Wednesday Evening, August 24, 1938
Rural Nova Scotia
By Nellie L. McClung
We were in the heart of rural Nova Scotia yesterday when we crossed the Avon River at Windsor, left the Halifax highway at Newport Corners, and drove over to the Northern Peninsula.
We had a friend with us who knows this part of the country, and she could tell us the name of all the rivers and creeks and that is a feat of memory surely. They are not all as easy to remember as the "Meander."
Farm buildings in this part of the province follow a pattern. They are made of shingles, weathered down to a slate gray. Sometimes they are connected with the house, so that a stormy day has no terrors for the people who care for the stock. Some of the houses are painted white, trimmed with black or green, and are surrounded by trees, and all have flowers.
There is a "garden stray," a sort of blue-bell, (only it is purple) which grows along the road, and around the farm houses, brightening many a sombre dwelling. Roses, hollyhocks, phlox, sweet william, and pansies may be seen in farm gardens, at this time. There is a lovely pale blue daisy-shaped flower which mixes well with the wild roses on the roadside. It is the flower of the chickory plant, and makes a picture with the white daisies, purple vetches, Queen Anns lace and the pink and white yarrow.
We passed through many little settlements with their church, school, store, postoffice and service station, and talked with many of the people.
This part of Nova Scotia, which looks out upon Minas Basin, has never had a railway, all its transportation being by horses, or oxen in the days before cars, and by water. Gypsum is mined and exported from Walton, which has a little reversing falls, as the tide comes in and goes out. We saw trucks loaded with it hurrying down to the wharf, where a steamer was waiting. Oxen are still used both winter and summer for bringing out wood for the pulp mills, and dairying is carried on in some parts. We saw many good looking cows, Jerseys, Guernseys, and a few black and white Holsteins, and of course there are gardens everywhere peas, beans, potatoes, corn and plenty of wild blueberries. The potatoes have to be sprayed against potato bugs, and when this is done the field turns a silvery green.
Although lumbering has been carried on here for generations, there is no depletion of the supply, nor any attempt to reforestrate and the reason for this is that the cutting of timber is done carefully, and the small trees are not hurt. With the abundant rainfall in Nova Scotia, trees grow quickly and every thirty years there is a complete renewal.
Where we had dinner at Walton, (and what a dinner, of roast beef, peas, and beets, strawberries and cream, and homemade rolls). We discussed matters of public interest with our hostess, who told us she had not been away from home since April but that was nothing to lament, for the world came to her. The day before she had had people from China, who had phoned from Windsor to ask her if she could give them dinner. And besides she had plenty of books and magazines and the radio. Particularly she liked the symphony orchestras. She never counted on doing any visiting in the summer. But she did do a lot of reading when her work was done.
Everyone we met talked of books. One man told me his wife had read my books, and wasnt I pleased? But wait! "That woman," he said, shaking his head, "is so crazy about books, by George, she will read anything! Just so long as its print, shell read it!"
There are schools every three or four miles all over this country. Plain little buildings, with well worn school yards. Not much has been done in the way of making them beautiful, but you can tell the neighborhoods where there is an Institute, for then the school grounds are neat, and in some there are trees planted, and the school is painted, and has pretty curtains. All of them have good wood piles, in preparation for next winter, and there is an air of business about them. I got a vibration from them that brought back Julius Caesar, and the Ides of March!
This part of the country, far removed as it is from the large educational centres, has sent out some clever people, who have made a name for themselves, doctors (men and women), lawyers, university professors and preachers, and the names of these little villages, Sel-
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Rural Nova Scotia
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wood, Cheverie, Stanley, Scotch Village, Clarkesville and the others, are known beyond the boundaries of Nova Scotia. The people work hard here, and the young people have done their share of chores, night and morning, as they attended the little white school. But the tradition of learning, and the love of it is in their blood by inheritance.
In these homes, good magazines are read. Dickens and Shakespeare, well thumbed, are on the homemade book shelves. Cantatas have been sung in the churches, and plays have been acted in the schools. One of our party told us of the daily ritual of Bible reading around the family circle, each one reading a verse. She recalled their delight in the weekly arrival of the "Maine Farmer," published in Augusta, and the "Montreal Witness," and "Godeys Lady Book," succeeded at last by the "Ladies Home Journal," and Canadian magazines.
We did not go as far as Maitland, on Cobequid Bay, but we heard about the great ships that had been built there by W. D. Lawrence, whose name is known on the seven Seas.
There were bits of family history disclosed as the drive proceeded Here lived a woman, in a lonely place under a hill, who had inherited money, but preferred her own little farm, where she still worked from dawn to dark, doing a mans work.
"And it is not because she is unsuited to any other life," said the narrator. "She is a bright woman, who likes to come out, likes to meet people, but she loves her own home. Contentment is in our blood, I guess. Thats the only explanation."
But we heard another story at one of the places we stopped, which was not so happy concerning a woman who also had inherited money.
"She has just been left a substantial fortune, - or at least enough to keep her as long as she lives, from her sister. It is in a bank in Windsor and her family wont let her touch it " They tell her she is just as happy feeding the pigs, and milking the cows, as she would be spending the money but she would like some new clothes, and new floors in her house, and some books and pictures. And she wants to help some other members of the family connection. But up till now she has not spent a cent. Her sons are opposed to it! And she hasnt the nerve to go ahead and spend it."
We thought this might be a good place for the Womens Institute to take a hand.
At Clarksville, we called on M.E.C. the well beloved and spritely correspondent of this neighborhood whose weekly column is read by people all over the Province, and beyond. She told us about describing a certain kind of bathing suit she would like and some Nova Scotian women who live in British Columbia proceeded to knit one for her. She had a bad fall not long ago which makes it necessary for her to use crutches, but it is almost worth it to get the letters and gifts which poured in from her readers.
Her column consists of kindly gossip. She tells the joys and sorrows of the neighborhood, who is sick, who is away, who is home for a visit, what flowers have come in the gardens; what the birds are doing, and how her dogs are behaving. In her last column she expresses a hope that someone will take her to the W. I. convention in Halifax and indicates that she will stay a week with anyone who would like a visit from her.
Her eagerness to go visiting is paralleled by Edna Vincents Millays love for trains as set forth in her poem called "Travel," the last verse of which is:
"My heart is warm with the friends I make
And better friends I will not be knowing.
But there is not a train I would not take
No matter where its going."
M.E.C. has a picture of her two friends on the wall, the great Dr. Martell, who was for years a resident of Windsor, and the beloved Robert Norwood, preacher and poet, and told us stories of them. She also showed us a picture of the ivy-covered castle in Scotland, owned by her ancestors, the McClellans. So although she is, temporarily at least, obliged to forego some of the activities which are dear to her, her heart is happy with many a bright memory.
NELLIE L. McCLUNG.