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The Sod Hut

Nothing Happened in Coronation

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I lived in Coronation, an Alberta village in Canada, until I was 18. This is the 10th of 25 Coronation stories & essays.


The Sod Hut


They say nothing ever happened in Coronation but I heard stories about the Gent from Geneva, who in the late 1940s, arrived in Alberta.

This guy, I think his name was Franz, had seen a travelogue of Western Canada.

Its majestic Rocky Mountains gave Franz the idea that moving to Alberta was like living in Switzerland in the shadow of the Matterhorn.

Here is what it looks like now in the Canadian Rockies. Except for a road and a few buildings the view has not changed much in a 5,000 years.

Many Geologists claim The Canadian Rocky Mountains are over  billion years old.  They are stupid.  Any Bible Scholar will tell you that the earth is only 8,000 years old.  They are even more stupid.

The Canadian Rockies are less than 500 years old.  There was no Canada before 1537.

Anyway, Franz bought “sight-unseen” a five acre farm near Coronation.

He assumed it was at the base of the Canadian Rockies.

Franz was perplexed when he stepped off a Canadian Pacific Railway passenger car in Coronation.

Flat endless prairies.

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Photo of a prairie field during a rainstorm

Sure, there were mountains but they were at least two hundred miles away.

Franz had few skills. Certainly not map reading.

Franz fancied himself a mountain guide and gardener.

And he was out of money.

He needed shelter so he built an “opened-ceiling” sod hut from hand cut wedges of thick prairie turf. The sod was held together by roots and weeds.

Franz found some lodgepole pines and he piled sod tiles (the size of manhole covers) on top of them for the roof.

The sod hut was small but Franz figured it would keep the snow off his head and that it would be cool in summer and warm in winter.

He cobbled together a fireplace and ran a chimney pipe through the ceiling.

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Summer was starting and Franz spent his last precious dollars on seeds.

Three weeks later he had the makings of a pretty good garden.

Everyone, including the rabbits, thought he did a fine job.

The ravenous rodents ate everything under cover of darkness and turned out to be a bit smarter than Franz.

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Franz planted some carrots from his last seeds on top of his hut, figuring that the rabbits would at least leave that part of his garden alone.

That worked for awhile, except there were a lot of weeds in the sod and they grew two feet high and choked out the carrots.

Franz didn’t dare pull out the weeds for fear of destabilizing his dirt ceiling.

He thought about cutting his roof weeds but he didn’t have money enough for a scythe and weed whackers would not be invented for decades.

There was a fat lady who lived a few miles down the road from Franz.

She raised goats and sold their milk.

She loved the goats like her own kids.

This lady took a liking to Franz and loaned him her favorite goat.

Franz managed to boost the goat onto his roof.

The goat jumped off but Franz wrestled the critter back up onto his roof.

He tied a mountain climbing rope around the goat’s neck.

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There was nothing to fix the other end of the rope to so he ran it down the chimney.

Downstairs, Franz made himself a sandwich from his dwindling grocery supplies.

To monitor the goat and make sure it didn’t get away, Franz wound the rope around his own ankle.

The goat smelled the sandwich and jumped off the roof to investigate.

Of course there was that rope on the creature’s neck — which arrested its fall in mid-air.

The other end of the rope, tangled around Franz’s leg, and yanked him halfway up the chimney.

Two days later the fat lady came calling with a slice of juicy Canadian blueberry pie —

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— and discovered Franz with one leg up his chimney.

She was upset that Franz had hanged her favorite goat.

Later they were married and had several children who were not quite right in the head.

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