(Note -- this is a repeat of an earlier publication. Ol' Dan has now passed away.)
You don't see Ol 'Dan much around the streets of Radisson these days, but ask most anyone about him and they'll say, " Oh yeah, Ol' Dan, great guy, knew him well."
They'll go on to say he was a farmer in these parts for many a year, and that he also liked to hang out at the old Radisson Hotel and most days swig a beer or two.
Ol’ Dan is a bit slower now than he used to be. His hearing is going and he doesn’t see very well any more, but he still knows what’s going on, where he’s been, and what he’s done.
Ask him when he was born and he’ll quickly reply, “November 8th, 1916.” Ask him where he was mostly raised and he’ll tell you it was on homestead number 32-40-10.
According to him, Dan Murphy was born in the old Saginaw School District, which he says is “south and east” of Radisson.
These days, Dan is a resident of a care home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, but most of his life was spent in the Radisson area. He says the family moved to Radisson in 1928, and that his schooling lasted until Grade 8, when he “had to go to work.”
He was the oldest of four children, and grew up with “two sisters and one brother.”
A bachelor all his life, Ol’ Dan says he never married because he “was too poor.”
Mostly, Dan remembers farm life, but there was one big event that happened when he was about 10 years old that he says he’ll never forget.
“It was the Fielding Hotel fire, just a bit north and west of Radisson. That was in 1926, and there wasn’t much left of Fielding after that.”
Did he serve in the armed forces? “No,” he says, in a quiet voice, “I wasn’t called to war.”
Ol’ Dan’s best farming days are well behind him now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t remember a thing or two about living on a Saskatchewan farm with his parents, two sisters and a brother.
Born in 1916, Ol’ Dan has been around long enough to see farm life evolve from the days when most farmers in these parts relied on horses to get things done, to the high-powered machines of this day and age.
Dan Murphy grew up and farmed in the area around Radisson, Saskatchewan, and while his hearing may be going and his eye sight has all but left him, his memories of those bygone days are as strong as ever.
“We drove a team of twelve horses on the farm,” he told us recently. “That team could pull a three-furrow plough and a harrow. My dad was a good man with a horse.”
Talk to any farmer, old or young, and two topics of discussion will always come up: the weather and the crops. Ask former farmer Dan Murphy about those subjects and he won’t be short of answers.
“1935 was a dry year,” he told us, “but there was lots of snow in 1936. It was dry and hot in 1937, with no crop at all. There were good crops, though, in 1932 and 1942.
In a matter-of-fact manner, without any trace of bitterness, Ol’ Dan remembers a lot of years as being “pretty short on cash” but that the family always managed somehow to get by. “We milked as many as 18 cows at one time, and often sold a can of cream a day to the creamery. That kept us going.”
Life on the farm for Dan, though, wasn’t always horses and buggies and dust and snow. There was sports. For instance, Dan remembers playing a lot of baseball when he was younger. He was a catcher, he says, and that the “team bought him a glove.”
As the years went by, Dan and his farm family replaced their horse-drawn tools with more modern equipment. He remembers their first tractor as being a 1938 Case with “rubber tires” and that their first self-propelled combine came along in 1952.
Also, Dan says, he owned a number of pick up trucks over the years, mostly Fords, and that his first car was a Model-T.
He also recalls a time when a fellow could get on the train in Radisson at 10 in the morning, go to the big city of Saskatoon, and be back home by 5 o’clock.
Marriage wasn’t in the picture for Dan. He told us he didn’t ever “have enough money to marry.”
Still, a number of folks in the Radisson area remember Ol’ Dan, and say that he did enjoy a glass or two of beer now and again. His picture is on the wall of Elvera’s Lounge in the Radisson Hotel, where he is listed as being their “oldest customer” and where most customers can still point out Dan’s favourite seat.
We’re told that noted U.S figure Daniel Webster once wrote: “Let us not forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labour of man. When tillage begins, other arts will follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of civilization.
If that is so, then guys such as Ol’ Dan help us hang on to our civilized selves. Thank you, Dan Murphy, and every other farmer, for keeping us as civilized as possible.
Services for Dan Murphy will be held Monday, July 28th, at 11 a.m. at The Windsor Chapel in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Oh, we're sure he mostly grew his own seeds during his long farming career. (see video)