Sunday, April 24, 2011

WHERE THE ROSES NEVER FADE

It's not easy raising children at the best of times and having 12 mouths to feed would mean that there would be many sacrifices. These sacrifices were even more significant for the Nicholas Bauman family. Nic was born to German Mennonite parents in Russia, were they had a prosperous farm. His dad died when he was a small boy and his mother moved with some of her children, including Nic, to Canada just before the Russian revolution broke out.

Nic married Susan, born of German Mennonite parents, in Canada, close to where they farmed. It is no small feat to uproot your family and move a great distance from your home but this is exactly what the Bauman family did in 1955. Nic and Susie packed up six of their ten children and moved 400 miles from their farm near Aberdeen, Saskatchewan to Three Hills, AB. The main purpose of the move was for the children to be able to attend the schools at Prairie. Four of the older children had already left home.

The Baumans had been farmers and the move marked a dramatic change in employment for Nic. They joined staff in an associate position, where every winter Nic worked in the carpenter shop and at Prairie's lumber camp out in the foothills of Alberta. Each spring he would return to farm in Saskatchewan. Later they sold the farm and became full time staff members. After an accident in the carpenter shop, in which he lost part of his thumb and badly damaged two fingers, Nic worked at the dining hall in the dish washing room until spring when he would begin his planting.

This time, the planting had a different purpose than growing food. Food for the soul you could call it. Nic started in a couple of tiny greenhouses, later working in a much larger greenhouse which was constructed specifically for that purpose. He brought the heart of a farmer to this calling and embraced his passion with 100% of his being. He spent numerous hours there, lovingly tending hundreds of plants, many of which he later planted all over campus. Others were sold to staff members for their private yards. He also made a significant contribution to the campus by planting dozens of evergreens which not only provided some shelter from the howling north winds, but helped give the grounds a warm inviting atmosphere.

My own Mother believed that we should not only nurture our bodies, but our souls and spirits as well. Because we lived in the middle of the bald prairie and had a rather spartan house and lot, Mom did everything she could to add some beauty to the equation. In every house we lived, she would plant flowers, shrubs and trees, bringing a taste of heaven to the yard. She planted tulips and daffodils close to the sheltered side of the house so they would be the first to bloom in the spring. Lilac bushes, flowering Chinese cherry trees, peonies, sweet peas, bleeding hearts, irises  and rose bushes added to the color and fragrance of the yard.

Each spring she would pile my brother and I into the little red Ford Falcon and off to the greenhouse we would head. As we opened the door, the humid, earthen smell would greet us and so would Nic Bauman. This gentle, soft spoken man would stand amidst thousands of colorful plants and flowers, thrilled to see another customer intent on making their corner of the planet just a little more beautiful. He was surrounded by trays of petunias, marigolds, snap dragons and bachelor buttons. Containers of geraniums stood like quiet sentinels. In the corner were buckets of bushes - catoni astors along with small pine and birch tree saplings all waiting for new homes. Nic would visit with my Mom as my brother and I chased each other up and down the aisles waiting for the signal that we were ready to load the car.

My Mom and Nic became fast friends and one of their shared interests was their passion for roses. Three Hills, Alberta is not exactly the rose capital of the world and a lot of extra care and attention is needed not only to have them bloom, but to ensure their survival through the long cold winters. He gave her tips on fertilizing, mulching, planting and pruning and in time, Mom grew some fantastic roses. She also tried her hand at raising the Alberta Wild Rose, the flower of the province, but it seemed to grow best in it's natural habitat, and so that idea was abandoned.

Nic planted many rose bushes all over the campus. These roses always took extra care, not only in the growing, but preparing them in the fall for winter. Yellow, pink, red and white roses. Tea cup, climbing, dainty, hybrid and English varieties gave the campus the look of a small botanical garden. Up against the walls of buildings holly hocks were planted, adding dimension and vibrant color to the landscaping, all loving planted and cared for by this talented gardener.

Sometimes, seeing my Dad on his way home from work, Nic would give him a rose or two whose stem had been broken in a strong wind storm or by a careless biker who had gotten too close. Dad would bring these roses home to Mom. She would put them in a rose bowl or vase on the table, brightening up the room and bringing a beautiful aroma to the space.

Whenever I see roses, I think of the old Southern Gospel song, Where The Roses Never Fade. The words were written by Janie West Metzgar in 1929 and the music composed by her son Robert Metzgar. This song was made famous by The Cathedral Quartet. The lyrics give hope as well as speak about life. One of the lines from the song says; "I am going to a city, Where the streets of gold are paved, Where the tree of life is blooming, and the roses never fade."

I love spring! The promise of fresh growth, the smell of nutrient rich black dirt, new beginnings, rain on the rooftops, the cry of the meadowlark, the vibrant green of the trees and fields and . . .  roses.

Sadly we lost my Mom in 1993 after a 17 year battle with MS. Nic Bauman passed away on February 9th, 2000 at the age of 102, after a life well lived. I sometimes wonder if  Nic may still be giving my Mom some tips on how to grow better roses.

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© 2013 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.  

4 comments:

  1. but where your Mom & Nic are, the roses never fade. I love that song, too.

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  2. The campus never looked so good as it did in those years when Nic was the gardener........Joanne Darling-McMurray

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  3. This is my favorite post you've ever written. And, now I REALLY have spring fever. So fun to read about flowers. Might have to purchase a new rose bush this year.

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  4. Thank you Stephen for this story about two of my favorite campus people -- Nic Bauman and your mom. I remember how Nic would trim back the roses in the fall and pile straw on them and grass clippings. I used his ideas to save our fuschias when we moved south and had them in Vancouver WA year after year. He was an amazing man with a wonderful store of knowledge.

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