely spend time together in their homes.  There also was a computer and a telephone.  We learned that the colony is slowly adopting some modern technology.  The girls told us that many of the young people had cell phones even though technically they aren't allowed to. 
While we were in the home, my dad asked one of the girls about their hairstyle.  All the women wore their hair the same with the same head covering.  The girl then proceeded to remove her hair covering and show us how she did her hair.  I thought it was remarkable that she was willing to uncover her head in front of a bunch of strangers and show us her hairstyle.  She didn't seem to have a problem with it though.
We then visited the building where they were raising their chickens for slaughtering.  They had just recently completed the slaughter of their ducks and we saw all of the packaged meat in the large freezers.  These chicks will grow up and be used for the same purpose.
They have large warehouse type buildings where they were raising calves and sheep but we weren't allowed to visit them due to health code regulations.  We were also unable to visit the pond that is used for fishing and swimming (one of the their favorite past-times) and their very large vegetable garden.  
We walked through the "blacksmith" shop where a man was making steel parts that were sold to factories.  Then we saw their huge garage where they park and fix their tractors, their semi trucks and other large vehicles.  The Hutterite colonies produce hay, milk, and other things that they sell to provide financially for the members.  Only the men can drive.  The women don't even have driver's licenses.
The last place we visited was the dairy.  The man working there was mechanically extracting the milk from about 10 cows at once and he had a herd of probably 100 cows to go.  It was a full-time job and one he did 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Again - it was extremely clean and completely up to date.  The Hutterite man  squirted some fresh milk directly from the cow into a cup for us to drink.  Isaac was the first to guzzle it down. Warm and creamy!
We only saw a handful of men on the colony because most of them were out in the fields.  But we knew it was getting close to dinner so it was time to leave.  We thanked the women and girls profusely for being so generous with their time.  And for answering our many, many questions.  I was sort of wishing they would have invited us for dinner!
Visiting the Hutterite colony was one of the most fascinating experiences I have ever had!  I hope to return someday.

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