STORY CONTEST: Delivering Telegrams with Dog

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by Fern Martin

In 1958, when I was 13 years old, my parents sold our dairy farm near Blakeney and made a huge move: four miles down the road to Almonte. It was a big adjustment for me, to move from a rural area and a one-room school to, what seemed to me at the time, a very large town with more than 400 students in the high school.

Our family settled into a small bungalow on Water Street, not far from the train tracks. Mr. Dixon, the train station agent, lived next door and he offered me a job to deliver telegrams. Of course I said yes!

It was my first paying job, though I can’t remember just what the payment was – maybe ten cents a telegram?

Every day after school, I would put the leash on my dog and we’d walk over to the train station, pick up the telegrams and make my deliveries.

I always liked it if I was in the station when a telegram message arrived. It was fascinating to watch Mr. Dixon translate the telegrams, which came to him by Morse code, and make his replies. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sound of the tap, tap, tapping on the metal contraption.

Most of the telegrams were for the three major factories in Almonte: the dairy, the flour mill and the Zephyr Mill, which we still called the Rosamond Woolen Mill. My job was to deliver the telegrams and have the managers sign a form to confirm that they had received them.

My favourite telegrams were those that contained best wishes from a far-away relative to a local couple about to be married.

My least favourite were those that came from a furniture store in Ottawa, because that store sent “dunners” to people who were late with payments. When I could see that the family was having a hard time, I’d advise the mother or father that if they didn’t sign, I could report that they weren’t home.

My dog Marcus always came along with me on my deliveries. Marcus was a smallish brown dog of no fixed heritage – and he wasn’t very bright. For example, if we approached a smaller dog, Marcus would hold his head high and ignore the little dog as we passed by. On the other hand, Marcus would growl at larger dogs and strain at the leash to attack.

One day, he challenged a whole pack of dogs and they, in turn, decided to teach him a lesson. It was not a pretty sight, but both of us survived our injuries.

There was another time that Marcus made a memorable statement. I was wearing shorts that sunny summer day. I had just finished my deliveries and was standing on the sidewalk, chatting with two other teens, Garry and Mike. I could feel warmth spread down my right leg and looked down to see Marcus with his leg held high, peeing. Of course we all laughed but truthfully, I was mortified!

Many, many years later, I once again met Garry. His first statement, after “Hi Fern,” was: “Do you remember that day your dog peed on your leg?”