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Among the Forrest Trees
Chapter II - The Road Makers


ABOUT a month after John Bushman had commenced his work, he started one morning for a fresh supply of bread. This he did every week. As he was leisurely following the blaze marks on the trees he was somewhat surprised to hear loud speaking, like some one driving oxen. He stopped and listened. He heard men talking not far off. He concluded to go to them, and see what they were doing. The first man he carne to was an Irishman. When he carne up to the man he put down the axe that he was awkwardly trying to handle, and looking the young roan in the face, he said, with it good honest Irish brogue, "An' shure, sur, it's rneself that's nearly surprised out of me foive sinses, for by the life of Paddy Maguire, I niver expected to foind a livin' sowl in this wild wilderness. An' shure, an' would yez moind to be after tellin' a body where ye're from, and where ye're goin'?"

Young, Bushman was much amused by the quaint manner in which the Irishman put the case.

He answered by saying in a pleasant way, "My name is John Bushman. I live some four miles from here, and I am on my way out to the settlement for a supply of bread, as unfortunately I have no one at home to bake it for me. And I am both surprised and pleased to meet you here. Now, I have given you my name; will you intrust me with yours?"

"Sure that I will, sur. You are wilcome to me poor name; and if, on a further acquaintance, yez are found to wear well, yez shall be wilcome till any favor that I Can grant yez. My name, sur, is Harry Hawthorn."

"And what are you doing?"

"Making a road, so that people may come in here and settle up this part of Her Majesty's dominions; Long life to her."

"Who are those other gentlemen that I see a few rods further on?" said Bushman.

"The two who are chopping at the big tree are brothers. Their names are John and George Brusky. That one piling brush is Peter Birch, and the man who stands beside the oxen is Mister John Root. He is the foreman or contractor, I belave, is what yez call it in this country."

Bushman went on to where the two men were chopping, and introduced himself to them as one of the few inhabitants of the newly surveyed township.

They answered him very civilly. They spoke their words in a way that showed that they inherited their tongues from Yorkshire parents, or they had been taught to speak by a Yorkshire family.

After a few words with them, he passed on to where Mr. Root was feeding his oxen.

As he came up, Mr. Root said to him, "I presume you are hunting work, and I am glad you have come, for I am in want of men. Good choppers is what I want, and I suppose you can chop, for if I am not greatly mistaken you are a native of this province, and they are generally pretty good with an axe. [This was true forty or fifty years ago more than it is at the present time.] How much do you expect by the day, or do you want to work by the month?"

These words were spoken in such rapid succession, that there was no chance to correct the contractor's mistake until he had finished his long paragraph of questions. As soon as he could find a chance to speak, Bushman said to him, "You are correct in supposing me to be a native of this province, also in thinking that I know something about chopping. But you are mistaken in supposing that I am hunting work."

"O," said the other, "I ask your pardon. I thought you looked like a working-man. That led to the mistake."

"No harm is done," said the young man good naturedly. I am a working-man; but I have recently commenced a job that will last me thirty or forty years, if I live so long."

"What kind of a job have you that is likely to last so long?" asked Mr. Root.

"I have started to make a home in the bush. I have two hundred acres of land, and I expect that I shall some day be able to drive the plough through the most of it, if I am spared."

That means a good many hard days' work, many a blistered hand, and many a tired arm before your task will be completed," said the other.

"What you say is true," said Bushman. "But I am not afraid of work. And as to blistered hands and tired limbs, time and use will do much towards inhibating that difficulty. And the thought of having a comfortable home is a strong motive for enduring hardships. Besides all this, there are many homes in this country that have been made in this way, and I believe that I can do what so many others have done."

Now Mr. John Root was an American. He was of German descent, but his ancestors had lived in Pennsylvania for three or four generations, and as an American he could appreciate a pushing, plucky man wherever he met with him. He stepped up to young Bushman, and said, "Give me your hand young man. I like your way of looking at thins. I am always glad to meet with men of your stamp, men who have got some vim and backbone in them. These are the men who have made your country and mine what they are socially, commercially and politically. Go ahead, and may your fondest hopes be realized."

Well," said the young man, "I hope that you, too, may have success. But you spoke just now of wanting men. Have you much of this kind of work to do?"

"I have to clear out the road around two townships, and to open one leading line through each of them. That is not less than seventy-five miles of road. And then there are all the swamps to be causewayed, and the creeks and rivers to be bridged over. So, you see, I need all the suitable men that I can get."

"Yes," said Bushman, "you have plenty of work for all the men you will be likely to find. My land is right on this line, and only four miles further on. I shall be pleased to see you at my bachelor's hall on the bank of Sylvan Lake at any time you can favor me with a call."

Root thanked him for the invitation so kindly given, and the two parted, each one having a good opinion of the other.

Bushman got back with his weekly supply of bread about noon. He was much pleased at the prospect of having a road so soon. He had feared that it might be years before he would have the advantages of a good road. But the Provincial Government had adopted the policy of opening out leading roads through what was known as the "Queen's Bush" and the "Huron 'Tract." This was one of the first efforts in that direction. The adoption of this policy has been a source of great convenience to the early settlers in different parts of the province, and it has also had much to do with the rapid filling up of the back country.

But after all that the fostering hand of any Government can do to smooth the way for the pioneers, yet they have much to contend with by way of toiling and suffering.

One day, not long after his interview with the road-makers, as he was going out from dinner, he saw a deer come bounding through the opening, and not far behind it were two large wolves in full chase. Neither the deer nor the wolves seemed to pay any attention to the man. He watched them until the deer ran into the lake, as deer will do when chased by dogs or wolves, if they can find water to run into. They seem to know, by some means, that wolves will not follow them into the water.

Bushman went back to the shanty for his rifle. When he returned the deer was swiminin' toward the middle of the lake, and the wolves were crouching on the ground with tongues hanging out, and with gleaming eyes and savage looks, watching the deer.

The young man was good with the rifle. It was but the work of a moment to lift the weapon to his shoulder, take aim, and send a bullet crashing through the head of the largest wolf, it being the one that was nearest to him. The wolf rolled over on its side, stretched itself out and was dead.

The other one sprang, up, looked at its dying companion for an instant, and then started to run away. But from the other barrel of the rifle a bullet was sent through its heart, and it dropped dead a few rods from its mate.

It being in the early summer, neither the meat nor the skin of the deer was worth much, so it was left alone. But the reports of the gun frightened it so that it left the water, and disappeared in the forest, on the other side of the lake.

Bushman saved the scalps of the two wolves, and when he went home he carried them as far as Hamilton, and got the bounty for them.

Living alone in the bush, and miles away from any neighbors, like everything else, may be said to have two sides—one bright and the other dark.

This sort of life has a pleasant side. There is perfect freedom of action. One is more completely his own master here than he can be where his doings are liable to affect the rights and privileges of others. But in the woods, alone, when no one but yourself is to be affected by your acts, you can just do as you please.

There is the fresh, green beauty of the forest trees, clad in their lovely vernal summer dresses:-

Where nature whispers its delight,
Where sun and showers their influence spread,
Where wild-wood flowers their odors shed,
And nought but beauty meets the sight.

But while this mode of life has its independent aspect, it also has a helpless aspect. There is its loneliness. To have no one to speak or to be spoken to; to cook and eat one's meals in silence; to go to bed at night and get up in the morning; to go to work without a parting word, and to come in at noon and night with no words of encouragement, no look of appreciation, and no smile of welcome, is not the most pleasant mode of existence that one might desire.

And to this must be added the fear of cutting oneself, and other accidents to which choppers are particularly exposed. Or a man might be taken suddenly ill, and die before any person would be aware that anything was wrong with him. Some danger might arise from wild beasts, and in some localities the Indians have occasionally been troublesome in times past.

When all these, and other causes of uneasiness that might be mentioned, are summed up and estimated, we can easily see that a man must have a good deal of nerve, and no small amount of courage and self-control to enable hind to face, for any length of time, such a condition of things.

Young Bushman had nerve and courage and self-control fully lip to the average of men in civil life, but he was no boaster. He added to these natural traits an unbending determination to succeed, a conscience void of offence, a mind at peace with God and with all mankind, and an unswerving faith in the Divine guidance and protection. He could be comparatively happy in any condition:

For worldly things small influence had
Upon his faith or hope or love;
He was content, and could be glad
To know he had a friend above.

As the summer months passed away the opening at Sylvan Lake grew larger week by week. The young backwoodsman found that by continual handling the axe his hands got hard and his arm became strong, so that he could chop all day without much weariness. By the middle of August he found that he had chopped twelve acres since the middle of May.

He now concluded to do something toward preparing a better residence. One evening, as he threw himself on his hemlock bed, a happy thought struck him; and he was so carried away with the new idea that he spoke it out aloud. Said he, "I will try and change work with Mr. Root, and get him to come with his men and team, and help me to put up the body of a house. Then I will go and help him on the road till he is paid."

"Yes, my friend, I will do that not only willingly, but gladly," said Mr. Root from the outside of the door, where he stood and heard young Bushman's talk, while he supposed he was alone.

Mr. Root came in and sat down on one of the blocks. Then he said, "We are working along by the side of your land on the boundary, and on looking at my instructions I see that the road that I have to open through the township is the concession that runs along the end of your lots. So, you see, we shall be in this locality for a considerable length of time. Now, I have two bridges to build not far from here. You told me one day that you could do something at framing. I called in to-night to see if I could secure your help. That is why I said I would gladly change work with you."

"Well," said Bushman. "There could nothing suit me better. I can help you at the brides, or chop, or drive oxen, whichever you like. I am very anxious to put up a house this fall, for if I live till next spring I shall have all that I can attend to in clearing off land."

Mr. Root answered: "I have twelve men now, and next week four more are coming. That will be sixteen, besides ourselves. That ought to be force enough to put up a fair sized house, if the logs are not too heavy."

"I can, without much trouble, find a sufficient number of nice cedars," said the young man. "I want to make the house about 24 feet by 18, if we can raise one as large as that."

"Never fear," said Root. "You cut your logs, and make a `travoy ' to haul them on, and we will get them together. Then, if the men cannot raise all of them, I will show you a `Yankee trick' in the matter of ox-driving."

"But what do you mean by a `travoy,' said Bushman, with a puzzled look, "I never saw the article that I know of."

Mr. Root said, "I don't know as I can describe it so as to make you understand. But, did you ever see an old-fashioned three-square harrow?"

"O, yes, I have often worked with one of them."

"Well; make a good strong three-square harrow, and leave out the teeth. Pin a good sized block of wood on the top of it about two-thirds of the distance from the point towards the heel. That will make a good substitute for a 'travoy.' I will show you how to use it."

"I can easily do that," replied the young man. "But let me tell an anecdote about a three-square harrow."

"When I was a boy, my father had a pair of three year old steers. They were partly broken in to work. One day I was sent to harrow in a patch of oats on a stumpy piece of new land. The chain that fastened the steers to the harrow had a broken link, and it was toggled together."

"What do you mean by being toggled together?" asked Mr. Root.

"Why! Don't you know what a 'toggle' is?" said the young man, laughing.

"No; I do not," was the reply.

"Well; I will tell you. When we broke a link of our chain, and had not time to go away to a blacksmith's, we took the ends of the broken chain and put one link into another. We then took a piece of hard wood and drove it into the link that passed through the other, thus fastening the chain solidly together."

"All right," said the American, "I understand now."

"As I was saying," replied Bushman, "the chain had a break in it. While driving along among the stumps, by some means the toggle fell out and let the steers away from the harrow. After some trouble I got them around to their place again and went in between them to fix the chain. Just then the steers made a start to run away. Before they got fairly under way, I caught hold of the tops of the ox-bows, where they projected through the yoke and held on for life, thinking that if I lost my hold and fell between the steers the harrow would run over me and tear me to pieces. But a few rods had been travelled over in this perilous way, when the harrow caught firmly on a stump, and stopped the runaways."

"My father came up just then with a face as white as a sheet. He had seen the whole affair. He helped me out of my unpleasant position, saying: 'My boy, this is no place for you.' He took the steers in hand, and finished the job himself. Yes, Mr. Root, I have a right to know what an old fashioned three-square harrow is."

"I say, Bushman," said Mr. Root, after a moment's silence, "I have an offer to make you. Now, by a little management I can arrange my plans so that we can be in the vicinity during the coldest months in the winter. We shall need a warmer place to stay in ourselves, and a better stable for the oxen, than I could afford to build for the short time that we should use them. Now, my proposition is this. We will turn in and help you build your house. Then we will put up a stable for the cattle, after which we will go to another part of my job and work until the cold winter comes on. Then we will come back here and stop till we complete all that is within reach of this place."

"All right. That will suit me exactly. And after the house and stable are done, I will go to work for you to pay you for your time and trouble," was the young mans answer.

"Very well," replied Mr. Root. "We will work it out on that line."

And they did, to the entire satisfaction of all parties. They were honest men, and between such there is seldom any difficulty about business matters. In two days' time the house-logs were cut, and on the ground where the house was to be erected.

The spot was a nice one for a residence, it was between the lake and the line where the road was to be. From the front door the future occupants would be able to look up and down the prospective road, and from the back there would be a splendid view of Sylvan Lake.


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