The mighty moose, felled

moose

“Where still the mighty moose wanders at will” went the words of a song many of us learned in school. This photo is how I like to think of moose – not what they look like when they have been hunted down and killed. (Photo from the website of the Canadian Wildlife Federation)

So there I was, standing at the ATM in the front lobby of the Toronto-Dominion Bank in Madoc, beside a window that looks out onto the village’s main intersection. Vehicles coming from all directions meet, stop, and give each other priority at this busy four corners. Cars pausing at the four-way stop while travelling north may bear people heading home from jobs in Belleville. Vehicles travelling east and west may be taking people to and from those edges of town, or further afield to Tweed (to the east) or Marmora (to the west). Or they may be bound all the way to Ottawa or Toronto or beyond.

As for those coming through from the north, down Highway 62 from Bancroft or places much more northerly than that: often they are huge trucks carrying logs cut from the woodlands up there, travelling to the mills in the south where they will be turned into lumber and/or paper products. Those trucks always remind me that not very far away from us here in the Queensborough area are vast swathes of Canada’s natural resources. In the summertime, meanwhile, you see cars and trucks pulling boat trailers, or with kayaks or bikes on the roof racks – cottagers and adventurers returning to the city from vacations on the lakes and rivers of the near north.

At this time of year, though, you see something else. You see the hunters returning with their trophies.

That is what caught my eye when I glanced out the window for a split-second while waiting for the ATM transaction to finish. There was a big pickup truck pulling a big trailer – nothing unusual so far. Then I saw something huge, pointy and broad. It registered: antlers, probably more than a yard across. And what was that massive rounded mound sticking so far above the side of the trailer? It was the size of my entire upper body. It was, of course, the muzzle of a moose. A gigantic moose. As the truck turned the corner to carry on southward, I could see the moose’s long legs tied together, also sticking up into the air.

My first reaction was shock at the sheer size of the beast. I’ve had few experiences with moose; there was a smallish one crossing the highway once in front of a car I was in (mercifully not travelling very fast); and after that, maybe a couple of stuffed ones in natural-history museums. But even that limited experience told me that the dead one I’d just seen was not your average moose. This was truly the “mighty moose” of that old Canadian folk song we learned in school. In the song, of course, the mighty moose, used as a symbol of the essence of Canada’s wildlands, “wanders at will.” Not this moose. Not any more. Never again.

My sadness about that is the more lasting reaction I’m having to the surprise sighting of the moose though the bank window. The sadness is sticking to me, so much so that I find myself writing about it quite a few days after the fact of spotting the moose’s carcass.

Hunting ad in the local paper

Ads like this in the local paper used to catch me by surprise. Not any more.

We live in an area where hunting season is huge. I have been away from the city long enough now that I am no longer surprised, or even taken aback, when our weekly newspapers have full-front-page ads for guns and other hunting gear come October and November. Or when the parking lots of local restaurants are a sea of trucks and trailers hauling rugged ATVs – groups of hunters stopping for a meal before heading into the bush. I have finally learned not to expect men to be available for social events or anything else in the weeks when deer hunting is open. I understand, and have written about, the camaraderie of the hunting camp. I totally get that hunting is extremely important for this area’s economy. I get it that it takes skill, endurance and hard work to be a good hunter, and that many, probably most, hunters have a deep respect for the animals that are their quarry. I know that they love the woodlands and the wilds that are so important to Canada, and that a lot of them work to protect those wild places.

All those things I know in my head.

But in my heart is this: a sadness that will not go away over the sight of that moose, that magnificent beast, killed and trussed up and being hauled south. And for what? Food? Maybe; maybe. A set of antlers on a wall? Probably. Is that really worth the death of such a magnificent – yes, mighty – creature, a symbol of our country?

Like I said, I get the hunting thing, that there are reasons for hunting to be allowed, that it’s important to many people (many of whom are my friends), for many reasons. All of that.

But I have a very hard time believing that anyone or anything in this world is better off because of the killing of that mighty moose. I mourn for him. And I think I always will.

The stories that we tell

Madoc Ontario c. 1960 (from postcard)

A postcard showing off the main street of Madoc in about 1960 (a very good year), generously shared by fellow central Hastings County storyteller Russell Prowse.

One of the absolute best things about being the creator, curator and general dogsbody here at Meanwhile, at the Manse is that quite often readers share their stories with me. This brings two large benefits. One, the stories are invariably enlightening and/or entertaining – whether they be about local (i.e. Queensborough-area) history, or about their own family history, or old-home-renovation success or horror stories, or memories from the mid-20th-century era when I was a kid growing up here at the Manse, or – well, whatever. And the second big benefit is that these stories provide me with interesting new material to in turn share with the readership as a whole, and thus to build up the amount of shared knowledge and anecdotes that one can find right here at Manse Central. And of course, stories that come in and are shared tend to prompt even more memories and stories. It’s a productive and happy little process.

Pigden Motor Sales sign at Bush Furniture

The old Pigden Motor Sales sign that made a brief reappearance during renovations to the exterior of the building’s current occupant, Bush Furniture.

Today I want to share a story that is not my own, but that is very close to home. It comes from reader Russell Prowse, who posted a comment a little while back on a post I did about the brief reappearance (due to some renovations at Bush Furniture in Madoc) of a long-ago sign from when the building housed Pigden’s Garage. Since some readers probably won’t have seen the comment, here’s what it said:

“I have a postcard of Madoc from about 1958 or 1959 which is a photo of Highway 62 in the centre of town, facing north. Directly opposite Kincaid Brothers’ Red & White Super Market and immediately south of the Madoc 5c & 10c store, beside the Cafe Moira, is a large sign over the western sidewalk that reads “Ford, Monarch, Falcon”. [Note from Katherine: I believe this would have been Brett’s Garage.] I imagine it identified only the office for the dealership. I can’t imagine there was any kind of showroom in that small storefront for any vehicles sporting those three venerable badges. I wish I could give further clarification, but I was a very young kid at the time, and my family of cottagers were just beginning our long relationship with Madoc’s main street. I’d love to send you a copy of the postcard if you’d be interested. Thanks for your great efforts in providing such happy memories. More power to you.”

Now if that isn’t the kind of comment to gladden a blog writer’s heart, I don’t know what is!

Of course I responded to Russell’s comment on the blog. But I also sent him a private email – when people post comments, I am able to see their email address, though other readers are not – thanking him for his kind words and issuing a hearty invitation to send along that vintage picture postcard of main-street Madoc. Which he did!

Now, it turned out that it was a picture that had crossed my path before, and that I’d written about after discovering it framed and hanging in the Madoc used-book store The Bookworm; that post is here. But my photo of it at the time of that post, back in 2014, was basically a picture of a picture, reflections in the glass and weird angle and all. Thanks to Russell scanning the postcard, you can see the real thing at the top of this post, and it is a lovely trip back in time for anyone who remembers Madoc in the middle of the last century.

But really, even better than the picture was Russell’s own story of his connection with Madoc and how he came to have that postcard. And so this evening I’m going to let him tell the story. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy:

My connection with Madoc is due to my family’s yearly summer visits to Steenburg Lake, north of Madoc, near the hamlets of Gilmour and St. Ola.

Our Mom would drive us up from Toronto on the last day of school and we’d return on Labour Day. We were so lucky. We have been going there for sixty years now, starting when I was about five, and we still own our cottage. The postcard (probably purchased at the Rexall) just slightly pre-dates my strongest memories of the street: I don’t remember Cafe Moira, but I certainly remember the Madoc five and dime for its bags of plastic toy soldiers and beach paraphernalia. I remember Stickwood’s, where we could buy Bell brand (as in Belleville) flannel shirts. I would look at the records at Pigden’s, and buy my comics at Johnston’s Rexall. But across the street, in Rupert’s, the other drug store, where the really, really nice white-haired man worked, I would gaze, week after week, with deep longing at an outstanding collection of harmonicas on sale. Harmonicas! Eventually I bought my first Hohner Chromatic there with, I suspect, a little financial help from him (the Chromatic’s the one with the little push button at the side, like Stevie Wonder plays, and it isn’t cheap), and the white-haired man tossed in his friendly encouragement as a bonus. I wish I could remember his name. I’ll never forget his kindness.

Our shopping day was Thursday, I think, and that meant lunches at Richard’s Restaurant, SW corner of 62 and 7, which we called Johnny’s because we believed that was the name of the man who ran it. I’ll have a turkey sandwich – all white meat, please – on white with fries and a chocolate shake, and excuse me but I have to get up and put a another dime in the jukebox for another play of “Surf City“. That would be the third play, actually, but nobody seemed to mind. I bloody loved that place!

sunset on Steenburg Lake

This is our part of the world: sunset over Steenburg Lake, a little over a half-hour’s drive north of Queensborough. (Photo from the “Scenes from the Lake” gallery at the website of the Steenburg Lake Community Association)

My Dad was the type of guy who went out of his way to get to know people, and that included Kel Kincaid. They were a lot alike, kind of boisterous and sometimes a little too in your face for some. But my Mom and Dad got to know everybody who worked at the Red & White and later the IGA and when we finally got a phone at the cottage they began the habit of calling ahead to the store’s butcher and ordering the week’s BBQ. They swore by “Madoc Meat”. At Steenburg (at the time, still known as Bass) Lake, about half the population of cottagers would make the trek north to Bancroft for supplies. But we always drove the couple of extra miles south to Madoc because we felt it was maybe a bit gentler, a bit friendlier. And for Mom and Dad, that lasted to end of their days. After Kel died and his daughter and son-in-law took over, the friendship continued and in fact they held a bit of a party for my parents’ 50th anniversary – a wonderful and sweet gesture.

I have always felt as though the town was mine too, even though I would only engage with it for a few months a year. I have mourned the losses over the years of the buildings on that street, and the fading of the town. It troubles me. Because I love it.

What absolutely wonderful memories! I think Russell has told the story of many, many families who have come from the city to spend summers enjoying the quiet lakes of central and northern Hastings CountyMoira Lake, Stoco Lake, Crowe Lake, Weslemkoon Lake and so on – and also enjoying their occasional visits to “town” for turkey sandwiches, shopping at the five and dime, and maybe the latest hits on the jukebox. As for sadness about Madoc not being as busy as it once was, I told Russell in my email reply that I too am sad for what is gone, but optimistic about the future thanks to the local-food movement that is starting to take effect in our area; the number of arts companies and arts projects (the arts being the lifeblood of interesting, healthy communities); and to the inevitable spinoff effects of the enormous popularity of our immediate geographical neighbour to the south, Prince Edward County. (Then again, do we really want the rest of the world to discover the secret of our own beautiful and semi-hidden part of the world? Maybe not.)

Anyway, the stories are just great.

As I was starting to think about writing this post, I found there was a long-ago and almost-forgotten song lyric running around in my head – something about “the stories that we tell.” As you can see, I used it for my title, but even at the time I wrote that title I couldn’t remember the song that the line came from. A bit of searching and some memory work finally turned it up, and I thought sharing it might be a nice way to end this post – what with Russell having got the music theme going with his recollection of playing Jan and Dean on the jukebox at Richard’s Restaurant in Madoc all those years ago. The song was written by John Sebastian, but the version I know (from the album called A1A) is by the one and only Jimmy Buffett. What he says at the end of this live performance pretty much goes for me tonight – to Russell and to all readers who share their memories: “Thank you for the stories; thank you for the fun!”

From the icy Northwest Passage to farm life in Ivanhoe

Gauen Cemetery historic-site sign

The newly erected historical-site sign along Highway 62 in the farm country just north of the central Hastings County hamlet of Ivanhoe. What’s it all about? Something very cool. Read on!

People, have you ever put the phrase “Northwest Passage” and “Ivanhoe” together in the same thought or sentence? My guess is that the answer is no, regardless of whether the word “Ivanhoe” conjures up for you the name of a novel by Sir Walter Scott or a hamlet in central Hastings County. So you may be surprised to learn that there is a very direct connection between the two, and I’m talking Ivanhoe the hamlet now – a place perhaps best-known as the home of the Ivanhoe Cheese Factory, one of the last of the dozens, if not hundreds, of cheese factories that once dotted Hastings County back when it was a full-on dairy-farming, cheese-producing place.

Now, readers of Meanwhile, at the Manse who happen to live in the QueensboroughMadoc-Tweed-Ivanhoe area will probably know what I’m about to get into here, because this very interesting story has been well-covered in our weekly newspapers recently. But since most of you live considerably outside the borders of Hastings County, I thought I’d share this very cool bit of local history. I mean, it doesn’t get much more Canadian-history than the Franklin Expedition’s search for the Northwest Passage, does it?

As most of us who can remember a bit of our Canadian history know, Sir John Franklin was head of a British expedition that in 1845 set off to try to find a way through the Northwest Passage, the elusive Arctic route that would have made 19th-century transportation between Asia and Europe phenomenally easier than it otherwise was (what with that long and pesky trip around South America and the Straits of Magellan and all that). Franklin’s ships, the gorgeously named Erebus and Terror, got stuck in the ice, and all 129 men aboard died.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have always found the story of the Franklin Expedition and the Northwest Passage to be quite haunting. To imagine those poor men slowly dying of cold and starvation (and let’s not even get into the cannibalism angle that their desperation drove them to) in that vast frozen emptiness, all in the great cause of discovery and exploration – it gives me shivers, and has ever since I was a kid growing up here at the Manse in Queensborough, when I first learned the story in history classes at Madoc Township Public School.

The famous – and also haunting – song called Northwest Passage by Canadian folk-music legend Stan Rogers probably also has something to do with that frisson that I feel. I’ll get to that song in a bit, though I’m sure many of you are familiar with it and it’s already running around in your head.

Anyway, as you probably remember, the fate of the Franklin Expedition was not known right away, which is hardly surprising; at a time when any form of communication was slow even when it was’t scarce, there certainly would have been no way for the men on the stranded expedition to let the world know of their plight. And so rescue missions were sent out. And that’s where the Ivanhoe connection to the story comes in. I will let the plaque at the site marked by the sign on Highway 62 tell the story (and if you’re having trouble reading it, just click on the photo for an enlargement):

Gauen Cemetery plaque

Now isn’t that something? A chap who served as a carpenter’s mate on a ship sent to find signs of the Franklin Expedition, and that mapped the Northwest Passage – a huge accomplishment – became an immigrant to Canada, a farmer at Ivanhoe, and one of the founders of the Ivanhoe Cheese Company. And he and his wife are buried on their farm, a place that is still being farmed all these years later.

And now, thanks to the work of the Madoc Lions Club, Gay Lea Foods (owner of Ivanhoe Cheese) and the Municipality of Centre Hastings, their graves have a historical marker and a plaque explaining the significance. You can watch the ceremony at which the tiny historic cemetery was dedicated this past September, in a video filmed by my friends at CHTV cable TV Madoc, here.

I think this is all very, very cool.

Here are some more of my photos of the site, in case you are not able to visit it yourself:

Gauen Cemetery

The small fenced-off cemetery where Henry Gauen and his wife, Mary, are buried. It’s right on a farm that is still very much in operation, and were it not for the sign pointing it out, most people driving by would certainly miss this interesting historic spot.

Henry Gauen

Henry Gauen himself, who became an important person in early central Hastings agricultural and business life. This photo is part of the plaque at the Gauen cemetery.

Franklin mission photo at Gauen cemetery

A painting about the Franklin Expedition and subsequent search, also from the plaque at the Gauen Cemetery. It shows a scene a long, long way from Ivanhoe.

Grave markers at Gauen Cemetery

The graves of Henry and Mary Gauen. Note how on Henry’s is marked “McClure Arctic Expedition,” Robert McClure having been the commander of the ship Investigator on which Henry sailed as part of a mission to find the Franklin Expedition. This is not something you find on many Hastings County grave markers!

I just think this is an amazing piece of local history, and I also think it’s wonderful that this tiny cemetery – where Henry Gauen, carpenter’s mate on a long and desperately dangerous mission to find the Franklin Expedition, lies buried – has been preserved and, now, suitably marked and honoured.

So hey, in the spirit of things, let’s listen to a group of young men from the University of Waterloo perform that haunting song by Stan Rogers about the Northwest Passage. And while you listen, think of Henry Gauen, who went from sailor and Arctic explorer to Ivanhoe farmer and cheesemaker. I’m sure he would agree with me when I say it seems like a safe and happy ending to an adventurous life. Tracing one warm line, so to speak:

Bonnie Hart, that is one heck of a 1960s music scrapbook!

John, Paul and George

I believe you know who these gentlemen are. It’s the yellowed, scotch-taped pages on which I found these photos that I want to tell you about. Remember scrapbooks?

“What should I write about for my Thanksgiving-weekend instalment of Mondays at the Manse?” was the question on my mind last Friday afternoon as I drove home to Queensborough after a long week at work. I was admiring the beautiful fall foliage as the northward-on-Highway-62 miles sped by when the answer came to me out of my radio, courtesy of an old Beatles song – I think it was Please Please Me. Freddy Vette, the hugely popular host of the afternoon/early evening show of 1950s and ’60s hits on good old CJBQ radio, was devoting the whole program to the music of John Lennon. Why? Because Friday would have been John Lennon’s 75th birthday. Wow.

(If you’re in the mood for a lot of John Lennon music, Freddy has posted the whole show on his blog. Click here for a listen.)

Anyway, those great old songs – many of which, I should add, date from the years when I was a kid growing up here at the Manse – got me thinking about something I’ve been wanting to share with Meanwhile, at the Manse readers. It is a treasure that came in the form of a gift from Raymond on my birthday this past July, and it was one of the best gifts ever. And appropriately enough, it came from a little antiques and collectibles shop in the hamlet of Ivanhoe, through which I zoomed on Friday on my way home as Freddy played Stand By Me and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and Norwegian Wood and so on.

It was a scrapbook, people! Remember scrapbooks? Yes, I know that “scrapbooking” is kind of a thing once again, but I confess that as a grammar nerd I am put off by the fake verb alone. So whatever people (and I believe it is grownups, not teenage girls) are putting in scrapbooks in 2015 – well, you’re on your own, folks. Not my thing.

Bonnie Hart's scrapbook

But this was a real scrapbook, a 29¢ product from the venerable Canadian company Hilroy, one in which a teenage girl of the 1960s – perhaps growing up somewhere in the Ivanhoe area, i.e. right here in Hastings County – had taped and pasted and otherwise preserved photos and news clippings and bubble-gum cards featuring primarily the Beatles but also a treasure trove of other 1960s bands and performers, including some rather weird and obscure Canadian ones. To flip through this scrapbook’s fragile, yellowed pages is to enter a lost world; it is an utterly delightful exercise in nostalgia.

Bonnie Hart

But before I show you some of those pages, a question: does anyone know who Bonnie Hart might be? I ask because Bonnie Hart was the maker and keeper of this scrapbook. I know this thanks to her signature on the front cover – along with the handwritten notation (though that might have been added later, perhaps by an antiques dealer) “67 Beatle Cards.” I imagine it’s eminently possible that teenage Bonnie Hart now has, these several decades later, a different last name because of marriage, but I would be tickled to death if any reader might be able to steer me to her. I’d like to say thanks for putting together such a fantastic scrapbook, and to assure her that it has found its way to a good home here at the Manse.

Anyway, I’m sure you’d like to see some of the pictures that Bonnie collected, and enjoy your own little trip through some musical nostalgia. So let’s go, starting with black-and-white Beatles bubble-gum cards:

Black-and-white Beatles cards

Wacky Beatle card

The Beatles as you’ve rarely seen them!

Paul and Ringo

Now we move into colour bubble-gum Beatles cards. Groovy!

Beatles cards in colour

And now we start to move on from the Beatles to some other classic bands. I’m feeling Glad All Over!

The Beatles and the Dave Clark Five

Ah yes, the competition – the Stones. And one of my own personal favourites, The Monkees!

The Rolling Stones and the Monkees

Peter Tork of The Monkees

I think Peter was Bonnie’s favourite Monkee. Me, I’m a Micky girl.

All right. Shall we move into the heady days of life in the canyons of Los Angeles with the Mamas and the Papas and friends?

John and Michelle Phillips

It looks like Bonnie was keen on The Lovin’ Spoonful‘s Zal Yanofsky, very probably because he was Canadian:

Zal Yanofsky

And now we start to get photos of bands that are (to put it mildly) not quite as much household names as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Monkees, the Mamas and the Papas and the Lovin’ Spoonful. The Fiends, anyone?

The Fiends

How about the Wee Beasties? Evidently a Toronto band; don’t you just love that the chaps’ outfits are by another venerable Canadian company, Tip Top Tailors?

The Wee Beasties

Okay, here’s The Trackers, apparently out of Rochester, N.Y.:

The Trackers

The Trackers

And The Westbury Union. Anybody know anything about them? Great outfits, guys!

The Westbury Union

I think we are now seriously into Canadian, and more specifically Toronto, bands. Ah, the Yorkville scene

The Last Words

Little Caesar and the Consuls

The Quiet Jungle

And here, people, is the absolute best. Have you ever heard of Marshmallow Soup Group? Well, neither had I. But after this photo from Bonnie’s scrapbook. you’re unlikely to forget them. After all, their slogan seems to have been “M.S.G. until eternity” …

Marshmallow Soup Group

Really, you could not make this stuff up. And I don’t just mean the weirdness of Marshamallow Soup Group. I mean the great days preserved in Bonnie Hart’s scrapbook: when Yorkville was a musical scene; when the Mamas and the Papas were living the Summer of Love in California in 1967; when the Monkees were starring in a goofy TV show and producing great pop songs; when the Dave Clark Five were hitting it out of the park with catchy, memorable stuff.

And when John Lennon was a young Beatle. Happy birthday, John, wherever you are.

And to Bonnie Hart (and Raymond): thank you so much for the memories!

Why the long A, Eldorado?

Eldorado sign

The sign at the southern entrance to the hamlet of Eldorado, just across the way from us here in Queensborough and straight up Highway 62 from Madoc. How would you pronounce it?

Okay, readers, I have yet another excellent central-Hastings-County mystery for you to solve! This one comes from a fellow reader, James, who tells me (in a comment he posted a couple of days ago, which you can find if you scroll way down here, in the “About” section of Meanwhile at the Manse ) that he moved to the area of the hamlet of Eldorado (just a few miles northwest of us here in Queensborough) a little over a year ago. (Welcome to our wonderful part of the world, James!) I know that some of you get alerts when new comments are posted so will have already seen it, but many of you do not. So for your benefit, here is James’s question:

All the history books and people from out of town refer to and pronounce Eldorado “El Dorado”, as it was originally called when the village was founded back in the gold mining days. As I understand, the name was shortened to “Eldorado” when the post office opened but the pronunciation is the same. Every other place or thing called Eldorado or El Dorado is pronounced the same way – like “Colorado”, “Cadillac Eldorado” or “Eldorado Gold”. I hear some locals say Eldorado with a long /ā/ sound, more like “Elder /ā/ do”. So my question is why? Do you know who started to pronounce it that way and possibly when?

Great question, James! Would that I had the answer.

Because you are absolutely right: anywhere and everywhere else in the world that the name El Dorado, or Eldorado, is used, it is pronounced with a soft A, as in the original Spanish. (Meaning “the gilded [or golden] one.”) If you click here, the knowledgeable folks at no less an organization than National Geographic will tell you all about the legend of El Dorado, and Sir Walter Raleigh, and why all kinds of real, or once-real, or illusory, or hoped-for, mining towns (like our very own Eldorado, Hastings County, Ont., site of the brief but ever-so-exciting 19th-century gold rush that James refers to) got that name. Pronounced (in all those other cases) with a soft A.

But not here! Here in Hastings County (and environs), we seem to like our hard As, as another reader, Wendy, pointed out in a response to James’s query. She even invoked a matter close to my heart (I wrote about it here), which is the mysterious pronunciation of the name of the small but for some reason well-known hamlet (in neighbouring Lennox and Addington County) of Kaladar:

I have wondered about the pronunciation myself in recent years, although not during the time I was growing up in MAYdoc. It seems to be a bit of a HastingsCountyism to insert the long A sound in names that would otherwise be pronounced with a short a. Many local people also call Kaladar, KaladAAr. (difficult to describe). Who knows when this all began?!

Wendy’s comment reminded me that people who don’t know the proper pronunciation of Madoc (which is “town” for us here in Queensborough, and which is, as Wendy says, pronounced MAYdoc) tend to assume it is something along the lines of “MeDOC,” as in a certain region of France. And yes, those same people would probably never think to pronounce Kaladar as “KalaDARE” – but that’s the more common version here where we live.

Is it possible that the hard A is an Ottawa Valley regionalism, and we are just close enough to the Ottawa Valley to have inherited it? Is there any chance that it’s a tendency that came here thanks to the specific part of the British Isles that many Hastings County settlers came from? Could the United Empire Loyalists have anything to do with it? I could throw out as a possibility the strong francophone influence that we have historically had in this area, but French is not at all big on hard As, so it can’t be that.

Perhaps it’s just that the rugged inhabitants of this rugged part of the world (“The Country North of Belleville,” to quote Al Purdy) decided that soft As were a little too fancy-schmancy for them, and by god they were going to pronounce things a little harshly, just as life here in Shield country was being harsh to them.

People, what do you think? Any theories?

Sprucing up a historic old place

White Lake Pioneer Cemetery

If you have to be buried somewhere – and we pretty much all do – the tree-filled White Lake Pioneer Cemetery, built on a hill, is a nice-looking place for it, don’t you think?

In the interest of being first on the scene with the local news – remember I am a journalist; and hey, it was me who brought you the story of the mysterious arty signs in Madoc and what they were all about, before the official news media got to it – I thought that tonight I’d tell you about some work being done at a very historic spot. And, since the local weekly papers don’t show up in newsboxes and mailboxes until tomorrow or Thursday, I think I’ve got a scoop!

Mind you, I will confess that I haven’t had time to find out the “who” or the “why” behind this story, though I can surmise them. Also, I expect one or more of my readers might be able to supply that missing information. No, I’m just documenting yet another interesting thing I’ve spotted in my daily travels through central Hastings County – and I’ve got the “what” and the “where” covered.

What it is is some kind of cleanup/tree-thinning work at the White Lake Pioneer Cemetery, which is where some of the earliest residents of that tiny hamlet just a bit south of Madoc off Highway 62 are buried. You can read an interesting article here, from a couple of years ago, about the history of the cemetery – it has headstones dating back as far as 1847 – and one local family’s good work at keeping it in good shape. (There are some great photos too.) And here you can see closeup photos of its headstones. Recognize any names?

Trees cut at White Lake Pioneer Cemetery

This photo shows the simple sign at the White Lake Pioneer Cemetery and some of the downed trees after the work bee that took place there late last week.

I think the tall, tall trees in this old cemetery are what make it so visually arresting, but I imagine that such trees need to be thinned now and again, and as far as I can tell that was what was going on during a work bee I spotted the other morning on my daily drive to my job in Belleville. I don’t yet know (this is the “who” part) whether the work was being done by volunteers or by the Centre Hastings works department. But as far as I can tell, this project has not hurt the place aesthetically; there are still lots of great tall trees there, and as of my commute home this afternoon the downed logs had been removed.

I imagine the pioneer families of Huntingdon Township (which is what the area was before it merged with the village of Madoc to become Centre Hastings) – the people who had braved a perilous ocean crossing to come to this rough country and start a new life, who had chopped down so many trees with their axes to clear land and create places for modest homes and barns, and who chose that pretty little hill as the place to bury their departed loved ones – would be pleased to know that so many years hence, people would still be taking care that all was shipshape.

And I bet they would have been awfully envious about the chainsaws.

Memories of my father, on a late-winter drive on Rimington Road

Rimington Road and Cedar School Road

Rimington Road and Cedar School Road, a main intersection on the back-roads drive between Queensborough and Eldorado – and a place my father would have known well, having driven that route hundreds of times.

Dad

My dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick.

I was reminded of my late father, Wendell Sedgwick (or The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, if you prefer) in a nice way today. But before I tell you that story, I’ll explain for possible newcomers here at Meanwhile, at the Manse that the reason my husband, Raymond, and I are living here in this old manse in Queensborough, Ont., is because we decided to buy the house I grew up in; and I grew up in this house because Dad (The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick) was the minister of the United churches in this area when I was a kid. And the minister (and his family, which included me) would of course live in the manse connected with the churches on the local pastoral charge.

Okay, that’s the back story; now we return to me being reminded of Dad. I was driving home from work in Belleville, and after stopping to do errands in Madoc I decided to head homeward out of that town via Highway 62. It’s not my usual route, but I like to vary things a bit; sometimes I take 62 north and then cross eastward over to Cooper Road (and thence Hazzard’s Corners and home to Queensborough) via Riggs Road or Hazzards Road or Public School Road. (If you’re not from here and are having trouble following the geography, don’t worry. It doesn’t matter all that much in the overall scheme of my story).

Today my plan was to take Public School Road. But due to my daydreaming, enjoyment of the late-afternoon springlike sunshine, and singing along to Petula Clark singing I Know a Place (on Freddy Vette‘s excellent radio show of 1950s and ’60s songs on CJBQ, 800 on your AM dial), I completely missed the turn. No worries, I thought; I’ll head north to Eldorado and take Rimington Road.

Now, Rimington Road is an east-west route that my dad used to use when travelling between Queensborough, where home (the Manse) and St. Andrew’s United Church were located, and Eldorado, where there was Eldorado United Church (also part of his pastoral charge) and its parishioners who lived in the surrounding area.

Late-day late-winter sunshine, Rimington Road

Late sun on a late-winter afternoon, Rimington Road, Madoc Township.

And so it was natural that I was thinking of Dad as I travelled that old country road, which – it struck me as I drove – probably hasn’t changed all that much in all the years since Dad last travelled it in one of our family’s old and always-breaking-down Pontiacs or Chevs. The farms that are along that road are the farms that were there then. It was lined then, as now, by the split-rail fences built by pioneering farm families:

split-rail fence, Rimington Road

So I tried to look at the road, and my drive, through Dad’s eyes. And as I did so, I also remembered how he would have felt had he been driving home to the Manse at that very hour of the day (shortly before 6 p.m.) on a late-winter afternoon. He would have been feeling: full.

Here’s why. In those long-ago days when Dad was a young minister and I was a very young child, ministers used to go out “visiting” – stopping in at the homes of parishioners to say hello and offer spiritual or material help if needed, and just generally be sociable. It was an expected part of a minister’s job, and something he (or, very rarely back then, she) did several days a week. The families the minister would be visiting, here in our area, were by and large farm families, remember; so both husband and wife would probably be home, or at least on the property, when Dad stopped by of an afternoon.

(Just the other day a longtime parishioner of St. Andrew’s United was telling me fondly about how, when Dad showed up for a visit at their home, he’d head out to the barn or the fields where her husband was working and happily help out as they talked. I wrote here about how work was the primary theme of my dad’s life; he grew up working hard on a farm, and he continued to work hard on that family farm even when he became a minister. And as a minister to farm families, he was more than happy to help out on parishioners’ farms when that help was needed.)

Anyway, here’s the thing: at every house Dad would visit, the wife would insist on him having tea and food. Perhaps savouries like sandwiches and pickles and cheese; but absolutely and without question sweets like homemade cookies and squares and tarts. And “No thank you, I’ve already eaten at other homes” would not be an acceptable response when such goodies were offered. So Dad’s afternoon of visiting would entail consuming gallons of strong tea and endless cookies and squares and sandwiches and pieces of cheese.

He would arrive home at the Manse – having followed my route today along Rimington Road, if he’d been visiting in the Eldorado area – practically groaning with repleteness. And there on the kitchen table, right inside the front door, would be: dinner.

I have to give it to my father: as full of tea and cookies as he might have been, he always did justice to whatever my mum served up. Dad was not one to see food wasted, or anyone’s efforts in preparing a meal underappreciated. But oh, how he did moan sometimes at how very much he’d felt obliged to consume that afternoon.

Not in a bad or complaining way, though. Dad was always extremely appreciative of the kindness and hospitality he’d received on his visits, and the friendly exchanges he’d had – perhaps with a bit of forking manure or repairing of a tractor thrown in.

All of that came to mind this late afternoon as I drove home to the Manse, in the last of the late-afternoon winter sunshine, along Rimington Road. And even though I wasn’t full of tea and sweets, I too felt appreciative: of how past and present come together in this place for me; of the beauty of the landscape; and most especially of my memories of my dad.