List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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the absence of which there was plenty of leathern hinges, wooden
latches for locks, and bark-strings instead of nails. There was
a large fireplace at one end of the shanty, with a chimney,
constructed of split laths, plastered with a mixture of clay and
cowdung. As for windows, these were luxuries which could well be
dispensed with; the open door was an excellent substitute for them
in the daytime, and at night none were required. When I ventured
to object to this arrangement, that he would have to keep the door
shut in the winter time, the old man replied, in the style so
characteristic of his country, "Shure it will be time enough to
think of that when the could weather sets in." Everything about
the house wore a Robinson Crusoe aspect, and though there was not
any appearance of original plan or foresight, there was no lack
of ingenious contrivance to meet every want as it arose.

Judy dropped us a low curtsey as we entered, which was followed by
a similar compliment from a stout girl of twelve, and two or three
more of the children, who all seemed to share the pleasure of their
parents in receiving strangers in their unpretending tenement. Many
were the apologies that poor Judy offered for the homely cheer she
furnished us, and great was her delight at the notice we took of the
"childher." She set little Biddy, who was the pride of her heart, to
reading the Bible; and she took down a curious machine from a shelf,
which she had "conthrived out of her own head," as she said, for
teaching the children to read. This was a flat box, or frame, filled
with sand, which saved paper, pens, and ink. Poor Judy had evidently
seen better days, but, with a humble and contented spirit, she
blessed God for the food and scanty raiment their labour afforded
them. Her only sorrow was the want of "idication" for the children.

She would have told us a long story about her trials and sufferings,
before they had attained their present comparative comfort and
independence, but, as we had a tedious scramble before us, through
cedar-swamps, beaver-meadows, and piny ridges, the "ould dhragoon"
cut her short, and we straightway started on our toilsome journey.

Simpson, in spite of a certain dash of melancholy in his
composition, was one of those happy fellows of the "light heart
and thin pair of breeches" school, who, when they meet with
difficulty or misfortune, never stop to measure its dimensions,
but hold in their breath, and run lightly over, as in crossing
a bog, where to stand still is to sink.

Off, then, we went, with the "ould dhragoon" skipping and bounding
on before us, over fallen trees and mossy rocks; now ducking under
the low, tangled branches of the white cedar, then carefully
piloting us along rotten logs, covered with green moss, to save us
from the discomfort of wet feet. All this time he still kept one of
his feet safely ensconced in the boot, while the other seemed to
luxuriate in the water, as if there was something amphibious in
his nature.

We soon reached the beaver-meadow, which extended two or three
miles; sometimes contracting into a narrow gorge, between the wooded
heights, then spreading out again into an ample field of verdure,
and presenting everywhere the same unvarying level surface,
surrounded with rising grounds, covered with the dense unbroken
forest, as if its surface had formerly been covered by the waters of
a lake; which in all probability has been the case at some not very
remote period. In many places the meadow was so wet that it required
a very large share of faith to support us in passing over its
surface; but our friend, the dragoon, soon brought us safe through
all dangers to a deep ditch, which he had dug to carry off the
superfluous water from the part of the meadow which he owned. When
we had obtained firm footing on the opposite side, we sat down to
rest ourselves before commencing the operation of "blazing," or
marking the trees with our axes, along the side-line of my lot. Here
the mystery of the boot was explained. Simpson very coolly took it
off from the hitherto favoured foot, and drew it on the other.

He was not a bit ashamed of his poverty, and candidly owned that
this was the only boot he possessed, and he was desirous of giving
each of his feet fair play.

Nearly the whole day was occupied in completing our job, in which
the "dhragoon" assisted us, with the most hearty good-will,
enlivening us with his inexhaustible fund of good-humour and
drollery. It was nearly dark when we got back to his "shanty," where
the kind-hearted Judy was preparing a huge pot of potatoes and other
"combustibles," as Simpson called the other eatables, for our

Previous to starting on our surveying expedition, we had observed
Judy very earnestly giving some important instructions to one of her
little boys, on whom she seemed to be most seriously impressing the
necessity of using the utmost diligence. The happy contentment which
now beamed in poor Judy's still comely countenance bespoke the
success of the messenger. She could not "call up spirits from the
vasty deep" of the cellar, but she had procured some whiskey from
her next-door neighbour--some five or six miles off, and there it
stood somewhat ostentatiously on the table in a "greybeard," with a
"corn cob," or ear of Indian corn, stripped of its grain, for a
cork, smiling most benevolently on the family circle, and looking
a hundred welcomes to the strangers.

An indescribably enlivening influence seemed to exude from every
pore of that homely earthen vessel, diffusing mirth and good-humour
in all directions. The old man jumped and danced about on the rough
floor of the "shanty"; and the children sat giggling and nudging
each other in a corner, casting a timid look, from time to time, at
their mother, for fear she might check them for being "over bould."

"Is it crazy ye are intirely, ye ould omadhawn!" said Judy, whose
notions of propriety were somewhat shocked with the undignified
levity of her partner; "the likes of you I never seed; ye are too
foolidge intirely. Have done now wid your diviltries, and set the
stools for the gintlemens, while I get the supper for yes."

Our plentiful though homely meal was soon discussed, for hunger,
like a good conscience, can laugh at luxury; and the "greybeard"
made its appearance, with the usual accompaniments of hot water
and maple sugar, which Judy had scraped from the cake, and placed
in a saucer on the table before us.

The "ould dhragoon," despising his wife's admonitions, gave way
freely to his feelings, and knew no bounds to his hilarity. He
laughed and joked, and sang snatches of old songs picked up in
the course of his service at home and abroad. At length Judy,
who looked on him as a "raal janius," begged him to "sing the
gintlemens the song he made when he first came to the counthry."
Of course we ardently seconded the motion, and nothing loth, the
old man, throwing himself back on his stool, and stretching out
his long neck, poured forth the following ditty, with which I
shall conclude my hasty sketch of the "ould dhragoon":--

  Och! it's here I'm intirely continted,
    In the wild woods of swate 'Mericay;
  God's blessing on him that invinted
    Big ships for our crossing the say!

  Here praties grow bigger nor turnips;
    And though cruel hard is our work,
  In ould Ireland we'd nothing but praties,
    But here we have praties and pork.

  I live on the banks of a meadow,
    Now see that my maning you take;
  It bates all the bogs of ould Ireland--
    Six months in the year it's a lake.

  Bad luck to the beavers that dammed it!
    I wish them all kilt for their pains;
  For shure though the craters are clever,
    Tis sartin they've drown'd my domains.

  I've built a log hut of the timber
    That grows on my charmin' estate;
  And an illigant root-house erected,
    Just facing the front of my gate.

  And I've made me an illigant pig-sty,
    Well litter'd wid straw and wid hay;
  And it's there, free from noise of the chilther,
    I sleep in the heat of the day.

  It's there I'm intirely at aise, sir,
    And enjoy all the comforts of home;
  I stretch out my legs as I plase, sir,
    And dhrame of the pleasures to come.

  Shure, it's pleasant to hear the frogs croakin',
    When the sun's going down in the sky,
  And my Judy sits quietly smokin'
    While the praties are boil'd till they're dhry.

  Och! thin, if you love indepindence,
    And have money your passage to pay,
  You must quit the ould counthry intirely,
    And start in the middle of May.




  Stern Disappointment, in thy iron grasp
  The soul lies stricken. So the timid deer,
  Who feels the foul fangs of the felon wolf
  Clench'd in his throat, grown desperate for life,
  Turns on his foes, and battles with the fate
  That hems him in--and only yields in death.

The summer of '35 was very wet; a circumstance so unusual in Canada
that I have seen no season like it during my sojourn in the country.
Our wheat crop promised to be both excellent and abundant; and the
clearing and seeding sixteen acres, one way or another, had cost us
more than fifty pounds, still, we hoped to realise something
handsome by the sale of the produce; and, as far as appearances
went, all looked fair. The rain commenced about a week before the
crop was fit for the sickle, and from that time until nearly the end
of September was a mere succession of thunder showers; days of
intense heat, succeeded by floods of rain. Our fine crop shared the
fate of all other fine crops in the country; it was totally spoiled;
the wheat grew in the sheaf, and we could scarcely save enough to
supply us with bad, sticky bread; the rest was exchanged at the
distillery for whiskey, which was the only produce which could be
obtained for it. The storekeepers would not look at it, or give
either money or goods for such a damaged article.

My husband and I had worked hard in the field; it was the first time
I had ever tried my hand at field-labour, but our ready money was
exhausted, and the steam-boat stock had not paid us one farthing; we
could not hire, and there was no help for it. I had a hard struggle
with my pride before I would consent to render the least assistance
on the farm, but reflection convinced me that I was wrong--that
Providence had placed me in a situation where I was called upon to
work--that it was not only my duty to obey that call, but to exert
myself to the utmost to assist my husband, and help to maintain my

Ah, glorious poverty! thou art a hard taskmaster, but in thy
soul-ennobling school, I have received more godlike lessons, have
learned more sublime truths, than ever I acquired in the smooth
highways of the world!

The independent in soul can rise above the seeming disgrace of
poverty, and hold fast their integrity, in defiance of the world and
its selfish and unwise maxims. To them, no labour is too great, no
trial too severe; they will unflinchingly exert every faculty of
mind and body, before they will submit to become a burden to others.

The misfortunes that now crowded upon us were the result of no
misconduct or extravagance on our part, but arose out of
circumstances which we could not avert nor control. Finding too late
the error into which we had fallen, in suffering ourselves to be
cajoled and plundered out of our property by interested speculators,
we braced our minds to bear the worst, and determined to meet our
difficulties calmly and firmly, nor suffer our spirits to sink under
calamities which energy and industry might eventually repair. Having
once come to this resolution, we cheerfully shared together the
labours of the field. One in heart and purpose, we dared remain true
to ourselves, true to our high destiny as immortal creatures, in our
conflict with temporal and physical wants.

We found that manual toil, however distasteful to those unaccustomed
to it, was not after all such a dreadful hardship; that the
wilderness was not without its rose, the hard face of poverty
without its smile. If we occasionally suffered severe pain, we as
often experienced great pleasure, and I have contemplated a
well-hoed ridge of potatoes on that bush farm, with as much delight
as in years long past I had experienced in examining a fine painting
in some well-appointed drawing-room.

I can now look back with calm thankfulness on that long period of
trial and exertion--with thankfulness that the dark clouds that hung
over us, threatening to blot us from existence, when they did burst
upon us, were full of blessings. When our situation appeared
perfectly desperate, then were we on the threshold of a new state
of things, which was born out of that very distress.

In order to more fully illustrate the necessity of a perfect and
child-like reliance upon the mercies of God--who, I most firmly
believe, never deserts those who have placed their trust in Him--I
will give a brief sketch of our lives during the years 1836 and

Still confidently expecting to realise an income, however small,
from the steam-boat stock, we had involved ourselves considerably in
debt, in order to pay our servants and obtain the common necessaries
of life; and we owed a large sum to two Englishmen in Dummer, for
clearing ten more acres upon the farm. Our utter inability to meet
these demands weighed very heavily upon my husband's mind. All
superfluities in the way of groceries were now given up, and we
were compelled to rest satisfied upon the produce of the farm. Milk,
bread, and potatoes during the summer became our chief, and often
for months, our only fare. As to tea and sugar, they were luxuries
we could not think of, although I missed the tea very much; we rang
the changes upon peppermint and sage, taking the one herb at our
breakfast, the other at our tea, until I found an excellent
substitute for both in the root of the dandelion.

The first year we came to this country, I met with an account of
dandelion coffee, published in the New York Albion, given by a Dr.
Harrison, of Edinburgh, who earnestly recommended it as an article
of general use.

"It possesses," he says, "all the fine flavour and exhilarating
properties of coffee, without any of its deleterious effects. The
plant being of a soporific nature, the coffee made from it when
drank at night produces a tendency to sleep, instead of exciting
wakefulness, and may be safely used as a cheap and wholesome
substitute for the Arabian berry, being equal in substance and
flavour to the best Mocha coffee."

I was much struck with this paragraph at the time, and for several
years felt a great inclination to try the Doctor's coffee; but
something or other always came in the way, and it was put off till
another opportunity. During the fall of '35, I was assisting my
husband in taking up a crop of potatoes in the field, and observing
a vast number of fine dandelion roots among the potatoes, it brought
the dandelion coffee back to my memory, and I determined to try some
for our supper. Without saying anything to my husband, I threw aside

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