INCIDENTS OF THE EARLY DAYS

DRIVING TO MARKET IN LINDSAY

______________________________________

James Dobbin, an old settler of Cartwright township, who celebrated what very few married couples live to enjoy, a few years ago, that is their jubilee wedding, talks interestingly of the early days. “I worked my way on a farm from the bush up, helping to chop, log and burn, and many a blackened face and aching back I got while clearing away the heavy timber of little Cartwright,” says Mr. Dobbin. “In those days we had but few conveniences apart from those that were homemade. Hundreds of things that appear indispensable today we managed to do without, and hundreds of things in daily use now, were not even dreamed of by the most alert optimist seventy-five years ago. We had no matches, few stoves; our lighting was by tallow candles, or only dips, torches or the flaming hearth fire. I have many times, gone to the mill with the oxen and a wooden sleigh away through the bush in the summer time.”

“In winter, we would travel over the ice, on our journey to Lindsay, our nearest market town. The ice on the island and enchanting Lake Scugog made indeed a picturesque and exciting drive. The smooth surface, with its pure snow, and the bending evergreens at the water’s edge heavy with snow, and icicles, made a scene of unusual glory and beauty.”

“In the course of time we began to use horses, altogether for driving purposes. It was about sixty years ago that I owned a nervous, high stepping mare, that would always kneel for a moment before stepping on the ice, then off she would go and dust the snow on any other Cartwright nag that dared to venture alongside the same track. When Fannie would reach the other side of the lake, she would kneel just for a moment, and then trot off content and happy. During all the years that I drove her I can never remember that she forgot to kneel and many people came to witness the polite and careful manner in which Fannie invariably performed this odd custom of her imagination.”

“Deer were very plentiful in those early days, and was an aid to the new settlers in many ways. One time when another pioneer and myself were busy building a corduroy road, that is a long succession of logs laid crosswise through miry and swampy places, a wounded deer came suddenly upon us. For a moment we were startled by the unexpected appearance of this denizen of the forest, but we had sense enough to drop our tools and follow the almost exhausted deer. Before long we outran the once nimble animal and had him hung up and nicely dressed for our home use.”

Chasing a Fawn

“At another time, I chased a little fawn. It was the prettiest thing I ever saw in the wild animal line, a mottled red in colour, and with bright, sparkling eyes. I said to myself, “Now Dobbin, my boy, there is a pet for you,” and away I ran thinking I would soon overtake it. I was young and supple, and with great strides ran over the uneven pasture fields, but to my chagrin I soon found that the fawn was ten times more supple and fleet than myself. Brush heaps logs and fences were no hindrance to it, and I was soon compelled to give up the chase, sit down on the ground and watch the little beauty gain the safety of the forest. Its wee white flag was the last glimpse I caught of it.”

“The only wolf that I ever saw was near Burketon village, and it was a long time ago. One Sunday night when I was hastily walking along the newly cleared road, I came plump upon a big grey wolf. Before it ran away into the dense forest I got a good look at it, and saw that it was very big and muscular, much larger than a shepherd dog. It would weigh about sixty pounds, and I was very glad to see it run from, instead of towards me.”

“One morning after I had assisted a neighbour to sow a field of fall wheat, we found an immense flock of wild turkeys on the field that had been sown the previous day. They were busily engaged in picking up the uncovered grains. They were fine big birds, and plenty of the gobblers would weigh thirty pounds. We ran after them with the dogs, but failed to catch any of the bronze beauties. When they commenced to fly, the vibration from the hundred or more pairs of wings seemed to shake the ground underneath our feet, and when the great flapping wings entered the forest, we could see the leaves of the trees quivering and bending as before a whirlwind.”

“In the summer of about 1845 my wife’s people had been cutting oats one afternoon. A little after dark, as the men were talking together before returning to their homes, a strange thing occurred. There suddenly arose a great commotion among the cattle, which had gathered together for the night under a large elm tree. We knew by the bellowing and stamping of the cattle that a bear or a number of wolves must be annoying them, so we all started for the field, picking up axe, fork, or any other weapon that came handy as we ran. When we reached the scene of conflict we found one cow on the ground and a big bear tearing her to pieces and munching the torn off parts with every sign of pleasure, while all the other cattle stood around in a most excited state forming an enclosure with the calves, and smaller animals on the inner circle. The older and more courageous men were so incensed at the sight that they immediately made an attack on the bear, the most angry and fearless ones often placing themselves in positions of danger.”

“They soon had a big dead bear on their hands, and, what was a severe loss to the early homestead, a dead cow, whose very hide was so badly mutilated as to be worthless. The following morning we visited the place again, and after examining the surroundings, came to the conclusion that the bear had hidden in the tree and when the cattle sought rest underneath, had pounced down upon the cow, breaking her back, and then quickly worrying her to death.”


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