From the book “How Dear to My Heart” by Walter Kilborn Billings
It was nearly the end of July 1881. The hay crop had been all taken care of when Father and Mother decided to take a holiday and drive to Gananoque, a town about thirty miles west, to visit her sister. It was a three hour trip with horse and carriage, and was undertaken only about once a year.
When returning they had brought with them a cousin, Vernon Taylor, a boy about my own age. As usual, the creek was the great attraction. A raft which I had constructed a few weeks previously was anchored in the shallow water, and next afternoon we played around with it for quite a while. Then we decided to build a wharf to moor the raft to it. Securing an axe from the barn we sharpened the end of a couple of sticks and drove them into the bed of the creek a couple of feet from the bank, put a board on its edge from one stake to the other and secured it with some stones. Next we took the raft, paddled it up the creek to a spot where a heavy bank of sods hung down to the water, the earth underneath having been washed away by the spring floods. We could break off a chunk, put it on the raft and continue till we had a load, then shove them to our wharf, pile them like stones on one another until we had a solid foundation above the water level.
The day was warm and sunny. Since I had been in the water nearly every day, I had a pretty good tan. My cousin, although he had to wear a bathing suit at home, also had a fairly brown skin, but as we were playing in a secluded part of the creek, we decided he also would not wear his suit; therefore before the end of the afternoon he had acquired a pretty good sunburn. Finally at the call for supper we climbed the hill to the house and soon afterwards were in bed.
Next day was a holiday. The Farmers’ Picnic was to be held at St. Lawrence Park, a short distance west of the Brockville cemetery. My cousin had complained in the morning of being uncomfortable from the sunburn he had received the day before, but went with us to the picnic.
Tablecloths were spread on the grass under the trees, and dinner was served, everyone sitting around tailor fashion and enjoying the many good things from the lunch baskets, all but my cousin, who protested he did not care to sit, but leaned against a tree to eat his lunch.
In the afternoon there were swimming races, boat races, and a lot of other fun, but Vernon would not even get in a boat, as it hurt him to sit down, he said. It was a wonderful afternoon. The men got a long rope; choosing sides till twelve men were selected for each team and then had a tug of war. It was a great day, but to soon we were loaded onto the wagons, all but the big boys and girls who were staying for the evening to enjoy a dance at the pavilion.
Next morning my cousin’s sunburn was hurting terribly and he had me examine him to see what was causing the trouble. When I found two water blisters nearly as large as his hand, I understood why he preferred to eat his lunch standing up the day before.
While we were playing around the yard one of us suggested we have a tug of war, the same as they had had at the picnic, but as there was no one to take hold of the rope we had found in the shed we tied one end to the top of the lath fence at the side of the house. Then we took hold of the other end and started pulling. My cousin was behind me and as the laths would bend we would brace ourselves and give another pull, the same as the men did….. Unfortunately, there was a limit to the strength of the laths, and all at once they broke and we sat down in the driveway, my cousin giving out a horrible yell as he struck the ground. The blisters had broken! In a couple of hours he felt quite comfortable, but after that he always wore his bathing suit when we went out on the raft.
For information on St. Lawrence Park look under Along Hwy 2, St. Lawrence Park on this website