My father’s father’s bucksaw hangs on the porch wall of our cottage home alongside some other antique tools that I have collected over the years. The handles of the saw are worn where strong sinewy hands have gripped it hundreds of times over.
My father’s father, my grandfather, came from Ontario in 1905 and homesteaded in Saskatchewan, north of North Battleford at French Man Butte. Grandma had emigrated from England and lived in the nearby town of Paradise Hill. They were married in North Battleford where they purchased a wagon and headed north to the French Man Butte homestead. They moved into a log house with a sod roof that grandpa had built. They cleared some land to get a crop and a garden in before summer’s end. Grandpa used his axe and the bucksaw to cut firewood and to clear some of the land for seeding and started work on a small frame home. Over the years the saw was used almost daily. When his son, my father, was old enough to do chores he was taught how to use the saw to cut down trees for firewood.
When I run my fingers over the worn and scarred handles of the saw I can picture in my mind’s eye my father as a young man, shirt off and sweat rolling down his bent back as he sawed in the afternoon sun. I imagine my grandfather stopping the plow horse in the field and looking over at his son and thinking and praying that his son would have a better and easier life when he became a man.
In 1942, after several years of hard times, the family and the saw moved east. I was one year old when we arrived in Ontario. I’m told that the saw continued to be used to cut wood for the outside stove used by grandma in her summer kitchen at her new home in St Catharines.
It was about 1951 when my parents and grandparents took their first holiday. All of us packed into grandpa’s old Ford and headed for Algonquin Park for a camping experience. The saw went with us and I was given the chore of collecting pieces of firewood and cutting them up with the old bucksaw. I happily remember the camp fires and the farm stories told by the adults as we sat around the fire late into the evening.
Several years later my family had established themselves in the Niagara area and there was a desire to have a little land and bush for the family to go to in the summer. My father purchased a small site on Lake Kawagama in north central Ontario to use as a cottage camp. The saw was packed in with loads of other provisions on that first trip to the camp. Over the years my father and I used the saw to clear off some small trees for firewood. The big ones came down with a modern gas chain saw.
Time passed and I finished school, married and my wife and I had our own son. Holidays were spent at the camp and soon my son was trying his best to cut firewood with my father’s father’s saw. Life goes on and our son became a man, married and had children.
This past summer my son and his family arrived at our cottage home on Ahmic Lake for their summer holidays. By now the saw was more of a souvenir and hung on the porch wall. Our grandson spotted the bucksaw and inquired as to what it was. Memories flooded my mind with his question. He listened as I told him the history of the saw and who had used it. He stared for a moment at the saw in deep thought and then looked at me and asked, “Is it my turn to use the saw?” As we headed over to the wood shed I realized that the fifth generation, my grandson’s father’s, father’s, father’s, father’s saw from Saskatchewan was about to be used once more.
Family members are often connected by one piece of family history.
George Brooks is a retired teacher who has written several children’s stories and had 2 children’s books published under the series “Tusker the Elephant”. He has had short memoir stories published in the Globe and Mail and in several web magazines.He lives in the small northern community of Ahmic Harbour, Ontario with his wife.