Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

21 June, 2017

OPEN BORDERS VS. CLOSED BORDERS...THAT IS THE QUESTION

Truth be known, I am perplexed and torn on the issue of immigration.  My Christian upbringing tells me that we should welcome newcomers to Canada with open arms.  On the other hand, while I oppose a fortress mentality, I am not so naive as to not understand that there are certain ramifications inherent in open borders.
Those on opposing sides of the political aisle as well as economists offer pros and cons for keeping borders open and also exercising caution on border policy.  Supporters of open borders say they help keep the balance of free trade going with other countries, allowing for the free flow of goods and services.
From a human rights standpoint, they argue that "free migration" helps to cut poverty around the world, allowing those who live in underdeveloped nations and who need work to move to places that have more opportunities. Typically, workers who move tend to send part of their income or wages back to families in poorer countries.

Opponents charge that in an increasingly dangerous world, open borders threaten national security. They also note that "large scale migration across open borders can result in demographic changes that can result in demographic shifts that change a country's political power structures in favor of the new demographic and against the existing people of a region or country."
Economists point to infrastructure deficit as large groups of people migrate to a new country but infrastructure is not in place to support them there.

Immigration issues and border policies have long been contentious issues in politics, but they are also creating a significant divide in the Christian community.
Many Christian houses of worship have embraced a “love thy neighbor” stance, arguing for benevolent treatment of immigrants seeking a better life. Some churches have even begun harboring illegal immigrants to prevent them from being deported.
However, there is a distinct sub-group of Christians who have taken the opposite position, throwing their support behind more stringent border policies that limit immigration to Canada and the U.S. Cracking down on immigration is not only in the best interest of the country, they argue, but it’s also in complete accordance with biblical teachings.

Time and time again, Pope Francis has been a champion for immigration rights. He advocates for relaxing immigration policies and moving in the direction of an “open border” approach. Just last week, in fact, the pontiff reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to protecting immigrants.

Francis’ views reflect a compassion-minded Christianity, an ideology shared by many within the faith that focuses on promoting goodwill and kindness — no strings attached. Indeed, this overarching theme of benevolence toward foreigners is present throughout scripture. To give just two examples:
  • Exodus 23:9: “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
  • Leviticus 19:34: “You will regard the stranger who resides with you as the native-born among you.”
Seems pretty clear cut, right? Well, not exactly.

“The Bible Supports Stronger Borders”

By its very nature, the Bible is interpreted differently by different people. In sharp contrast to the papal position, there are those Christians who insist the “compassionate” view is both naive and misguided. Not only do they disagree with the concept of open borders on political grounds, but these folks argue the Bible actually supports stronger borders.
To understand this point of view, let’s examine a few other biblical passages:
  • Matthew 5:42: Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
  • Deuteronomy 15:11: “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.”
  • Luke 10:25-37: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
On face value, these verses seem to advocate kindness and compassion toward everyone. Not necessarily, say opponents of immigration. First of all, they point out that such passages use the word “you” – a direct personal appeal to the individual. Thus, they should not be taken as policy recommendations for the government. Rather, they are instructions for how one should conduct themselves on a personal level.
Secondly, such verses emphasize proximity. “In your land,” “your neighbor,” etc. Proponents of tougher immigration laws argue these verses do not refer to people living in other countries oceans away, just those nearby. So while the Bible does call for generosity toward the needy, they believe we should focus on helping those already in the country before trying to solve the world’s problems.

Which View is More Compelling?

Where do you stand? Does following the teachings of the Bible mean helping others no matter what, or would Jesus approve of deportations and turning people away at the border as a matter of federal policy?

Above all, perspective is needed but there may never be consensus on this matter.

19 June, 2017

NEW THEORY: HITLER'S CONCENTRATION CAMPS PATTERNED OFF INDIGENOUS RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS IN CANADA

I have written extensively about the injustices suffered by our First Canadian brothers and sisters in residential schools over the years and the subsequent apologies and reconciliation efforts initiated by the church organizations that operated the institutions.

It was with a great deal of interest recently that I learned of native-born Canadian and historical expert Baron Alexander Deschauer’s new, Concentration Camps of Canada book that examines the little-known fact that long before Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, the Canadian residential school system aimed to forcibly assimilate Indigenous peoples by taking children from their parents. Abuse and exploitation were rife, and many children died during this time.

I had never before considered the Hitler concentration camp connection, or similarity. 
Unknown to most, and utilizing techniques that inspired Hitler’s concentration camps of  Nazi-era Germany, in the 1880s Canada waged a genocidal war against its Indigenous people. In his new book, Deschauer tells the fictional story of Migizi Baswenaazhi, a young Indigenous boy, who is taken from his home and placed into one of these harsh schools, where he’s assigned the name David Bass.

The inspiration for the book’s title is from Supreme Court Justice Beverly McLachlin’s 2015 lecture to the Global Centre for Pluralism, during which she stated that Canada attempted to commit “cultural genocide” against Indigenous Canadians. “Many individuals, Canadian or not, have no clue of the injustices visited upon the Indigenous peoples by the Canadian government,” says Deschauer. “I was one of those Canadians until very recently and hope that through Concentration Camps of Canada, I can further inform others of the injustices Indigenous people have endured and continue to endure.”
In an eye-opening and thought-provoking interview around the release of Concentration Camps of Canada, Deschauer discusses:

• The Canadian residential school system, which aimed to forcibly assimilate Indigenous peoples by taking children from their parents.

• What life was like for the wards inside these school systems.

• The Canadian government’s recent efforts to apologize to the victims of these residential schools of the past.

• How these institutions may have acted as a model for Hitler’s own concentration camps in Nazi Germany.

ABOUT BARON: Basic training with the Canadian Reserves, entering a monastery, and sleeping on the sides of roads while hitch-hiking through Europe are just a few of the moments from the life of Baron Alexander Deschauer. Sanity, university, and the need to earn a living led him to a B.Ed., BA, and LLB before embarking on an entrepreneurial life in London, England. Although he can order food, look for a toilet, and find directions in German, Mandarin, French, and Hebrew, he follows the wise words of Clint Eastwood — “A man should know his limitations.” — and now only writes in English.​ In his quest to better understand the world around him, he has written a number of books exploring existence (Revelation and Faust), capital (The Art of Wealth) and the complex interplay of will, luck, fate, and hope (his Man on the Run series).

AN UPDATE ON GOVERNMENT ACTION: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently asked Pope Francis to apologise for the Catholic Church’s role in what has been described as an act of “cultural genocide”.  Pope Francis is reported to be considering the possibility of an apology. The request for an apology is a significant landmark in a long campaign fought by One Young World Counsellor and human rights campaigner Senator Murray Sinclair over the damage caused by the infamous residential schools system.

The request for a papal apology came as Amnesty International announced that its prestigious Ambassador of Conscience award for 2017 was being given to Canada’s Indigenous Rights Movement, shared with the singer and refugee rights campaigner Alicia Keys.
Senator Murray Sinclair

Senator Sinclair was named as one of six individual indigenous rights activists chosen to accept the award. The One Young World Counsellor, who attended last year’s Summit in Ottawa and addressed a Special Session on peace and reconciliation, was chair of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which gathered stories of residential school survivors. The Commission produced a 2015 report which recommended ways for the country to come to terms with the legacy of the schools system.

“The evidence is mounting that the government did try to eliminate the culture and language of Indigenous people for well over a hundred years,” Senator Sinclair told Canadian broadcaster CBC, prior to the Vatican meeting. “As commissioners we have concluded that cultural genocide is probably the best description of what went on here…they did it by forcibly removing children from their families and placing them within institutions that were cultural indoctrination centres.”

Senator Sinclair told the Globe & Mail newspaper in 2015 that it was crucial that the Prime Minister personally secured the apology from the Pope. “That is a request that, we think, has got to come from the highest official in the country because it is almost a nation-to-nation request,” he said. “So I would hope that that request would be communicated at that level.”

In its 2015 report, the commission recommended that the Catholic Church issue a formal apology for its part in the residential school system. Similar apologies have been issued by Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches, who along with the Catholic Church helped run the schools as joint ventures with the Canadian government.  In the early going I sat on a Presbyterian Church in Canada "Truth and Reconciliation" committee.

In 2008, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology on behalf of Canadians, calling it “a sad chapter in our history”. A year later, Pope Benedict offered a personal apology to the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Canada, Phil Fontaine, expressing his “sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church”.  But the apology was not accepted by the TRC as the meeting was private and the apology was not offered to the survivors of the school system.

03 June, 2017

ONCE A JOURNALIST, ALWAYS A JOURNALIST; CLEAN AND UNBIASED

A Facebook friend of long standing, and I, have been exchanging thoughts on what constitutes good journalism.

Right off the bat, I should clarify that I am an old-school journalist. Printer's ink runs through my veins. I came by my training the hard way, with the seat of my pants firmly planted in front of an old Underwood typewriter on a battle-scarred, institutional gray metal desk occupied by countless others before me -- rewrite after rewrite, learning from my errors which were plenty and developing a thick skin as a defense mechanism against an editor's sharp barbs and critiques.

My bible was always the Canadian Press Style Guide -- authoritative, principled, sometimes capricious, a mixture of sombre injunctions and practical rules. My friend, oddly enough, suggests that "journalists do not make the rules".  Of course they don't, but they sure as hell are required to live by them; otherwise risking losing their jobs. The fundamentals of good journalism are constant -- a sharp eye, an inquiring mind, a passion for accurate information and appropriate words...and working long hours any time of the day or night.

Now here's where the general perception of journalism goes a bit awry. Someone has said that the difference between a journalist and a reporter is a little like the difference between a police officer and a homicide detective; the second is just a specific instance of the first. While there are many different kinds of careers in journalism, a reporter's job covers a narrower scope and requires a specific skill set.

21 May, 2017

COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE THINGS I AM NOT...AND THE PERSON I AM

Facebook has reminded me that I published the following piece exactly two years ago today (5/21/15) and, as suggested, I resurrect it because the premise is still applicable.

I recently took a five-month sabbatical from writing of any kind and refrained from involvement in the social media scene. It was a time of reflection, soul-searching and coming to grips with the person I had become – or had not become, depending on how you look at it. A truly revealing and rather humbling exercise, to say the least. It is a process that some of us engage in with more intensity than others.

It has been said that the transition to true adulthood occurs when you recognize that you won't get most of what you dreamed about in childhood. Childish dreams are always lofty -- every child imagines themselves climbing to the top of society's hierarchy, usually inspired by a particular hero. Almost none of them will make it.

Some will go very far, but still fall short.For the rest of us, peace comes from putting away these childhood fantasies and all the imagined future versions of ourselves that never came to be. We finally accept our place in the world, knowing that we tried our best and did what we could. That is when we truly become an adult. In that context, I cannot help but think that there are some individuals who may never completely achieve adult status per se. It has taken me most of my life to come to that conclusion.

I know people who have clung to youthful dreams and ambitions all their lives. They live out their fantasia by embellishing certain experiences and accomplishments to the degree that they come to believe the embellishments. They will go to their graves convinced that they are legends in their own minds…And God bless them for that! Far be it from me to rain on any parades.

For me, I’m just the opposite, however…I have never tried to fool myself and have bought in to the theory that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time. An honest personal appraisal tells me that I have never fully realized the expectations that I had for myself as a young man and I am left having to rationalize the person that I am as I write this on the 20th of May, 2015. The chore is to stop telling myself that I have under-achieved and fallen short. To dwell on this any further would only serve to be unnecessary public self-debilitation and dear knows I have done enough of that when exposing innermost thoughts and feelings in past writings.

I am by no means a perfectionist, suffice to say I concede that there were times along the way when I could have applied myself more to the task at hand and done a better job. That is simply a live-and-learn admission. I regret that in my 78th year, time has just about run out for me and I will never have a chance to do some things over again. That has been the downside to the aforementioned period of self-examination.

Too little, too late, I understand that expectations are meant to be energizing, motivating and serve like a guiding light towards living a purposeful life – very much like a lighthouse is to a ship sailing in dark seas. As people mature from infancy to adulthood, they begin to understand the differences between appetite satiety, and the deeper emotional appreciation of fulfillment, after accomplishing a cherished goal.

I accept too, that goals are based on what is valuable at certain points in life and they vary according to personal priorities, relationships and professional challenges. People change from being self-centered as infants, to meeting needs and expectations from a wider perspective, so much so that family, friends, and work are all factored in as we mature. Far from being static, expectations are ever changing in value, and, should be viewed as being based on a life continuum.

Failing to come to terms with unmet needs or not being able to achieve a goal is the perfect set-up for frustration, anxiety and stress. Whether to raise the expectation bar or lower it a bit for the moment is a personal decision, but it is a choice. All people want to experience their efforts inching towards getting what they desire, the dream, and the expectation. What truly matters is the sense of fulfillment that we receive at the end of the day which reinforces the fact that efforts were not in vain. This also means staying grounded and focused as failures have a way of eroding self-confidence.

I have had to recognize that stress and anxiety are part of the process of attaining any goal and I am trying not to let accumulated pressure erode the sense of inner joy with at least having tried my hand at more than my share of life experiences and challenges. I was going to itemize the things that I have tried with varying degrees of achievement over the years, but the list is far too exhaustive to include in this space.

We all need to forgive ourselves for having some shortcomings. There is no need to beat yourself up or be needlessly embarrassed over a failure or some imagined ill-doing.

The strain of constantly trying to measure up to fit a certain mold, just to get adulation or approval, triggers an uncomfortable feeling that does not go away. This feeling of not measuring up gnaws constantly until some people despise themselves just a little bit, and then, a little bit more. The craving for love, acceptance, belonging and approval is normal, and is ingrained in our psychological makeup, but the cravings may go on overdrive, if we cannot cope or accept our own humanity in a kind, mature, rational manner. Simply put, no one of is perfect!

Certainly not me…I have a record to prove it! And I now accept that fact as I get on with what is left of the “mellowing out” stage of life.  After three-quarters of a century of living, none of us are able to go back in time with the hope of doing certain things differently.  All we can do is simply be thankful that we made it this far, in spite of circumstances -- and ourselves.  That in itself is a major accomplishment.

In the end, leave it to others and our Heavenly maker to pass judgement, as they ultimately will do anyway.  That's the way it is with life!  Mercifully, we get to leave it all behind.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

Thanks for sticking with me dear readers…and for hearing me out. Hopefully, you know some of whereof I speak.

14 May, 2017

THE UNRECOGNIZED ROLE OF MOTHERS IN HISTORY

As Mother’s Day is celebrated on May 14th, Isabelle Underwood’s 1986 article published in the yearbook of the Bruce County Historical Society and adapted by Bob Johnston is a timely acknowledgement of what she saw as the unrecognized role of women in Canadian history, particularly her Bruce County.

"Although tales of our pioneer women are conspicuously absent, let us never forget the contribution they made to the early history of our country. Because women are seldom mentioned in history, there is a tendency to believe that their time was completely absorbed by their families and home, areas which have traditionally received little recognition. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many women were active in community organizations and political associations. Too often, then as now, they worked behind the scenes while men held the office and received the credit.

"My own paternal grandmother, Mary (Leeder) Clazie, was a good example of this kind of woman. In an era without household conveniences, she raised seven children, all of whom were educated and well read. She was an ardent supporter of Nellie McClung and Agnes McPhail. I can still remember as a little girl being taken to hear Miss McPhail speak at S.S. #4 Saugeen. What an exciting evening!

"My grandmother was a worker for the United Farmers of Ontario and Farm Forum. During family gatherings she presided over lively political discussions. Her eldest son fought in the trenches during World War One; her youngest son was severely wounded during World War Two. During that war she knit hundreds of pairs of socks and almost two hundred sweaters for the war effort. The surprising thing is that my grandmother’s life and the lives of many women were not considered unusual---certainly not unusual enough to record.

"A hundred years from now when our great grandchildren write the history books of their day, will they think women played no significant role in this age? The time has come for women to more actively seek positions in our society for which recognition is given. So many girls are growing up with aspirations that are totally inadequate for living in the 21st century. We, as women teachers, have a vital role in helping to shape their future, both in guiding their education and by the example we set for them.

"Too many of us wait for the men to make the decisions or say we haven’t the time. Each of us is capable of achieving more than we know. We owe it to our children."

Here's to all mothers, past and present, on their special day -- and every day!

28 April, 2017

THE DAYS WHEN MEN WERE MEN, WOMEN WERE WOMEN...AND NEWSPAPERS WERE, WELL -- NEWSPAPERS


This happy group photo taken 53 years ago was sent to me by an old newspaper chum, John Hus of Sarnia.  I really have no reason to post it other than the fact that I have a soft spot for old photos and old friends.  Pictured here are St. Thomas Times-Journal newspaper employees and their families at a company picnic in Pinafore Park in the early fall of 1964.  I have gone over the photo with a magnifying glass countless times, fondly remembering the faces and recalling mutual relationships. Sadly, a good 60 percent of the adults in the photo have passed away.  I am the young fellow with dark hair on the extreme left of the photo and my late wife Anne can be seen approx. five bodies away. Daughter Debbie is the little one front and centre in the photo, sitting between the legs of an older girl who happened to be the granddaughter of owner/publisher George Dingman Sr.  Newspaper publishing was at its peak in the 1950s and '60s and it took a staff of 68 people to turn out the T-J's six times weekly daily editions. Community dailies of similar size still in business today, produce a newspaper with a staff of no more than two dozen employees.  I can honestly say that if I could turn back the clock, I would return to this time in my life when I was fueled by passion and energy and the world had potential to become my oyster.

25 April, 2017

THE PROS AND CONS OF CHICKEN FARMING BY CITY SLICKERS


When I was a kid growing up in Dresden, ON. we (my dad and I) raised Angora rabbits, chinchillas, hamsters, and chickens, all with the thought of "getting rich quick".  Only trouble was, the furry and feathery creatures all became pets to one degree or another.

It broke our hearts when the cute little chinchillas were ravaged in an ugly attack by a pack of wild dogs. We learned the hard way that clipping the rabbits for their fur at minimal financial return was extremely labor-intensive.  We were never able to get the chickens to lay eggs in spite of our efforts to stimulate them by placing egg-like ivory door knobs in their nests.  The hamsters simply outgrew us by multiplying so fast that we ran out of space to cage them in our garage and had no choice but to eventually get rid of them as best we could, in any way possible...But that's another issue.

Long story made short -- in-town or urban farming was an ill-advised, losing proposition for the Wrights! Our chickens never laid eggs, but we ourselves sure as heck laid more than one!  Ever since that early experience, my philosophy has been: "Leave farming to the people who do it best -- the farmers!"

In all fairness, however, we did enjoy some success with our substantial vegetable garden; particularly our golden bantam corn which became a well-known and sought-after summer dinner table delicacy in town.

With the preceding still lingering in the recesses of my mind, I have been interested in following the recent "Chickens Come Home to Roost" developments in Saugeen Shores, my place of residence for the past 17 years.  All I can think is, the more things change, the more they remain the same and I should add, the more they become complicated.  It seems that there are still people who want to raise chickens in their backyards and they are prepared to fight town hall in order to do so.

I suspected that this is all in keeping with the growth of the "locavore" movement in North America.
The past couple of years in particular saw the popularization of a trend in using locally grown ingredients, taking advantage of seasonally available foodstuffs that can be bought and prepared without the need for extra preservatives.

Locavore encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food, arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Locavores also shun supermarket offerings as an environmentally friendly measure, since shipping food over long distances often requires more fuel for transportation.

“The word "locavore" shows how food-lovers can enjoy what they eat while still appreciating the impact they have on the environment,” said Ben Zimmer, editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press. “It’s significant in that it brings together eating and ecology in a new way.”

"Locavore", Oxford's word of the year, was coined several years ago by a group of four women in San Francisco who proposed that local residents should try to eat only food grown or produced within a 100-mile radius. Other regional movements have emerged since then, though some groups refer to themselves as “localvores” rather than “locavores.”

Saugeen Shores Town Council (which includes Port Elgin and Southampton), after a third discussion on the subject and in a recorded vote, has approved a two-year pilot project to allow chicken hens within the urban settlement, albeit with several restrictions, that include a registry of hen owners and owners of the property on which hens will be kept.  While I think that a Registry is a wonderful idea, I cannot believe the hoops that would-be backyard chicken raisers will have to jump through in Saugeen Shores in order to realizes their ambitions.  For instance:

The Registry will contain the following information: a) The name of the owner of property on which hens are kept
b) The street address of the property on which hens are kept
c) The mailing address of the owner of property on which hens are kept
d) A statement from the owner of property on which hens are kept which affirms that all requirements are this by-law will be adhered to

No person shall keep hens on a property except in accordance with the following provisions: a) The owner of the land has paid any applicable fee as authorized by this By-law to register the hens with the Town
b) The owner of the land has provided the necessary information to the Town in respect of the Registry outlined in this by-law
c) The owner resides on the property
d) The property on which the hens are located is zoned R1-Residential One, R2-Residential Two or PD-Planned Development, and any special provisions for the listed zones in the Town’s Zoning By-law
e) The property on which the hens are located is within the Settlement Area of the Town’s Official Plan
f) The property on which the hens are located contains a lawfully existing single detached dwelling unit
g) The property on which the hens are located is 1000 m2 or greater
h) Hens can only be located in the rear yard, as defined in the Town’s Zoning By-law
i) The owner abides by all provisions of this by-law."

All permitted hens are to be kept in a fully enclosed coop or run in a manner that contains the hens on the property and prevents their escape from such coop or run and are to be tagged with sufficient information to identify the owner of the birds.  All of which is as it should be.

To me, Saugeen Shores is bending over backwards to accommodate a handful of chicken enthusiasts, dare we call them "locavores", and the aforementioned Registry will go a long way in maintaining a degree of control, but town council would be well advised to take a long hard look at other communities that have implemented such programs.

Granted, it is an idyllic scene from the locavore movement: Plump speckled hens clucking around tiny municipal backyards, laying organic, free-range eggs that can be scooped up mere steps from the doorway.  But municipalities across North America are just now starting to see the unforeseen consequences of allowing hipster farmers to raise chickens in their urban backyards: Hundreds of birds are being abandoned by their owners after they’ve become more of a burden than a blessing.

As Canadian cities from Vancouver to Victoria, Montreal to Guelph get used to their new laws allowing urban backyard chickens, animal shelters in these cities are bracing for a future flood of urban chicken refugees.  “People don’t realize how much work they actually are,” said Barbara Cartwright, the CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies based in Ottawa, while acknowledging people who attempt to raise backyard chickens are driven by good intentions -- to be more environmentally conscious, humane and to eat healthier.

“Certainly what is not on people’s radar screens is chickens live eight to 10 years. They don’t lay that whole time,” she said. “So what’s going to happen is we expect to see an influx over the next couple of years as chickens stop laying, people don’t have a humane slaughter plan or haven’t thought through an eight to 10-year plan to take care of chickens that aren’t laying.”

Sayara Thurston, a campaigner for Humane Society International Canada, said hens and roosters have already started appearing in Montreal animal shelters on an almost weekly basis. Abandoned chickens have also been found in boxes behind restaurants.  Harsh winters make it tough to have backyard chickens, she added.

“It’s completely understandable that people want to remove themselves from [factory farming],” Thurston allows. “But then the reverse of that is people needing to actually care for these animals, which is something you have to do every day and you have to do it for several years.”

It’s been two years since Vancouver passed its bylaw allowing backyard chickens -- and the law is quite thorough, said Geoff Urton, manager of stakeholder relations at BCSPCA: Residents can only own four hens and no roosters. There’s a minimum distance from your neighbour’s backyard that you can build a chicken coop, and that chicken coop needs to protect the fowl from predators like coyotes and raccoons. The chickens need to be registered online, and an inspector could drop in on you at any time. Urban chicken farmers are also barred from slaughtering the birds themselves, he said, in order to curb botched jobs.

Since chickens only lay eggs for two years, Urton expects to see urban chickens trickling into animal shelters soon.  “We’ll need to keep monitoring the situation to make sure as time progresses we don’t end up with an influx in chickens because of this fad,” he said.

Good bylaws can certainly help curb urban chicken abandonment because the farmers will be more dedicated and educated about what responsible chicken farming entails.  Meantime, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies is beginning to tell its shelters to keep an eye out for chicken orphans and be prepared should any come into their care.

All I can say to my neighbors in Saugeen Shores is "let's be careful in counting our chickens before they are hatched."  The trial project may not be what it is cracked up to be!  We may well end up with more than we bargained for and resultant egg on our collective faces!

If you ever have a chance, I would encourage you to watch the old "I Love Lucy" television episode film clip where Lucy, Fred and Ethel Mertz attempt to get into the chicken raising business, with hilarious consequences.


16 April, 2017

EASTER, A TIME OF VICTORY OVER EVIL -- JUST NOT IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Easter Sunday marks the climax of Holy Week in the Church calendar. Seven days earlier, Christians around the world had celebrated Palm Sunday, commemorating the story of Jesus’ triumphant arrival into Jerusalem just before his crucifixion.

The Gospel writers describe how crowds of excited followers, including many children, welcomed Jesus’ entry into their city by laying palm branches across his path. Last Sunday, all around the world and still following this ancient tradition, little children marched up the aisles of local churches proudly carrying similar green foliage.

The excited children of a Christian Coptic church in the Egyptian city of Tanta were taking a joyous part in this same ritual when the suicide bomber suddenly struck. Newspaper accounts of this atrocity described in gory detail how their palm branches, now broken and blood spattered, were scattered across the floor amid the bodies of 27 murdered worshippers. Another 78 Coptic Christians were wounded.

It was the second blast, this time at the ancient city of Alexandria, which drew more attention to the “plight of the suffering church.” Although fewer were murdered in this bombing also claimed by ISIS (17 died) the symbolism of the attack was instantly evident to any scholar of church history.

Alexandria is home to the largest church in the entire Middle East. Its Christian population dates back to around 150 AD when, according to tradition, the Apostle Mark founded the first place of worship in that city. Over the following centuries Alexandria became the centre of theological debate and a forum for Christian scholars from across the Middle East to gather and discuss critical issues, including whether or not Jesus was truly Divine.

In 639 AD, the city was conquered by invaders carrying the banner of a new religion called Islam. Even so, It took another six centuries before the population finally attained a Muslim majority.

Many Westerners assume that Christianity was only recently planted by zealous missionaries in predominantly Muslim countries across the Middle East. Within that assumption one could find the belief that it is only reasonable for Islam to resent and reject these interlopers.

Facts cry out loudly against this faulty conclusion. Large and thriving Christian communities in Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and other now-Muslim nations predated the conquering arrival of Islam.

Persecution of the Church has been well documented through the following centuries. A Genocide beginning in 1915 killed an estimated 15 million Armenian Christians in Muslim Turkey. In recent decades many Christians have been forced to flee from communities where their ancestors have lived for many hundreds of years. One especially tragic story is that of the Christians in Mosul, Iraq. Most have fled the onslaught of ISIS or were murdered before they could escape. Even in United Nations camps they have feared further persecution from radical Muslim refugees.

Headlines have captured the recent horror of extremist attacks by car or bomb against civilian populations in Stockholm, Brussels and Saint Petersburg. While no one would minimize these atrocities, each was essentially a “lone wolf” assault by radicalized Muslims.

By contrast, the Palm Sunday massacres of Coptic Christians was a cleverly coordinated attempt by a well-entrenched Muslim extremist group to begin the eradication of an entire community -- one which only wishes to worship in peace.

A pessimist could conclude that there is no future for Christianity in the Middle east, given these now-overwhelming Muslim majorities, including many who are hostile toward the followers of Jesus. An optimist could point out that, historically, many Muslims have lived in peace with their Christian neighbours. The several police officers who died trying to defend the Coptic churches presumably were also Muslim.

Easter Sunday is always about hope and renewal, a victory against evil, a triumph of life over death---maybe one day even in the troubled Middle East. Little children anywhere in our world will once again carry Palm branches without fear of persecution.

Meantime, sadly, I am not holding my breath.  I do not know what this world is coming to!

(With thanks to Rev. Bob Johnston, rt'd. for his contribution)

14 April, 2017

A VISIT TO THE BATTLE OF VIMY MEMORIAL



Southampton resident Bill Streeter has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the battles in which Canadians participated.

With the 100th anniversary of Vimy, Streeter began to reminisce over other monuments that commemorate fallen Canadian troops. "One of the most moving for me is 'The Brooding Soldier," said Streeter in a recent interview.
The Brooding Soldier

"St. Juliaan/St. Julien was the site where the German army first used gas as a weapon against the French and Canadian troops in 1915," he explains.  "It was stored in tanks much like welding tanks today, and when the wind direction was blowing in the right direction toward the allies, the Germans opened the tanks."

The French troops retreated immediately while the Canadians moved forward with urine soaked rags over their faces and drove the German troops back 4.5 miles.  The 18,000 Canadians held the line but more than 2,000 died.

Commemorating the site, the 'Brooding Soldier', was actually one of the designs submitted for Vimy.  "It is situated on a very moving location perched on the top of a ridge looking down to Ypres and the surrounding countryside," says Streeter.

While he says there may be others from the area who died in the battle of Vimy, on a recent visit he found the grave marker below at Canadian Cemetery No. 2 by the grounds of the Vimy Memorial.

Private D. McIntyre died during the battle on April 9th. He was born in Paisley on September 10th, 1882. His next of kin was his mother Mary and prior to enlisting he was a 'railroad' man. He was not married.

(With thanks to the Saugeen Times)

13 April, 2017

THERE ARE TIMES WHEN I DISAPPOINT EVEN MYSELF

I was thinking this morning as I was getting dressed: "I wouldn't wish me on my worst enemy!"

That startling, self deprecating thought, obviously requires a slight explanation:

1) I often do some of my deepest soul-searching when getting dressed in the morning.  It has been known to take upward of an hour for me to get to the stage where I'm finally putting on my shoes. Heck, I've even fallen asleep in the process, coming to my senses with my pants still around my knees some 20 minutes later.

2) Because it is my nature, I think a lot about my checkered(?) past in those early morning, mind-wandering episodes -- what I have or have not accomplished in life, what I have been neglecting lately but should catch up on today without fail, relationships I've had -- the sorts of silly things that one's mind conjures up when it is allowed to drift aimlessly and unabated.

It is the later that sent me off on the "worst enemy" tangent this morning.  When I think of relationships, it is often members of the opposite sex that immediately come to mind, you know -- in a Willie Nelson-Julio Iglesias "All the Girls I've Loved Before" kind of way.  Come on now, we've all had affairs of the heart that linger rather endearingly, if we are lucky!

In all honesty, I have never achieved wealth in a financial sense, living for the most part a hand-to-mouth existence.  I can be difficult to live with, subject to mood swings, temperamental and stubborn. Like I say, and on reflection, the handful of young ladies who "came in and out my door" post adolescence, can thank their lucky stars that they did not end up with me to contend with for the rest of their lives.  There is a very good chance that I would have been a big disappointment, not cracked up to early expectations of what I should have been

One of the things that I always felt that I had going for me, however, was that I seem to be adept at care giving.  As some readers know, I was in the primary care giving role for nine years with my first wife Anne before we lost a battle with the "C" word.  In retrospect, I always felt that I could have been at times a more sensitive and "caring" caregiver, not letting my nerves and accompanying stress get the best of me.  I readily acknowledge there were occasions when after the fact, I thought my best could have been a little better.

For the past six years, I have have once again been thrust into a care giving situation with second wife Rosanne.  "I'm a veteran now," I thought..."I'll do much better this time."  And, as before, I've tried my best, but there are lingering doubts and I get mad at myself every time I lose patience because my tolerance has worn to the breaking point.  It's a tough gig, no matter how you look at it!

Finally yesterday, the impossibility of carrying on with the status quo finally struck me.  Without going into the grim details, Rosanne had reached a point where I could no longer adequately look after her in our home.  I had to ask for help and our family doctor took quick action.

Even though we live just five doors from the hospital in Southampton, it took a crew of five firefighters and two ambulance attendants to move Rosanne a mere 200 yards to the emergency department. To make a long story short, however, she is now resting comfortably in a respite ward where she will remain indefinitely, or at least until a plan for her future care can be arrived at.

I had difficulty talking Rosanne into the move which I insisted was in her "best interest".  I tried to explain that it was not a permanent sentence, only temporary until better arrangements can be made for her.  I spent an hour with her this morning and was over-joyed to detect new resolution in her voice and acceptance in her manner.  However, her initial reaction -- "I wouldn't do that to you," still rings in my ears and probably always will.  Victimization that I'm all too familiar with.

Any wonder why I wouldn't wish me on my worst enemy?

I may just go to bed tonight with my clothes on.  That way I won't have to get dressed in the morning...and think!

10 April, 2017

SIMON GIRTY: HERO, RENEGADE OR BOTH

Artist's rendition of Simon Girty at his rugged best.
"The early 1790s were perilous times. During much of this turbulent period, guerrilla warfare between Natives and whites raged across the undefined, wide open, western lands of the continent. The restlessly roaming residents of the young Republic, probed, then penetrated, the frontiers of the unexplored West in a relentless quest for ever-more new land. In fact, an underlying cause of the American Revolution was the passionate pursuit of Indian land by Americans, including some of so-called founding fathers, one of whom was in fact George Washington. They expressed unrelenting dissatisfaction with the restrictions imposed upon their land speculation ambitions by the King’s Proclamation of 1763."  

With the forgoing chronicle by author Philip Hoffman as a backdrop, what follows is an almost unbelievable story that is the equal of anything Hollywood or fiction writers have ever produced.  It is of particular significance to me  because there may be a family connection dating back to the late 1700s.  It is a two-part story about the unimaginable struggles of early immigrants in a new land, but it all comes together in the end, as if by script.

Catherine Malott’s parents were of French extraction living in Maryland, circa 1750, when it was decided to move into new territory in Kentucky. Coming down the Ohio River their flatboat was attacked by Indians and all the family was captured.  The father, Peter, however managed to escape and to make his way back to Maryland.  He was never to see his family again.  In fact, thinking that Sarah and his children were all dead, he went so far as to re-marry and raise another family.

After many hardships the remainder of the family, with the exception of Catherine, were brought into Detroit and there ransomed and released.  Meanwhile Catherine, reputed to be a strikingly beautiful young woman, was retained by the Indians in Ohio.  At Detroit, Catherine’s mother Sarah met a man by the name of Simon Girty, known to have close ties with the Indians.  Sarah offered to pay a substantial sum for her eldest daughter's safe return to her family and Girty accepted the commission with a promise to rescue Catherine from the tribe that was holding her captive and in successfully doing so he found himself a wife.

At the time Girty, a Frontiersman in every sense of the word, was employed by the Indian Department at Detroit, actively assisting with American penetration.  Many colourful tales are told of his actions in exploits ranging from Pennsylvania through Ohio to Kentucky.  At the end of the American Revolution he was awarded Crown land, along with fellow officers of the Indian Department, on the lower Detroit River at Malden, south of Amherstburg.  The land would become his future, and last, home.

It was to this farm that Simon brought his bride Catherine Malott, a girl 24 years his junior. One can only speculate on what happened to Catherine during her three years of captivity and what attracted her to a man almost twice her age.  It would be understandable if she was inordinately grateful to Simon for her rescue from the Indians and for his probable offer of love.  Then again, perhaps she had no choice in the matter.

One story has it that Girty convinced his Indian friends that he wanted to take the maiden back for a visit with her mother in Detroit, promising to return her thereafter. Girty, however had another plan and subsequently gained control of her through wedlock.  Their marriage in 1791, according to the old age testimony of Catherine herself, took place “at the mouth of the Detroit River."  The union was solemnized by a clergyman, a rarity for Protestants in that period on the frontier as usually such marriages were performed by the officer commanding at Detroit.  A daughter, Sarah, was born in 1792 and four other children followed -  John, Nancy, Thomas and Prideaux.

Simon was exposed to Indian culture while in captivity

Surprisingly, Simon's early history was similar to that of Catherine, in fact he too spent his formative years as a captive of Indians.

The story of Simon Girty, the frontiersman of the American Revolution and the War of 1812, is a prime example of the distortion that can be given to “history” -- in this case meaning the appearance in literature of a personage long subjected to adverse propaganda. “Renegade” and “heroic frontiersman” are the two guises in which he has been portrayed.

Girty’s later years were closely associated with the Detroit River area where he held the appointment of Interpreter in the British Indian Department, first at Detroit, and later at Amherstburg. In Essex County, scores of persons have Girty for an ancestor and it has been a perpetual source of annoyance down through the years for his descendants to read untrue stories imputing to Girty deeds in which he had no part.  However, there are two sides to every story and I tend to favor a blended, admittedly condensed version, at the risk of losing some of the flavor and color that is inherent.

Undoubtedly, Girty was rough and tough, a hard drinker and a true product of his age and situation. The myth that has grown around the image of Girty suited the war-time tensions born of the Revolution and American hatred of the Indians -- the general downgrading of him as one of the “enemy”.  Poor identification and communication contributed the myth, the acts of others being attributed to Girty. The result has been that in novels and a modern play, Girty is held out as the arch-type of frontier ruffian. However, some, more serious writers, have made an honest attempt to show Girty as he was, a minor officer of the British Indian Department doing his duty as he saw it.

Simon Girty was born on the frontier at a period when the French and British empires were expanding their bounds in the Ohio territory at the expense of the Indians. The date of his birth has been given as November 14, 1741, the second son born to Simon Girty Sr. and his wife Mary Newton. His elder brother was Thomas, and at two-year intervals two more brothers came into the Girty household, James and George.

The Girty home at this period was on the east bank of the Susquehanna River five miles above present Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. There were various removals but the Girtys lived always on the extreme frontier under primitive conditions. Simon Girty Sr. was a trader in Indian country, but also kept a tavern as an accommodation to travellers and neighbours.

Tragedy entered the Girty story when the senior Girty was killed in an dispute with a bond-servant, Samuel Sanders. In this same encounter John Turner, a neighbour and half-brother, killed an Indian known as “The Fish”.  Sanders was convicted of manslaughter at the assizes in April 1751. Sometime later, in 1753, Turner married Girty’s widow, and by this marriage was born still another son Thomas Turner, in about 1755.

The American phase of the Seven Year’s War soon engulfed the frontier. The French had erected Fort Duquesne at the junction of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers and by this means held the key to the Ohio territory. Braddock, the British commander moving from Virginia towards Fort Duquesne was defeated in the Battle of the Wilderness, July 9, 1755. The next season, Noyan de Villiers, the French commandant at Fort Duquesne moved eastward against Fort Granville, a British outpost on the Juanita River.

The Turners with the Girty boys and others from the area, were taking shelter at the palisaded fort when it was surrounded by the French and their Indian allies.  Resistance was hopeless. Turner himself opened the gates and gave entry to the Indians.

The Indians conducted the Fort Granville prisoners to the Delaware Indian town of Kittanningon.  At this location Turner was identified as the killer of “The Fish” and accordingly was executed in the Indian fashion by burning at the stake. Sarah Turner and the Girty boys were witnesses to the stepfather’s sufferings.

Simon with brothers James and Thomas
The family members were then separated. Mrs. Turner with her two younger sons, George Girty and John Turner were adopted by the Delawares. Thomas Girty, the oldest son made a successful escape about this time. James Girty was adopted by the Shawnees, while Simon Girty was taken to Upper Sandusky in Ohio to a Seneca town and adopted by the tribe's chief. Simon was then about 15 years of age and for the next three years, until the general pacification, lived among that tribe and was treated as their own.

This period of Indian captivity gave the Girty boys a taste for Indian life which never left them. Each had become able to converse in the Indian language in use in the Ohio valley and thus they were able to act as interpreters for the traders which then surged into Fort Pitt, the former Fort Duquesne.

Fully six-feet tall with an impressive build, large head and black eyes, Simon Girty was said to be tough and temperamental with rough manners and a grim sense of humor born of the harsh conditions in which he spent his life.  Someone recalled that his somewhat sinister face was made more so by Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant who laid his cheek open with a sabre in one notable physical confrontation.

Girty in 1760 was employed by a trader as an interpreter in the Delaware Indian towns northwest of the Muskingum River in Ohio. There he became so well liked that a Delaware chief, KA-TE-PAPKO-MEN, exchanged names with him. Thus early in his career he exerted that influence which in the years of the Revolution and the Indian wars afterward made him such a valuable agent for British influence.

In 1775 he joined the Virginia militia and was originally on the side of the “Patriots” and was hired as a sort of liaison between the Continental Congress and the Six Nations. Simon went on to further service with the Continental Army in a number of campaigns on and away from the frontier but was often snubbed, denied promised promotions and witnessed Continental troops massacre Indians whose tribes had given their support to the fledgling Americans. This and the fact that it was clear the Americans intended to move west to settle lands Britain had reserved for the Native Americans, finally prompted Girty to defect to the British side in March of 1778.

He went to Detroit, Michigan and was employed by the Indian Department as a go-between with the local tribes.  It was during this time that gained an unsavory reputation in the American press as he participated in Indian raids against American settlements. The fighting was harsh to be sure and Native American warfare was not the same as that in Europe. However, contrary to revolutionary propaganda, Simon Girty saved the lives of many captives who would have otherwise been killed.

Girty aided the British throughout the frontier in raids on colonial outposts as well as at the victory over the Kentucky militia at the battle of Blue Licks. Feared and hated on the American frontier, he eventually retired to his farm with Catherine and a growing family where for 10 years he raised corn for the government and continued to work with the Natives.  Blind, crippled and a shadow of his former self, he spent his happiest hours at his favourite public house recounting tales of his spine-tingling career. Even then a $1,000 American bounty remained on his head.

When Oliver Hazard Perry's 1813 victory on Lake Erie opened Canada to American forces, Girty fled to his friends the Mohawks. His house was overrun but not destroyed because the Americans did not realize that he had lived there. He returned to it in 1816.

Americans resurrected the memory of Simon Girty during the War of 1812 to again make him the face of British and Indian savagery but by that time Girty was near the end of his life, still one of the most hated men in America despite the fact that there is not a shred of evidence that he ever actually participated in any of the atrocities attributed to him. The only thing he was “guilty” of was returning to the loyalty of his King and fighting to defend the lands and rights of the Indian community both sides of the American and Canadian border.
Memorial stone erected on the front lawn
of Simon Girty's homestead.

Simon Girty died February 18, 1818 and was buried on his homestead with British military honors. Warriors on both sides respected and remembered him fondly. To the Mohawks, Simon Girty was to become an "Indian Patriot." American frontiersmen called him a white savage and years later, Kentuckians crossed the Detroit River into Canada "just for the satisfaction of spitting on his grave."

While I have been unable to establish a direct family link, it is only natural for me to wonder if, at some point, Catherine Malott Girty would have contact with the former Delilah Malott and her husband Philip Wright (my great, great grandparents) who also lived on neighboring Crown land in Malden.  Simon would have surely regaled them with his stories.

I wish that I knew more about Catherine's story -- what her life was like as a captive of the Indians, what her life was like with Simon, what life was like after her husband's death.  Perhaps that would be asking too much.

Quite by coincidence, Catherine died January 1852 and Delilah passed away several months later.  I would dearly love to make a family connection, but have determined that it is next to impossible, given conflicting information and records that have been altered and confused by succeeding generations of researchers.  It does not help that two Sarah Melotts show up in the records of the period. It is all too coincidental that Catherine's mother, Sarah, was born Keyes and was married to Peter Malott while Delilah's mother was also named Sarah, born Tracy and married to Joseph Malott. So confusing! So many unanswered questions!

It all simply boggles the mind.  I find myself laying awake at night just thinking about it -- and wondering...

You would think that I do not have a life of my own.

That too is reality.


Memorial stone and plaque erected at 1173 Front Road South, Highway 18, Detroit Riverfront, Malden, Ontario. Lot 11, 1st Concession, Malden Township, Essex County, Ontario
Inscription on the memorial stone reads, "Simon Girty 1741 - 1818 A Faithful Servant of the British Indian Department for Twenty Years."
Inscription on the plaque above reads -- "Simon Girty UE 1741 - 1818 - Girty's life crossed cultural boundaries between native and white societies on the frontier of American settlement. In 1756 his family was captured by a French-led native war party in Pennsylvania. Simon was adopted by the Seneca, then repatriated in 1764. An interpreter at Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh), he became an intermediary with native nations. In 1778, dismayed over rebel policy on the natives, Girty fled to Detroit. During the Revolutionary War, and subsequently in the Ohio Valley, he was employed by the British Indian Department while serving native nations as a negotiator, scout and military leader. Angry at his defection and fearful of his influence, Americans made Girty a scapegoat for frontier atrocities. He is buried here on his homestead. Erected by the Bicentennial and Toronto Branches of the UELAC with assistance of the Ontario Heritage Foundation."

Adapted from The Wright Story http://mywrightstory.blogspot.ca

07 April, 2017

NURTURING SPACE BETWEEN SPIRIT AND OUTSIDE WORLD

I am often amazed by the wisdom dispensed by some of my Facebook friends. Esther Joyce Coulter Main is a case in point. 
In a post entitled "Thoughts For The Day From Sacred Medicine", she suggests: "When we open ourselves to the possibility that the quest for permanence in a constantly changing world is futile, something shifts within us." We see our former end goal of “happily ever after” for what it truly is -- a shimmering mirage on the horizon that is always just outside our grasp.

"Once the cosmic jig is up, our lives become less about establishing and defending and more about allowing, flowing, and sensing. Like a tango dancer on a moonlit terrace in Buenos Aires, we learn to love the changes, keeping our minds clear so that we can react in the blink of an eye to any dip or surge in tempo," Ester continues.
"Change is guaranteed.  Surrendering to this fact is an essential part of the path. By doing so, we arise from the ashes of who we once were, stronger of heart and able to hold space with compassion in any situation.

"When we’re experiencing pain, the suffering can be heightened by the fear that the pain will never stop. When we’re experiencing pleasure, the pleasure can be thwarted by the sad truth that nothing lasts forever.

"The wise know not to grab or shun either of these, but instead learn to nurture space between their spirit and anything the world outside brings to their doorstep. By not pulling toward or pushing away, we are able to give full presence to every change that happens in our life -- the good, the bad, and the ugly."


NOTE:  I am connected with Esther through the Essex County Branch of the Ontario Historical Society and a mutual interest in genealogy.

Quite by coincidence, I came across the little saying below yesterday and felt called to share it along with Esther's thought-provoking sentiments.
“Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds, the harvest can either be flowers or weeds.”

Our thoughts often pass behind our eyelids without much investigation into their origin, as though these assemblages of information are out of our control – a simple reaction to something we just witnessed.

But are they really so untamable?

In Eastern religions, particularly Tibetan Buddhism, there is a notion of cultivating spaciousness or breathing room between our inner world and any events that are transpiring around us. It takes a little practice, but if we learn to hold space for whatever the “outer us” is experiencing, we can begin to examine the thoughts, beliefs and patterns that are running through our minds.

Will this thought help me evolve and thrive or will it hinder me?

If it passes this simple litmus test, we nourish it. If it is toxic or doesn’t serve our highest ideals, we know it’s time to set up spiritual shop and trace it down to its roots for further exploration and healing work.

“Spiritual life is a lot like gardening. We till and cultivate the garden of our heart, planting seeds of presence, openness and the ability to respect whatever arises. We water each one so the things which are beautiful in us can blossom.” – Jack Kornfield

Master gardeners and small farmers never stop minding their soil, even in times of abundance when the plants are flourishing. In order to create a healthy ecosystem, they must be aware of the natural rhythms and character of their particular plot.

If everything is roses in your life right now it doesn’t mean your inner gardening is done. On the other hand, if you’re going through a rough patch today don’t think it’s too late to start planting new seeds.

We humans tend to get spiritual in a hurry when big life challenges arise, but when the rain clouds part, we forget to continue our higher practises. What we often forget is that the deep work we did in the hard times is what sprouted the happy times we’re now enjoying.

I fully understand that the foregoing is a lot to absorb in one swell swoop and I recommend re-reading the offerings and spending some time considering each individual thought, as I have done in presenting them. The process can be extremely grounding...and enlightening.


03 April, 2017

I'M PROUD OF MY "CONVICT" GREAT-GREAT-GREAT GRANDFATHER

NEWS FLASH!!! INTRODUCING A NEW BLOG SITE: You won't find much in Canadian history books about Britain's transportation of convicts to the New World in the 1700s. In fact, Americans in particular, have rather romantic ideas about how their country was founded.

We’ve long been fond of the mythology surrounding persecuted people freely traveling to the New World and building the greatest country on Earth. But, like all history, it’s much, much messier than that. Our history includes plenty of genocide, slavery, and just a dash of prison folk — and the latter may be news to many reading this post.

Honestly, I didn't think much about that part of history either until a couple of weeks ago when, much to my surprise and temporary chagrin, while doing some family genealogical research, I discovered that my great-great-great grandfather Henry Wright was in fact, one of the "convicts" transported to America in 1763. The sad part of the story is that he was only 13 years of age -- a mere adolescent still in puberty. The subsequent story that unfolded for me is indeed a remarkable one...and I'm rather glad that I am here now to talk about it. If you are interested in knowing more, you are invited to check out "The Wright Story" http://mywrightstory.blogspot.ca.

27 March, 2017

BILL VERKERKE DEDICATED HIS LAST YEARS TO VOLUNTEERISM

Bill Verkerke at his Care Centre stand for the Heart & Stroke Foundation...There was no avoiding him!

In keeping with my interest in ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things, I want to talk about a special, unassuming man who left an indelible mark on his community through untold hours of selfless volunteerism.


In Southampton, Bill Verkerke was a legend. For more than 15 years he went door to door canvassing for the cause that he believed in, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and was in fact one of the highest fundraisers ever in the Province of Ontario.

After suffering a stroke himself and having to move to the Southampton Care Centre, Bill continued his fund-raising efforts. Every February, he would 'set up shop' at the front door of the Care Centre to continue his passion and, this year (his 18th fundraising year) he was there once again for what would be his last.

While being recognized by the Heart and Stroke Foundation as one their best-ever fundraisers, Bill Verkerke was also honoured in 2011 by Rotary International with the Paul Harris Fellowship Award. In addition, in 2015, he was the recipient of the Jarlette Health Services 'Making a Difference' award. Beside canvassing for Heart & Stroke, he also volunteered for the Salvation Army (more than 1,700 volunteers hours at the Port Elgin Thrift Shop) and the Canadian Cancer Society.

Sadly, Saugeen Shores lost Bill Verkerke March 18, in his 88th year, but we can't let him go just like that.

Born in the Netherlands in 1929, Bill Verkerke was one of eight children of Willem and Jannette Verkerke. His father was a produce farmer and Bill recalled working alongside his siblings as they would weed their own staked-off rows in the fields. Growing up in the Dutch depression, the German occupation and then the devastating North Sea Flood, the virtues of diligence, generosity and community were firmly rooted in the young man.

After the Flood, with determination and $27 dollars in his pocket, Bill immigrated to Canada in 1953. He was supposed to travel to Saskatchewan but he spotted a map and thought that Ontario “looked so much nicer, more fertile” and he settled in Galt with his younger brother who had made the journey before him. He headed to the employment office and landed a job with Galt Casting. He stretched his 45 cents an hour and took a night course to learn English. All the while, he found time to plant and tend to a garden and shared his produce among his co-workers. 

Bill was homesick for Holland however and was considering a return to the Netherlands when he met Glennys Beechey, a co-worker that caught his eye and who had a knack for baking pies and preserves. Their love bloomed and the couple married in 1967. Bill’s family grew as he embraced Glennys' three children as his own.  In 1978, they purchased a cottage in Southampton where they enjoyed summers together with kids and grandkids. Bill delayed his retirement in Southampton until 1992 and then filled his days watching Lake Huron sunsets and thunderstorms with Glennys.

He was very devoted to Glennys and after her passing in 2004 he needed something to occupy his days. He wanted to make a difference and that's when he took on the role of fundraiser supreme.

A friend recalls Bill Verkerke at his front door on cold winter days, well past 80 years of age. "I always hastened to invite him in to take shelter and find warmth against some snow-filled, blustery streamer roaring over us from across the icy lake. A small man, Bill would stand in our front hall, red-nosed and glasses steamed, as he pulled from his plastic bag a receipt book. He was making his annual pilgrimage down our mostly deserted side street to canvass for the Heart and Stroke Foundation."

"He always called me 'Mr. ...' even though he had spent more years on this earth than I.  In his last years of neighbourhood canvassing, Bill’s hand would shake as he wrote out my receipt. Trudging through the snow and painfully climbing those two front steps, even with the assistance of his cane, was becoming a challenge. But there he was, cold and tired, just fulfilling his chosen volunteer service," the friend adds with admiration.

Statistics Canada reports that in 2013, 12.7 million Canadians were involved in some aspect of voluntarism, contributing almost two billion hours of service to their communities. It is a bit concerning, however, that the number of volunteers has dropped from 13.3 million only three years earlier. One cannot help but worry that the trend may continue downward.

Researchers have documented two other trends in voluntarism. More Canadians now prefer to give money to a cause rather than their time. A primary obstacle to volunteering is lack of available hours. A third shift is that volunteers increasingly want to engage in “ knowledge philanthropy,” offering a time-limited contribution where their specific talents and professional experience can be utilized to meet an organization’s particular need.

A previous Statistics Canada survey (1998) found that 49% of contributors made their financial support or time commitment primarily through a place of worship, Another 17% responded to a door canvasser while 13% contributed after receiving a mail request. That same survey noted that 31% of Canadians were supportive of voluntarism, either through giving time or money. Motivation for giving ranged from a desire to use one’s skills, a wish to contribute to the community or because one had been directly affected by the cause they now represented.

None of these statistics would have meant much to old Bill Verkerke and the amazing contribution he made to his retirement community in the last couple of decades of his life.

Metaphorically speaking, his friend can picture Bill now at the Pearly Gates, about to quietly announce his arrival with a tentative knock on that massive door which opens to Heaven and eternity. "Saint Peter has already heard about Bill’s good works, welcomes him home and quickly throws wide open that heavy door; this time Bill won’t even have to knock. A heavenly choir then greets him with this old Biblical chorus:

'Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter now into thy rest'."

23 March, 2017

I REALLY DO MISS OUTDOOR PICNICS IN THE SUMMER

My dad Ken and I cleaning up our dessert after one of many outdoor suppers prepared by my mother, circa 1945.
In sorting through a massive collection of family photographs, many predating me by a good 30 or 40 years, I recently realized that casual photography is a relatively modern phenomena. Picture taking of yesteryear was more formal and generally recorded rather sober (people had yet to learn to say "cheese") family gatherings of some description. I have also come to the conclusion that good old-fashioned picnics are pretty much a thing of the past...And what a shame!

Growing up in the 1940's, I probably got in on the tail end of the picnic era.  I have fond memories of not only family picnics in the summer months, but of outdoor community dinners and socials on church grounds.  My folks ate "suppers" outside three or four times a week in our backyard in Dresden and went on picnics virtually every weekend, generally along the St. Clair River or at Rondeau Park (then known as Government Park) on Lake Erie.  It was just "the thing to do" in the months of June, July and August.

Summers were truly meant to be lived outside.  Virtually every evening was spent on comfortably appointed front porches where friends and neighbors would drop by for visits and, more often than not, a spot of tea -- hot or iced.

Whether a picnic was a community affair or just a family or party picnic, the picnic basket was the all-important item for the occasion (coolers were very rare in those days as were fire pits and barbecues for on-the-spot grilling). When it was a community picnic, it was essential to bring a well-filled basket since one could usually find some friend or neighbor who was alone or who failed to bring certain eats along.
My mom's metal picnic basket.

The success of a picnic depended in great measure upon the packing. For this purpose two wicker baskets were usually brought along -- one, for the food and the other for the utensils, paper plates and cups for drinking. My mother's favorite "basket" was made of metal with plaid decoration and I will forever associate it with family picnics. Sandwiches formed the standby at a picnic lunch, and there was practically no limit to the variety in which they were created. Also included was fried chicken, a beef loaf, or a cold boiled ham sliced very thin and served with dressing.

My favorite picnic meals consisted of potato salad, deviled eggs, cabbage salad, cold sliced chicken or roast beef, ice tea and lemonade (always made from scratch), raisin or apple (with cheddar cheese) pie and lots of cookies.  In season, fresh sliced tomatoes,strawberries and peaches from our garden were the order of the day.  If we were eating outside at home, my mom would often make a casserole of some description.  Hot dogs and hamburgers were unheard of and there was never any wine or liquor. A table cloth for the picnic table, if you were lucky enough to find one, was a must as were a couple of blankets if you decided to eat on a sandy beach or grassy knoll in a park setting.

Truthfully, today I cannot remember the last bonafide picnic that I have been on.  Generally, I think that picnics are just too much trouble now and air-conditioned fast-food outlets too plentiful and convenient.  In my case, Rosanne is house-bound because of health reasons but when she was able she preferred not to eat outside because of hot temperatures and bugs (those "creepy-crawly things") and I suspect that she is not alone in that kind of thinking today.

But, just think about it...When would a picnic really be a picnic without a few uninvited guests? If you asked ants and flies, they'd probably tell you that they don't crash picnics uninvited. They would argue that it's you who decides to have a picnic on their turf!  It is simply Mother Nature as she should be and it all goes with the territory.

While it is no fun going on picnics all by oneself, I do grasp every opportunity to take a coffee or a sandwich and cold drink out to my porch on nice summer days.  Everything just tastes so much better outside.

...And a nap in the fresh air afterward is glorious!