Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The McGregors
Good Years

The years before the Great War were good years on the farm. Immigrants poured in, mostly from the British Isles. In Bruce and Huron counties there was no population increase, but the farmers consolidated their position. New buildings went up. Old ones were renovated. Farms were cleared more thoroughly, stones were picked, and zigzag rail fences were replaced by wire to save ground and stamp out the weeds. Swamps were drained, although not always to the advantage of the countryside because reserves of water were necessary to help preserve an even climate. Roads were widened and improved; the hills were sometimes cut down, and the surplus pushed into the hollows. Difficult, steep ascents became easy grades.

A system of roadwork was established that ensured that the farmers on each beat of a mile or so looked after their particular stretch of road. This was called working for the King, and took two or three days of grading and gravel-hauling a year. The results, inevitably, were uneven. Some beats, overseen by a conscientious path-master who worked steadily and hauled full loads, were well kept. Others were poorly looked after by people who looked on the affair as an excuse for a jolly get together or a welcome break in the farm routine. And since the King was far away and not likely to see the results of their labour, and their neighbours only gritted their teeth and said nothing, for it was poor sportsmanship to complain, they got away with it.

The telephone came in, sponsored by locally organized companies and financed by local money. A company would take in an area with a radius of ten miles or so from a town or village. The exchange would be in the village, and several responsible local ladies would be appointed as operators. A local handyman would take over the job of maintenance. This worked out surprisingly well. The subscribers got service that was not always the most efficient, but neither was it expensive. The hardheaded directors controlled finances so well, and the yearly fee was so small, that later, when the Bell Telephone Company took over, the groans were universal when it became clear what amounts of money big-company efficiency required to keep its efficiency. Another thing the people missed then was the chatty, friendly operator who would go to any length to oblige. True, she picked up all the news, not to say gossip, of the neighbourhood, and sometimes relayed it unwisely, but this was accepted as necessary in the scheme of things. And it was also considered a help in maintaining the morality of the community. This jotting down of the good and the bad, particularly the bad, could be brought out later to disconcert the unwary. Rural mail delivery became common. Some conscientious citizen was always ready to take the job of delivering the daily mail. He would work for a pittance, driving in the scorching heat of July and wading through the snows of January. The days were few when the mail did not go through. It was often the mailman's need for a track that brought out the same path-masters and their helpers who gravelled the road in summer. They would break a path now on their beat, and even press on to the next beat to shame the shirkers there into action. The teams would come out after a blizzard had subsided, their breath steaming thick in the frosty air, the harness glittering in the sun. The first team might be attached to the front bob of a sleigh only, the driver balancing precariously as the horses plunged and leaped through the snowbanks, the bob heaving like a lifeboat in surf. The next team, attached to a sleigh with two or three occupants, had it a little easier. Then came a sleigh with a small wooden snowplough attached to the front bob; and finally a sleigh with a large plough to wing the snow back would follow. It was an occasion for good fellowship, for laughter and jokes.

The mail-carrier would come through after each blizzard, his cutter piled high with sundry loaves of bread, packages of tea, or bottles of medicine. In the three-day blizzard, supplies always ran out, and reinforcements were stuffed in the mailboxes along with the three-day supply of mail. Occasionally the mailman got a kind word or a bottle of liquor at Christmas, but most accepted the deliveries as their due. After all, the man was coming by anyway, wasn't he?

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus