Carnival ‘23 cancelled

4 Jan

Kim Raymond, president of the Dunvegan Recreation Association, told me that hopes of resurrecting the group’s popular ‘Winter Carnival Breakfast’ have been dashed, at least for this year. By extension, the DRA’s outdoor winter carnival events have been nixed as well. I’ve also learned that the DRA is hoping to hold a breakfast event later in the spring, as a fundraiser.

Reductio ad absurdum

Before we take the shiny New Year out of its Amazon box, I have a wee bit of unfinished business from 2022. Just before Christmas, a reader from Alexandria sent me an email with a question about an item in my November 16th column on Blair Williams and his unique folk art creations; specifically my closing paragraph. She wondered why social justice warriors would protest the ‘found wood’ in Blair’s Barn Quilts by gluing themselves to the Williams’ shed. And she is correct. I was guilty of a touch of “reductio ad absurdum” here bysuggesting that fanatical environmentalists might channel the Super Glue protest technique so popular today. Why would they opt to do so? I have no idea. Nor can I explain why, last October, two anti-oil protestors threw tomato soup (at least it was vegan) over van Gogh’s famous “Sunflowers” painting and glued their hands to the wall. Or why climate activists chose to disrupt this year’s Tour de France cycling race by gluing themselves to the road. In a word, probably for the… publicity.

A penny saved

There’ll be a distinct lack of activity on Sundays at Dunvegan’s Kenyon Presbyterian Churchthis month. But worry not. The church is still in business. However, given the price of heating fuels these days, Dunvegan and its sister congregation, St. Columba in Kirk Hill, will hold joint worship services during January and February. St. Columba will be the host for the first month, starting this Sunday, January 8th at 11:00 am. While Rev. Jim didn’t mention it in his note to me, if you’re new to the community and are looking for the fellowship of a church, you’re more than welcome to attend.

1869: winter without end

As the ‘old saw’ goes: Be careful what you wish for. In a recent column, I begged Mother Nature for snow to cover the eyesores that abound in Kenyon during the late fall. Three days before Christmas, I got my wish, and then some. Winter’s full fury disrupted many family holiday plans, ours included. In fact, we ended up holding ‘Pretend Christmas’ on Tuesday, December 27th.

I’ll grant that this year’s pre-holiday dump was impressive. However, as our friend Ken McEwen pointed out in an email, it was small potatoes compared to the Big Snow of ’69… 1869, that is. Ken, who was raised on the 7th of Kenyon, learned of this extreme weather event from his father. “While working in our bush in the winter of 1951/52,” Ken wrote, “my Dad pointed out several rotting stumps which he said were trees cut during ‘The Big Snow’.” Ken estimated they were six to eight feet tall. “Though heavily rotted, they still held their height.” Ken’s father, who was born in 1884, was but one generation removed from the Big Snow. He told Ken, “The winter was so long, that farmers had run out of hay for their cattle, and cut small brush to feed them.”

Naturally, I wanted to learn more about this storm. Unlike the tiresome alerts Environment Canada issues every time the sky clouds over, this sounded like it really was the “storm of the century.” So I was delighted to find a February 1967 Ottawa Journal article entitled Year Of The Deep Snow: 1869 Set Valley Record by Harry Walker.

“It started to snow heavily on Feb. 11, 1869 — the day that Patrick Whelan was executed for the murder of the Hon. Thomas D’Arcy McGee. And it scarcely stopped snowing until long after St. Patrick’s Day. When it did, there was a deep covering, packed like an Arctic waste, over the Ottawa Valley. Roads were obliterated. Farms and communities were isolated, and cattle died lowing in the stalls… The thousands who watched Whelan die at 11 that morningstarted back for their homesteads on the Concession lines. But many of them did not make it and were forced to seek shelter for weeks with friends or relatives…”

Walker was very fortunate to have access to the diary of William Upton of Gloucester, an eyewitness to the snows of 1869. His farm eventually became the site of the Uplands Airport and The Royal Hunt and Golf Club. One of Upton’s entries recorded that, “(some of) the drifts were over 20 feet deep.”

By mid-March, the storm finally started to abate. In April, Upton, who meticulously recorded the daily temperatures, noted that the mercury was: “April 2 – 18 above zero; April 3 – 8 above zero; April 6 – zero with snow; April 9 – zero; April 13 – zero. Before you break out your spring wardrobe, remember he was talking about zero Fahrenheit.

Even when the snow stopped falling and travel slowly resumed, the storm’s ‘long tail’ continued to make life hard for the Ottawa Valley settlers. Walter wrote, “…On the roads, it was fraught with peril to man and beast. Great ‘cow-holes’ had formed in the highways and in the fields across which sleighs crawled. When a team and sleigh bogged into one of these,they just disappeared…”

Now that’s a winter storm.