My dad bought another horse, i believe that it was a Percheron, for it was dark in
color, light-weight and speedy. We had only a team suitable for heavy work and we
needed the new horse for the light work such as cultivating, raking hay and to serve
as a carriage horse during the months of March and April when, due to the muddy conditions
as the frost came out of the ground, all dirt roads were closed to cars.
I was about fourteen when I hitched our new horse to a rake and drove him over to
the intervale, on the other side of the Musquodoboit River. The intervale was just
cross the road from the Riverside cemetary, and extended over on half mile down the
river. The Riverside Church stood uphill from the bridge,and a sawmill ws located on the
right hand side of the road between the intervale and the church.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, the hay was dry and as noon approached, we had made
excellent progress on raking the field. Given a acouple of hours after the dinner
hour and it would be completed.
I drove up the riverbank to the bridge, where I unhitched the horse from the rake,
and took his harness off, with the exception of the bridle and one rein. I looped
the single rein over his neck and tied it to the bit a ring on the other side of
the bridle, as I planned on riding bareback, going home for dinner, a distance of about three-quarters
of a mile.
I mounted, and, at that second, the mill whistle blew a blast signifying the 12 o'clock
shutdown. Friend horse bucked and I shot over his head into five feet of water in
the river. When I climbed out, the only thing hurt ws my pride, but he ws long gone
on the run for the barn and his dinner. And I, dripping wet, had a long walk home
I don't know if it was the mill whistle or me getting on his back that he resented,
as I was never interested enught to try riding him again in order to find out.
The moral of this story is: It is better to have tried to ride and lost your pride
Than to have tried to ride and lost your hide or died"
Apples to Spare circa 1921
I can't even remember when my father's orchard wasn't there, so, probably, it was
planted before I was born. It was a government sponsored experimental orchard
and included a wide variety of apple trees; some which I never knew their names.
I do remember however, that we grew such varieties as yellow transparent, August apples, Princess
Louise, Wolf River, Russet and Ben Davis.
We had no refrigeration and no faciities for storage in those days. However much
applesauce, complete with peel (no applesauce should be without it) was stored in
fruit jars. Also we enjoyed pies made from dried apples, most of the winter The
drying process was accomplished by many hands peeling, coring, cutting the apples into pieces,
threading them onto strings and hanging them up to dry. Many long lines hung from
wall to wall in the kitchen where the heat from the wood stove soon dried them out.
What I disliked about drying apples in this fashion was that the lines of apples made
an excellent nesting place for the numerous flies tht buzzed around the kitchen.
Windows had no screen in those days and the flies thrived on the heat from the
Incidently, that wasn't the only place that flies like to land, the molasses jug in
the middle of the dining room table was much to their liking also. Bread and molasses
was frequently the only dessert for the meal. Also it was the sandwich that most
children took to school for their lunch. Consequently, before dipping into the molasses
jug it was necessary to skim off the flies that had become stuck there.
My brothers and I sletp in the attaic, which was one large room with a dormer window;
and the only heat was from the chimney that went up through the center of the room.
Dan and I slept in a double bed under one sloping ceiling, facing Lewis' bed on
the other side of the room. The entire room, walls and ceiling, was finished in wood
One fall, Dad got the bright idea of building a bin in one corner of the attic and
storing apples there for winter use. itd wasn't a very good idea for by the time
winter had set in, the bin held a mass of very rotten apples. This presented a challenge
to us teenagers that we couldn't resist. Each of us collected a pile of rotten apples
on the floor beside our bed then put out the light and crawled under our beds. Then
the battle started. Lewie threw his at us and we heaved ours in his general direction.
It was hilarious. There were no direct hits but we laughed as we heard our ammunition
hit the walls and ceilings and splatter in all directions. When our apples were
gone, we giggled until we fell asleep.
We laughed even more when we awoke the next morning and viewed the utter devestation.
Fortunately, our sisters and our Dad seldom ventured into the cold attic in winter
and, therefore, we were able to clean up the worst of the mess within a few days,
piecemenal and unobserved.
We moved out of the attic to down stairs bedroom shortly after that, and within a
year or more we had left the nest. Lewis and Dan went to Timmins Ontario and shortly
after I left for Melrsoe Mass. to live with my grandparents.
I haven't been in that attic since, but it wouldn's surprise me one bit if you still
found rotten apple stains on the walls and ceiling there.
In 1922, J.W. Reid, to the relief of his live-in house keeper, remarried: to a spinster
school teacher named Elizabeth Dechman. She married into a diminished tribe: the
youngest girl, Kathleen, was 5 yrs old - Olive was 8, Marg (10) had earlier been
sent to live with J.W.'s sister Aunt Madge after the death of Bessie. Susan was 12,
John, age 14., and Dan,15.
The older sisters had all married, and Lewis had gone west to the gold mines of Timmons,
Ontario. Dan left for Timmons, shortly after the wedding, leaving John in charge
of all the farm chores
Accident Prone #3
"If wishes were horses, we all would ride" This is a statement that I have heard many
times over the years. Apparently, it originated when the principal means of transportation
over land, was the horse .
Personally, I am very happy that wishes aren't horses, as I would be buried under
horses, if that were the case. Don't get me wrong, I like horses, but not to ride
or drive - in any form, shape or manner.
The horse is a very intrelligent animal that reacts quickly to kindness and gentleness,
both in training and when being rode or driven. She/he also has a strong survival
instinct when confronted by anything strange or out of the ordinary. In the following instance, the mare follwed survival instincts and so did I.:
We had finished haying early on our farm, in the summer of 1923 when my brorthe-in-law,
Arnold Stewart, called up to ask me if I would come up and give him a hand a completing
his haying. Arn lived in Centre Musquodoboit, which was about three miles up the road from our farm in Elmsvale.
I drove up the next morning in our model T, and helped Arn with the chores around
the barn, until the dew had dried off the hay. About 10am I hitched up the mare
to an old horse rake which had, apparently, weathered many summers and winters.
I mounted the iron seat and proceeded to a hillside field, located between the back of the barn
and the railroad tracks.We (the mare and I) started raking the windrows parallel
to the hill, which would make easier loading of the hay with the hay-loader. All
went well with the raking until we came to the steep incline of the hill. We had turned and
had started down when, suddenly, both shafts broke in two; the seat pitched forward
throwing me down behind the heels of the mare, and in front of the numerous steel
tines that rake up the hay. The traces were till hitched to the whiffletree, but the shafts
being broken, the mare could no longer brake the horserake. Consequently, it struck
her on the legs. Instantly, she instinctively panicked and galloped down the field,
dragging the rake and me after her.
Fortunately, I was still hanging onto one rein. I knew that I could be killed unless
I did something quickly; with the one rein I might be able to control her. I exerted
a slight pull on the rein until I got her over close to the railroad fence. When
she came near enough, I yanked the rein bringing her into the fence where she was forced
I scrambled out from under the rake, unhitched the mare and led her back to the barn.
i reported to Arn that the shafts were broken, without any further detail.
He called up his neighbour (H.Kent) and got permission to use their rake. I drove
the mare down, hitched onto it, and finished raking the field in a couple of hours,
without further mishap.
In about ten days, the bruises and stiff muscles had disappeared and nobody but me
knew tht I had them. Now you know too.
Born again and again and again 1922
I have just finished reading James Harriot's book "The Lord God Made Them All" which
is the sequel to his other books portraying his interesting life as a veterinary
in Yorkshire, England. It made me recall my own limited experiences while living
on my father's farm in Nova Scotia.
During the lambing season each spring, it was necessary to go out to the barn every
hour or two each night, in order to assist with the delivery when the ewes gave birth
to their lambs. The yearling ewes usually needed help due to the fact that they
were not fully grown themselves.
I also recall a difficult birthing ordeal that I was unexpectedly involved in, where
I had to make a quick decision in order to save the life of a mother and some of
There were three cellars under our barn: the namure cellar, located under the stables
was the largest of the three. Annually, after the harvest, the manure would be
forked into spreaders which would spread it on the ploughed ground and fields to
fertilize for the next year's crops. The turnip cellar, the smallest cvellar, was located
between the manure cellar and the haymow, and was under the main barn floor, where
hay was unloaded and grain stored. We grew approximately two acres of turnips annually,
and this crop would be stored in the turnip cellar. Turnips were run through a
hand powered turnip pulper and fed to the cattle and pigs during the winter.
I always dread going down into the turnip cellar as it was unlighted and there was
a thirty foot deep, uncovered wall located in one part of this cellar. A pump
on the floor above supplied water for the cattle. It was a hand pump at this time,
but up to about ten years before it had been windmill powered. The windmill rose about twenty
five feet above the barn roof. Unfortunately, it had abeen destroyed in a wind storm.
I believe that the fear of the well must have stayed with me into my adult life, for
several times over the years I have dreamt that I was in that cellar sliding down
a slippery, muddy bank into the well. I always woke up just as I hit the water.
I digress from my narration - the third cellar, which we called "the barn cellar"
was located beneath the box stalls, where calves and young pigs were kept. Access
to this cellar was by a trapdoor located in the alleyway between the cattle stanchions
and the box-stalls. A stairway led from the trapdoor to the cellar below.
I was about fifteen. We had been keeping a sow in the barn-cellar all winter. Daily
we would throw some straw down for her to root in, and then go down and empty a pail
of skim milk into her trough. Also dump a pail of pulped turnips or potatoes in a
second trough. There was no lighting down there, only a glimmer of light shone through
one dusty casement window. In this dim light, it was difficult to see the sow,
but she would greet us with friendly grunts each time that we came down to feed
Came early Spring; Dad was going away for several days, but before he left, he asked
me to take the sow out the back door of the barn cellar and bring her up into the
boxstall, as she was due to birth her young. When I brought her out into the daylight, I saw that she was too fat. In fact, so fat she could hardly waddle along.
The next day she went into labor, - and twenty four hours later she was still in labor.
I grew worried, as she was growing weak from her ordeal, and instinct told me that
she and her piglets could not survive much longer. I was hesitant about forcing
my hand into her, but knew that it was now necessary. So after washing under the pump,
I made entry with my right hand.
It seemed a long way in before I made contact with the little culprit that was blocking
the passage, but finally I knew that I had reached him when I felt the pglet's teeth
gently bite my fingers. I grasped his lower jaw and pulled until I thought that
I would pull it off, but he wouldn't move. I grasped his snout and pulled - and still
he would not budge. I then realized that I would have to sacrifice his life in order
to save the life of the sow and the other piglets waiting to be be born. I inserted
my thumb and finger into his eye sockets and gently but firmly pulled him out. I
found it necessry to sacrifice the second piglet the same way.
The ordeal had a happy ending, however, for the rest of the litter were normal and
healthy piglets that arrived just minutes apart, scrambled around the mother, with
their umbilical cord attached, looking for a teat to nurse on.
When it was all over, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction as I stood there watching
sixteen piglets nurse, as the old sow grunted contentedly.
A Holiday 1924
The twenty fourth of May
Is the Queen's birthday (Victoria)
If we don't get a holiday
We will all run away
This was a familiar chant as the 24th of May approached each year. We never had to
run away, however, as we always got our holiday. The 24th of May was the only day
of the year that we actually took a holiday from the farm as it was too early in
the Spring for planting and other farm projects.
This was a day of adventure for several of us boys in school, also for a few girls,
- the ones whose parents would permit their daughters to take a fishing trip deep
into the woods, to an old gold mine with boys their own age.
There would be no elaborate preparations for the holiday but anticipation would be
built up as the day approched; us boys would dig oodles of worms and prepare lines
and hooks. Everybody would pack a lunch - which consisted of molasses sandwhiches
made with homemade bread. This was a typical school lunch tht practically everyone ate in
At last the great day arrived and we were off. Our destination was an old gold mine
called Slate Quarry, which was located about five miles from Musquodoboit, straight
back into the woods. The first part of the journey was by the O'Connell Road, a
seldom used highway. Just beyond the bridge, we cut off onto a trail. This trail, through
the woods, was once a woodroad on which machinery equiptment and supplies had been
hauled to the location of the water powered stamp mill, which was our destination.
Apparently pay ore was never been found there, for the mine and mill had been abandoned
many years before.
The trip deep into the woods was alwasy an adventure in itself; the red squirrel would
scold us as we approached, a snowshoe rabbit would scurry from under a brush almost
at our feet, and, occassionally, a deer would flash across the trail in front of
us. But the greatest thrill of all was finding the fresh tracks of a bear in the mud of
a wet spot on the trail. We would breathe a sigh of relief if there were no accompanying
cub tracks - as we had been warned many times to beware of a mother bear when cubs were with her.
At last we would arrive at the old gold mine. First, we wuld wander through the old
house to see how much it had deteriorated since we were there the previous year;
the windows were long since gone, the door hung by one hinge, the stairs to the upper
floor were broken and unsafe, and the roof now had a serious swayback.
We stripped to bare feet and waded in the ice cold water of the millpond. We opened
the sluice gate and watched the water cascade down the sluice toward the old gold
crusher. Excitement mounted high as we climbed into the sluice and, with the water
rushing past us, we waded to the hugh water wheel that powered the mill, a distance of about
twenty five yards from the millpond. The ten ton stamp mill had long since come
to a grinding halt, the waterwheel would no longer turn and the machinery of the
mill was rusted and never again would be able to move.
We sat on a grassy bank and ate our lunch and, as we lunched, we voiced our opinions
regarding the aspirations and frustrations of the men of a previous generation, that
sought riches when they financed and built this gold crusher.
After lunch we went to the pit from where the ore had been extracted for the crusher.
Getting down on our knees, we peered down into the seemingly bottomless hole beneath
us. A porcupine had apparently made his winter home on an outcropping ledge directly
abelow us. He must have been surefooted indeed or he would have fallen to daeath far
below when climbing in and out of his den.
We were now ready to start an afternoon of fishing down the Slate Quarry Brook. Each
of us boys prepared his line and baited the hook. The girls had no fishing equipment
so each one paired off with a boy that did. This brook was a fisherman's paradise
for, being far back in the woods, it was seldom fished. We traveled and fished several
miles down the brook until we reached the settlement of South Branch. From there
we walked the old South Branch road to Musquodoboit and home.
The last time that I fished the Slate Quarry brook was in 1924. My compnion and I
caught a nice string of one hundred and ten trout. That day was also a first for
me, I became intoxicated for the first time. As we followed the brook from the woods
going toward the settlement, we met two girls that had also been fishing. They were apparentlly
city girls about our age, were well dressed and carried expensive looking fishing
rods which was in direct contrast to our farm attire and alder fishing pole. They
had not caught any fish. They stopped to talk and asked if they could buy some trout
from us as they wanted to fool the parents into believing that they had caught them.
I told them that they couldn't buy any but that I would be glad to give them some.
I cut a small alder and strung half a dozen fish on it. The girls took them on the
condition that I give them my name and address. A month later I received two uncirculated
twenty-five cent scripts through the mail. I surmised that they were from them.
But to get back to my first drunk (I was sixteen). When we left the brook and headed
for the Old South Branch Road, we passed through a farmyard. The farmer admired our
string of fish so we gave him some. In return, he invited us into the farmhouse
to sample his home brew. It ws his own special formula, a brew made from oatmeal and molasses
and yeast. It tasted excellent and also packed a powerful wallop. However, by the
time my companion and I had walked the five miles home, we were again in conrol of
our faculties. Three months later I left Musquodoboit to live with my grandparents
in Melrose, Mass.
It was over forty years later, while on my vacation in Nova Scotia, I had an urge
to visit Slate Quarry again. However, if I could have forseen what I w