Recalling old times

Dear editor:
I wish to make a few comments on two items in the District Living section of the Sept. 8 edition of the Times.
I refer to page B3, and specifically the item on the threshing bee in La Vallee. In the second paragraph, it quotes, “cutting grain with a scythe, gather it with a cradle, and bind by hand.”
The cradle was used to cut the grain and lay it in a straight swathe. My father bought a cradle at a farm sale about 1917. The only time it was used was when the grain was next to a fence (I can’t remember it being used after 1920).
With a cradle, you cut a swathe about five feet wide.
I will try to describe how a cradle was made. I am looking back 80 years, so I can only give a general idea as to its size and length. The piece of 1.5-inch round hardwood, which I will refer to as the handle, was about five feet long.
Standing with the end of the handle on your left hand, where a hand grip like on a scythe was put, from here a slight bend away from you to where the right hand grip would be, it then bent sharply in nearly a half circle to the end.
At the right end, the bottom was flattened to take the end of the blade, where it was held with a ring and wedges like a scythe. On top at that end, a 1/2-inch hole was bored. In this hole, a piece 1/2×1 inch, 24 inches long, was fitted. This had four 1/2-inch holes in it—one six inches from the bottom, one at the top, and two in between.
The blade was longer and heavier than a scythe.
The bottom finger was six inches up and was a little shorter than the blade. Each finger was a bit shorter than the one below. The fingers were curved like the blade.
Twelve inches in from the upright, a 3/8” dowel was put from the bottom to top finger. At this point, a hole was in the blade, a hole to match was in the bottom finger, a 5/8” dowel with a bored hole in the centre was placed between the blade and finger, a bolt was put in, and screwed tight.
By this time, you will be asking where do you put your right hand. Where your right hand would come on the handle a hole was bored. A round piece of hardwood the size of the left-hand grip was used.
Eight inches from the end, it was tapered to a 1/2-inch. The large end was fitted into the hole in the handle and the small end bent to the top of the upright holding the fingers.
Using the cradle, you swung it into the grain and as the heel of the blade cleared the standing grain, you brought the blade towards you and tipped the fingers over flat.
The base of the fingers were lifted and the grain slipped off and lay straight.
Some may read this and say that’s not at all like the cradle I remember. That is all right with me—the one they remember could have been different.
The other item I wish to comment on was on page B10 re the MNR survey of the white-tailed jack rabbit, badger, and Franklin’s ground squirrel. I am unable to help with the survey, but I can give you some feedback from long ago.
When I was in my teens, I did some trapping in the fall. About 1925, I set a trap at a known skunk den but what I caught was a badger (I got 15 cents for the skin).
Then in the mid-1930s, my brother and I were working around the barnyard when the dog brought this strange animal. At first glance, it looked like a red squirrel—with the bushy tail and squirrel’s head. But the colour was wrong, and the long hooked claws on the front feet made it a digging animal.
We decided it was some type of gopher that came in from the west.
It must have been 10 years before I got another one. By this time, I had learned to send any strange animal to the Division of Mammals at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. I sent this one there, and received a letter back telling me that it was a Franklin’s ground Squirrel.
Since then, I saw one west of Mine Centre in the 1970s. I also saw one on the river bank in Emo about that same time.
I trust that your readers will find the above interesting, and thanks for giving me space in your paper.
Yours truly,
Maurice MacMillan
Emo, Ont.

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