Using a number of local history resources, I’ve written a tale for young people that explores a 19th century meeting of several generations, several cultures, and several time periods. Loa’s Journey is posted in six parts. It is, I hope, a story of sincerity, respect, and tolerance.
Once again, 8-year old Loa was the last of her siblings to wake up. She stretched her arms and legs, and rolled over on her small straw mattress to hug the brown and tan terrier who never left her side.
Loa and Tipler were inseparable. No one seemed to remember whether it was Loa who had found Tipler, or vice versa, but he was now a part of the family. For a small dog, he had great stamina. He was a good hunter, and the nearby forest had plenty to offer.
It was a clear September day ‒ about 7 o’clock judging by the sun ‒ and Loa had definitely slept in. Every other family member was already hard at work. It was the beginning of the harvest.
The breakfast dishes had been cleared, and Mom was making bread. The house was filled with the sweet, pungent smell of dough rising. Mom would need more wood soon.
Every morning ‒ rain or shine ‒ Loa brought to the house the wood that had been chopped by her Dad and her brother, Alan. She stacked it against the wall closest to the wood stove so it would dry thoroughly. The fire in the big black iron stove burned all day, even in the summer.
Every morning, she made sure that all the wood buckets were filled to the top with water: some in case of fire, some for boiling water, one for washing dishes, one for washing hands, and one for drinking.
Tipler followed Loa in and out of the stone house that had been home to her family for 30 years, replacing the log cabin that had preceded it. Tipler chased the sticks that Loa threw for him at the wood shed and enjoyed catching the drops of water that spilled from the buckets as she walked from the well ‒ rather too quickly ‒ with the help of a yoke.
Once Loa’s chores were done, it was time for a hot breakfast of cornmeal porridge. Her mother called the cereal “samp”. This was the term used by most United Empire Loyalists, she said, although many Dutch families preferred the word “suppawn”. Corn was plentiful and its meal made a hot cereal Loa enjoyed eating.
Depending on the needs of her parents, she might stay home to help on the farm, or she might attend class at the nearby log Schoolhouse. She could almost see it across the road, less than half a mile away.
There was talk of making school compulsory but, for now, parents were allowed to manage their children’s education. It really didn’t affect Loa’s brother or most of her sisters. Sophie was married, Alan was almost 17, Ellen and Catherine were 19 and 15, respectively, and Laura was barely 4.
Where was Tipler taking Loa? He just wasn’t listening today! They were supposed to be going to school but he kept running in the wrong direction and, occasionally, he turned his head to make sure she was following.
Tipler howled with delight in front of a large opening. Loa tried to stop him from entering the tunnel, but he got away. She accidentally dropped the satchel she had packed for school, sighed, left it behind, and chased after Tipler.
They followed a narrow passage with steps cut in the rock descending to a cave with foot-long stalactites of shiny silver. There seemed to be a large underground lake in the distance.
Loa was able to pull Tipler closer to her, just as the shiny, silver cave started moving around them. She crouched with Tipler in her arms, trembling…hoping the spinning and loud, rumbling noise would end soon.
Notes: The description of the cave in this tale is based on the Meyers Cave legend. That cave is said to have been located close to Bon Echo Provincial Park, in Cloyne. In Leeds and Grenville, there are several hard-to-find tunnels and caves that have been mined over the years for minerals such as pyrite.
Mrs. Alex Burritt’s paper on early settlement in Grenville County was presented to the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa in 1900. It recounted some of old Sheriff Sherwood’s memories, including a reference to a favourite dog named Tipler.
Photo of Girl with a Dog (William Brymner, 1905): Montreal Museum of Fine Arts