The benefits of a hamlet

In the Image

October 6, 2021 | Opinion | Volume 25 Issue 21
Ed Olfert | Columnist
Main Street in Laird, Sask. (Photo by Canadian2006/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Someone suggested I apply for a pastoral position in a church in a large Canadian city. My ego liked that quite a lot. Then I gave it some thought.

The whimsical welding project that has mostly held me in thrall this summer is created with metal salvaged from oilfield leftovers. In my zeal to recycle rods that have been slowly sinking into tall grass, deeply pitted from rust, I chain the 25-foot sections behind my ATV and take them for a brisk two-mile run down a gravel road. Neighbours grin, wave, and count me as clever, I’m pretty sure. Do large Canadian cities have gravel roads? Would I still be measured as clever?

There’s a thing going through its second year here in Laird, Sask., where young boys recycle old lawn mower tractors and use them to “terrorize” our hamlet, in bunches or singly. A dad from down the street came by. He had a small engine from a snow blower, with handlebar and wheels. Could I design and build a hitch so it could tow a wagon? Shortly thereafter, Holly reported sighting this contraption, loaded with boys, racing down main street at its top speed of about .8 km/h, while cars patiently steered around it.

I have not yet had my turn, which I assume I am owed given my investment. Could I cruise in the midst of equally patient traffic in a large Canadian city?

A few years ago, as I was on my driveway building something, a grade 5 class walked up my street. It was June, when no one wants to be in school. They were on a nature hike. I heard a voice say, “Mr. Harris, can I go say hi to my Opa?” Mr. Harris replied, “Let’s all go say hi to Opa!” My table was quickly surrounded by students, commenting on my work, offering suggestions, asking questions, needing demonstrations. A girl observed, “You have a lot of holes in your shirt!” Another shushed her, “That’s rude!” A large Canadian city would need to offer those kinds of days.

The local general store is also the post office. On getting the mail one day, we found a small bag in our box, with a few coins and a note. “You bought bananas and right after that we lowered the price. Here’s the difference.” The change counted out to $1.63. Would large Canadian city box stores show that kind of scrupulous concern for its customers?

An extended family member who lives in our town has spent a number of months in hospital. As we check out their residence, do summer chores and some repairs, a neighbour from across the street appears. “How can I help?” I offer a suggestion, and although he is a professional person with an agenda to attend to, he is there immediately, tools in hand. His children show up on the weekend to cut the grass. How would this story be told in a large Canadian city?

There are, I assume, both plus and minus points to living in a hamlet, where everyone knows everyone’s business. Small pre-tractor-aged boys and girls pedal or run down the street, wave and shout greetings. Adults stop by to see what’s on my welding table, to anxiously discuss the drought, to talk proudly about a son who will play junior football a few provinces over. They worry about whether he will be okay, this being his first time away from home. Other neighbours offer garden produce or cinnamon buns. The woman at the insurance agency is excited that I have a 57-year-old truck under repair.

The ebb and flow of Laird becomes a place to experience wholesome community. As I delight in the many upsides, as I feel the sense of healthy spirituality, as I sense the simple determination to live well together, it is something about God.

Think I’ll stay.

Ed Olfert ( gives thanks for Laird.

Read more In the Image columns:
The pack of smokes on my mantel
A pretty big leap for Arthur
A sign of the presence of God
Saying goodbye, then hello again
A precious gift

Main Street in Laird, Sask. (Photo by Canadian2006/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Share this page:

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.