The oldest girl has become something of a beauty, which has surprised me considerably. Only three years ago, you may remember, I wrote that she somewhat resembled my horse. Yet as she has gotten older and taller, her face has softened to the point that I have felt the need to warn her that my shotgun is at the ready, should any boy come into the yard before she is of age.
Tom Sheppard, circa 1913
Editor's note: Each year for Christmas our columnist Tom Sheppard writes his columns in the style of someone living a century ago
I used to think that she had her mother's features, but I see now that she more closely resembles me. The one thing that has not softened is her tongue. I had to get out my switch the other day when she was insolent, but the wife stayed my hand by saying that it was 1913, for heaven's sake, and the girl was no different from any other girl today.
She IS different, however, for she wants to go to Acadia University, up in the Valley, for further schooling. I have told her many times that men go to university, not women. I have told her that it would not be fit for her to be among all of those men, without her father to protect her. Very few women go to university, I pointed out, and those who do make poor wives.
Who, I asked her the other day, would want to marry a woman whose head was full of things other than keeping a good home for her husband? What man would tolerate a woman who had spent four years living among strange men? Even though the university, I am told, keeps the men and women separated as much as it can, there would always be opportunities for paths to cross, and disaster could ensue.
I turned to the wife for approval in this, and caught the woman with her eyes pointing toward the top of her head. I can see that while the oldest girl gets her handsome looks from her father, she gets her insolence from her mother. It is time to sit the wife down for another talk - for all the good that does.
The oldest girl said that more and more women were going to university and that I was hopelessly behind the times. She said that her world was very different from mine. When I reminded her that many of the girls who had been in the Pine Grove school before her were now happily married and raising families, she had the utter nerve to say that she might not even want children.
I rushed to the parlour and got an issue of the Gold Hunter, and found the part which said, "Motherhood is a woman's highest sphere. It is the fruition of her dearest hopes and greatest desires." There, I told her triumphantly, it is in print, so there is no question of it not being true. She grabbed the newspaper from me and started to giggle. She pointed out that this was on a part of a page selling Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound, which, she read out, would make a woman "normal, healthy and strong".
By now the wife was laughing too. The two are in league. I have no idea what they found funny. The oldest girl sighed and said that, seriously, girls were going to university these days. She spoke of Grace McLeod, from over at Westfield, now Grace Dean McLeod Rogers, married to a lawyer in Amherst. She said that Grace, whose father is a writer and whose uncle is that writer, R. R. McLeod, went to university at Dalhousie, received an honorary degree two years ago from Acadia, and now is the first woman to sit on Acadia's Board of Governors. I asked where the oldest girl had learned so much about the McLeods. She ignored me and said that, like Grace, she would find a way to attend university.
I told the girl that I was shutting down this conversation and we would discuss it no more. It is one of the banes of my existence that both the wife and the oldest girl refuse to accept what I have to say. It is far better not to let them get a toehold than it is to listen to their fancy arguments, which sometimes leave me bewildered. I sent the girl out to do her chores.
The wife patted my hand. "Do you remember," she asked me, "last Christmas, when you gave me a box of Chamberlain's Stomach and Liver Tablets? She got out the box and read aloud that the tablets cured "sallow skin, blotchy complexion, constipation, blood impurities and other irregularities." I said of course I did. I had been trying to help her cope, as she had told me that her household duties were weighing upon her.
"This," she said, "is a good time for me to return the favour." She reached into her private drawer and got out a box of something called Phosphonol, which she said she had sent away for from a drug company in Ontario. It said on the box that it was an Electric Restorer for Men, that it restored vim and vitality, averted premature decay and made one a new man. I was taken aback. She said, as she got up and left, to take the pills for the both of us, and I distinctly heard her snort.
What goes on in her head is completely beyond me. The longer we are together the less I know what is on her mind. I almost wonder if the pills are an insult of some sort. If women in the so-called modern world are going to behave like this, we men will have to rise up.
These, however, are trifling matters. I want to tell you of the interest in this area about the work underway to open a co-operative dairy in Bridgewater. A group of farmers and businessmen, myself included, went to a meeting in August called by Premier Murray's dairy superintendent, W. A. MacKay. Superintendent MacKay advised us that a cream-gathering plant would serve all of those up to ten miles from any railway station between Lunenburg and Caledonia, and from Middleton, and up and down the South Shore.
Farmers would get the same price for their cream delivered to any station as if it had been delivered to the creamery itself. We decided to go ahead with the creamery, which is to be called the LaHave Creamery Company Ltd. The plant is under construction and should be ready for operation by this spring.
We will increase our herd. My participation in this co-operative enterprise is my real Christmas present to the wife, as our prosperity in this aspect of my work is assured.