A 64-year love affair

14 Jun

If you were within earshot, the haunting strains of Ashokan Farewell could be heard last Saturday in the Kenyon Church graveyard as a small group of family and friends raised their drams of Bowmore single malt to toast farewell to Christina (Tina Mae) McEwen. Folk musician Jay Ungar wrote the tune as a farewell waltz in the style of a Scottish lament. But it was filmmaker Ken Burns who made the soulful piece famous when he featured it in his 1990 production, The Civil War. Tina Mae’s grandson Ira McWillians played it flawlessly.

While the occasion was a very sad one, it brought me joy to meet with Ken McEwen face to face once again. While electronic pen pals for many years, the only other time I met Ken in person was years ago at one of the finger-licking church Chicken & Corn-on-the-cob BBQs organized by the late Murray MacQueen. I felt honoured that Terry and I were invited to the touching ceremony and unveiling of the distinctive red granite headstone… a colour specifically chosen to echo Robbie Burn’s poem, A Red, Red Rose. To honour his wife of 64years in perpetuity, Ken had the poem’s opening line — “O my Luve is like a red, red rose” — literally carved in stone.

Great Dad’s Day idea

The 7th Smith-In Blacksmith Festival at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum this coming Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm is a feast for the senses. The roar of bellows-fed fire, the pounding of anvils, the explosion of sparks and the distinctive aroma of coal fired forges. At the heart of the two-day celebration of this heritage trade, the museum’s 200 year-old‘Olivier Hamelin’ smithy will come to life as skilled blacksmiths attempt to replicate a musket barrel. They will be joined by a host of blacksmiths from across Ontario, Quebec and the US, all itching to share their skills and show their ware to visitors and fellow smiths alike.

Admittedly, the draw of this event is primarily male, assuming this term is still permissible. However, as many visitors will attest, the festival is also a family affair. Children can delight in a scavenger hunt or bang away on safer materials in the kiddie’s tent. And on Saturday, a craft fair will feature everything from one-of-a-kind wood and iron creations to hand-thrownpottery and local produce. You can even ‘skip the dishes’ by topping up your tummies at the Dunvegan Recreation’s take-out food booth. Cash, credit and debit are all accepted. For more details, visit: GlengarryPioneerMuseum.ca.

‘Regulling goes south

The reader that commented on the long-lost practice of ‘regullying’ (i.e., restoring the natural gullies after working the land to promote surface drainage) did write back to me.

In her email reply, she requested anonymity. However, she was fully onboard with my sharing that the farm where she grew up is in South Glengarry. A dairy farm until recently, it is still in the family’s hands. When she asked her brothers about regullers (or regallers as they called them), she was told, “our dad made the first one out of a railway tie and a walk-behind plough.” To this, they recall, was tacked some steel and boards in a ‘V’ shape. “My brothers were the weight adjustments,” she added. “It was pulled by Clyde the horse (not the horse’s real name). Then he bought a ready-made one and used it with his first tractor.”

This only goes to show that regullying was not the exclusive domain of Dunvegan-area farmers. The practice was far more widespread than that, especially if farm implement manufacturers were making and selling them. Looks like a trip to the archives is in order to check out ag equipment catalogues from back in the day.

Welcome to ‘Scamalot’

It goes by many names — scam, swindle, racket, con, flimflam — but defrauding honest folks has been around since Fred Flintstone wore small boy furs. And if you think that living in the country offers a layer of protection, think again. Neighbour Steve Kaluta sent me a cautionary tale to share with you.

His wife Jean recently received a call from a lawyer claiming to represent Steve’s nephew. He told her the young man had hit a pregnant woman’s car and she had been sent to the hospital. Steve was out, but Jean spoke with someone in distress who sounded like Steve’s nephew. When Steve contacted the lawyer, he said was looking for a relative willing to post bail. “The lawyer was very vague as to my nephew’s whereabouts and that we couldn’t talk to anyone about the incident due to a gag order,” Steve told me in an email. “He also said that if we didn’t come up with bail quickly, our nephew would have to stay in jail until his case was heard… about three months.”

After Steve and Jean hung up, they agreed that the call had all the hallmarks of the classic “Grandparent’s” scam: urgency, secrecy, cash-only transaction, distraught family member, etc. So when the ‘lawyer’ called back, Steve asked him what firm he worked for. The line went dead. “I tried calling him back and it went to his voicemail.” They also finally reached Steve’s nephew and, no surprise; he had no knowledge of the accident and had not been jailed pending bail.

Scams like these are a numbers game. You may not have a nephew, or he might still be in diapers. However, a certain percentage of the people they contact will… and a certain percentage of these folks will get sucked in. As Steve points out, “Beware. These guys are pros.”