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Among the Forrest Trees
Chapter XIII - Harvesting the Crop


"WHAT are you going to do with your grain when it is ready for harvesting? said Will Briars to John one morning as they were walking along the path that led through the wheat.

"I hardly know," said John. "I have been thinking a good deal about it lately. One thing is certain, that is, I cannot put up a barn this summer. I have too much else to do."

"Could you not make a temporary floor, and thresh the grain out of doors, the way we have often threshed peas and buckwheat."

"I have thought of that myself, but how am I to get the plank?"

"Did you not tell me that the lumber for your house was made with a whip-saw here on the ground?" asked Will.

"Yes, we made the boards for the floors, and all the rest, except the sheeting, with the whip-saw. But Mr. Beach, who helped me do it, and who understands the work, is not here; and if he was here I don't suppose that I could get him, he will be so busy with his own work," John said.

"Look here, John; let us try it ourselves. I believe that I can soon learn to handle one end of the saw. You know we shall want boards more or less all the time. Some men can make money by cutting lumber with this kind of saw. Suppose that we start a two-man saw-mill, John. We will commence with some boards to make, you a threshing-floor."

"All right, Will. We will go to work to-morrow, and get up some small-sized logs, and then try our skill and ability at saw-milling. We can use the old saw-pit, which Mr. Beach says is a good one. And the plank will be all the better for lying in the sun to dry for a few weeks," said John.

Where there is a will there is generally a way, and prompt action is one of the elements of success. John Bushman was a full believer in these maxims, and he acted on that belief.

At it the two went next morning. They went to the pinery and cut a number of logs of suitable size, and hauled them to the saw-pit. Then they commenced the sawing. Noses insisted on being taken into the milling enterprise, and they willingly gave him a chance. Will and Mose were a little awkward at first. It was a little hard for a while, and they got very tired; but they stuck to it, and at the end of about eight days they had plank enough to make a floor twenty feet square, with a board to put up edgeways all around it, to keep the grain from flying off and wasting.

After their task was completed they were congratulating each other on their success. Mary listened to them for a while. Then she said: "That agrees with my father's philosophy of success in this world."

"What was it, Mary?" asked John.

"I have often heard him say that difficulties disappeared before a determined will," replied she. "And, sometimes to encourage the boys, he would tell them that

''A resolute will is better than skill
For turning a mill or climbing a hill,
Or facing an ill or paying a bill,
Or handling a drill or crossing a rill,
Or swallowing a pill or warming a chill,
Or opening a till or driving a quill.
For where there's a will there's a way ahead still."

"Bravo, Mary," said Will Briars. "That is well done; and I don't know which deserves the greatest compliments, your father's poetry or your memory. But I think that I am the one that has a right to feel myself honored by being the subject of seven full lines of poetry. The whole of it, you know, is about a resolute Will. That is me. But I am going to try and deserve the name, and then it will be no presumption to claim it."

The season was passing rapidly away—at least it seemed so to the busy settlers in the vicinity of Sylvan Lake.

Mary was kept from idleness and moodiness in looking after her cows and calves, and fowls, and her beds of onions and lettuce, beets and parsnips, and other garden produce, that the old-time ladies mostly had the care of. Besides all this out-of-door work, she had to bake and cook, and wash and mend, starch and iron for herself and the three coarser samples of humanity, who had placed their personal comfort in her keeping. More than this, she had some quilts to make, and the yarn to spin and double and twist for the socks and stockings for the whole of them.

It was well for Mary now that she had been trained by an industrious, economical mother, who understood all about these things, and had thoroughly taught her daughter to do the same.

It was well for John Bushman that his wife was not one of the affected, selfish, useless butterflies of fashion so often met with in modern society—that she was not one of the extravagant, thoughtless, wasteful, peevish, self-seeking;, domineering creatures that so often hang like a dead weight upon a husband's energies, and drag him down at last to financial, if not to moral, ruin. John Bushman fully appreciated his wife, as from day to day he noticed how skilfully and cheerfully she went about her work. He felt that if they missed the road to success, the fault would not be hers. Of such a woman it is said in Proverbs, "Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land." A man's success in life very largely depends on his wife. But how far John Bushman succeeded will be shown in future chapters.

William Briars and Moses Moosewood were working every day on their lots, and were getting nice beginpings on them. John commenced his haying—that is, he began cutting the "Beaver Meadow" grass for hay. By the time the wheat began to ripen he had five or six tons of hay ready to stack. He made a road to the meadow, and on a temporary jumper he and Muse hauled the hay, and stacked it beside the stable.

But perhaps some of my readers may ask, "What is a beaver meadow, any way?"

The little amphibious rodent called the beaver is the agent by which the beaver meadows are produced. He first selects a place along some creek, where, by making a dam across the stream, the backwater will overflow a section of the land. Here he lays his plan with as much precision as a skilful engineer.

Having laid out his work, he commences to build the dam. The form of it is an are of a circle, with the bow up stream. This he does by collecting wood and leaves and mud. He uses his teeth for an axe to cut the timber. With his paws he puts everything in its place. He uses his broad, flat tail for a cart to carry the mud to where he wants it; and for a trowel to place it in position, and as a mallet to pound it into a solid mass.

As the dam brows higher the water spreads out over the land, and when it is done sometimes a number of acres are flooded, and looks like a large mill-pond. The little builder puts his darn there to stay, so that no spring floods break it up. In course of time all the timber on the flooded tract dies, and after a lapse of years it all decays, and entirely disappears. When the beaver falls a victim to the trapper and hunter his home is left to fall in ruins. The dam, for want of repairs, in time gives way, and the water runs off the flooded land, and leaves it as level as a floor. In a few years this is covered with an abundant crop of tall, wild grass, that does very well as a substitute for hay; when it is cut and properly cured. The early settlers avail themselves of this spontaneous hay crop until they can raise that which is of a better quality. This is the kind of hay that John and Mose stacked up by the stable, to have it on hand for the stock in winter.

And there is another operation that must not be overlooked. That is the gathering of will fruit, and preparing it for winter use. Around John's beaver meadow there grew a large number of wild plum trees. These were laden with fruit. Some of them, when ripe, were red, some yellow, and some almost a purple. These plums are by no means a despisable fruit when they are ripe, but they don't ripen till August and September. One way of keeping these plums was to sink a tight barrel or other vessel into the ground where it would be kept cool. Then fill it up with plums while they were still a little green. This being done, fill the barrel up with clear, cold water, cover it up, and let it stand till winter, when the fruit will come out nearly as fresh as when it was put in. Another method of keeping them was by the old way of preserving in sugar; still another was by the drying process.

But there was other wild fruit to be got.

One day, while Will and Mose were out in search of a swarm of bees that they saw pass over, they came to a large berry patch. It was on a hemlock ridge that had at some time been burnt over. This was covered with a variety of berries. There were strawberries, raspberries—two kinds of then—and the large blackberries. These the men would go and pick at odd times, and Mary would exert her skill in preparing them for present and future use. By the time the berries were gone they had laid in a good winter's store.

By this time the wheat began to show its ripening hue, and admonished its owner that the harvest was coming near.

One evening, as Mose came in from his work, in passing through the field, he found some heads of ripe wheat. Holding up one of them, he said:

"See here, John; your wheat will do to cut next week. What are you going to do for a cradle to cut it with?"

"That is a question that should have been answered before this but I have been so much engaged since I came here that I forgot all about it. I shall have to try and make some kind of a thing myself. I have a scythe and other irons needed," he answered.

"Well," said Moses, "you know my father makes cradles, and I know something about it myself. If you like, I will help you."

"All right," said John. "We will try what we can do to-morrow."

Next morning they went to the woods and got some good white ash timber of the shape they wanted. By night they had a very good grain cradle really for use.

While they were hunting the timber for the cradle they heard the sound of a couple of axes at the back end of John's lots. They had not heard of any one being on that line, so they concluded next morning to go and see who was there, and what they were doing. They took the guns and old Rover, and started on a trip of discovery. When they came to the place they found three men working on the corner of the lot that butted on John's rear hundred. The one was an elderly man, the others were his sons. They were Dutchmen. Their name was Crautmaker. They came from Hamburgh Township. They were a strong, hardy-looking lot of men.

When John and Mose came up to them they were chopping down a large rock-elm tree. The two young men were Canadian born, and were good choppers. The old man was not so good; but for all that he could handle an axe well enough to do a fair day's work.

"Goot morning, shentlemens," said the old man. "I vas glad to find some von in dish packwoods pesides me and Shon and Shake. How far you comes dish day, and vhere you lives?"

"We live just across one concession from here," said John. "My land reaches to the line here, so we are to be neighbors. I am glad to see you all," he said, as he stepped up to shake hands with them.

The young men could talk either Dutch or English, and Mose was not a little amused to hear them answer their father in Dutch, when he would question them in that language, and at the same time carry on a conversation in English.

After they had talked a while about the land, and the prospects of the settlement, the old wan broke in upon their conversation with this question to John and Mose:

"Say, mine vrends, are you gristians?"

John was the first to answer. He said, "I am happy and thankful to be able to say that I am an humble follower of the meek and gentle Saviour."

"I, too," said Mose, with some feeling, "am trying to live the life of a Christian."

"I am very much glad vor that," said the old man.

"Well," said John, "we have a small religious service at our place every Sabbath in the forenoon. If you would come over and take part with us we would be very much pleased to have you do so."

"How can we find your place, Mr. Bushman?" asked Jacob, the younger of the old man's sons.

"You can't miss the way if you follow the open road. It goes right past my place, and mine is the first and only house," John answered.

"How soon do you expect to move your family in here, Mr. Crautmaker?" inquired Moses Moosewood.

"Shust so soon as we can put up one pig house. So that mit the downstairs and the upstairs we can got rooms vor nine peoples—mine frow and myself and our seven shildren," was his answer.

John Bushman said to the old man, "Mr. Crautmaker, I have a good yoke of oxen; if you need them to haul logs for your house, you can have them. I suppose these young men can drive oxen?"

"Yes," said the eldest. We have always been used to oxen as well as horses. We have a pair of oxen at the old home; but till we get them here we shall be much obliged for a little accommodation in a neighborly way."

"All right. When you want them let me know," said Bushman.

"When we want them one of us will take your place, and have you come with the oxen," said Jake Crautmaker.

"Come across to our little meeting next Sunday, at 10 a.m.," said John Bushman.

As the two men went back, by way of the beaver meadow, the dog commenced to bark fiercely, a little ahead of them, as they were pressing their way through a thicket of small cedars. In a minute more they heard a cry, not unlike that of a lamb in distress. Coming nearer, they saw that old Rover had caught a spotted fawn. He was laying on it, and holding it down. He seemed inclined to play with it, but the deer was struggling to get away.

"Don't hurt it, Rover," John said, and the dog seemed to understand what was said to him. He would fondle with the young and helpless little thing and lick it with his soft tongue, and tried, in every way, to impress upon it the fact that he had no ferocious or cruel feeling towards it. But not until John took it from the dog and lifted it in his arms did the little prisoner stop its cries and its efforts to escape. But it seemed to feel that it had found a friend and protector when it nestled down quietly in the man's arms. That fawn grew very tame, and it became a fine large deer, and ran with the cattle in the woods. They tied a white ribbon around its neck, so that it could be distinguished from others. More than one wild deer fell a victim to John Bushman's rifle while trying to cultivate the acquaintance of this pet. When they came home Mary was greatly pleased with the pretty fawn. She had never seen anything like it. With its great brown, pleading eyes, with its smooth, spotted skin and tiny little feet and legs, it altogether presented a picture of innocence and beauty that seemed to appeal to the gentle and tender feelings of her sympathetic heart. It soon became so much attached to Mary that it would follow her around like a dog. For several years Rover and the deer were Mary's escort from place to place, and they became great friends to each other. Rover would have fought for that deer as long as he could stand. They named the deer Rambler.

The wheat harvest was now at hand. The crop was excellent, as was all of John's grain that season.

John changed work with Mose, and got him to help take off' the harvest. Cradling heavy wheat among the stumps is no child's play, as any one will say who has ever tried it, but they were both good cradlers, took turns at it, so that neither of them had to weary himself at it.

When the wheat was fit to stack, John got Harry Hawthorn to come and stack and thatch it for him. Harry had been working on his lot for the past month, Mary had made his bread and furnished him with butter. When John asked him if he could thatch a stack of wheat, his answer was,

"Shure and its meself that can do it, Misther Bushman. Many a great stack of grain I have thatched in Ould Ireland, and they were afther bein' done so nately that niver a dhrop of rain could get intil them at all at all. Though I say it meself, as shouldn't say it, perhaps, no one can do a betther job at thatching than your humble Irish frind can do."

This glowing language of Harry's was no vain boasting. His work proved that the men who could equal him at building and thatching a stack of grain were few and far between.

Harry was expecting his wife in this country by the fall, but he had changed his mind about bringing her to the bush before the next spring. He concluded to do some chopping, and put up a small house that season, and not move in until the next spring.

But Mr. Beach was expecting to move his family on the lot beside John's in the course of two or three weeks. He was busily engaged in building a house; Moses and Will were helping him some of the time. Things began to look like civilized life. With a settler on every lot that joined on Bushman's, he felt that his isolation was a thing of the past.

Between helping the incoming settlers to saw their lumber and make their shingles, and raise their houses, John and Will and Mose were kept on the move all the fall. People were coming in on all sides of them. Not less than ten or twelve families were settling within three miles of John Bushman, besides Will and Mose. John and Mary, being the first settlers, and having become pretty well established in their new home, had plenty of chances to exercise their hospitality towards their prospective neighbors. But they acted on the motto expressed by Mary, the first day she stood in her backwoods home: "Never to shut the door in the face of hunger or weariness."

But by this time John's other grain was ready to harvest. This time he went at it alone, as Will and Mose were both away helping a man to put up a house on a lot two miles farther in the woods.

But John got along with the job of cutting his oats and millet, and he found the latter was about as high as his head, and some of the heads were eight or ten inches long. By the middle of September he had all his grain nicely harvested and stacked, Harry Hawthorn again being the artist.


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