17, Number 96, April/May 2014 What is a “Stook”? by Marilyn Scoville
We were spending a wonderful evening with Frances, a friend of ours from Saskatchewan, sharing a bottle of wine and reminiscing about the past. We often do this in Mission, Texas where we spend the winter with many close friends from all over Canada and the USA. We are from Eastern Canada and know quite a bit about the fishing industry but very little about farming.
“Slow down a minute,” interjected my husband as Frances rambled on. “What is a stook?”
Frances was relating a story about growing up on a very large farm in Saskatchewan that was located right next to an Indian reservation. She has many fond memories of the native women coming to visit with her mom in her “summer kitchen” as she called it. The women would come bearing gifts, sit cross-legged on the floor and repeat the word “buc-a tee” which seemed to mean they wanted to share a cup of coffee with Frances’ mom. Although the natives could not speak English and Frances’ mom could not speak their language, the women all spent a very pleasant time together. One year at harvest time, Frances’ father got somewhat behind in bringing in the grain crop. He had a very large spread and had some unforeseen problems with his combine. He didn’t know what to do and he couldn’t afford to completely write off his crop. He decided to “stook the grain” instead of the usual harvesting practices, but stooking is a very labour intensive process. He would cut the grain with machinery but he needed help to arrange the grain in stooks or bundles and stand the bundles on end in the fields. What to do?
He decided to visit the reservation and request the help of some natives. One man he knew stepped up and offered to help and promptly showed up with several Indian women in tow to stook the grain. This was a long hard job and when completed Frances’ father got out his wallet to pay them. The Indian took the money, looked at it and returned a portion. “You do not remember but many years ago I borrowed some money from you and I was never able to repay you. I am so glad to finally have this opportunity to repay the loan.” Frances’ father was very surprised as he had long since forgotten the transaction.
“What a wonderful story,” we said when Frances finished. “So nice to hear and certainly worth repeating.”