The first time I saw John was in the summer of 1935.
I was not impressed.
And my rear end was soar.
Dad pedaled, but he sat on a soft seat while I had to sit on the crossbar in front of him. I felt that bar right on my rump-bone and it hurt. It hurt for ten km's.
“Sit still,” dad said. “You will see your new brother in a minute.”
“Do you like your new brother?” a white lady with a wide smile asked, and I said “No.”
Her smile shrunk fast and changed into a grin. I hid behind dad's pant leg.
We had biked from Hijum to the deaconess hospital in the City where rich kids were born to see my second baby brother who was born there.
So John was born a city-slicker, and my but was still sore.
John was born on July the fourth, an important date for a country associated with untold richness and opportunities, but to our parents known only through vague stories about people striking it rich by finding goldmines but where also unfortunates lived, black people, who were lynched.
Still some people fantasied of immigrating to that dream country.
Little did we know that this dream would become real to John only eighteen years after his birth, though not in the US.
An immigration of sorts happened when our family moved from the north of Fryslân where John had attended four months of christian school in the neighboring town under the watchful eyes of miss Muis, a tall grade one teacher who his three older siblings had trained as well.
They moved from Hijum fifty km south to Oosterzee where John grew up and eventually found good friends in Sanne Wind, a farmer's son, and John Kingma, a slaughter's son, who hailed from a neighboring town.
John visited frequently our neighbor's son Rommert at his workshop where he made klompen for the neighborhood, since our father, the neighbor Tijtsma, and Rommert had cut down a large willow tree behind our house which was perfect for making the wooden footwear. Rommert told heit that he saw 'the makings of a good carpenter into that boy.'
After finishing a two year course in carpentry at the trade school in Heerenveen John easily found a job as second carpenter at the local dairy factory, where the first carpenter and he were in charge of maintenance.
Their job was as secure as the bank of London as the gereformeerd workers were under represented in the factory, which by hiring John was more equalized.
The dairy factory was owned and operated by local farmers of both pillars, gereformeerd and not gereformeerd, and that unique dutch system had to reflect into the number of staff and employees as well.
The director, the CEO of the factory was of the non church side, to counter that the chairman was gereformeerd.
Most of the workers, the cheese and butter makers, were of 'the other side' as well, so the milk-sample-taker was again gereformeerd, as was the man who with horse and wagon collected in 30 and 40 liter cans the milk from the local farmers, while the roman catholic bookkeeper represented the few catholic farmers.
But there was more – the first carpenter had two daughters, both good-looking, but the younger was clearly the winner and she was ordained by the gereformeerd pillar to be hooked up with John, as a future new family would strengthen not only the dairy factory operation but also the gereformeerde church as the gereformeerd pillar, it would satisfy the first carpenter family as well as they had taken a liking to John.
I don't think that John ever pursued that angle, or that the girl in question did, but I missed a few years when I was working in Limburg, so I am not sure about that. I do know that he had no problems attracting girls, one in particular tickled his fancy and that was one of the many daughters of the chairman of the dairy factory.
John's future was bright and secure.
However the carefully thought out pillar balance collapsed as our parents went on another mini immigration, this time from Oosterzee to Ens in the new North-Eastern polder, taking John along and also me who had returned to the family after an almost two-year stint in Limburg, and from that point on John and I started working as a team in the new polder.
Ooms, our first contractor, was a tall man. Holding a tobacco pipe in the right hand, with his arm high and outstretched, which made him an easy stand out in a crowd, led us to a huge pile of scrap lumber instructing us to pull out nails, clean, and store anything long enough to use as a picket, which meant anything over a foot long and store it like firewood.
That took us two full days and provided Ooms pickets for five years.
The next contractor had much more pleasant work.
He had a contract of building two-hundred farms in the polder including a large general barn, a pig-barn and a house. Several crews were putting in the foundations for these buildings and our job was to give them the height of the building.
The earth around the farm-complex was to be slightly sloped away from the buildings to the ditches around the yard in order to drain the surface water away from the complex.
This work was formerly done by an engineer, we were told whose heights were more often calculated wrong costing the company a lot of money, as truck loads of earth had to be removed or added to the sites.
We developed a simple system by taking the heights at thirty-six different spots over the entire yard area, totaled the results up and divided the result by thirty-six, which gave us the the mean height from which the height of the buildings was to be calculated.
We had at no leveling instrument in the beginning, so we got our heights by establishing a center post with a cross board, over which board one of us eyed onto the horizon while the other marked a line on a slat at each point of the imaginary line between the cross-board and horizon.
It worked like a charm, and saved the company many thousands of dollars per farm complex. The trouble was that we didn't have enough work by doing only two farms a day, as we were expected to do, so we devised a game of reed sailing in the ditches around the farm-site to pass the time. From a single reed-leaf we devised a sailboat and since there was always a breeze on the water, our 'boats' were having races between each other, and we also raced between ourselves, always keeping an eye on the pick-up truck of the foreman, who knew that we had time on our hands and when he was in need of an extra hand for whatever job he just picked us up, but we didn't want to be seen empty handed by him.
It was an easy life but hardly fulfilling, and we were thinking of other things.
But John was only seventeen and we were not at all sure if he would get permission from our parents to leave the polder. However our parents in the end approved and then we applied.
After a health test and interview we were accepted, to the chagrin of the company who wanted to keep us and even approached our father with an substantial offer of money to use his influence to have us stay employed with them. How much that substantial amount was I never found out.
There was a condition of the Canadian government of permitting only agricultural immigrants, therefore we quit the builder, (after doing four farms on the last day) to work six weeks for a farmer. That we still weren't able to milk a cow didn't seem to matter.
We worked well together and had pleasure doing so, but life in the polder was not exciting enough to keep us, I suppose.
Next – saying goodbye