OLD TREE'S STORY PART 4


Let me tell you about Rock. What a character he was!

I knew him well when he worked this bush in the old days. I often hear Farmer Don referring to him on guided tours. Rock was a fixture in this forest for many years during the maple syrup glory days. And I use the word fixture deliberately. If Charlie Burke was the epitome of energy, then Rock was his complete opposite as the epitome of lethargy. One day, I overheard Earl, Farmer Kuehl’s son, explaining to Farmer Don that Charlie grew so impatient with Rock because he would take an entire half day to travel the five kilometers from Killaloe to the maple farm that he finally built him a stable beside the sugar shack. He would spend his nights there for the entire maple syrup season and sometimes longer if he had to haul freshly cut firewood in preparation for the next season. But Farmer Don relates an even more famous story (told to him by a local man who worked on the maple farm as a boy) of Rock’s legendary aversion to work. It goes something like this:

It was on a January day in 1941 that Rock was footslogging his way to the farm on one of his epic treks. His load that day was relatively light – a wagon containing a couple of bales of hay (Rock’s lunch?), a piece of white birch and the driver, Elmer Burke who was Charlie’s son. When Rock reached Lisk’s hill, just a stone’s throw from the Burke farm, he stopped. Whether it was to contemplate the wonder of Reuben Lisk’s champion roadside maple tree – a tree which later produced 12 gallons of sap in a single day during the 1973 season - or to ponder the beauty of that same view that A Y Jackson captured in his 1961 painting, Country Road, Killaloe, no one will ever know.

But stop he did … and wouldn’t budge!

After numerous promptings and as many verbal threats, Elmer attempted to spur Rock into action by prodding him with the aforementioned chunk of birch, but Rock’s musings were not to be disturbed. Finally, in a moment of exasperation, Elmer set the small birch log aflame. Jolted from his reverie, Rock bolted into action, startling Elmer and thus causing the flaming birch to fly out of his grasp and land on the wagon setting the bales of hay on fire. The blazing wagon travelling at full tilt down Mountainview Road was a sight to behold!

When Farmer Don later asked how the teller came to hear of this story, apparently the teller replied, “I was on the wagon!”