Poplar Tree

There was a significant 100-year-old poplar tree on our farmland at Winkler, Manitoba that had grown into a cluster of seven or eight trees, all of them old, tall and leafless in summer by the middle of the 20th century. That tree was a landmark for the young people of Winkler who came to visit when my two older sisters were young adults, still not married.

To get to our farm you drove south on Highway 32 past the village of Schanzenfeld, turned east and drove for a mile, then south over a bridge through the neighbour’s shelterbelt. From there you could see the huge poplar and you knew you were close to our farm. Lots of young people, friends of my sisters, came to visit Sunday afternoons, They stayed until dusk, playing on the volleyball court my Dad had built, and in winter tobogganing behind our Percheron plowhorse Ned.

The poplar tree was planted probably in 1918, the year of the flu epidemic, also the year my parents were married. My Dad was very sick the day of their wedding, but it took place anyway. It was a double wedding with my mother’s sister Justina who married Dave Warkentin. Their father, Jacob Hiebert, insisted the double wedding take place despite Dad’s illness because he did not want to pay for two weddings.

In 2018 the tree was taken down because it was considered to be an eyesore, rendering useless a corner of the quarter section where it stood. I was sad when I heard about its demise.

Lately I have become aware of some history between my father, Peter A Kroeker, and his brother, my uncle Abram A Kroeker, thanks to research done by my nephew Arnold Froese, who lives, in Sterling, Kansas, a psychology professor retired from Sterling College. He got his information from my sister Helen Froese of San Jose, California before she died in 2020, the year of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Arnold said he learned from his mother that Uncle Abe helped my Dad get started in farming. Thanks to my family’s penchant for taking and keeping photos, I have a series of pictures of the farm from the time it was planted in 1918-1920 to the time it was sold in the 1950’s. This week I found a picture of the old poplar tree and did an acrylic painting of it standing starkly alone on that quarter section. The painting hangs now in the living room where I see it all the time and remember how significant that tree was for everyone

I’m also going to put into a book the pictures of our farm’s growth, augmented by photos of the house and barn Uncle Abe helped my Dad build when he almost died from the Spanish flu.

The landmark is gone, but the memories remain.

More Stories