Categories
The Landlady

“Poor Little Deer…”

Mr. Hobbit and the Deer - 1942
Mr. Hobbit and the Deer – 1942
Isn’t that a “deer” little picture? That’s actually what Ruby said to me when she passed it over her coffee cup, laughing, but I’m stealing it for myself…

I got to see a lot of Ruby’s old photos last night; most actually had The Lady Herself in them. Mushy’s instincts are quite correct: she surely was a “looker” in her day.

It’s unfortunate that she won’t let me post any… Ah well… on with the story.

That man – whose name I’m not allowed to publish, and I won’t make one up because his real name was just so spectacular that I couldn’t possibly come up with a better one (I swear there’s a hobbit somewhere with the same last name, and no, it’s not “Baggins”, but wouldn’t that have been groovy-cool?!) – owned a cabin right beside Northland Lake. The photo was taken somewhere ’round about 1942-43, if Ruby’s guess is correct.

The deer was a “gift” from a couple of men who “found” it in the bush, wandering around without a mother.

“Hmmmphf!” says Ruby. “No doubt they shot her and then found the baby.”

Ruby says Mr. Hobbit – there, I’ve named him anyway, haven’t I? – was a real nice fella. She and her brothers and sisters and all their crazy teenaged friends used to go visit him. They would swim in the lake in summer, and skate on it in the winter.

He never let them on the lake after the sun went down, though, afraid something might happen to one of them, and no one would find them in the dark. So, after sunset, they would all crowd into his little cabin, and he would wind up the old victrola so they could dance.

Or he’d pull out his fiddle and they would dance to that.

Nice guy, Ruby says. It was Mr. Hobbit that gave them the deer to take home. “Followed us home right smart,” as Ruby tells it. “It was a tame little thing.”

Ruby’s Mom, now (She of the No. Forearms.), wasn’t so fond of having a deer around. I would have thought she’d worry about the gardens, but no, it was the railroad tracks that scared her. Ruby’s dad was the Line Foreman in Northland, remember, and their house was right beside the tracks. Ruby’s Mom was sure he’d be killed (the deer, not Ruby’s dad – although she probably worried about that, too).

That deer entertained them for most of the summer. It lived outside, but was not in the least bit adverse to coming in for dinner. Ruby always knew when her dad was up in the morning, because once it saw movement in the house, that little deer would be at the door hammering on it with his head. Her dad always gave him breakfast, too.

The bigger the deer got, though, the more Ruby’s Mom worried about him playing on the tracks… she finally convinced the kids to take him back to Mr. Hobbit’s cabin. They didn’t want to, but they did. None of them wanted to find that deer lying bloody on the railroad tracks some morning.

Ironically, after he had been back with Mr. Hobbit for a week or two, a couple of “rough” boys started trying to catch him. Trying to get away, Ruby’s little deer broke a leg on the rocks by the shore.

Mr. Hobbit had to shoot him.

I swear Ruby had tears in her eyes when she told me this story. She very nearly wouldn’t let me take the picture with me, for fear I’d forget to bring it back to her.

Which I had better go and do, right now.

Random Song-for-the-Day: “Lucky” – Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat

Categories
Radio Les The Landlady

Knickety-Knackety Now-Now-Now…

Almost Edible
Almost Edible
Taken July 1, 2008 with Canon PowerShot A550

Ruby wanted me to post a picture of snowshoes for this post. I would have, too, but I couldn’t find any snowshoes to take a picture of, and the ones stealable online were all too small to suit me. Besides, Ruby’s cherry tomatoes are gorgeous, aren’t they?

Ruby and I got talking about snowshoes in the spring (I know, I know – I’m SO behind in these posts!), when I mentioned that another winter had gone by, and I hadn’t bought snowshoes for the kid and myself.

I used to snowshoe in school, and on Cockburn Island with my Dad, but Ky would never even entertain the thought of going with me, until this year, when she took it up in school herself. And fell in love with it, just like I did. We never managed to get ourselves any equipment before the snow melted, though. Sigh…* Next year, maybe…

Anyhoo… The mere mention of snowshoes got a story going…

We used to snowshoe all the time in Northland, you know. We used those old catgut snowshoes – ever see them?

Me: Yes, I have. I used catgut snowshoes, too. My Dad had them on Cockburn, and I think that’s what we had in school.

Well, they don’t make ’em like that anymore. Now, they’re those lightweight aluminum things. Don’t take nothin’ to get those things going. The ones *I* used were heavier than *I* was!

Me: Yup. And if you don’t bang the snow out them every so often, you’ll get bogged down with the weight…

That’s right! You have be careful how you bang ’em, too, or you’ll end up on your face.

(I laughed hard at this – I remember ending up on my face more than a few times.)

I think we spent the whole winter on snowshoes, now I think of it. We wore them for syruping, too. Imagine hauling pails of sap with snowshoes on…! We did it, though. We worked hard, now I look back on it, but I don’t think it occurred to us that we were working. We were having too much fun!

Me: Did you ever just snowshoe for the sake of snowshoeing?

Of course! We snowshoed all winter. Everybody did – even the teacher. He boarded at our house, you know. Slept with my brother.

Me: Your school teacher boarded with you?! God, you must have hated that!

You’re telling me I hated it! I didn’t like that guy much. He thought he was funny, always joking around… Any time a man walked into our kitchen, he’d yell at me: “Ruby! There’s somethin’ in the kitchen with pants on!” He used to make me so mad!

(Let’s all take a break here, while I try to stop laughing…)

I teased him back, though, I guess. I got in big trouble with him over that once.

Me: What’d you do?

Well, he got sweet on this girl in our class one year. He wasn’t much older than us, after all, and he took a shine to this pretty thing that had her nose in the air all the time…

Me: Uppity, was she?

Uppity?! She wouldn’t even talk to the rest of us girls, that’s how uppity she was! Anyway, the teacher was sweet on her, and one day when us kids were all out snowshoeing on the ice, this girl was with us, and we started teasing her about the teacher. She got mad at us, and sat down on the ice and wouldn’t speak to us at all.

So we thought, “Oh, to heck with her,” and off we went without her. Well, when we come back around again, she was gone. We could see two sets of snowshoe tracks making off into the bush, and we knew the teacher had come by and they’d gone off alone together. We made fun of them back and forth to ourselves all the way home. I could hardly keep a straight face at the dinner table that night, with him sitting across from me, let me tell you!

Anyway, that night, my sisters and I were upstairs getting ready for bed, and I got singing…

“She sat on the ice, and she wouldn’t talk
Knickety-knackety, now-now-now.
When the teacher came along, they went for a walk,
Knickety-knackety, now-now-now.”

(At this point, I must interject with the news that Ruby actually began to recite a ditty she’d made up over 70 years ago, and probably hadn’t thought twice about since…. I was flabbergasted. I daresay Ruby was too.)

Well! Didn’t that teacher hear me from down in the kitchen! He came barrelling up those steps – scared the bejeezus out of me! Told me right off, and I got mad at him! I said, “Oh, but it’s alright for you to say, ‘There’s somethin’ in the kitchen with pants on,’ every time somebody comes in!”

And he turned right around and never said another word.

I finally had the sense to dig out the digital recorder. I turned it on, fully expecting her to balk, but…

Ruby sang! When I asked her if I could blog it, she actually agreed. “But,” she said, “You should put up a picture of catgut snowshoes. I’ll bet most people that read your blog have never seen snowshoes!”

Ruby’s tomatoes will have to do, though. I’m more excited to share her voice with you. Check it out.

“Knickety-Knackety” – Ruby Daniel, 2008
Click it! Click it!

Random Song-for-the-Day: “I Kissed a Girl” – Kerry Perry

Categories
The Landlady

For Mushy – I Think We’re Wearing Her Down…

Joycie, Rex, and Ruby – 1928

Hey, a picture is a picture, right? Ruby dug this out especially for me to post here. That’s her on the right, sitting behind her brother Rex, on their tricycle – doesn’t she look like a little devil? And I’ll bet Rex dropped Joycie on her head off that trike about 30 seconds after the shutter clicked. Not that he did drop her on her head – just that he probably did. Just sayin’.

Rex is the brother of Blackberry Summer fame. Ruby hadn’t told me much about Rex up to this point, so when she presented me with this photo, saying, “There. I wonder what that Mushy fella will say to that?”, I asked her about him.

Rex was about 18 months older than Ruby. She was about three in this photo, so he’d have been a little over…. five maybe? He had asthma and it plagued him all his life. When he was eight, it almost killed him because of a Scarlet Fever vaccination.

They didn’t have a doctor in Northland, so every year or so, one would come in by train and stay a few days, checking up on people and taking care of any emergencies that might crop up while he was there. The rest of the time, Northlanders most likely were doctored up by midwives, veterinarians, and God Himself.

On the last day of an annual visit, if there were any school kids of the right age, the doctor would innoculate them all one after another, just before he jumped back on the train out of there. The kids would all be lined up, and with the midwife assisting, the doctor would stick them all, assembly-line fashion, no questions asked, no names taken. Prick, prick, prick, prick, pack up and go home.

Rex had asthma, but the doctor didn’t know that, and he didn’t bother to ask. If he had bothered, he’d never have given him the shot. Five minutes after the doctor left for the station house (which, ironically, was where Rex’s dad was, being the section foreman, after all), Rex went into convulsions. The quick-thinking midwife scooped him up and ran for the station house, where the train was just pulling in, and Rex’s dad watched the doctor save his boy in the nick of time.

When I asked Ruby what the doctor did to save him, she said she hadn’t a clue, just that it had been close. She also laid dollars to donuts that the doctor never gave another shot without asking a kid’s history first.

Rex survived, though, and grew up to work for his dad on the railroad, which kept him employed until World War II. He tried to sign on, of course, but his asthma did that idea in. He ended up working as a time-keeper for a chain-gang of POWs for the duration of the war, at a camp further up the ACR.

The POWs he was in charge of were mostly Italians. The were a friendly bunch, and the Canadian government treated them very well. They may have been called a “chain-gang”, but not a one of them wore a chain. Where would they go if they ran? Into the Northern bush to starve or freeze to death? No, they weren’t that stupid. Better off where they were, where they were housed and fed fairly comfortably, considering, and each and every one of them worked hard, Rex said.

In the evenings, some of them built tiny little ships, with masts and sails that were squished magically through the necks of whiskey bottles and glued down. The masts, sails all furled up, would be stuck to the ship with rubber cement, and laid flat on the decks with little strings attached to the tops of them. The tiny dab of rubber cement stayed flexible long enough that when the whole works went through the bottle neck, the strings could be pulled gently and the masts would stand up straight and the sails would unfurl. Rex said it was a great thing to watch. By the end of the war, he owned three ships in bottles, and had them ’til he died.

A lot of those POWs applied to stay in Canada when the war was over. We must have been pretty decent people back then, I guess. Who would choose to stay here otherwise, and freeze for six to eight months of the year?

Random Song for the Day: “Belgium or Peru” – Cuff the Duke