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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter XXXIII - The Threshers’ Food and Fun


DURING the two weeks which intervened before the date set for the departure of the boys there was a festive time in the settlement, and many invitations came to them and their sisters to participate in dances, sugar-bush parties, and other pastimes. The phenomenally mild weather of the winter and of the first week in April was succeeded by severe cold and storms, which lasted longer than usual. However, the sun’s rays were growing more powerful daily, and King Frost soon began to recede before them. This was the period when the settlers tapped their trees, for the district abounded in maple woods, and most of the inhabitants made sufficient sugar to last them the year round. They also reaped a rich harvest in maple syrup, and besides having sufficient to supply their own wants for the year, they were able either to sell considerable quantities at the county town, or exchange it for such necessaries as they required.

The maple sugar was very much better than the "muscavado," for which they were often taxed sixpence a pound; and as for the syrup, it was far superior to the "black strap" that was sold at the general store. Goarden, the hired man, was the only individual who attempted to maintain the superiority of the latter. He said it was impossible for novices to speak of the merits of "black strap," as it was never served in all its original purity except in the shanty, where they gave you pork and beans "as was pork and beans," along with it.

"Mojee!" Goarden would exclaim; "but it makes a magnificent poultice, an’ lasts a man a hull day if he only gits enough."

Just what Goarden’s idea of "enough" was, is still a mooted question, as no opportunity was ever afforded in the settlement of testing it, for he invariably finished what was within his reach. In the matter of eating, Goarden had a great rival in Tugal Cameron, who in addition to his famous consuming ability at the table, was known in the settlement as a man that called everything "she" but a tom cat, which he spoke of as "her."

The threshing season which came in the fall was a rare time for Goarden. The goodwives of the settlement vied with each other as to which could put up the finest "layout" for the men, and the latter, in order to perpetuate the "snap," did not fail to let it be known by their gossip where the best "layouts" were obtained, and who were the finest cooks.

It was generally the custom to kill either a pig or a sheep for the "thrashers," because it would be deemed a reflection on the house to offer the men anything but the finest poultry, or other fresh meat that was going. There were, however, exceptions to the rule, and at the homes of these exceptions, threshing time was regarded as the golden opportunity to work off all the rough meats and coarse viands that had been allowed to accumulate for months. Naturally, this practice occasioned much gossip and adverse comment, and it can well be surmised that Goarden was loudest in his protests. "Crasee mojee!" he would exclaim; "it would take a block an’ tackle to separate that goose we had to-day!"

A description of the annual "thrashin’" would scarcely be complete without giving the bill of fare presented at the leading homes in the settlement.

THE MCKERCHERS

Breakfast.
Fried fresh mutton chops mixed with liver and kidney and buried in a platter of gravy.
Boiled potatoes.
Green tea.
Horse-radish.
Bread.

Dinner.
Roast mutton.
Boiled potatoes.
Gravy (in large quantities).
Beet pickles.
Green tea.
Buttermilk.
Caneele bread.

Supper.
Cold roast mutton.
Potatoes het up.
Green tea.
Red cabbage pickled.
Scones.
Bread.

Snack before retiring.

Sweet milk.
Bread and butter.

THE McGLASHINS

Breakfast.
Fresh fried pork smothered in "lashins" of gravy.
Soft boiled potatoes, a trifle wet and soggy.
Green tea.
Apple sass.
Beet pickles.

Dinner.
Fresh roasted pork, the swarth carved in stripes.
Wet potatoes.
Beet pickles.
Maple sugar.
Green tea.
Horse-radish.
More beet pickles.

Supper.
Cold roast pork (very fat).
Wet potatoes het up and smothered in pork gravy.
Buns (which Mrs. McG., being Irish, advises each and all to "lay hould uv wan aiche, although they didn’t roise to me satisfaction").
Beet pickles.
Green tea.

Snack before retiring
Ditto the McKerchers, with a dish of beet pickles retiring, on the table.

THE MCPHERSONS
(Who had just killed an old cow.)

Breakfast.
Beefsteak (fresh killed), very thin and tough, with coloured water doing duty as gravy.
Sweet boiled potatoes (they had been frozen).
Cucumber pickles.
Homemade cheese (hard and tasteless).
Green tea.
Hot scones.

Dinner.
Dry fresh-killed roast beef in abundance, but too tough to dissect.
Beet pickles.
Horse-radish.
Mustard.
Sweet boiled potatoes.
A dish-pan full of apples for dessert.

Supper.
The remains of the beefsteak left from breakfast and the balance of the roast beef left at dinner chopped up with an axe and stewed in a soap kettle; the whole intermixed with sweet potatoes and flavoured with onions, summer savory, and sage, to say nothing of soap.
Side dishes: Beet pickles, buns, and mashed turnips het over, and green tea.

Snack before retireing
Buttermilk, and the remainder of the cold buns left over from other meals.

THE McCUTCHANS

Breakfast. "Sausengers" (made, Goarden declared, from "bull beef which wuz cheap at a penny a pound ").
Stale bread.
Green tea warmed over.

Dinner.
Roast meat (kind not stated, threshers unable to guess, very old and very tough. Goarden hums the Dog Song tune and winks at Dooley). Company eats bread and beet pickles principally.
White streaked butter.
Green tea warmed over.
Bread pudding made of stale material.

Supper.
Same old meat cold.
Limited quantity of potatoes.
Het over stale buns.
Sour bread.
Cold green tea.

Snack.
Cut out, as threshers had to move first thing in the morning.

The following is a short extract from

GOARDEN’S DOG SONG

Oh, you all know the tavern that stands on the hill,
By the side of the mill-dam at Landon’s sawmill.
Three jovial young fellows together did meet
For to have some whiskey and something to eat.
And you’re welcome, all of you, heartily welcome,
Gramacree welcome, every w-a-n.

Oh, they looked in the cupboard and all things looked blue;
They saw nothing there that was fit for a stew.
Out spoke Jimmy Landon, a jokish old man:
"If you listen to me I will tell you a plan,
And I think I can get you all out of this jam.
We’ll go down to John Landon’s and steal a fat lamb."
And you’re welcome, all of you, heartily welcome,
Gramacree welcome, every w-a-n.

So it’s off to John Landon’s old Jimmy did run,
And he told them all there he was up for some fun.
He told them old Nero was getting so old
That some day next winter he’d die of the cold.
"We’ll kill him and skin him, take him down to Banfam,
And they’ll never know but he is a fat lamb."
And you’re welcome,
all of you, heartily welcome,
Gramacree welcome, every w-a-n.

During the jollity after the threshing supper, the men would sometimes call on Goarden to sing his Dog Song. After the song it was usually the custom to tell a few choice stories, and often half an hour would be spent in playing tricks.

I can recall two or three of the latter. A circle about six inches in diameter would be drawn on the wall with chalk. Then the boys, one after the other, would be blindfolded, and each would try how near he could come to putting his index finger within the circle. When the turn came of the one upon whom it was usually the custom to "run the rig," one of the boys would stand where the circle was, and with open mouth receive the finger and give it a severe nip with his teeth, and while the victim would cry out with pain the others would roar at his discomfiture.

Another trick was to seat one of the men on the floor, with his legs spread out and extended at full length. A cupful of water would be poured on the floor between his knees. The seated man would be

given two sticks to strike the operator, who, cloth in hand, was endeavouring to wipe up the water. Suddenly, when the chap on the floor was off guard, the operator would seize him by the feet, and in a twinkling drag him over the water, thus wiping it up in a manner which occasioned as much chagrin and discomfort to the victim as it did merriment to the crowd.


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