The other morning something caught my eye as I glanced out a window of the Manse’s kitchen into the back yard. It appeared to be a yellowed piece of old newspaper, and it was lying in the middle of a pathway I had recently shovelled through the snow at the rear of the house.
“What is that and how did it get there?” I absent-mindedly wondered. We don’t have curbside recycling pickup in Queensborough, so it wasn’t something that had blown out of a neighbour’s blue box. And given that it’s the dead of winter and absolutely nothing is doing in our back yard – me shovelling that path had been the only human activity there for two or three months – it seemed doubly mysterious that this apparent bit of old newsprint had appeared in that location.
The next day I had occasion to be out in the back yard, so I picked up the crumpled piece of paper and brought it indoors. And sure enough, it was from an old newspaper: it was about a quarter of the editorial page of the Toronto Star, August something-or-other (the actual date is torn away), 1992. Much as I’d like to think 1992 was, like, yesterday, it actually isn’t. This was vintage news!
And here’s what was quite something about that old editorial page: front and centre on it was an editorial cartoon (or what was left of it; this was only a partial page, as I’ve mentioned) by the person who is perhaps Canada’s foremost editorial cartoonist, the great Aislin – whom I also know as my pal Terry Mosher, because Terry is the editorial cartoonist at the Montreal Gazette and, in that capacity, worked with me (in my own capacity as Gazette editor in charge of opinion) until my move and career change last October, from The Gazette in Montreal to the Manse in Queensborough (and a fresh challenge as a professor of journalism at Loyalist College in nearby Belleville).
If there are any readers with long, long memories, you might recognize that this is the second time I’ve found a scrap of old newspaper at the Manse wherein the work of an immediate Gazette colleague was front and centre. The last time, early in 2012 (not long after Raymond and I bought the place, and first reported here) the discovery was a piece of a news story from the 1970s by renowned political reporter Hubert Bauch. At the time the article was written, Hubie was with the Globe and Mail; but at the time of our discovery of it (pasted to a floorboard in a Manse bedroom), he was (as he still is) The Gazette’s chief editorial writer, whose boss was – me!
Interesting coincidences, non? But there’s more to tell than just coincidences.
Later on the same day that I made the discovery of that 1992 Star page, I also discovered how it had got to be where I found it. I was again glancing out a window into the back yard, and I saw a black squirrel squeezing its way through the pagewire fence that divides the Manse’s yard from the property to the immediate north, where there is a very old house (probably one of the oldest in Queensborough) where a gentle soul named Wallace Kincaid lived when I was a kid at the Manse, but that has not been lived in for some years. In the squirrel’s mouth was something kind of whitish-yellow. Like – a piece of old newsprint.
Once Mr. Squirrel had made it through the fence, he made a beeline for the back wall of the Manse, where we got a good closeup look at him. Close enough to see that what he was carrying was indeed yet another piece of old newsprint, doubtless retrieved from some cranny of Mr. Kincaid’s old house. And what was Mr. Squirrel doing with the newsprint? Why, scampering up the old tower for our (probably useless) TV antenna, to the general vicinity of the roof. To add to the nest that doubtless he – Oh, wait a minute. She? – is building in some cranny of our house. Where an animal’s nest should not be. Because animal nests inside a building’s crannies are not particularly good for it.
But what can you do? It was a cold and snowy Sunday. There was really no way that Raymond and I could prevent the squirrel from providing for its family at that particular juncture. I hope that when we start renovations on the house we can get rid of any animal nests that may be inside it. But that’s for spring. For now, the Squirrel Family can read that August 1992 issue of the Toronto Star to its heart’s delight.
Unfortunately, though, they might not be able to laugh at the editorial cartoon. I think I stole the punchline.