of the Darkness
Richard A Kiers 2007
In the early 1950’s my dad moved to British Columbia, from Holland, and worked in a logging camp
near Terrace British Columbia. He loved British Columbia and decided that at some point in his life he wanted to live there,
make a home, and enjoy what the beautiful west coast of Canada had to offer. My mom however was moving to Canada with her
family, they had their hearts set on the prime agricultural land in Southern Ontario.
The water in the canal was dark and frightening. I had been taught all my life that it was dangerous;
many a young person had drown in those dirty waters lurking with leaches and catfish. Holland Marsh was a community surrounded
by canals, it was a small southern Ontario swamp that had been reclaimed by the Dutch in the early nineteen hundreds and soon
became an important part of the Ontario market garden economy.
Mom and Dad married and moved to Ontario in the-mid fifties and worked in the marsh, eventually making
enough money to buy 15 acres of prime land where he and mom could raise their family. The going was very hard, and the reclaimed
swampland carried with it many hereditary problems. Tree roots littered the soil and every year seemed to find their way back
to the surface creating what seemed to be a never-ending cycle of work. Weeds just never stopped growing and the more one
picked them, the harder it seemed they would try to take root.
My earliest recollections include my mother working hard to help bring in the vegetables in the late
fall. I remember eating grapes with the hired hands that worked for us; the taste is still as fresh in my memory as if it
was only yesterday. I can also taste the cold coffee my dad would leave in his thermos after a long day, our own version of
ice coffee I suppose. My strongest memories however are those of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I was only 3 at the
time, and the first landing on the moon. We had a black and white TV and some
friends came over to watch the landing on the moon, it was amazing.
We were a very religious family, raised in the Christian Reformed Church. Sunday was a day of rest,
even mom did as little as she could on this day, the soup was pre-made on Saturday and all she had to do was turn on the stove
and wow, that was great soup. Family was important, we sat down for three meals a day, said grace before and after each meal,
and no one spoke unless spoken too, well at least that was the rule even though we didn’t always obey all the rules.
Dad was very strict and his word was law, none of us dared to cross him, that was just the way it was!
He enjoyed a good beer and in the evenings would sit in his comfy chair in the living room having a cold Carling Red Cap and
an Export “A”. We seldom bothered him when he was relaxing, this
was his quiet time, and considering he worked very hard he needed the time to relax after a hard day.
Mom was the busy housewife, she kept an amazingly clean house, her cooking was excellent and it was
always nice to sit down to a good home cooked meal. She had her hands full with a new baby coming at least once ever 18 months
to two years, I think this was a Dutch tradition. The house was small and she always kept it feeling like home.
A few years after we moved into our own farmhouse Mom and Dad decided the house was simply to
small. We built an addition on the house including a kitchen, new basement and a living room. One other thing that really
changed in our life at this time was that with the new addition, we could build an actual bathroom and install a real flush
toilet. I remember lining up to use it for the first time, what a treat!
We all had to help with chores around the house, dishes, sweeping the garage floor, and polishing the
kitchen and dining room every Saturday. All of us worked in the fields once we were old enough to know what we were doing.
Weeds had to be pulled before they became big enough to choke out the young carrots and onions that were very vulnerable in
the early stages of growth.
There was a very large Weeping willow tree in our back yard beside an old shed. Under the tree we had
a rabbit cage with a few pet rabbits. The tree was a great place to climb and it was always a challenge to out climb my older
brother. As I recall I never did get as high as he did.
My first bike was a red, rather large, used bike. Mom had picked up some streamers for the handle bars
to spruce it up a bit, streamers meant as much to a bike as dice to a Mexican Cadillac so I was very proud. A friend of mine
had a five speed, his bike had a small wheel in the front and a bigger wheel in the back, and it was the coolest.
When I was six I attended school at Holland Marsh Christian Reformed School, a small private school
situated in the village a couple of miles from our home. The Catholic bus picked us up because there were not enough kids
on our route to warrant having our own bus. We were taught not to make friends with the catholic kids, they were bad and the
tension was incredible every single day. I actually must say that I was always afraid of what the bad catholic kids might
do to us. I survived those years but can still feel the terror that I felt every day when I stepped onto that bus.
Our school was not unlike any other. Teachers had their pets and some kids got all the breaks.
I was not one of those, probably because I was a bit of a rebel, although I would have married my grade one teacher if she
had waited for me. She was cute, smart and a very quiet lady. I remember watching her at the front of the class and wondering
what it would be like to be married to her. She later married my grade five teacher and moved away. I still wonder what ever
happened to her, I heard once that they lived on a commune and God had told them to stop wearing clothes, interesting idea
but not for me thank you. I am not sure how much of what we were ever told was really the truth. In later years I discovered
that many of the things we were told about others was simply propaganda to keep us convinced that we were somehow special
in the eyes of God.
Music was always one of the things in my life that really made me feel like I belonged. At age eight
I began taking organ lessons. Later as an adult I discovered that my teacher, the organ player of our church, was sure that
some day I would take his place and become the church organist. To this day I wish I could play piano, who knows, maybe someday
it wall happen. My guitar has seen many church meetings, and many campfires. I have even written a few tunes, who knows? Maybe
some day I will manage to get one published and sung by someone big.
My grade four teacher Pat turned out to be my favorite teacher. She had been my babysitter when I was
very small and we seemed to have a special relationship. Her boyfriend was, in my dads opinion, very much a borderline hippie,
he was cool although hippies where scorned by our church. Many of the young people those days pushed it as far as they could
without crossing the line of forbidden. He played guitar and gave me my first chance to try it out.
Pat’s parents lived only a few miles from our home and I befriended her younger brother Mark.
We had a great time together hiking through the county-side, and playing in the rabbit barn. One afternoon we were swinging
on ropes tied to the rafters of the barn and letting go as we swung over a huge pile of hay. I swung the highest and as I
let go, I landed in the hay but for some reason went right through the pile, through the floor, and down to the cement floor
in the main barn below. The fall was about 25 feet in all but traveling through the hay and then through the wooden floor
slowed me down enough that I didn’t break any bones. The pain was intense but I refused to cry, I told Mark I was fine
and painfully laughed but I don’t think I ever had to try harder not to cry.
There was a small house on their property, no one lived there but it was referred to as “Pat’s
Hovel”. I think Pat had spent a lot of time in this little house when she was young and therefore the name stuck. I
was up stairs in Pat’s Hovel playing guitar when I suddenly had the urge to check out the fuse box on the wall. There
was no door on the box and I had no idea if there was power or not. As a curious kid I stuck my finger into the box to find
that yes, it was live. I found myself at the bottom of the steps; guitar still strapped around my neck. I was told later that
a good electric shock is good for the heart, I am sure that one will last me a lifetime.
Our class went camping in the hills behind the school one spring with Pat, her boyfriend and one of
her best friends. We sang and played guitars till it was so dark we could see only the stars. Fireflies flashed all around
us in the grass and we caught several making wonderful firefly lanterns by putting them in clear glass jars. We slept in a
real Tee Pee, an experience I will never forget.
At the age of 9 my parents decided to take a trip to Holland with some of my brothers and sisters.
I was left behind with a promise that they would some day take me, a promise that was never kept. I felt alone and abandoned
while they were away and one night I was overcome with a fear that I would never see my family again. I tried to quietly fight
the fear but soon found my self crying and shaking. I think I kept everyone in the house up that whole night as I experienced
my first panic attack.
Mom and Dad did come home and they were all safe but I will never forget that moment of fear and terror.
They never left me again in that way, but this was my first taste of total abandonment, something I would feel many times
through out my life. I have my doubts that they really understand how difficult it was to think I might never see them again.
My second oldest sister had a birthday that I remember very well. I saved my pennies and bought her the
Johnny Cash 45 album, “Ring of Fire”. I was proud of the fact that I could get her something just from me. Mom
and Dad bought her a record player and a few other albums that were big at the time with songs like “Rain Drops are
falling on my head” by Barry Manilow.
In the hills surrounding Holland Marsh there were several old gravel pits. The abandoned holes made
great swimming holes and the water was crystal clear. Snapping turtles were very common; some of them were huge. We used to
play with the turtles and let them snap onto a stick, they were incredibly strong and could hang on as though their life depended
on it as we swung them around and around. Now I realize that in fact, their lives did depend on it!
Near our home there was a small pond called “Glenville Pond” We swam there a few times
but one particular time I recall sitting on a raft and floating out into the middle of the pond. For some reason there was
a lot of pushing and shoving and I fell off. I had no idea how to swim and ended up under the raft. I was drowning and could
not find my way out, I was almost out of air when a hand reached under and pulled me out, I think it was my older sister but
I am not really sure. I went to the shore and lay on the beach for a while catching my breath but never told mom and dad about
it because I was afraid we would never be allowed back in the pond.