Snowmobiles were a huge new thing fifty years ago, folks would ride all over just for the joy of getting out in mother nature in winter. I remember the Hillcrest School yard and Hatch’s fields around it being tramped flat and shiny ice all winter long as north Dryden folks used it as a testing ground, and kids roared around there.  Leo St Aubin, our neighbour on Second Street, brought one home, and all winter his three sons, too young to go out on the land on their own, would roar it endlessly around their backyard.  Until it ran out of gas, or more often died of natural causes and Leo had to resurrect it.  Good start to one of Dryden’s longest-running businesses, the St Aubin’s are still proficient at handling and repairing snowmobiles.

We would go out in groups at night, usually with a wineskin — $4.99 at Canadian Tire, looked like leather on the outside, was plastic on the inside, chemicals leached out of the plastic by the wine (item 411 on the liquor store list) probably shortened out lives by an average of let’s say a year or more. Those early machines were notoriously unreliable, if a group of say five went very far, it was a fair bet one would end up being towed home.  So it was a bit risky to go very far by yourself, anyway going in groups was more fun.  Also the lights on those early machines were grossly inadequate; anything over 10 miles an hour at night was taking your life in your hands.

One of the mainstays keeping the town running back then was Public Works Manager Eric Oliphant, and he became my right hand man when I went to work for the town. Here is one of his favourite stories.

A popular night snomo run was from Dryden down Wabigoon Lake to Wabigoon; spend an evening imbibing and listening to country music at the Tavern, then ride home in the middle of the night. Eric and wife Marg, riding double, went on that Wabigoon run one beautiful night, with a contingent of maybe eight friends.  Returning after midnight, in an appropriately mellow mood, he did not notice Marg fall off the back of the machine.  Arriving back in Dryden, they all scattered to their various houses.  When Eric got off his machine at his house and discovered Marg was missing, he had to round the convoy back up and they all went roaring off toward Wabigoon to find her.

She recounted that after falling off on an ice ridge and waiting what seemed forever, a flock of machines came roaring back across the lake from Dryden, but with their pitiful little lights they could not see her and roared right past. When they came back, she ran toward the nearest one, waving her arms and shouting, but he still went roaring by.  After several passes, exhausted, she sat down on the ice ridge and got out a cigarette.  She had hardly struck a light before she was surrounded by machines; they just needed that little cigarette lighter flame as a beacon to find her.  Good thing she was a smoker!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment



Here is a little poem

The older I get     the more I think/ You only get a minute, better live while you’re in it/  Cause it’s gone in a blink.

And the older I get   the truer it is/  It’s the people you love, not the money and stuff, /That makes you rich.

And I don’t mind   all the lines /  from all the times I’ve laughed and cried  Souvenirs and little signs /  of the life I’ve lived.

And if they found a fountain of youth, I wouldn’t drink a drop, and that’s the truth/ Funny how it feels I’m just getting to my best years yet.

The older I get   the fewer friends I have / But you don’t need a lot when the ones that you got /  Have got your back.

And the older I get   the better I am / At knowing when to give and knowing when to just /not give a damn.

The older I get   the longer I pray / I don’ know why, I guess that I / got more to say.

And the older I get   the more thankful I feel / For the life I’ve had and for all the life / I’m living still.  (end)

I don’t know much about poetry, but I see some poetic merit here, good poetic structure, and while some would call it doggerel because it is written in vernacular rather than formal language, I see the message as very well addressed and thoughtful, words chosen for their meaning and impact rather than just because they happen to rhyme. Much of Shakespeare is written in the vernacular of his day.

But it’s not really a poem, it is a song. I don’t know a lot about music, but as I heard it performed, it has a classical chord structure and a solid attractive rhythm, (two-step, anyone?) sung in a clear, pitch-perfect voice with an appropriate instrumental accompaniment.  So, overall, a whole lot more poetic and musical merit than most modern pop music.

But it is sung with a slight Missouri accent, accompanied by guitars and fiddles rather than a formal orchestra, and so the educated city folks don’t even listen to it, dismissing it as ‘country music’ and therefore crap unworthy of their time.

Actually, it is a hugely successful song performed by Alan Jackson, one of America’s greatest stars outside the big cities. And it is a perfect metaphor for the split threatening to tear America apart today, with Canada an accidental casualty.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment




A PAGE FROM WILLY BRANT’S DIARY — Most of you don’t know that the Dwarf brothers grew up just down the road here on the seventh concession. I remember well when Snow White came to look after those orphan boys.

Too bad Disney in his movie about them had to go and give them nicknames reflecting some distinguishable feature. This would be horrendously politically incorrect in today’s world, but in Disney’s time it was quite common, tall guys might be named ‘Stretch’, short guys ‘Stumpy’, skinny guys ‘Slim’, crippled guys ‘Gimpy’, Curly-lock guys (or guys who lied a lot) were named ‘Curly’, and so on.

So, in Disney’s movie, Matthew Dwarf became ‘Dopey’ for obvious reasons. Mark Dwarf became ‘Sleepy’ because he was, well, sleepy most of the time.  Luke Dwarf became ‘Sneezy’ because of his allergies, while John Dwarf was so shy and soft-spoken he became ‘Bashful’.  Alvin Dwarf became ‘Doc’ because he was a natural leader kind of guy; Simon became ‘Happy’ because he was always laughing, mostly at his brothers, and Theodore became ‘Grumpy’ because of his perpetual frown, probably mostly because Simon was always laughing at him.

Because of Snow White’s excellent parenting skills the brothers grew up as individually successful people. Dopey became a government bureaucrat; Sleepy overcame his disability and became an airline pilot; Sneezy became a lawyer; and Bashful overcame his shyness to become a professional comedian. Doc went on to become an accountant, Happy became a popular bartender, and Grumpy joined the clergy.

Of course the brothers had a strong sense of family, and even though their jobs meant they were scattered all over the country, they got together every Christmas to catch up on the year past, and they always exchanged gifts.

But last year, Bashful, still an introvert, reviewed the hassle he felt every year picking out six gifts for six guys he really didn’t know that well, being he only saw them once a year. He reflected on some of the useless gifts he had received, a gaudy tie he would never wear, a combination corkscrew-can opener, loud argyle socks, even a metronome, presumably one brother thought he needed a bit of help keeping in time when they sang carols together.  He decided instead of stressing out buying stuff the guys might not want, he would just give them each a one-hundred dollar bill.

This caused quite a discussion at their Christmas get-together. Several felt it was too impersonal, one suggested it was showing off as it was more than the others spent on gifts, and Sleepy suggested it was contrary to the spirit of Christmas.  Doc the accountant pointed out that if they all gave each other $100, it would be a net zero situation, each would spend $600 and receive $600.  Happy the bartender said in that case they might as well exchange checks instead of money, and then tear them all up after they got home.  Dopey the bureaucrat said let’s make the checks $1000 if we are going to tear them up anyway, then we can brag about how much we spend on Christmas gifts.  Sneezy the lawyer suggested they might find a way to call the gift a ‘charitable donation’, thereby getting a tax rebate.  Grumpy the clergyman pointed out that it really didn’t matter, Christmas was all about celebrating the birth of Christ, and a gift to charity would be more appropriate anyway.

After much discussion, the boys decided instead of gifts they would each donate $100 to the Salvation Army, and give their charitable donation tax rebates to Grumpy to use in his humanitarian work. That sounds great.  I am kind of proud of how the Dwarf boys turned out.

Merry Christmas from Willy and Joe and all of us up here on the seventh concession

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment




This is a fictional story, set in 1965.

It starts with a bright young fellow (BYF) entering his bank managers office. “Thank you for taking the time to hear my idea”, he says.  “I have developed this recipe, it’s mostly ground up corn and other stuff, I mix it up like waffle dough, and when I pour it out real thin on a really hot grill, it cooks and dries into a sheet which cracks up into pieces, like flakes, like this sample here” Offers sample to manager.  Manager tastes it, looks non-committal, bright young fellow says “Well, it’s a lot better in a bowl, with some sugar, that healthy natural brown stuff of course, maybe slice up a banana on it, or a handful of blueberries, slosh on some 2% homo.  People are too busy to cook breakfast these days, and here is a balanced nutritious breakfast in seconds.  I think there will be unlimited market for it”

So what do you want from me”, says the manager.

“Well, I have designed up a rotary dryer-flaker”, here BYF produces some neatly drafted plans for a mechanical contraption, “and Mr. Jim Cutsteel over at the blacksmith shop says he will build one for me for $3000. I would need an institutional – size mixer, and that costs $2000.  I can buy the corn and stuff already ground up, and my dad says I can set the whole thing up in his garage.  So I want to borrow $5000 to buy the mixer and dryer, then I can start boxing the stuff up and sell it.  As the market develops, I can work into a more industrial scale operation.  I need $5000” he says looking up expectantly.

Now we split into two scenarios. First, BYF is a Canadian.  He is talking to Cuthbert Pinstripe, manager of the local small-town (perhaps a northern Ontario mill town) branch of a national institution with branches all across the country; whose shareholders are mostly Canada’s wealthy leading families.

Cuthbert is a young bureaucrat on his way up, looking to be promoted to manage bigger branches, or an older bureaucrat already passed over for promotion and on his way down, either way not interested in anything out of the way which might put a blot on his resume. Cuthbert says, a little snootily “we only make business loans to proven businesses, and in any case we would need at least a mortgage on your dad’s house for security.  If you have political connections, you might get a grant somewhere.  Seriously, I suggest you get out of the kitchen and go get a real job, maybe working in the mill like everybody else.”

Now we will look at the second scenario, where BYF is an American. He is talking to Flashy Jack Shortnote, manager, proprietor, sometimes teller, and even occasionally janitor of his local, one-branch privately owned bank.

Flashy Jack says “Why, Billy Kellogg, I am sure happy to see a young fellow with some independent spirit and new ideas. I know your daddy and grand-daddy, and they are men of honour who do what they say they will do, and I am sure you are cut from the same cloth.  So let’s see, what can we do for you?”  Thinks for a minute, then goes on “I won’t lend you that money, because worrying about having to pay it back is too much of a burden on a start-up business.   Let me see, here is what I will do.  You will need working capital, so I will give you a revolving line of credit for $1000, so you can pay for your supplies until your sales receipts come in.  I will invest $1000 in your idea, and I will find 4 other investors with $1000 each.  Doug Pillpopper, over at the drugstore will come in, and I bet Bill Shortbottle at the liquor store would too.  If I lean on old Jim Cutsteel, he will probably take shares for $1000 of his bill.  We will incorporate a company.  It’s your idea, and your hard work to make it go, so you get 75% of the shares, and we will put up the money, so we get 5% of the shares each.  How does that sound?”

Bright young fellow, overwhelmed, says “Mr. Shortnote, that sounds just fine. Thank you so much for your help and generosity”, to which Flashy Jack replies, “Oh, it’s not generosity, it’s just business.  If you succeed, we might make a lot of money, and if you fail, the tax system takes some of the bite out of our loss.  Four out of five new businesses fail, but if we keep investing in bright young fellows like you, the winners more than offset the losers.  Good luck to you, now get out there and sell corn flakes”.

Remember, this fictional account is set in 1965. In today’s Canada, Cuthbert is gone, and BYF would have been dealing with Patty Puffdegree, Small Business Loans Manager, who would have had him fill out a multitude of forms and forwarded these to a central computer which would have issued BYF his rejection notice. And cancelled his credit card.  Even in the US, BYF might be rejected; independent bankers like Flashy Jack are becoming rare; most of their banks are bureaucracies like ours.

But let’s extend the story by adding another chapter. Suppose BYF was able to raise the capital he needed, perhaps a rich uncle lends him the money, and he actually gets into business.  In today’s world, he will face unbelievable hurdles in terms of food safety regulations, marketing boards, supermarket shelf space politics, all designed to preserve the market for the presently rich and keep the serf class in their place.  Unless his uncle also has political connections, BYF would be bankrupted without ever really understanding what happened to him.

So it’s a good thing Corn Flakes was invented in the US a long time ago.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment



So, Little Red Riding Hood is tripping along through the forest on her way to her grandma’s house, enjoying the scenery and the birdies and bunnies who seem to follow her everywhere, red hooded cape unbuttoned, red hair flying, not a care in the world. She is carrying the basket of eggs she gathered in her barnyard this morning, eggs from heritage breed hens, happily scratching and foraging around the barnyard, and fed farm-produced naturally grown grains.  Eggs she carefully candled this morning –eggs occasionally have a defect, a form of blood clot in them.  Candling means holding each one up to a light in a box so she can see through the translucent shell and see if this defect is there.  It is not toxic or anything like that, but not very appetizing and these defective eggs are fed to the dog or the cat or the pigs or even back to the hens.

As she gets to grandma’s house she notices that the door is open a bit, and no lights on, she gets worried and rushes in shouting “Grandma, are you OK?” The door slams behind her, and the Big Bad Wolf behind the door gruffs “Your grandma is OK, but you are in big trouble!”  She looks again, and the Big Bad Wolf is a bit different, looks sort of like a government bureaucrat.  She asks “what have I done wrong?”

Big bad wolf says “You are illegally transporting eggs!” “But how can that be”, says LRRH, “Grandma usually comes for her eggs and she would never do anything illegal.  She isn’t feeling well, so I am bringing them to her.” The wolf gruffs “Oh, your grandma is OK, it is legal for the customer to pick up her eggs at the farm, but it is against the law for the farmer to bring the eggs to the customer.  I will have to write you a ticket!”

LRRH says “So, what would I have to do to be able to legally transport eggs?” Big bad wolf answers firstly; you need a government –approved Egg Grading Station.  Then he asks “How many hens do you have?” Red answers with “I really don’t know, do I have to include my bantam hens?  They are really hard to keep track of, must be a hundred or more if I include them, but my cousin in Alberta says I only need a quota from the Marketing board if I have over 500, so I am OK.”  “But this is Ontario”, from the bureaucrat/wolf, “I will have to write you up another ticket, you are only allowed one hundred hens without a quota.”

“So I will have to kill my banty’s, they are really just pets you know, about the size of a crow. Anyway we already have an egg grading station, I just set up my basin of water to wash off any spots beside my candling light and weigh scale on the kitchen table.”

“Well, no, your Egg Grading Station is OK, but it will have to be in a separate building, not in your house or barn.” “OK”, from Little Red Riding Hood, “We have a shed we don’t use; I will just move my stuff over there.”  The wolf replies “no, the building plans will have to be approved, and the building will require its own separate electrical service, heating plant, water supply approved by the board of health, and sewage disposal system.  You could probably build it for $60 000, depending how deep you have to drill the well.”

LRRH is getting visibly upset now, and asks “So I can’t just run an extension cord for one light bulb, I can’t wash the eggs with the water I drink every day, I can’t just flush the basinful of slightly soiled wash water down the toilet, I have to spend $60 000. What health or safety or environmental purpose can that possibly serve?”

The wolf is also losing it, and just gruffs “you don’t get to ask questions”.  But LRRH is a feisty chick, and she goes on “A few hens is a big help to anybody wanting to start a family-scale natural farm, but these rules makes it way too expensive, so this is all just to prevent new farmers getting started, nothing to do with the public good!”  The wolf growls “Now I am going to have to write a ticket for you obstructing a Provincial Officer just trying to do his duty. Stick out your arms for these handcuffs; we are going downtown; with three tickets you are going away for a while.”

Grandma stuck her head out the door as they were leaving, and said “Sorry, Red, I wish I could have warned you, but they said they would put me in jail if I did, and I am too old for that. I hope you get out soon!”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment



I was a bit taken aback. I don’t remember his exact words, but what I got was that the Go-Getters is not for the ‘upper class’. Upper class, in little Dryden?

By coincidence, not long after that conversation, a fellow told me he finds it hard to take the Go-Getters seriously, after all, such a silly name. I choked, and replied that mostly we just refer to ourselves as ‘the Dryden Senior’s Drop-In Center’.

Another coincidence, the next day I bumped into an old friend in the Dollar Store. “How’ya doin’?” from me, and “Sensational” from her.  “Really, that good?” from me, and “Well, the whole world hates a complainer” from her.  I said I know, even if I feel like I have been run over by a bus I usually say I am ‘just a-rarin’ to go’.  Of course that is kind of dumb, I don’t suppose anybody younger than about 60 has any idea as to what that means.

She replied that she had just seen an email joke, a list of words we old-timers use which younger folks don’t understand, and it is quite a long list.

Thinking about it, the Go-Getters are folks retired from all walks of life, professionals and janitors, wealthy and poor. We like old things, we play games and cards and bingo, we do carpentry and crafts.  We run small programs or courses to help us cope with modern life.  We like to dance, and we prefer the waltzes and polka’s we learned before rock ‘n’ roll was invented (and the music world has gone downhill ever since, try writing down the words to any modern rap song, and finding any poetic merit in them).  Mostly, we like to visit and have lived enough life to know that each of us, educated or not, wealthy or not, has something interesting to say if we will only listen.  But I suppose someone who is very ‘class-conscious’ might have trouble with mixing with the hoi polloi like that.  Of course that means they are not genuinely classy at all, think “Mrs Bucket”.

Anyway, a hundred years ago, when the spirited young horse was hitched to the buggy and the trip was delayed he would be so anxious to go on a run he would be pushing and dancing and even rearing up on his hind legs, hence ‘Rarin’ to go’. Of course he could also be ‘chompin’ at the bit’, but that is a story for another day.

And when my parents’ generation were talking about a high-spirited hardworking person anxious to get things done and change the world, they would say he is a “Real Go-Getter”. The Go-Getters club was started and named in their day, over 60 years ago, when most folks knew what a Go-Getter was.  And the good news is that the club is embarking on a program to bring its facility up to date and in line with today’s needs – they are indeed ‘Real Go-Getters’.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment




The following is an excerpt from an article in The Guardian, a British paper, which I have copied from a Canadian blog called “Local Food News – World”, Dec 12/16 issue. It was addressing the problem of human activities releasing carbon dioxide into the air, thereby causing Climate Change and other unspecified disasters.

As some readers know I have been a student of agriculture since we moved to Oxdrift at age 8; I still bring my vegetables to the farmers markets every week. This article very accurately expresses my opinions.

(Begin Quote) There is, however, a solution. Scientists and farmers around the world are pointing out that we can regenerate degraded soils by switching from intensive industrial farming to more ecological methods – not just organic fertiliser, but also no-tillage, composting, and crop rotation. Here’s the brilliant part: as the soils recover, they not only regain their capacity to hold CO2, they begin to actively pull additional CO2 out of the atmosphere.

The science on this is quite exciting. A study published recently by the US National Academy of Sciences claims that regenerative farming can sequester 3% of our global carbon emissions. An article in Science suggests it could be up to 15%. And new research from the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, although not yet peer-reviewed, says sequestration rates could be as high as 40%. The same report argues that if we apply regenerative techniques to the world’s pastureland as well, we could capture more than 100% of global emissions. In other words, regenerative farming may be our best shot at actually cooling the planet.

Yet despite having the evidence on their side, proponents of regenerative farming – like the international farmers’ association La Via Campesina – are fighting an uphill battle. The multinational corporations that run the industrial food system seem to be dead set against it because it threatens their monopoly power – power that relies on seeds linked to patented chemical fertilisers and pesticides. They are well aware that their methods are causing climate change, but they insist that it’s a necessary evil: if we want to feed the world’s growing population, we don’t have a choice – it’s the only way to secure high yields.

Scientists are calling their bluff. First of all, feeding the world isn’t about higher yields; it’s about fairer distribution. We already grow enough food for 10 billion people. In any case, it can be argued that regenerative farming actually increases crop yields over the long term by enhancing soil fertility and improving resilience against drought and flooding. So as climate change makes farming more difficult, this may be our best bet for food security, too.

The battle here is not just between two different methods. It is between two different ways of relating to the land: one that sees the soil as an object from which profit must be extracted at all costs, and one that recognizes the interdependence of living systems and honours the principles of balance and harmony. (End Quote)

The Dryden farm community did not get into modern corporate agriculture; our fields are too small, for one reason. However, we have been caught in the crossfire of the big ag, corporate/government forces putting all kinds of roadblocks in the way of the traditional, sustainable agriculture supported in this article, and which is what we practice.  That is where we shine and where our future lies.  So we have a local stake in such as La Via Campesina succeeding.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment