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My Berry Pickin' Gran
This story is about my grandmother, Frances McCarthy, who was an avid berry picker. She was a lovely woman who influenced my life to this day and taught me values and morals that I hold dear. On her berry picking trips she always carried her famous yellow berry bucket. Gran lived to pick berries. Every chance she got she was off to the barrens and marshes. Partridgeberries, blueberries, bakeapples, marshberries -either was her specialty. I often followed her on trips, and remember the squish-squish of her rubber boots on the soggy trail ahead of me. She always took care to remind me of branches that might snap my face as she went on. Her old yellow bucket was worn thin from so many berries and she carried it with pride. We were sure to have a boil-up in the woods at lunchtime. Gran could always start a fire from damp wood, much to my amazement. I can still taste the tea and molasses bread from those lunches. Gran protected me from the flies by greasing me up with fatback pork, which I despised, on my face. Her energy was limitless when she was berry picking. She always looked after me, made sure my bucket was filled, and often carried it for me. Gran has passed on now, but in my memory she will always be my berry pickin' Gran.
The Dandelion: A Worthy Adversary
Every year in spring our lawns and gardens are yellow with the dandelion flower. They pop up everywhere and spread like wild fire. Even though they are a plant from the weed family, they are still pretty smart when necessary. They send their roots in the ground. They can rarely be pulled completely out of the ground. They snap or break off flush with the ground. This way they can regrow quickly. In the spring they send up hollow tubes like periscopes crowned with a bright yellow flower, loaded with seeds to be spread around. They don't care where they land as they only want to complete their cycle and reproduce. As time passed they learned man had made lawn mowers and hated dandelions, and was constantly cutting them down. The dandelion would soon become a worthy adversary and use man for their own use. As before in the spring time when nature's urge to reproduce reached its peak, the dandelion would load up on seeds, send up disposable hollow tubes like periscopes. As man saw this, he was quick to use his lawn mower and began to cut them down, as the blades from the lawnmower cut off the flower it spread the seeds far and wide. The dandelion just laughed and laid back, his mission completed. Their seeds spread for next year, now they taught their offspring how to avoid its danger. If and when they heard a lawnmower, to keep close to the ground or lie flat, as the blades were passing over head, simply duck till the mower passed over. The unwary or old sometimes lost a few leaves or just the tops, but would regrow again. Yes the lowly dandelion can be a very worthy adversary. Written by Leonard Bemisier
Cleanliness is next to Holiness
While growing up, many, many times I remember my mother repeating the words "cleanliness is next to holiness." We did not have bathroom facilities, but during the cold and winter months, every Saturday night water would be heated and poured into the large galvanized washing tub where I would bathe. So I kept relatively clean. The summer months were altogether different. I was clean always, sometimes three times per day I would be swimming, so I was holier than thou. As a group of teenagers, we had a very special place to shower. It was private, secret, supposed to be off-limits to us, but as teenagers we availed of the opportunity there. On warm weekends we would walk two miles east on the railway track to the watering chute, activate the water control with a rock tied to the rope, shower and skinny dip until tired or time to leave. We were doing just that one day when someone shouted out a train was approaching. No time to shut off the water supply, only to gather our clothes and run for cover. The train was heading west powered by two steam locomotives. The engineer on the first engine saw the water and closed his window. The second one was not as lucky. Having no control of the train, he was sitting back with arms crossed, cap down over his eyes, maybe taking a nap. If so, he must have got a surprise. The last we saw of him he was half out of his cab looking back wondering what was going on. We finished and headed home. Near the Southwest River bridge, a speeder with two men on board stopped and inquired about our whereabouts. After more questions, and lies, and because our clothes were not wet they thought we were not involved so they moved on. I may have told my parents where I had been, but nothing more. The following week in school the teacher made an announcement that we were having a visitor. A policeman was coming to investigate the illegal use at the chute. The policeman was a tall man, wore a black uniform with silver buttons, and carried a billy the size of a baseball bat. He went to all the older boys asking questions and demanding answers. Nobody broke down or gave any information. He gave up and went to the teacher, congratulating him on his tight-lipped students. After a stern lecture he left the school. His appearance must have scared us some. We became good, good boys and never went back for the rest of the season.
Island Biscuits I call them Island biscuits because it was a popular recipe in many Island vintage cookbooks. My mother's recipe did not call for an egg and she specified Maple Leaf Lard but not the amount, and all it said was to add milk to make a nice dough. 2 cups of all-purpose flour 4 teaspoons of baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons sugar 1/3 cup shortening or lard 1 egg 3/4 - 1 cup milk 1.Pre-heat oven to 4250 F. 2.Whisk dry ingredients into large bowl. 3.Cut in shortening and blend until fine. 4.Whisk egg and milk together and start by stirring in 3/4 of a cup into the dry ingredients until the dough comes together. If the dough is still dry, add a little more milk but no more than another 1/4 cup of milk. Tip dough onto floured surface and knead lightly no more than 5 or 6 times. Flatten dough with your hands or rolling pin until it is 3/4-inch-thick and cut with biscuit cutter or a sharp knife. Do not twist the cutter. 5.Arrange on a lined baking sheet with each biscuit slightly touching each other. Brush top of the biscuit with milk. 6.Bake for 10-12 minutes or until tops are golden. Makes 8 biscuits. Author's notes: You can substitute 1/2 cup (note change in measurement) of cold butter for the shortening or lard. I substituted plain yoghurt instead of the milk and they were light and fluffy and delicious! Source: The Biscuit Bible by Dolores Griffin
IMMORTAL LOVE By Dolores Griffin Softly he treads upon the earth so gentle as not to stir, the restless bones of a memory that once he shared with her. Upon the rock that marks her grave they pledged their love for life. It was not to be a love to age for fate had spun a web of strife. The trees sway in rhythm to his sighs, and the leaves whisper in sorrow. Silently, the grass bends its blades to mourn the loneliness of one against tomorrow. The heartbeat is slowing, the senses are numb, as his sorrow now drowns in passion deep. For he shall be no longer one alone But united as two, in death do they meet.
The MacLean Method of Writing
The MacLean Method of Writing By Dolores Griffin If you attended elementary school between 1921 and 1965, you will remember making those continuous ovals, and loops within two lines and repetitive writing of certain phrases, while holding your arm and hand just so. Writing was taught using a handbook called the MacLean Method of Writing. It was based on three Rs: slant, spacing and size. I remember spending hours practicing how to do those swirls. But did you know that Henry Bovyer MacLean was a minister's son born at Mount Herbert, PEI in 1884. After completing his education at Prince of Wales College in Prince Edward Island, Mr. MacLean began teaching at the age of 17 in a one-room schoolhouse on the Island, for which he earned the annual salary of $125. He later became vice-principal and later principal at the new Macdonald Consolidated School at Hillsborough from 1905 to 1909. In 1916, with the lure of higher wages and opportunities for advancement, Mr. MacLean moved to B.C. and held several educational positions. In 1916, he joined the staff of the Vancouver Normal School and taught grammar, school law, and penmanship. After numerous complaints by teachers of poor student penmanship, Mr. MacLean was asked to be chairman of a committee to recommend a good writing manual. The Committee reviewed various manuals from other countries and when the author of the U.S version would not accommodate changes, Mr. MacLean offered to develop not only a teacher's manual but also the compendium for each elementary grade level. Over the summer of 1921 Henry and his brother-in-law Rowan MacKenize did just that. His wife May handled distribution, billing, and kept the records, and in later years, daughter Jean took over this role. His publisher designed the MacLean's pen nibs and 'Best Ever' pencils, as well as lined scribblers for practice. His method was based on repetition. It called for a sweeping, full-arm movement, proper paper placement and rhythmic writing movement, correct posture, and pen-holding. Pupils wrote endless versions of the MacLean maxim, "Practice makes perfect." They also scribbled countless renditions of a sentence famous for including all 26 letters: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." A common reward for achieving fluency in the style was a certificate. Over the years, most provinces, excepting Alberta and the Territories, adopted the MacLean Method. MacLean was dedicated to his work and offered many of his services for free including, diagnostic and remedial reports to teachers, graded series of lessons, presentations at teachers' conferences, and numerous school visits. He continued to edit and revise his manual even after 1966 and adapted it to include the introduction of the ball-point pen in 1961. He was criticized by some teachers and most students as being too regimented and as one Vancouver columnist wrote for being "Gestapo-minded creature." MacLean nevertheless included in every edition of his manual that "the pupil's enjoyment of his writing should not be hampered by undue emphasis upon the mechanics." He recommended teachers encourage left-handed children to write with their right hand, but if not possible, to offer assistance in developing proficiency in the use of the left hand. However, most people may not know that Mr. MacLean also worked with the police, banks, lawyers, and all levels of government on cases involving forgery or what was referred to as "questioned documents." After his retirement, this became his new business. In addition, he was also an accomplished magician and often combined a demonstration on penmanship with a magic show. Mr. MacLean died in 1975 in Vancouver at the age of 91. Sources: an article by Tom Hawthorne, published in the Globe and Mail in 2010, and one by Shirley Cuthertson, published in the B.C. Historical News, Vol.32 issue 1 (winter 1998/99)
The Dogcatchers Lament
THE DOG CATCHER'S LAMENT By John A. Viau How would you like a job that pays $425.00 per month and which requires you to be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, Christmas and New Years included? Well that's what my job as the Ormstown Municipality dog catcher paid. Oh yes, I really should mention that you get $30.00 for each stray dog that you pick up and $3.00 per day to board the dog for a maximum time of 3 days or 72 hours. After 3 days time, the dogcatcher can dispose of the dog as he sees fit and if the animal has to be euthanized, the municipality pays the fee. The salary of $425.00 requires that the dogcatcher makes regularly scheduled patrols of all the roads in the municipality and investigate reports of dogs trespassing on private and public property. Also, dog owners have to be warned that their dogs cannot be allowed to run loose and use the neighbours lawns and shrubbery for a toilet. If the owners of footloose dogs do not comply and keep their pets at home, then the dogcatcher has to serve the owners with a notice of infraction and somewhere in the next 4 to 12 months, they will have to go to court to answer the complaint, and the dogcatcher has to appear also to pursue the charges. In almost 100% of the cases, the owners are fined a small amount, usually in the range of $50.00 to $100.00 and almost always the owner will keep his dog at home and tied up thereafter. But on 2 separate occasion in the last 5 years the complaints just kept coming and I kept serving the notices of infraction and in one case the fines totaled up to almost $1700.00, and in the other about $1250.00. At times the job can be dangerous both from the standpoint of being bitten by a vicious or badly frightened dog or attacked by a belligerent dog owner. In the last 12 years, I've been bitten by dogs 8 times and had my life threatened by dog owners about a dozen times. Needless to say, I take all the required precautions to avoid being bitten, but sometimes no matter what you do to prevent being bitten, it just happens. If you have been bitten, and have managed to catch the dog, then it must be confined for a period of 10 days to see if it develops rabies. But if you have been bitten and the dog escapes, then you must go to the local emergency room and sit there for up to 6 hours or more to be examined and the doctor will determine if you should be vaccinated to prevent a possible case of rabies. During my career as dog catcher, I have picked up hundreds and hundreds of dogs of every size, shape, and breed. Strange to say, despite all the bad publicity about pit bulls, I have never had a problem with this breed of dog, and believe you me, I picked up a lot of them. They have to be handled prudently and sternly and you always have to be on guard at all times. But then all dogs, big and small, must be handled carefully. I was once bitten by a little beagle puppy about 2 months old that opened my thumb right down to the bone and I never lost so much blood in my life. The poor little fellow was terrified and after I had him for a few months, he turned into the most lovable pet you could find anywhere. Many of the dogs I pick up have been badly mistreated, beaten, starved and neglected. Some of these animals are ruined irretrievably, and sadly there is no other choice but to have them euthanized. Mixed breed dogs over 6 months old are hard to get adopted but purebred dogs, puppies up to 8 weeks and small breed dogs up to about 3 years old can often be placed with new owners. If you are looking for a dog I suggest you try your local pound or go on the internet and look over the websites of the numerous animal adoption agencies. They often have some really beautiful dogs available at a fraction of the price you would pay to a breeder. If you have a stray cat in Ormstown you are out of luck because the municipality does not pay me to pick up stray cats. I get on the average about 20 calls a week from irate citizens wanting me to pick up stray cats and kittens but there is nothing I can do to help them. Once I returned home on a bitterly cold January afternoon with the temperature hovering around 20 below zero Celsius with a fierce west wind blowing about 40 mph to find a cardboard box with 4 tiny little kittens frozen solid as a rock. Aren't there some real bastards in this old world of ours? Yes, I guess there are! Every January my job requires that I go to every single residence on every street and every road in the municipality of Ormstown to sell dog licenses. A single dog license costs $15.00 and a kennel license costs $50.00. I make $5.00 on a single license and $10.00 on a kennel license. If you could go to every house and find 100% of the people home and if everybody had the money to pay you on the spot, it wouldn't be too bad. But such is not the case. Usually on any given day, 50% of the people aren't at home. About 10% of the people hide and won't answer the door, about 10% of the people tell you to come back at the end of the month when their old age pension check comes in or on the first of the month when their welfare check arrives. Finally about 30% of the people have the money ready, pay you and get it over with. Three times last year while out selling licenses, I had my life threatened and had to call the police to sort things out and warn the people who had threatened me that they couldn't go around threatening the poor dog catcher because he wanted them to buy a license for their dog. The police are very helpful and in some cases the only recourse is to call the police and let them handle the situation as they see fit. In some cases the people threatening me are either drunk or on drugs and sometimes on both. Personally I find the dogs are usually easier to handle than are their owners. A few years back I picked up 2 beautiful purebred Rottweilers and had them at my kennel for 2 days when the owner called me up and wanted to know if I had picked up his dogs. I told him I had his 2 dogs and he would have to pay the pick up fee of $30.00 per dog and 2 days board at $3.00 per day per dog, for a total of $72.00. The gentleman then asked me if I could deliver the 2 dogs to his house and gave me the address. I said sure for an additional $10.00 I'd be happy to deliver them. He then started to curse and call me every dirty name in the book and told me he wasn't going to pay me one bloody cent and if I didn't deliver his dogs to him within half an hour, I was dead! This brilliant individual soon had the police knocking at his door and they handled the situation. I got my money, the big mouth got his dogs back and I got an apology and a promise to never bother me again. Don't get me wrong, there are some real jerks I have met in the course of my job, but you also meet some really nice people, many of which have become good friends. All in all, I guess my job was like many others, it had its good points and its bad points. But to be perfectly truthful, I don't miss it at all since I have retired.
THE ELEVATOR We got off the train at Sheppard Station in Toronto to change to the East Way Line. It was rush hour and in order to do that we needed to run to the elevator as many other passengers. I was dragging my 3 and a half-year-old grandson who was licking his ice-cream cone. We got there right on time and in a couple of seconds the elevator was filled to maximum allowed. At the time the door was closing it reversed and started to open again. A lady in the crowd out side had pressed the button. - I am sorry, she said. Somebody clicked 'door close' inside but when it was about to shut, it opened again. It happened for three times. The faces of the crowd in the small space of the elevator started to show pissed off, but Canadians in general are polite people. It was then when the calmed but strident voice of my grandson was heard from below: - Listen Lady ... you have to let the elevator go before you press the button! - and calmly continued licking his ice cream. Everybody smiled with admiration. A gentleman asked me: - How old is he? -Three and a half years old I said. -Huff! I can not imagine how he will be at 12! The years have gone fast, he has truly succeed and now is going to University.
Who feels the pain?
Mount Pleasant Cemetery in St. John's is where my Dad was buried in 1988, and my mom's ashes were placed in the same plot after she died in 2009. They lived most of their life together and now they are spending eternity as one. Holy Cross Cemetery in Richmond Hill, Ontario is where my first born son Arthur (named by my wife in honor of my father who became a surrogate dad to her when she was sixteen) was buried in 1970. When my wife loses her battle with cancer her ashes will be placed in Arthur's grave and again, and for eternity, they will be one. Living without my two Arthurs has not been easy but I have have had "life-support" via my wife Mary to help me cope and maintain a semblance of order to my life. But I do not know how much longer my life-support will be with me and "Living with Cancer" despite the books, brochures and on-line publications that I have read, continues to cause upheaval in my life and sleepless nights that are too numerous to count. But, life goes on, and I try to help my precious Mary navigate that "troubled road" until the Big C takes full and final control of her and ends my "raison d'etre." Her life on earth was troubled from the day she was born and only she can know the pain. I can only imagine how the pain she feels would feel to me.