Christmas gift-giving in most homes is both generous and expensive. Our children and grandchildren can take their abundance of material goods, especially items of clothing and footwear, for granted. This humorous, yet poignant, article written by Bruce A. Miller from Tara about hardships faced by children of Bruce County settlers, reminds us not to do so.
A brother of my two great grandfathers Miller, Robert Miller and his wife, Mary Buckett, lived in Keppel Township fronting on the road to Park Head. They had five sons and five daughters. The school was likely over a mile away. There is no history of how the girls got to school in the winter but we do have an oral history of how the boys made the trip. The family could afford only one pair of winter boots for the five boys and as it was often bitterly cold … what was to be done?
Fortunately, the family had an intelligent farm dog. They bought one pair of boots large enough to fit the oldest boy. He would then put on the boots and walk to school, taking the dog with him. He would then send the dog home with the boots, which the second boy put on and repeated the process, and so on until all the boys were at school. I assume the process was successfully reversed to get back home.
On a recent visit to my Aunt May Foreman in Allenford, I told her the foregoing story which reminded her of my great grandparents, Richard Miller and Catherine McLean. They lived on a farm near Arkwright and then for many years on a farm near Park Head. They also had five boys and also could not afford winter boots. Catherine knitted many pairs of socks from wool produced by their sheep. Each boy then put on between four and six pair of socks depending on the temperature, and the boys all went off to school together.
I can see that each approach to the problem has its own unique advantages.
Bruce A. Miller’s article