Susannah Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush or Forest Life in Canada (New Edition, Toronto, 1913), Pp. 341 Ff.

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Author: Susannah Moodie  | Date: 1852

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LIFE ON THE UPPER CANADIAN
FRONTIER, 1852

Susannah Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush or Forest Life in Canada
(New edition, Toronto, 1913), pp. 341 ff.

A logging bee followed the burning of the fallow as a matter of course. In the bush, where hands are few and labour commands an enormous rate of wages, these gatherings are considered indispensable, and much has been written in their praise; but to me, they present the most disgusting picture of a bush life. They are noisy, riotous, drunken meetings, often terminating in violent quarrels, sometimes even in bloodshed. Accidents of the most serious nature often occur, and very little work is done when we consider the number of hands employed, and the great consumption of food and liquor.

I am certain, in our case, had we hired with the money expended in providing for the bee, two or three industrious, hard-working men, we should have got through as much work, and have had it done well, and have been the gainers in the end.

People in the woods have a craze for giving and going to bees, and run to them with as much eagerness as a peasant runs to a racecourse or a fair; plenty of strong drink and excitement making the chief attraction of the bee.

In raising a house or barn, a bee may be looked upon as a necessary evil, but these gatherings are generally conducted in a more orderly manner than those for logging. Fewer hands are required, and they are generally under the control of the carpenter who puts up the frame, and if they get drunk during the raising, they are liable to meet with very serious accidents.

Thirty-two men, gentle and simple, were invited to our bee, and the maid and I were engaged for two days preceding the important one, in baking and cooking for the entertainment of our guests. When I looked at the quantity of food we had prepared, I thought that it never could be all eaten, even by thirty-two men. It was a burning hot day towards the end of July when our loggers began to come in, and the "gee!" and "ha!" to encourage the oxen resounded on every side ....

Our men worked well until dinner-time, when, after washing in the lake, they all sat down to the rude board which I had prepared for them, loaded with the best fare that could be procured in the bush. Pea-soup, legs of pork, venison, eel, and raspberry pies, garnished with plenty of potatoes, and whiskey to wash them down, besides a large iron kettle of tea. To pour out the latter, and dispense it round, devolved upon me. My brother and his friends, who were all temperance men, and consequently the best workers in the field, kept me and the maid actively employed in replenishing their cups.

The dinner passed off tolerably well; some of the lower order of the Irish settlers were pretty far gone, but they committed no outrage upon our feelings by either swearing or bad language, a few harmless jokes alone circulating among them.....

After the sun went down, the logging-band came in to supper, which was already for them. Those who remained sober ate the meal in peace, and quietly returned to their own homes, while the vicious and the drunken stayed to brawl and fight.

After having placed the supper on the table, I was so tired with the noise, and heat, and fatigue of the day, that I went to bed, leaving to Mary and my husband the care of the guests.

The little bed-chamber was only separated from the kitchen by a few thin boards; and, unfortunately for me and the girl, who was soon forced to retreat thither, we could hear all the wickedness and profanity going on in the next room. My husband, disgusted with the scene, soon left it, and retired into the parlour with the few of the loggers who, at that hour, remained sober. The house rang with the sound of unhallowed revelry, profane songs, and blasphemous swearing. It would have been no hard task to have imagined these miserable, degraded beings, fiends instead of men. How glad I was when they at last broke up, and we were once more left in peace to collect the broken glasses and cups, and the scattered fragments of that hateful feast!

We were obliged to endure a second and a third repetition of this odious scene, before sixteen acres of land were rendered fit for the reception of our fall crop of wheat.

My hatred for these tumultuous, disorderly meetings was not in the least decreased by my husband being twice seriously hurt while attending them. After the second injury he received, he seldom went to them himself, but sent his oxen and servant in his place. In these odious gatherings, the sober, moral, and industrious man is more likely to suffer than the drunken and profane, as, during the delirium of drink, these men expose others to danger as well as themselves.

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Chicago: Susannah Moodie, "Life on the Upper Canadian Frontier, 1852," Susannah Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush or Forest Life in Canada (New Edition, Toronto, 1913), Pp. 341 Ff., ed. Donald C. Masters in Susannah Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush or Forest Life in Canada (New Edition, Toronto, 1913), Pp. 341 Ff., as Cited in "Life on the Upper Canadian Frontier, 1852," a Short History of Canada (Princeton, New Jersey: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1958), 124–126. Original Sources, accessed September 15, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBRY1CZZ4BUR1PK.

MLA: Moodie, Susannah. ""Life on the Upper Canadian Frontier, 1852"." Susannah Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush or Forest Life in Canada (New Edition, Toronto, 1913), Pp. 341 Ff., edited by Donald C. Masters, in Susannah Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush or Forest Life in Canada (New Edition, Toronto, 1913), Pp. 341 Ff., as Cited in "Life on the Upper Canadian Frontier, 1852," a Short History of Canada, Princeton, New Jersey, D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1958, pp. 124–126. Original Sources. 15 Sep. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBRY1CZZ4BUR1PK.

Harvard: Moodie, S, '"Life on the Upper Canadian Frontier, 1852"' in Susannah Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush or Forest Life in Canada (New Edition, Toronto, 1913), Pp. 341 Ff., ed. . cited in 1958, Susannah Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush or Forest Life in Canada (New Edition, Toronto, 1913), Pp. 341 Ff., as Cited in "Life on the Upper Canadian Frontier, 1852," a Short History of Canada, D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., Princeton, New Jersey, pp.124–126. Original Sources, retrieved 15 September 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBRY1CZZ4BUR1PK.