The following poem, by Meiri (Koyama) Itami, was written in 1980 to honour Eijiro Koyama. Koyama farmed in the Winfield area in the 1920s. Eijiro Koyama died on January 17, 1956.
A Day with Dad on the Farm
As certainly as dawn crept over the hills
he was awake. No clock rang by Dad’s bed;
Only that inner sense of knowing at the barn
the cows were waiting to be milked and fed.
But first the kitchen fire was carefully made,
Heaped high with wood from the bin beside the door;
The huge tea kettle filled, and placed just so
there would be water hot for breakfast time and more.
Upstairs I lay, half dozing, half awake,
knowing that soon I too must face the day;
Then footsteps, and the clank of milk pails came;
And I could hear Dad call, “Wake up!” no more delay.
‘Twas quite the same, some toast of homemade bread,
and jam, from prunes that grew across the creek.
And milk, and tea, we’d eat together mostly,
through summer’s sunny hours, and winters bleak.
The old cream separator’s hum, I hear it now,
As round and round, the boys would daily turn;
and from the separator’s spouts the streams would flow,
Skim milk for calves, and cream for butter’s churn.
This chore, twice daily, we the girls would do,
To wash and dry the separator parts
Shake out the disks, put up the pails to dry,
We did it like all else, with all our hearts.
The fresh turned soil that called for seeding time,
And Dad and hired help obeyed that call.
With heart and hands and head, bent to the need
They toiled, rejoicing as the seeds would fall.
The love of earth, the love of life itself
Was in these men who toiled unselfishly;
‘Til call to lunchtime came, to break their toil,
And bring a midday rest, relaxed and free.
Before night milking time, Dad homeward came
and laid his tools back in the shed once more.
Then off to milk, the cows must know his steps,
with pails in hand he tended to this chore.
We filled the bath with water from the creek,
The fire fed with wood we’d gathered ’round.
Dad first, the order never changed, we last.
Then on the steps, pick spears his socks had found.
The day near done, bathed, fed, and time for sleep;
A little reading rests the wearied mind,
Some apples from the cellar, crispy fresh,
Before we leave the toils of day behind.
Day in, day out, the months and years have passed
And chapters written thus in Dad’s life span
Have yielded life itself to us who come
Behind; to do our very best, we must, we can.
The little ups and downs we cannot know,
And greater things these pioneers of old
faced, solved, and worked to a successful end.
We know so little, so much yet untold.
The paths Dad trod, now dim, the footsteps still;
But memory lingers strong in us today;
We catch the gleam of a silvered brow held high
That dared to face the future, come what may.
Photographs from the Sakuji and Sachiyo (Kobayashi) Koyama collection
Thank you for this reminder of this humble man that I knew as Grandpa. Auntie Merry describes so well the simple life that they lived. Perhaps it’s partly nostalgia but I think that those times were the makings of our rich family heritage that we enjoy today. In this complex world with all that calls for our attention and that shifts in focus, I hope never to lose sight of the basic principles that our pioneers taught us. I realize that their inspiration is what challenges us to carry on in that same spirit!