Walter Dugas: Making hay

The book Acadian Lives consists of interviews with Cape Breton Acadians and was collected and edited by Ronald Kaplan with Rosie Aucoin Grace. The book was published in 2004. It includes an interview with Walter Dugas of West Arichat.

Would you work side by side [with your father]?

“Yeah. [Each would have a scythe.] Oh, if it was fine, after breakfast we’d go and cut some hay. Sometimes all day, if it wasn’t a drying day that day. If it was a drying day, all the better – what we cut that day, the next day we’d work it. We used to have to shake it up, so the sun and the wind could get through. Put it in rows, they call, at night or stack. And then open it up again the next day, and one more day in the sun, it was ready for the barn.

“… I had about six or seven medium fields. Different pieces of land. And I had to cut from one field to another. And then, when all the hay was cut – if I had three cows – you leave the grass grow about that long. [Ten inches.] And then I’d put the cows in one of the fields for a pasture. And they’d eat for three or four weeks, and then I’d shift them to the other field. That’s how I used to feed them. Always lots of milk and very good cows.

“I had a Jersey and a Guernsey one time that came from Prince Edward Island. She was some cow.

“Oh, it was hard work. Very hard work, yeah. Very, very hard work. Sometimes I used to go by the corner store there with a load of hay. And every time I’d go by, I used to go in and I’d buy a quart of lime pop. And I used to up the bottle, drink half of it in one drink, up the bottle, and drink the rest. I’d go for another load. Coming back, I’d do the same thing. And water or anything like that, you know.

Sometimes they used to make what they called spruce beer, too…I don’t know how it was made; my mother used to make it.”

Did you ever use oatmeal water?

“Yeah lots of times. My father was famous for that drink…I think he used to put a bit of ginger in it… Some maybe had brown sugar.

“Oh, hay wagons I used to make myself. We had a 4-wheel truck – the tires were almost 3 inches wide. Half-an-inch thick steel tire on the wheels… And I used to make a what-you-call to put the hay in… I don’t know what you’d call it in English. We used to call it in French a raque-a-foin.

“My gosh we used to haul some awful loads, though. I remember one time – last house by the breakwater there, they used to sell hay. And my father and me, we ran short of hay one winter. We went there and we loaded half a ton of hay. We had the hayrack on the bobsleighs and we came right home with half a ton.”

Would the ox take you to church?

“Oh, no. We always walked to church, until the time I


capable enough to get in the car.”

Did you take the ox for a drive, just for pleasure?

“Not that I remember too often. Because we were working so often with it that I suppose that at the time we were kind of glad to put it away.”