It was always a joy to shed our boots in the Spring and go barefoot. Personally,it
gave me a glorious sense of freedom to feel the soft new grass under my feet again,
to walk on the luxurious, cushioned moss in shady areas of the woods or the pleasure
of wading in the brook and feeling the soft silt envelop my feet.
However, every actions has an equal and opposite reaction; and, going barefoot, at
times, can be other than a happy event. Consider, for instance the hazards of walking
on the sharp stubble of a ne2 mown field or treading on barbed wire hidden in the
tall grass or, evern worse, stepping on a nil protruding from an unseen board. These were
some of the hazards that lay in wait for a barefoot boy. In spite of this though,
the action far exceeded the reaction as far as the sense of joy and freedom was concerned.
The summer faded and with it, gradually, faded the joy of being barefoot. By late
September or early October, the early morning temperatures occassionally dropped
into the upper thirties and the bare ground became cold and hostile to bare feet
as I drove the cows to pasture after the morning milking. At this time, because of the cold
ground (and in spite of the cold ground, would come my greatest pleasure of going
barefoot. A joy that would make all previous joys seem as nothing, would be to stand
in a freshly dropped cow-flap and let it mush under my feet and ooze up between my toes.
The exhilarating warmth of it would engulf my feet and spread a sense of comfort
and well-being to my entire body.
With a feeling of reluctance, I would soon leave the luxury of the cow-flap and continue
on with the cows. However, it would not be many minutes before another cow would
releive herself and I again would stand in the fr3esh cow-flap and renew the comfort
and joy. This I remember whenever I see a cow drop her flaps."
Accident Prone- a saga
Being accident prone may just be a stte of mind; you realize that you have the problem
so you accet it as a matter of fact and, having accepted it, you tend to become careless,
which would, naturally, increaseyour accident prone status.
It also could b e that your vision is faulty and you need glasses, or if you already
have glasses, maybe you need corrective lenses. On the other hand, could it be that
you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time?
I have been told that I am accident prone, so I will present a few of the facts to
you and you can draw your own conclusions:
Prone #4: Rammed 1917
My father was a blacksmih, a lumberman and a farmer. He was an excellent blacksmith,
and a good lumberman, but I got the impression that he wasn't a farmer at heart.
He owned a szable farm for that part of Nova Scotia, considering that milking
machines and much other modern machinery was unheard of then.
His stock consisted of about forty head of cattle, twelve to fifteen of them being
milking cows, three horses, half a dozen pigs, two or three dozen hens, several turkeys
including a cross gobbler who was very protective of his harem. Also he owned a
flock of sheep which consisted of about forty ewes and a ram.
For some reason Dad decided to enlarge his flock, so he bought an additional forty
ewes and a ram from a farmer named Cox from Upper Stewiake. My brother Dan and
I drove the sheep to Elmsvale, via Middle Stewiack and South Branch, a distance of
about twenty five miles.
Dad had told us to pasture these sheep with our other flock. This proved to be a mistake
as the two rams fought for supremacy of a harem of eighty ewes. Before we knew what
was going on and could separae them the new ram had broken the back of the other.
They had rammed one another until the death of the weaker.
The surviving ram had a miserable disposition. He seemed to be full of hatred and
he vented it on my brother Dan and me, especially me.
We were especially vulnerable to his attacks while going to the barn, or coming from
the barn to the house, a distance of about sixty yards. Whenever he saw me, he would
lower his head and charge. When I saw him coming, I would take refuge in the barn,
or duck back into the house, whichever was nearer.
I had finished my chores one morning and started for the house. My thoughts must have
been elsewhere, for I neglected to check on the ram's whereabouts before I left the
barn. I ws midway when I saw him charging towards me. I was too far from either
the house or the barn to escape his killer instinct, so I headed for a roadside telephone
pole, about thirty feet away. I made it just in time, and with me on one side and
he on the other, we circled the teloephone pole.
Unfortunately, at that moment my father appeared on the scene and called to me "Stop
teasing that ram" I was very hesitant about leaving the sanctuary of the pole and
stayed there. Again my father hollored at me "Stop teasing that ram"
I made a mad dash for the house, but the ram had the advantage over me, he could run
faster than I: maybe because he had four legs while I only had two. Anyway, he
rammed me and sent me sprawling. I scrambled to my feet and ran again, and again
he hit me and knocked me head over heels. I scrambled to my feet and ran. This time I made
the front porch and safety. (My brother Dan rminded me of this incident when I visited
him in Truro, NS during the summer of 1981. He was a witness to my misfortune.)
I had a very sore back for a week or more, also, multiple bruises and stiff muscles.
I also had a deep hatred for the ram. I never ran from him again, after this
accident, for if he was in the vicinity, I would have a four foot length of 2"x3"
hardwood in my hand; and when he charged, I sidestepped and slammed him on the head with my
club. After a couple of encounters like this, he completely ignored me.
I injured my back again two years later, when I was twelve years old. I was carrying
a rail on my shoulder, when I slipped on some ice and went down under my load. I
was laid up for about ten days.
These two accidents were the cause of a back that has bothered me, off and on, ever
since. I never knew the extent of my injury until I was called up for a physical
on the World War II draft. I was rejected due to a one quarter shortening of the
right leg caused by a slipped disk.
Prone #1 Horse non-sense
My grandfather, D.W.B.Reid lived in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia with his second wife, Annie
(Ormond) Reid. He was a contractor and we, my brothers, sisters and I considered
him to be wealthy due to the fact that he had a large house; also a stable in which
he kept a horse and carriage, and an automobile.
He employed a black man who was groom and chauffer. He cared for the horse and drove
it for him during the winter and early spring months and, in the summer he drove
the automobile which was a Graham Paige with impressive, big, yeallow, wodden wheels.
During the Summer, grandfather would send his horse out to my father's farm in Elmsvale,
Musquodoboit, which was about sixty miles from the town of Dartmouth. The horse
would spend most of the summer in the pasture getting sleek and frisky. Only occassionally would we use him as a carriage horse.
I remember well the last summer tht we kept him. I was about seven or eight. It was
late fall when grandfather sent word that he wanted the horse and carriage sent down
by way of the Musquodoboit-Dartmouth Railway. And that is when the
"horse non-sense" began.
There was no loading platform at Reid's siding in Elmsvale, so my father and a neighbour,
Frank Higgins, built a gangplank in order to get the horse into the boxcar. When
it came time to get him aboard, I tagged along to see how it was done.
There was only one problme; the horse refused to cooperate. He absolutely refused
to go up that gangplank. They tried driving him, leading him and coaxing him with
oats - all to no avail.
Finally they got an idea. The tied a burlap bag over the horses eyes, so he, not seeing
where he was going, would walk right up into the boxcar. Only, it didn't work that
way. When his hoofs hit the planking, he reared and bolted. My father called to
me : "Head him off, head him off". Which I did. Unfortunately, the horse, being unable
to see me, ran right over me, knocking me down. I was only bruised and shaken up,
not one of his freshly shod hoofs had stepped on me. It they had, I possibly wouldn't
be here to tell you about it.
A few days later, father and I drove, in the carriage, heading for Dartmouth. We had
traveled several miles when it started to snow. By the time we reached the village
of Elderbank, it had developed into a real snowstorm. We spent the night there with
Cassie McMullen, a distant cousin.
The railroad sttion there had a loading platform, and in the morning, when the train
arrived friend horse, meek as a lamb, walked into the boxcart. Father and I boarded
the passenger car and we had a very pleasant trip to Dartmouth.
John was 10 yrs old when his father aroused the seven older children from a deep sleep
( of innocence?) -and announced: "Your mother is dying, come say goodbye to her".
They were led to the Master bedroom and circled around the bed to watch their
37 yr. old mother gasping, dying of pneumonia. Frightened children, sent back to bed
and trouble. A terrible experience! Death became personal and the loss of their
mother: fatal rejection!
Bessie bore ten children, and in mid-stream was supplanted from her 1907 house by
edict of D.W.B. Reid. His house, 200 yards down the road, became vacant and he insisted
no stranger would stay there. Move, rent the new house! A few years later, in 1917,
the house became vacant. Bessie insisted that she and her family would shortly move
back to where she belonged. It was in the late fall, and she became ill with pneumonia
while painting and papering the house in preparation for the move. She died unfulfilled!
Prone #5 Axed 1917
Our mother died in November 1917, just a few weeks before her thirty-seventh birthday.
There were ten of us children, seven girls and three boys. My eldest sister, Ethel,
was eighteen and my youngest, Kathleen, was jut over six months old.
It must have been hard on our father losing her, but I think that it was even harder
on us children; it left a deep void in our lives. The older girls, Ethel and Isabelle,
took care of their younger sisters while my brothers and I just fended for ourselves. We weren't bitter about it, we just knew that we were on our own and that we should
not burden father or our sisters with our problems.
Actually, in the long run, it made us mature more quickly for we learned to become
self sufficient at an earlier age than we would have otherwise. That is why, when
I had an accident a few months after mother's death, I doctored and bound the wound
myself and told nobody about it.
Part of my evening chores was to prepare kindling for the morning fire. I was in
the woodshed splitting the kindling with a hatchet. It was at dusk and the light
was poor without a lantern. Suddenly, the hatchet glanced off the wood that I was
splitting, and the sharp corner of the blade sank deep into the flesh just above my right knee.
The blood started running down my leg into my boot as I entered the house quietly
and stole up the back stairs to the bathroom. I dressed the wound and bound my leg
firmly with strips torn from an old sheet, and then washed the blood from my leg.
Fortunately, the wound healed in time, without any infection, but I still have the scar
to remind me of the accident. C'est la vie, n'est pas?
Pigs is Pigs 1917
I have heard it said that a pig is a stupid animal. On the other hand, I have heard
individuals brag about the alertness of their pet pig; how it would, instinctively,
appear at the back door almost the exact time for feedig or it would discontinue
grub rooting and come running from behind the barn when called.
Personally, I believe that the inteligence of a pig is, more or less, motivated by
instinct and hunger. A pg will eat almost anything, including garbage, slop and entrails
from other animals. A piglet is hungry when it is born. Immediately on its birth
it is onto its feet and, with the umbilical cord still attached, scrambles around the
mother and within seconds is nursing on a teat. Now, if tht isn't a combination of
instinct and hunger, I don't know what is.
Even though pigs are endowed instinctively, they still can be sadly misguided (stupid).
Take for instnce the time when my father, apparently, thought that I was old enough
to become more familiar with the sexual activities of the farm animals. He asked
me to escort our sow down to a neighboring farm in order to have her serviced by the
farmer's boar, as she was in heat. Three days later, Father told me to go get the
animal as she probably was ready to come home.
When I arived at the farm, the farmer (SA) agreed that she should be properly serviced
by now so we went out to the pig pen. "By George! They are still at it", the farmer
exclaimed. And sure enough they were. The two of them were walking around the pen
with the boar mounted and embracing her firmly with his front legs.
I wondered why the sow was't particularly interested in the proceedings, in fact,
she was rooting in the strw and completely ignoring her lover. I took a closer look
and then said to the farmer "I'm afraid that she will never get pregnant this way"
"What do you mean?" "Look at the connection. The boar has it stuck up her arse" "By
George! Yu're right" he exclaiamed. We then had to forcefully disuade the boar to discontinue
his erotic sexual activities.
When I came to get the sow three days later, she was very docile and grunted contentedly
all the way home.
In 1919 Daniel Webster Bentley Reid, a forceful grandfather and a domineering influence
over the family, died. His story is epic: when 16 yrs of age, he went to serve
apprenticeship to the blacksmith trade in Middle Musquodoboit. Then he carried on
the blacksmith business in Elmsvale for some years, after which he went into government
contract work. His business was called later: the Standard Construction Company.
A very prosperous man, who died leaving a large estate.
He bequeathed $500 each to the ten grandchildren: and John put his into a savings
account in Middle Musquodoboit, and added to it each year by thinning turnips at
the Archibald farm. That would be his passport later from the farm to the Boston
States. His future was nurtured by that generous gift of the ironhanded D.W.B. Reid.
Grandfather Cunnabell died in 1920- a lonely old man, resented by J.W. Reid, who as
his son-in-law, fed and cared for that man. The resentment had festered by intrusion,
then by incident: It seems that Cunnabell received a lump sum military benefit for
serving in the Boer War. He traveled to Halifax to receive it and came home to Elmsvale
several weeks later, dead broke!! Decided he deserved a good time for his life had
little diversion. He left no estate -and his legacy was not to fit into John's life
Now John was 13 going on 14 yrs old; the house empty of grand-patriarchal influence,
and the chores of the farm rested mostly upon that boy/man.
The Firemaker 1920
What can be more nostalgic than the smell of wood smoke and the sight of it curling
lazily from the farmhouse chi;mneys on a frosty winter morning? During the last
few years of my boyhood in Nova Scotia, I was the firemaker for the one-room schoolhouse
and, also, for the country church on Sundays.
When morning chores were completed, I would gather my books under one arm and dry
kindling, wrapped in a newspaper, under the other and set off for school.
As I passed each house, I would know that the family was awake and stirring if the
smoke was arising from the chimney, for most country houses had no central heating
in those days and the kitchen stove was the main source of heat.
The frosty snow would sound a protest under my weight with each step and overhead,
the telephone lines would hum a mourfnful dirge ---- which would increqase as temperatures
dropped to greater extremes. Fortunately, I lived only a half mile from the school and usually I enjoyed this early morning walk, the frosty air, the smell of smoke
and the sounds that are part of the winter in the country. But, when the wind blew
bitter and the cold was intense, it would seem a long half mile before I arrived
at the schoolhouse.
My fingers would be numb from the cold as I laid the fire in the box stove and scratched
a match to kindle it. The stove would belch puffs of smoke for a few minutes until
the frost was drawn out of the stove pipe and an updraft was created.
My schoolmates would start to arrive within a half hour and by that time the fire
would be roaring a welcome for them and would be ready to share its heat with them.
This I remember when I smell the aroma of wood smoke or see it curling lazily from
a chimney on a frosty morning.
This I remember: The Trapline 1920
There are many things tht the mind recalls as one grows older. Usually it is difficult
to know what made us recall a particular occurrance, but sometimes it is something
we smell or see - take parsnips for instance.
Parsnips dug from the ground in the Spring are sweet and tender and, when cooked and
served with melted butter, are par excellance. I used to use parsnips for bait on
my trapline on the banks of the Musquodoboit River, for muskrats also love parsnips
- especially those faw, sweet parsnips freshly dug from the ground in the early Spring.
The revenue from the fur of muskrats, weasels, skunks, and an occassional mink or
racoon was my chief source of income during my school days in Nova Scotia. It bought
my clothes, gave me spending money and paid my train fare to the United States when
I left Musquodoboit in 1924 at the age of sixteen.
When the Spring freshet came and the ice broke up on the river and rushed madly toward
the sea, I knew that it was time to dig parsnips and get ready for the trapline.
The river would crest and overflow its banks, and then receded almost as rapidly
as it had crested, as the head of the river was only about ten miles up the valley from our
Daylight broke and I would be a mile or two from home, trudging along the river bank,
with traps flung over my shoulder, a hatched in my belt and parsnips in my pockets.
I loved the feel of the Spring mornings, the mist gently rising from the river and
the smell of the parsnips. Their pleasing odor made me realize that I was hungry,
but raw parsnips may taste delicious to a muskrat, but they didn't to me. At each
muskrat run, I would stake and set a trap with the enticing bait suspended on a stick about
eighteen inches above. I then would travel on the the next run until my traps were
all set. Twice a week, for the next six weeks, I would make this early morning trip
to check my trapline, and by 6:45 I would have returned home in order to assist with
Breakfast would be ready by 7:30 and you can believe that, by this time, I was hungry
enough to eat even a raw parsnip. This I remember, whenever I smell a parsnip.