The Wood Choppers
When we swung out of the timber, on the rounded hill high above the St. Lawrence, the wind off Mount St. Anne hit us all at once, as if a door had been opened. The old mare hurried on, hoping to finish this disagreeable chore and return to her warm stable. Our little red sleigh lurched and creaked in the frozen ruts of the road. Jean and I snuggled deeper into the buffalo robe and pulled our fur caps down over our ears. Young Morel stood up in the front of the sleigh without a shiver, though he wore only a light windbreaker and nothing over his ears -- a red-faced giant, beefy but hard, the kind of tough, jolly Frenchman whose fathers fought the Indians here and civilized Canada.
It was still winter up in the hills though spring had come to the banks of the river -- deep winter in late March and, in our red sleigh with the bells jingling, we felt as if we were going to a Christmas party a hundred years ago. This was backwoods Quebec, not tourist country. This was the country of the woodchoppers, who have lived from the beginning not as farmers but in, by, and of the forest, until they are almost a part of it and have changed little and are unspoiled. Few Canadians have ever seen them.
We could see them now as we drove through the ragged string of villages wedged between the hills, which are jointly called St. Féréol. Most of the men were out in their front yards sawing wood with thin bucksaws, held taut by the semicircle of a bent sapling. They did not stop sawing as we passed. No man