Once Upon a Time

by Bob Johnston

July 21, 2016


Once Upon a Time

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After the devastation caused by the fire, we now had to prepare for winter with what we had, by saving and storing every bit of feed we could find. The cows would have to be fed as whatever diminished flow of milk they could produce would have to provide our winter food and income.

The first winter after the fire, we took the cattle to the bush and cut down saplings which had escaped being burned in some secluded glen. They browsed on the fine twigs of these to assist the pressing shortage. Spring came at last.

Everyone hoped green pasture would grow up over the burned area, but  this was not to be. Instead, there came a full cover crop of nothing but mulleins. These, the animals could not eat. The result was a very lean period for animals and people.

That summer we had to grow large garden crops, which we children hoed from morning 'til night, it seemed.

Winter passed and a second spring rolled around. Great hopes for a crop of pasture were again doomed as in the place of the mulleins, came a complete crop of Canada thistles. Cattle could eat these only when the plants were very young. So passed another summer of hoeing and a bit of fence-building.

The third spring following the fire! But this was the greatest spring ever. No mulleins, no thistles, but in their place and equally dense was a crop of red raspberry bushes. These, the animals ate to their heartís content and finally rounded out in flesh. We children picked enough for mother to preserve two hundred quarts in large sealers to store in the basement.

Now we could see the whole picture of recovery unfold. Nature, with her crop of mulleins, thistles and berry bushes, had been busy nurturing and protecting a new crop under the cover of these. Under this cover, in the fourth spring, came countless numbers of little baby trees of many species, some of which have since been cut to lumber. We now see the great waste of burned ashes and bare rock taking on new green life. So I say to all as you move into your Bruce place in the sun, please be careful with any fire in your care.

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I leave two friends of mine, which I shall not soon forget; the trees I have seen born to life and Georgian Bay, which at that critical moment, literally rose up and spat in the face of the hot fire. Truly friends indeed!

Part One - 1908 Bush Fire

Part Two - 1908 Bush Fire continues


Adapted by Bob Johnston from an article written by Gordon H. Hepworth and published in the 1969 Yearbook of the Bruce County Historical Society.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016