The Unknown Country, Canada and Her People

By Bruce Hutchison | Go to book overview

Leaves Falling, Dead Men Calling

The leaves at home in Ontario used to turn yellow and then scarlet, and one morning a small boy would wake to see them fluttering down into the backyard. They were big, ragged maple leaves, the best kind for a boy's fire. When they lay thick upon the ground it was a delicious feeling to kick your feet through them as you walked and heard them rustle. If you pushed them with a long motion of the leg they sounded like the swish of a wave on a sandy beach. But the burning was the best of all.

Old William, our man-of-all-work, would rake them up with a wooden rake that he had made himself, and I would help him with a toy rake and a toy wheelbarrow, demanding that we burn right away. But William would squint up at the trees and he would not burn until all the leaves were down. It was unlucky to burn twice, he said. "Leaves fallin', dead men callin'," William said. I never knew what it meant, but it had a fine sound of doom about it and I would repeat it over and over again -- leaves falling, dead men calling. And after a week of raking, after the last leaf had torn itself loose from the naked trees, we would light our fire behind the stable, and now the sweet smoke of maple leaves would go up in the back yards all over town. All eastern Canada would be burning leaves then, an autumn custom, a universal rite.

Alas, there are no maple leaves where I live now on the western coast. There are oak leaves only -- very superior in quality, of much better substance and fertilizing value when rotted down, but they lack the fragrance of the maple leaves

-107-

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The Unknown Country, Canada and Her People
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Contents ix
  • My Country 3
  • Chapter One - Chez Garneau 6
  • Mother of Canada 21
  • Canadian Spring 43
  • Chapter Three - The Wood Choppers 46
  • Letter from Montreal to Young Lady With Violets 61
  • Chapter Four - Ville Marie 64
  • The Tower 77
  • Chapter Five - Three O'Clock, Ottawa Time 79
  • Leaves Falling, Dead Men Calling 107
  • Chapter Six - Made in Canada 110
  • The Ready Way to Canada 129
  • Chapter Seven - The Wedge 132
  • Mrs. Noggins 155
  • Chapter Eight General Brock's Bloody Hill 158
  • Winter 179
  • Chapter Nine - Wood, Wind, Water 182
  • The Names of Canada 209
  • Chapter Ten - Sailors' Town 211
  • The Queer Lady 219
  • Chapter Eleven - The Home Town 222
  • The Trees 231
  • Chapter Twelve - Fundy's Children 234
  • The Geese 247
  • Chapter Thirteen - The Frontiersman 249
  • The Canadian 269
  • Chapter Fourteen - The Men in Sheepskin Coats 272
  • Father's Plow 289
  • Chapter Fifteen - Drought and Glut 292
  • Never Go Back 309
  • She's Quiet Tonight 329
  • Chapter Seventeen - The Lotus Eaters 332
  • The Buckskin 351
  • Chapter Eighteen - Cariboo Road 353
  • Index 375
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