Among the Forrest Trees Chapter XII - Sowing
By the first of May
John had the ground ready for his spring wheat and oats. He had
brought with him some tools, a thing that every man going into the
bush ought to do. If necessity is not the mother of invention, it
certainly is a mighty stimulant to the inventor. At the dictation of
necessity men not only adapt themselves to new modes of living, but
they frequently become experts at new methods of securing a
livelihood. Mechanics become farmers, and farmers are turned into
mechanics, and both become something else, as circumstances change.
And a man that can
not, or will not try to comply with these demands of new country
life, should never think of being a pioneer. If he does, the chances
against his success are fully nine to one; and it is a moral
certainty that he will have a desperate hard time of it at best. A
man that can't make a handle and hang an axe, or grind and hang a
scythe, had better allow some one else to do the pioneering, and
wait till the country is supplied with the various tradesmen before
he goes to live in it.
People who have no
ingenuity about them have no business in the backwoods, not even as
hunters, lest they get lost and are never heard of more, or are
found only in a condition to be buried.
But John Bushman was
not one of this sort. He had energy and ingenuity. And although he
had spent his boyhood and youth on his father's farm, he had got a
good many mechanical ideas, and about home he was called "handy,"
whatever that means.
He went to work and
made himself a three square harrow, or drag, as it was often called
in those days. But he made one slight mistake in putting in the
teeth. Instead of putting them in straight, or slanting them back a
little, he slanted them forward a little. And it was wonderful how
that harrow would tear up the ground. But it was also marvellous how
it would hold on to a stump or a root when it caught fast to them.
John was well pleased
with his work, and he made that harrow do service for two or three
years. He said he could afford to stop and lift it when it got fast,
because it did such good work when it was moving.
Next morning, after
breakfast, John said to Will and Mose, "Boys, I want you and Mary to
come out and see me sow some wheat."
"What for?" inquired
"Because in after
years, when this country is all cleared up, and everything is
changed, I want you to be able to say, that you saw the first
handful of grain sown in this township. It will be something for you
to tell your children of, you know,"
said Will. "Yes, John, I like your suggestion. But is it not
wonderful how soon married folks learn to talk like fathers and
"We were children not
long ago," said Mose, "and I remember how I always liked to hear my
mother tell about things that happened when she was a girl."
"Well, come on," said
John. "But, hold a moment. Mary, I want a couple of pieces of cloth
of some kind for flags, so that I can go straight, and sow even."
"Will white towels
do?" she inquired.
"Yes, anything that I
can tie on the end of a stake, and see it across the field," said
John took the cloths
and fastened them to two stakes, one of which he placed at each end
of the ground to be sowed. Then he began to march with a measured
step across the ground, and scattered the seed wheat broadcast as he
went backward and forward.
After he had gone a
few rounds Mary said to Will and Mose, "He looks like a farmer
already, don't he?"
"Yes, he does," said
Then turning to
Moses, Will Briars said, "Look here, my friend, we have got to
hustle things pretty lively, or John will leave us so far behind in
the race that we will forget that we started with him. He goes at
everything in a systematic way, and he seems always to do his best
at everything he undertakes. These, you know, are the men that come
"Yes, that is true,"
said the other. "And we may very safely take him for a pattern in
more ways than one. But is it not time we were going to work?"
"Don't get too proud
of your farmer, Mary," they said to her as they went off to their
By this time John had
got ready to start the harrow. He had often driven a team to harrow
on his father's farm, but this was the first time that he had his
own team hitched to his own harrow, and putting his own grain into
his own ground.
He started to work,
and as the harrow teeth tore up the fresh, black soil, John thought
that he had never seen finer land. And as he walked along behind the
oxen, and watched his work, with an occasional glance at Mary, who
sat in the door looking at him at his work, John took a sort of
mental inventory of his possessions. First, and foremost, there was
his young and prudent wife, next came his two hundred acres of good
land, then his cattle and other property, then his health and
dexterity, then his kind friends. "All these," he said to himself,
"with an approving conscience, and the assurance of Divine favor,
ought to make any man happy."
He worked away with a
light heart, and by the time the other men carne home from their
work he had one bushel of wheat nicely harrowed in. The next day was
Sabbath, and it was spent much the same as was the last one, only
there was less variety in the exercises, as there were not so many
to take part in them. But it was a day of rest and refreshment to
all of them.
As the evening came
on, and as they sat around the fire, Moses said to the rest of them,
"Do you know that since I changed my course of life I have more real
enjoyment in one day than I had in a whole year before. I used to
think that, for a young person, a religious life was like a winter's
fog, both dark and freezing. But I never knew what heart sunshine
was until I gave my heart to the Master."
"I believe you,
Moses," said John. "I have had the same kind of experience, and can
testify that what you say is true."
"But, John," replied
he, "you never had one part of my experienceI mean the wild,
reckless, sinful past. You never used to do such things as I and
many others did."
"Outwardly I might
not have appeared so bad, but, you know, sin has its headquarters in
the heart. My heart, Mose, might be as bad as yours, and yet, being
differently constituted, and being under different influences, the
evil in me might not show itself to the world to the same extent.
And this, too, not by any desire on my part to deceive the world,
but by the force of circumstances which threw around me powerful
"Do you think, John,"
broke in Will Briars, "that we can't tell what a man is by what he
does, unless we know him fully?"
"Not in all cases,
though we can in some. If we see a man committing wilful and
deliberate sin, we need not be told that he is a sinful man, 'for by
their fruits ye shall know them.' But if we see a correct outward
deportment, we cannot always tell whether this deportment springs
from a principle of right, influencing the actor, or whether the
action may not be the result of some other cause. We give the actor
credit for the outward act, but the hidden motives we must leave to
be searched out by a wisdom higher and deeper than our own."
On Monday morning,
after breakfast, Mary said to Will and Mose:
"How much coaxing
will it take to get you two to stay and help me to-day?"
"What do you want
done?" asked they.
"I want a nice
hen-house built for my chickens and ducks. The hens are laying, and
unless they are shut in for a while, I am afraid they will steal off
in the woods, and the eggs will he lost, and perhaps the foxes or
some other chicken-eaters will take the hens," was her answer.
"I wonder if Rover
could catch a fox? I would like to see him after one," said Mose.
"I hardly think he
could catch a fox in the woods," answered John; "but if he had it in
an open field he might."
"Chasing foxes won't
answer my question or build my hen-pen," said Mary good naturedly.
"The mistress of
Sylvan Lodge has only to issue her mandate to ensure attention and
obedience on the part of her dependents," said Mose with a laugh.
"Don't make fun of
me, Mose. You are not my dependents," Mary said.
"Yes we are, too,"
said he; "for if you should turn against us, who would cook our
victuals, wash our clothes, make up our beds, and keep us out of
"My! but that is a
long, long list of questions to ask, and so soon after eating your
breakfast, too. I don't see how you could think of them all at
once," she answered. "But, seriously, I want the hen-pen built."
"And you shall have
it," Will Briars said; "only tell us where you want it to stand, and
give the size and description of it."
"For instructions in
this I must refer you to John. He knows better than I do where to
place it," said Mary.
Before John went to
his harrowing, he hauled up a lot of poles for the hen-pen, and by
night the young men had the job completed, to the entire
satisfaction of all concerned.
By the end of the
week John had four acres of wheat, and one acre of oats, and a half
an acre of millet, sowed and nicely harrowed in. Will and Mose, too,
had got about ten acres underbrushed and an acre chopped.
The next thing in
order now, was to split the rails, and fence the fields of grain, to
keep the cattle from it. This is an important part of the work on a
bush farm. The rails are made from any kind of timber that can be
split into pieces of suitable length, and small enough to be handled
by one man. Cedar and pine are, perhaps, the best timber for rails.
But various other timber is used, such as oak, either black or
white, black or white ash, beech, elm, basswood, hickory, chestnut,
and sometimes the knotty hemlock is made into rails.
John and Mose went to
rail-splitting and fence-making. They found it pretty hard work at
first. But they soon got used to it, and then it was like any other
work, after one, gets accustomed to it.
About two weeks were
spent in fencing, and by that time a good fence surrounded the sowed
land, along with an acre for potatoes and vegetables of various
kinds. By this time, too, the grain was nicely up, and beginning to
look green, giving the place quite a farm-like aspect, and driving
away the look of wild loneliness that is found in connection with a
house standing alone in a burnt piece of ground among the stumps.
Mary had got her
clucks and geese so used to her that they would come at her call.
She would let them out for a swim on the lake an hour or two in the
middle of the day. Then she would call them up and feed them, and
shut them in, for fear of foxes.
The woods now began
to show signs of summer, in the unfolding leaves, and the opening
blossoms. Various wild wood flowers began to show their beauty, and
numerous forest plants sprung up from their cold wintry beds and,
shaking off their covering of autumn leaves, that kind nature spread
over them in the fall, they once more began to spread their leaves
and add beauty and attraction to the scene, as their predecessors
had done for a thousand generations.
"John, what are
these?" said Will, one evening, as he threw down on the table a
handful of some kind of plants, or rather of different kinds of
Looking them over
carefully, and after smelling some of them, John answered: "These
are addertongues, or some call them deer-tongues. These are leeks;
they are the best things to spoil milk and butter that grow in the
woods. If the cows eat the leeksand they are sure to do so, if they
can find themthe milk and butter will have such a `leeky' taste
that it can be used only after eating the leeks ourselves. That
seems to take the bad taste away. This," said he, picking up a plant
with a large, round leaf. "is called Adam and Eve. And here is cow
cabbage. And this strange looking plant is the skunk cabbage."
"How many more kinds
of cabbage can you find in the woods?" inquired Mose.
"About as many as you
can find cabbage eaters in the clearing," said John.
One morning soon
after these plants had been examined, on going into the yard, John
found that an addition had been made to his stock, in the shape of a
fine heifer calf.
"Now," said Mary,
when John told her, "I shall soon have some milk, and when Cherry
follows the example of old Brindle, we can make our own butter, and
raise the calves, too."
"Well, Mary," said
he, jokingly, "If that is not counting the chickens before they are
hatched, it is making butter before the cream is soured."
"Never you mind,
John, the cream will be here, and the butter too, in due time."
By this time the
planting was all done, and the grain was looking well, and
everything seemed to be prospering with these people in the
"John," said Moses
one night, before he retired, "I have a mind to go out to the
post-office to-morrow, and see if those papers have come. You know
it's over a month since they were sent for. They ought to be on hand
by this time; don'ts you think so?"
"All right," said
John. "But you will need to start early to go there and back in one
"If Mary will put up
something for me to take along to eat, I will start as soon as it is
light, and take my breakfast as I walk along."
"Certainly, I will
give you something to take along with you. But you are not to go
before you have breakfast, I will see to that," Mary replied.
"Now, I don't wish to
give you any bother, Mary," said he, "and I will do first-rate on a
lunch for one day."
"Whether you can or
not, you won't get the chance to try to-morrow, if I am alive and
well in the morning."
"Better let her have
her way, Mose," said John, "for I suppose she is like other women in
that. I once heard an old man say that
'When she will, she
will, and you may depend on it;
And when she won't, she won't, and that's the end on it.'
And he said that all
women are that way."
"Well, I shall not
contend with her about the breakfast," said Mose. "That would be too
much like a man quarrelling with his own bread and butter."
"In the morning, by
sunrise, Moses was on his way to Greenbush post office. But not
before he had his breakfast, and a good one, too; for Mary said that
"when a man is going to walk all day, he needs something substantial
to start on."
When John went to the
yard that morning he found another calf among the stock; a heifer,
like the other.
"Now," said Mary, "I
shall not have time to feel lonesome. With two cows to milk, and two
calves to feed, and with chickens, and ducks, and goslings to take
care of, and butter-making, and bread-baking, and cooking, and
washing, and scrubbing, surely I can employ myself so that I will
not feel lonely."
When Will came in at
evening, he said he had news to tell them, and on being asked what
it was, he said: "This afternoon a man came to me, who says he has
the lot right opposite mine, on the other side of the boundary. He
has commenced working on it, and he has a temporary little shanty up
already. He did not know that he would have neighbors so near him
till he heard me chopping, and came to see who it was. He was
greatly pleased when he found that he was so near the oldest settler
in the township."
"Well, I am thinking
that he will be the pioneer in the township of Oakland, for that is
where he is. Where did he come from, and did he tell you his name?"
"He comes from the
township of Ashdown, and his name is Woodbine. He is a man about
thirty years old, and he has a wife and two children. He is a fine
looking man, and he is a Lowland Scotchman. But he came ten years
ago to this country."
"I am glad to hear of
such men coming into the neighborhood. They will help to build up
the place," replied John.
It was now getting
dark, and Mose had not yet returned.
"I wonder where Mose
is by this time," said Will.
"That would be a
little hard to tell, especially since we have had no experience as
to the length of time it takes to go over the road he has to walk
over," was John's answer.
"I can answer your
question," said Mary. "He is just now between the stable and the
house. I see him through the window."
By this time Mose
came in and sat down, saying, "Boys, but I am tired and hungry."
"We don't doubt that,
Mose. Forty miles of walking, over a rough road, is enough to tire
anybody. But pull off your boots, and put on these slippers," said
John, as he reached and took a pair of slippers from a shelf, and
gave them to Mose.
"Mary," said Mose,
"what can you do for me now? You did grandly this morning."
"Your supper is all
ready for you. I put it beside the fire, in the bake-kettle, to keep
it warm till you came home. I will have it on the table by the time
you get yourself washed and ready for it," she said.
While Mose was eating
his supper, John and Will went out to fix things up for the night.
After they had gone, Mose took out of his side pocket a large
letter, and, holding it up, said to Mary, "Look here, what I found
in the office for William Briars. I think it is from Betsy."
He put it back, and
by the time he finished his meal the others came in.
"Well, Mose," said
John, "what is the news?"
"Plenty of news,"
said he; "I got my papers all right, so that I now know what I am to
do. I am glad of that. But that is not the only thing that makes me
"What is that? Got a
letter from home, or what is it?"
"No, not for myself;
but here, Will, is one for you. Take it thankfully, and read it
Will took the letter,
looked at the handwriting and at the seal, and then put it in his
"How many shanties do
you think have been put up along this road, between here and
Greenbush, since we carne here," said Mose, turning to John.
"Perhaps four or
five," answered John.
"Well, you may more
than double that," said he.
"Is that so?"
enquired John and Will, both at once.
"There are four
shanties between here and Ashcraft's, and five between there and
Greenbush. I saw and talked with six of the owners. Four of them are
young men like myself and Will. The others are married men."
"How far from this is
the nearest one?" asked Will.
"About two miles, I
"Well, then, you did
not find them all. There is a settler right across the line from
"I am glad that
people are coming in so fast," said John.
"Here, Will, take
this candle, and go and read your letter, and let us have the news,"
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