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ANECDOTES AND REMEMBRANCES
Hugh N. MacDonald
Recently, while writing down ‘Some Genealogy and Some Memories’, I frequently recalled some amusing story which I had to leave out in order to preserve the chronological order of events. Noreen persuaded me that a collection of these in any order should be compiled. Herewith are some of those that may be of interest to my grandchildren. **************** Blind Mary’, as we sometimes refer to my grandmother MacDonald, was widowed at age 39. She was burdened with a mortgaged farm of 50 acres, and 7 children, the oldest of whom was 12 years. But she set out to overcome the hardships. This was some 20 years before she became blind. To enable her to ‘rule the roost’, she provided herself with a birch switch, and kept it handy atop a ceiling ledge where only she could reach it. She was not burdened with any foolishness about the psychological damage, later alleged to result from repressing the mischievous behaviour of kids. Rather, she adhered to the biblical exhortation ‘spare the rod and spoil the child.’ Her two youngest were boys, and, upon one occasion when they resented some punishment, they climbed up, and drove a nail through the switch into its wooden shelf. Then, having found a pair of old discarded slippers, they burned them in the kitchen stove. When they were recognisable only as slippers, they told their mother that, by way of retaliation, they had burned her new slippers. She looked into the stove, and believing their story, reached for the switch, only to find that she could not dislodge it. Only then did Hughie and Allen produce her treasured slippers. The Widow Neil, as she was then known, had two horses. I suppose ‘nags’ would be a better word for them. Both were old and decrepit. One was named Belle; the other wasn’t even named, until one day when the usual reading of the scriptures after breakfast took place. Isaiah, chapter 46, was the selection. It began: ‘Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth.’ The other nag was immediately dubbed ‘Nebo’. About 100 years ago, in Valleyfield, religious worship was actually practised bilingually. There were two Presbyterian churches. One held service in Gaelic, the other in English. A highlight each year was the mid-summer celebration of communion, which began Thursday or Friday evening and continued until about Tuesday of the following week. Despite terrible roads, and of course, no cars, people came from far and near to attend these services. On one occasion in the 1880’s, my father, as a teenager, drove by horse and buggy from his home in Kilmuir, to Sparrows Road (Victoria Cross) in order to bring his Aunt Catherine back to Kilmuir. Here, as a week-long house guest of her sister-in-law, she could attend many of these communion services.
Father’s visit was not anticipated, and he found his Aunt busy baking bread. Since he had to leave for home again without too much delay, it appeared that his Aunt could not wait until the bread was baked. So, she put the loaves in the oven, got dressed in her Sunday best, and instructed her husband, Neil MacLeod, to take the loaves out at 3:00 p.m. Neil had now reached his allotted three score and ten. He and Catherine were childless, and had led a frugal and hard life. He was probably no more interested in baking bread than he was in attending communion services. Catherine worried over the weekend about the loaves. Would Neil take them out of the oven too soon, or too late? When father brought her back to Sparrows Road the following Wednesday, her first question to Neil was ‘Were the loaves baked at 3:00 o’clock?’ ‘Well,’ said Neil, ‘if they weren’t then, they probably are by now!’ Catherine looked in the oven to find her loaves still there, but now reduced to ashes. Sandy Matheson, of Glen William, was a ‘character’, one of a species now regrettably extinct, or nearly so. Known as Sandy Big William because his father was known as Big William, he often gave rise to amusing stories which, no doubt, lost nothing in being often repeated. One such resulted from an incident in Charlottetown during an era of prohibition, when drugstores handled the sale of alcoholic beverages but only upon receipt of a doctor’s prescription. Someone told Sandy that one could get liquor at The Two Macs Drugstore without a scrip. Sandy asked the girl behind the counter ‘Is this The Two Macs?’ When she replied in the affirmative, he, probably wishing to appear friendly, asked, ‘Are you The Two Macs wife?’ ‘No’, she said. ‘Is there something I can get you?’ Sandy replied, ‘Oh yes! Please Ma’am, I wants a bottle of scotch. I wants it good, and I wants it bad.’ When she asked if he had a scrip, he said, ‘No! But Doctor Jenkins said it would be all right for you to give me the bottle without a scrip.’ She then said she’d phone Doctor Jenkins to confirm this. Sandy is alleged to have told this story on himself with the final comment, ‘I never thought of the telephone. When she went to the phone, I went for the door.’ One autumn Sandy Big William was acting as agent for Allan Shaw, of Cardigan, in the purchase of spring lambs for the Thanksgiving market. The lambs were bargained for ‘on the hoof’, and were to be brought to the Murray River RR Station on a certain morning to be loaded into a boxcar. Sandy, and many farmers, with very many lambs arrived at the station as planned; but there was no boxcar. Instead, there was a message for Sandy to phone Allan Shaw. He walked into the Murray River telephone office and asked to talk to Allan Shaw of Cardigan. He was aware that Shaw was the sole occupant of his small Cardigan office, but he did not realise that his call would have to go through Cardigan Central. He was directed to a booth which the operator connected with Cardigan. Sandy began with, ‘Allan, what am I going to do with them damn lambs?’ Like everyone else in Cardigan, the operator knew that Allan Shaw was dealing in lambs, and she asked, in a soft feminine voice, ‘Did you want to talk to Allan Shaw?’ ‘Oh yes, if you please, Ma’am,’ replied Sandy in a sudden change of tone. He talked then with Shaw, when satisfactory disposition of the lambs was arranged, he asked in a tone of curiosity, ‘Allan, who is the woman you have in your office with you?’ Pie socials at the Heatherdale hall were a common occurrence in the early years of the twentieth century. On one occasion, about 1915, John Archie Campbell, the auctioneer, was repeating in his baritone voice, ‘Ninety cents, I’ve got; who’ll say a dollar?’ My brother Martie, not yet two years old, was sitting on Father’s knee, and chirped out, ‘A dollar.’ ‘Sold!’, said the auctioneer, and Father had to produce the dollar.
In December of 1915, when I had an appendectomy at home, and Martie had been farmed out to the Bruce’s in Milltown, an incident took place that should teach adults a lesson about ‘little pitchers with big ears’. A farmer from Sturgeon, on his way to MacRae’s Mill with a sleigh load of grain, suddenly felt an urgent call of nature. He drove into Bruce’s and asked for the use of their backhouse. He was directed to this outdoor edifice, and while there was no reluctance to offering this hospitality, someone wondered out loud, ‘Why didn’t he go to the bushes?’ When the Sturgeon man, before leaving, stopped at the door to thank the Bruce’s, Martie asked, ‘Why wouldn’t you go to the bushes?’ When I was ten or twelve years old, I had developed a great desire to be a farmer. This, I suppose, resulted from being permitted to do certain farm work, such as wheel-harrowing. But one day I wondered if I should become a veterinarian. With other kids, hanging around MacGowan’s Store, I learned of a visit from a vet to see a sick cow lying in a nearby pasture. The vet diagnosed the ailment as Milk Fever, on the evidence of ‘ice cold hind legs,’ something we kids all confirmed by laying on of hands. With the use of a bicycle pump, the vet introduced air into the cow’s udder, and thus, apparently, effected a speedy cure. A few days later, Father had a sick cow. I noted the ‘ice cold hind legs’ and immediately diagnosed Milk Fever, and prescribed the cure. However, we had no bicycle pump. Having questioned me extensively, Father must have been persuaded of my new-found knowledge, so, with a strong wheat straw, he blew air into the cow’s udder. The cow quickly recovered and my euphoria lasted for many weeks. Dan MacDonald,a neighbor boy in Heatherdale 50 years ago was known as ‘Little Dan’. He may not have been as good a business man or he may not have had as good an agent as Rich Little, but in my opinion, he was a better mimic. He built up quite a reputation around MacGowan’s store. One evening, Mrs. MacGowan walked into the store, and as she was passing a container of oranges, she noticed ‘Little Dan’. She greeted him with ‘Dan, I hear that you’re a great mimic. If you can imitate me, I’ll give you an orange’. She had hardly finished when ‘Little Dan’ said ‘If you can imitate me, I’ll give you an orange.’ Anyone listening might think Mrs. MacGowan just repeated the sentence, but Mrs. MacGowan knew differently. Laughing, she presented him with an orange. I think the year was 1920 or 1921, but I know the day was April 1. As kids, we had exhausted our efforts to fool each other, when Father came in from the barn and said excitedly, ‘Come on out and hear the awful singing!’ Mother, and all us kids trailing, quickly followed him out, and along the south side of the house, around the east side and on to the north side, where he suddenly stopped. Then he started singing. Our grand-daughter Kimberly was 5 ½ years old when she and her family visited us in Pinette. She immediately dubbed the broad Pinette River ‘Grandpa’s Pool.’ This river, like all P.E.I. rivers, at its mouth is tidal; it is broad only when the tide is in. A few hours after arriving, Kim looked out and saw the river reduced to a narrow trickle at low tide and exclaimed, ‘Oh look, somebody pulled the plug in Grandpa’s pool!’ One day a lady from the village of Fergus, Ontario, took her 5 year old daughter to Toronto on a shopping trip. They were in a crowded elevator when a woman near the door turned around and slapped the face of a man behind her. When this happened a second time, the operator put them both off at the next floor. That night, the Fergus lady, now back home, was putting her 5 year old to bed when the child said ‘That wasn’t a very nice woman on the elevator, was she Mom?’ ‘Hush now,’ said her mother. ‘You just forget about her and go to sleep.’ But the child persisted. ‘She wasn’t very nice. Every time the elevator stopped, she stepped on my foot, and I just pinched her bottom.’ It was a hot Sunday morning in Valleyfield. The faithful had gathered at the Presbyterian church for the 11:00 a.m. service. The doors and windows of the church were open. If a bird chirped outside, it’s song was clearly heard throughout the pews. Two old-timers, both quite deaf, arrived at the church entrance. In a very loud voice, one said ‘It’s a hot day!’ Equally loud the reply
resounded throughout the church, ‘It’s a helluva hot day!’ The Presbyterian minister from Valleyfield was in Heatherdale performing a christening. The neighbours were all present, dressed in their Sunday best. When the minister said ‘…I christen thee…’ and sprinkled water on the child’s head, the child began to wet. Rubber pants had not yet been invented. The father, wishing to protect his Sunday suit, held the child at arm’s length. The minister continued with ‘…in the name of the Father…’, and sprinkled on more water. The child performed in kind. The solemnity of the celebration lost out to the humour of the occasion. One day, when my Uncle Hugh was about 5 years old, he accompanied his older brother, John, to the woods to bring home firewood. A neighbour, engaged to do most of the work, had preceded them and had already notched several trees. John, about 17 years old, was to man one end of the cross-cut saw. The neighbour, being of an inventive turn of mind, and being alone, tied one end of his saw to a supple maple sapling, and thus was able to saw down a tree. ‘That’s pretty smart,’ said John. ‘It would be smarter still,’ said Hugh, ‘if you tied the other end of the saw to another maple.’ During WW1, Canadian women knitted mitts for the soldiers. These had a separate index finger, so that they could be used while firing a rifle. My Uncle Hugh went overseas with the 1st contingent in 1914. Four years later, while returning to Canada, some of his shipmates were discussing their scars of battle. Hugh had no visible signs that he had been at the ‘front’, but he had lost his left index finger in an industrial accident before the war. Seeing a hatchet nearby, he picked it up and joined the conversation with ‘I have nothing to show for four years at ‘the front’. I think I’ll cut off a finger.’ Then he laid the empty index finger of the glove on the rail and severed it with a single blow of the hatchet. The woollen finger fell into the sea, the hatchet dropped to the deck, and Hugh stumbled away moaning and clutching his left hand. My family, now seven in number, and dinner, were waiting for me one evening in 1959. As I sat at the table, I realised that Scott, not quite six, had just had his first day at school. ‘Well, Scott, how was school?’ I asked. After a pensive moment, he replied with another question: ‘Do you know what I learned in school today, Dad?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘Well, I don’t know either,’ he said in an aggrieved tone. Everyone laughed, which further annoyed him. He rebuked us all with ‘It’s no laughing matter!’ Harold and Madge Graham from Toronto were coming to visit us in Edmonton. Noreen got her ‘one and only daughter Ann dolled up, under protest, in an unaccustomed dress for the occasion. After the usual greetings were exchanged, and after Madge had commented favorably on the sweet femininity of our youngest, Ann decided that she had had enough of ceremonies and asked, ‘Now can I get into my cut-offs?’ When Ann was 5, she and her mother visited the Zieglers in Toronto. Her cousin Andrew Ziegler was 4, and had just been scolded for some misdemeanour. In an effort to cheer him up, Ann said, ‘Never mind Andrew. Next year you’ll be 5 and will know how to be good.’ Later during that visit, Andrew did something that displeased Ann. She rebuked him with ‘If you do that again, I won’t be your cousin anymore.’ When Randy Neil MacDonald was quite young, he sometimes had trouble remembering his middle name. On one occasion when asked his name, he said ‘Randy.’ ‘Randy what?’ he was asked. He thought awhile and replied, ‘Randy Sit MacDonald.’ Names seemed to give him pause for thought. One day, while at his grandmother’s cottage, he was introduced to a Mrs. Bell. As he shook her hand, he grinned and said, ‘Ding dong.’ The twins were 5 years old when we decided to visit their grandparents in P.E.I. We were then living in Chatham, Ontario, and the boys were fascinated by the work and ‘slanguage’ of workmen repairing our street. Brian had an unusually low pitched voice and startled his mother with ‘Holy Jesus Christ.’ Noreen spoke to me about this, being concerned that he might carry a
phrase like this to his grandparent’s home. Jointly we decided to ignore the profanity, rather than lend it some pseudo importance by reprimanding him. We were leaving that day by train, and further exposure to the street gang’s gab was unlikely. That evening, we were settled in a C.N. drawing room when the ‘first call to dinner’ was announced. Our plan was that Brian and I should go first while Noreen stayed with Gregory and Randy, who was not yet one year old. Later, she and Gregory would go to the second sitting, while I did the baby sitting. The Maitre d’ set us at a table with a priest. He handed me a menu and handed Brian a child’s menu. This letter was a work of art; scalloped edges, replete with bunnies and birds all in colour. Brian’s reaction to it could be heard all over the dining car. In a bass voice, he boomed, ‘Holy Jesus Christ.’ Ignoring it now was a necessity. Fortunately, we never heard it again. In Edmonton in 1954, we spent much of our first month looking for a home. Meltons Real Estate had a motto for those wishing to sell. It was ‘Call a Melton Man and start packing.’ The twins were now 9 years old. One day Gregory was telling us a frightening story of a class-mate who had a switchblade. I asked him what he would do if this boy came at him with his knife. Without hesitation, he said, ‘Call a Melton man and start packing.’ So much for our children. A wise person once said ‘Don’t talk about your children to others. They either have children of their own… or they haven’t. Many years ago, a feature of social activities in Heatherdale during the winter months was a weekly debate. Before the close of each meeting, a subject for debate and six debaters for the following week would be selected. For one meeting, the subject was ‘Be it resolved that a horse is more useful than a cow to the pioneer farmer.’ A rugged homely farmer was the leader of the ‘Pro’, and a peaches and cream complexioned female teacher was the leader of the ‘Con’. In rebuttal, the farmer said ‘Our opponents have been making much of the fact that a cow gives milk. Well, a mare also gives milk, and I guarantee you, if yu drink mare’s milk regularly, you’ll get a complexion as smooth as a school ma’am’s thigh.’ This was not rebutted. A girl and her mother were shopping in Montague when they met Harold MacLean. The girl introduced her mother to Harold, and after chatting a few minutes, went on their way. Then the girl said her mother, ‘Harold has a twin Hessel.’ The mother pondered this for some time, and eventually asked, ‘What’s a twin hessel?’ Allan Nicholson, Jack Cowan and I all belonged to the P.E.I. Light Horse in the late 1920’s. As sergeants, we were issued, in addition to the regular battle dress, a suit of ‘blues’ for use at social functions. There was only about one opportunity per year to get dressed up. This was for the non-permanent Militia ball held in Charlottetown. Jack had a wreck of a car of dubious vintage, but this was more than Allan or I had. The three of us took off from Montague in our blues with three girls in long dresses. We looked pretty dashing, until we got into that car. Enroute, we had a couple of flats, a normal occurrence. What Jack hadn’t planned on was when the engine housing became unstuck. It came up against the windshield, blocking the vision. We had to stop several times to tie it down. In this we were not successful. By the time we got to Southport, Jack took a drastic step. He got Allan to drive while he straddled the engine, holding down the hood with his weight. Thus we arrived at the nearest garage in Charlottetown. Alex Cameron, planning a holiday trip to P.E.I., bought a very old car in Boston. It was nearly 50 years ago. The recession was in full swing, and prices were at rock bottom. He estimated an expenditure of $25.00 for oil and gas for the round trip. To this he would have to add the cost of oil and gas while on P.E.I. He was not unhappy with the prospect of such expenditure since the car had cost only $8.00. Of course, the car had some idiosyncrasies. One such was when changing gears, the gear shift would stick in neutral, and could only be got back into first gear after the car came to a stop. One Saturday evening, he loaned the car to Martie and me to go girling. He said he wouldn’t need the car until 8 o’clock Sunday morning. We drove to Dundas where we had a date with two girls, and intended to take them to a movie. We had just picked up the second of these girls when near the top of a small hill in her laneway, I attempted to move the transmission into a higher gear, and found it stuck in neutral. The girls
may have been alarmed, but I wasn’t. I had seen this happen before, and I knew just what to do. However, this time the usual procedure didn’t work. I finally gave the job to Martie, but he too was unable to free the gear shift. We walked the girls to their homes. My girl said her brother would tow the car to a garage when he got home from his date. Unfortunately for Martie and me, he didn’t return until long past midnight. He took us to Cardigan where we roused a mechanic, who worked on the transmission for the rest of the night. At twenty minutes to 8 a.m., he announced that he had got the second and high gears working. The other side of the transmission, involving low and reverse gears, might require several more hours for repair. We paid him for his work, and for his trouble, and Martie drove the two gear car to Allan Cameron’s. We arrived at 8 a.m., and found Alex waiting for us and his car. I think he was more concerned for us than for the car. He immediately took off on his trip, being careful never to stop where low or reverse gears might be needed to re-start. I think 5 years elapsed before I saw my Dundas girl again. She was leaving P.E.I. on a honeymoon trip with a man I had known at P.W.C. Rev. Stewart was walking along a street in Montague when he noticed a little girl trying to reach a doorbell. The bell was a little too far from the ground for her. The kindly minister approached the door to help her. As he rang the bell, the little girl ran off quickly, and called to her accomplice ‘Now run like a bugger!’ On Christmas Day, 1879, my Aunt Mary Ann MacPherson died in Heatherdale. She was three months old. In those days, infant mortality was not a rare occurrence. On Christmas Eve, 1881, Mary Ann’s mother’s sister, living next door, gave birth to twin girls. She named them Mary and Ann. These twins grew up in Heatherdale, but eventually left P.E.I. Mary married John C. Williams and had three daughters and one son. Ann married Alex MacKay and had one daughter and three sons. They both reached their 100th year. When well past 90 years, Ann, living then in Cape Breton, was featured on a half-hour radio show from Moncton, N.B. She told of an experience she and her sister and other girls of her Grade 1 class had in 1888. They were playing in the Heatherdale schoolyard at noon hour, when they saw an apparition coming towards them along the road. This creature came down the Orange Hall hill faster than a man could run. Also, it appeared to be bigger than a man, and also appeared to have a tail. They thought this must be the devil. They were frightened and ran into the nearby woods. Later, they learned that they had seen for the first time, a man on a new contraption called a bicycle. These early vehicles had a large front wheel and a small rear wheel, which presumably looked like a tail to six-year old girls. An important feature of any primary school is how it provides for the pupils playtime. In this respect, the one at Heatherdale was more favorably situated than many rural schools in P.E.I. Beside it ran a brook, which became quiet and deep at MacRae’s mill dam, only ¼ mile away. This dam provided a swimming hole in summer and a skating rink in winter. Both above and below the dam lurked brook trout, seemingly awaiting the school boys who regularly arrived on Saturdays, armed with rods and ‘gads’. In winter, when Dan MacRae changed the level of the water at the dam, the skating rink sometimes suffered in a variety of ways. On one occasion, half the ice floated away, leaving a strip along the school side of the river. This remaining ice was, however, quite thick and strong. We found we could coast down a snowy hill to the river, and upon reaching this strip of ice, we could turn our sleighs through a 90 degree angle, and slide along the ice beside the open water. The distance reached along the ice depended on the speed attained before making the right angle turn, and the timing of the sharp turn. Once two girls failed completely to negotiate the turn, and landed, sleigh and all, in the water. John William MacPhee was johnnie-on-the-spot, and leaning from the edge of the ice, was able to grasp a girl in each hand and pull them to safety. Dan Angus MacPhee was one of the first pupils at Heatherdale to sport a pair of ‘tube’ skates. He could hardly wait for the mill pond to freeze over. He used to go to school early and, before classes, test the ice by tiptoeing out on it. Crackling of ice would not stop him. But sometimes the ice would collapse under his weight. Then he would spread his arms wide to prevent being completely submerged. He could thus drag himself to safety, and hurry home for a change of clothes. More than once, I’ve met him on the road and marvelled how he could walk, encased, as he was, in ice.
It was June 1938. We were a geological survey party of four, under canvas on the shore of Bett’s Cove, Northern Newfoundland. Our only neighbours were two fishermen whose tent was a stones-throw from ours. We saw very little of them, as they usually were off to sea before our day started. It was growing dusk as Ron MacKay and I, having finished dinner, heard a ‘kicker’ in the cove and walked down to the shore to see our neighbours bring in their catch. The sea was smooth, as the freighter canoe, loaded to the gunwales, quietly chug-chugged up to the dock. ‘Got lots of fish today, eh?’ said I. ‘No bye! No fish today!’ said one of the Newfies, with a note of disappointment. ‘What’s keeping the boat down in the water then?’ I asked. ‘Salmon, bye, just salmon!’ said he. To the Newfie, cod is the only species of the deep known as fish. When our field work in Newfoundland was completed, I headed directly for Halifax, where I had pre-arranged accomodation at Pine Hill residence. Ron MacKay stopped off at Pictou to spend the night with his family. When he arrived in Halifax the next day, he phoned me. ‘Where going tonight you?’ I heard. Up harbour s’no (don’t you know),’ I replied. ‘Cass’un (cannot) I go wit ya?’ he asked. ‘Naw, dat du cass’un (that you cannot)’ I answered. Thus ended our use of Newfoundland-ese. Oliver Campbell and I were working on a geological survey at 15 Mile Stream for the N.S. Dept. of Mines. 15 Mile Stream is in the heart of Liscombe Game Sanctuary, 15 miles from the nearest road. A local farmer with a team of horses and a truck-wagon brought our equipment (bedding, plane table, tri-pod, alidade, etc.) and a 2 week grub-stake over the non-road, to an old semi-abandoned game warden’s shack which was to be our home while surveying. This shack had a waterloo stove, a table, a bench, 2 chairs and 2 bunks. Being the senior on the party, I chose the upper bunk, because at it’s foot there was a hole in the wall where a window used to be, and it was mid-summer. Now the adult male moose may be a stately animal, but the adult female, sans antlers, is very, very homely. At least so I decided when one poked her head in over my bed, as I wakened that first morning at 15 Mile Stream. We didn’t see another moose for 10 days, but when we did, we had more cause for concern. I was intrigued with an outcrop, and called Oliver to come look. He was about 30 meters away. I could see him between the trees. He had the plane table mounted on the tri-pod, and was adjusting the alidade, which sat on it. He left everything and came. We probably spent more time than we realised examining and discussing the outcrop. We looked up to see a huge male moose standing within 30 centimetres of the plane table. He was looking down at the white Bristol board on which Oliver was mapping. One little nudge forward by that large ungainly animal, and it would be no more mapping for many days. We held our breath, and after an eternity, the moose turned and trotted away, to our great relief. In the early years of the great depression, a number of Irish emigrants landed at Kilmuir. Not only the country, but also many of the jobs available were highly unfamiliar to the immigrants. Where Billy Virtue came from there were no trees. Consequently, Billy was unacquainted with the art of felling trees. John K. MacDonald took Billy to the woods to cut firewood. Before long, he noticed that Billy was making a feeble notch all around a tree, somewhat in the manner practised by a beaver. ‘What way is that tree going to fall?’ asked John K. Replied Billy in his delightful Irish brogue, ‘What do you think I am, a prophet?’ We called it the Heatherdale river, but it was hardly a river. In fact, nearly a century earlier, when it carried much more water to the sea, our forebears called it a creek - Brown’s Creek. Regardless of it’s proper designation, brook trout inhabited the stream, and we youngsters used to go fishing on Saturdays. One day we gathered at MacRae’s dam, and proceeded from there down stream, with our maple sapling rods (some had bamboo) and by the time we got to the East Vallyfield bridge, it was past noon. The water was shallow, but there was a smooth sandy bottom, so we doffed our clothes and went swimming ‘au naturel’. Someone got the bright idea of lighting a bonfire and while we were drying ourselves by it’s flames, we were surprised by two adult ladies carrying pails. There was no time to dress, so we just jumped into the deepest part of the brook. To avoid worse embarrassment, we assumed a prone position in the shallow water.
The ladies poured water on the bon-fire, while giving us a well-deserved lecture on the hazard of lighting fires near a wooded area, during a prolonged dry spell. It happened nearly a hundred years ago. The scythe and the reaper were being replaced by the binder. A Kings Co. farmer bought one in Montague. It was to be a proud first in his district. He had never seen one in operation, and before leaving for home, the agent fitted the machine with a bale of binder twine and explained in detail how the farmer should operate this strange monster. ‘Just hitch three horses to it, and drive out to the oats field. Then you adjust the height of the cutting bar, and platform canvas with this lever, and put the machine in gear with this lever, etc. etc.’ A curious neighbour, seeing the binder arrive at the farmyard, went over for a closer look. When he climbed up on the seat and started moving levers, he roused the anger of the new owner, who shouted ‘Now don’t touch anything! They told me in Montague it was all ready to go, so don’t touch anything!’ The neighbour was annoyed at being treated like a boy, and seeing a chance to play a prank, he said, ‘What do you mean, all ready to go? Where’s your extras?’ The farmer replied, ‘They didn’t mention extras. What extras?’ ‘Well,’ said the mischievous neighbour, ‘there’s the rhinoceros, for one thing!’, and with this he walked away. Very soon the farmer was off again to Montague where he gruffly demanded of the agent, ‘Why didn’t you send out the extras with my binder?’ ‘What extras?’ asked the agent. ‘Well, there’s the rhinoceros, for one thing,’ replied the gullible farmer. In the late twenties and early thirties, while cars were used by some people in the summer, old dobbin was the stand-by for the winter months. Rev. D.M. Sinclair was the United Church minister at Valleyfield and it became a habit for him to secure, for the winter months, a horse from Alex R. MacDonald, who happened to be a continuing Presbyterian, and much opposed to the Union of Churches initiated in 1925. One spring day when Rev. Sinclair was returning the horse, he said, ‘Alex, that horse and I get along fine. If I have him another winter I think he’ll become a Unionist.’ Alex’s wit was at it’s usual peak, though his voice faltered a bit with his chronic stuttering as he replied, ‘That may be o.k, for a h-h-h-horse!’ Alex R. remained a bachelor all his days, and spent many years alone on the farm with his mother, who lived to the ripe old age of 93. As she was getting old her hearing became impaired, and she didn’t like to answer the phone. Alex advised her to just pick up the receiver and tell the caller where he was and when he’d be home. When he went to Murray River to do the weekly shopping, he instructed her to just say, ‘Alex is in Murray River. He’ll be home at noon.’ Unfortunately, Alex arrived in Murray River without the shopping list, and when he phoned home all he got was, ‘Alex is in Murray River. He’ll be home at noon.’ He called again and again, hoping to inform his mother who was calling. However, before he could say, ‘M-m-mmother’, he would hear repeated, ‘Alex is in Murray River. He’ll be home at noon’, and this was followed by a click of disconnection.
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