Memoirs

On the Front Line of Life by Alan Bowker

By Alan Bowker

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You had your choice! Stay there and turn into a hick; get out and be a great man. But the strange thing is that they all come back. They leave the old farm as boys so gladly, so happy to get away from its dull routine, its meaningless sunrise and sunset, its empty fresh winds over its fields, the silence of the bush — to get away into the clatter and effort of life, into the crowd. Then, as the years go by, they come to realize that at a city desk and in a city apartment they never see the sunrise and the sunset, have forgotten what the sky looks like at night and where the Great Dipper is, and find nothing in the angry gusts of wind or the stifling heat of the city streets that corresponds to the wind over the empty fields ...

Not that he didn't want to, but every drink cost money, five cents, and he hadn't got it. If a teacher did begin to drink and did start to loaf around the taverns, it undermined the sternness of his life's purpose as a slow leak undermines a dam. It became easier to drink than to save money; he felt rich instead of poor, and presently, as the years went by, he drank himself out of this purpose altogether, quit schoolteaching, went north to the lumber shanties, or worked in a sawmill — living life downhill, marked out still, by the wreck of his education, as a man who had once been a teacher and still quoted poetry when he was tight.

A light wagon was lighter than a lumber wagon, but that's all you could say about it — it is like those histories which professors call "short" histories. They might have been longer. " On the lift of the hills we could see about us a fine rolling country, all woods, broken with farms, and here and there in the distance on the north horizon great flecks of water that were Lake Simcoe. And so on, at a pace of four or five miles an hour, till as the day closed in we went over a tumbled bridge with a roaring milldam and beyond it a village, the village of Sutton — two mills, two churches, and quite a main street, with three taverns.

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