The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the November 03, 2010 issue. Reprinted with permission.

I am a Gatineau farmer Jason Cross

foreword by Louise Schwartz

This poem was written in 1928. Two years earlier Jason Cross's homestead had been expropriated for a major hydroelectric project on the Gatineau River. The Mr. Strumbert named in the poem was the Gatineau Power Company land agent. This poem exemplifies some of the frustration and bitterness experienced by those who lost treasured farmland, homes or cottages along the Gatineau River in that period. There is some uncertainty among current day Cross descendants about who wrote this poem. Although written in the first person of Jason Cross, the author may have been his brother, Walter Cross, a well-known writer of verse.

I am a Gatineau farmer
My name is Jason Cross;
I'm what you would call a rolling stone
That has gathered up some moss.

The Way We Were
Jason Cross in his mid-twenties (circa 1910). Photo courtesy Gatineau Valley Historical Society.

I bought the Gordon Farm,
It was close to the Cascades Station;
I built on it a nice big barn
Because it was a fine location.

Moving I abominably hate,
No more I'm going to roam.
I'll fix the buildings up-to-date
And call the place my home.

We've had trouble watering cattle
Since the day I was born;
Here I put water in the stable
And built a silo for my corn.

The drive shed on the farm
Was simply on the bum,
So I pulled the old one down,
And built one neat and plum.

I made it twenty feet wide,
In length it was three spn,
It held my express and buggy
And my little Ford Sedan.

I tried the blooming pig house,
It was all built of cement
But my pigs have all got crippled
And their legs have all got bent.

The Way We Were
Cascades prior to the flooding of the Gatineau River, looking across Bates field. The building in the foreground was part of the Jason Cross farm (circa 1923). Photo courtesy Gatineau Valley Historical Society.

I used the building for the hens
They less legs to go wrong;
I gave them electric lights
And burned them all night long.

So with the electric lights,
And the sun that shone by day,
The hens could see the damp spots
And know just where to lay.

The lavatory was far too high
It was not fit for man or mouse;
I put it where it ought to be,
I put a toilet in the house.

I wanted electric fixtures,
So I purchased eight or ten;
And I fixed up the attic
To bed the hired men.

In stalled a pipeless furnace
That gave them lots of heat,
And I papered up the parlor
And made it nice and neat.

I built a nice veranda
To protect us from the rain,
Where I could sit at leisure
And watch the passing train.

I got this all completed
To my liking I'll confess,
When along came Mr. Strumbert
Who put me a mess.

He said, "We're going to build a dam"
One hundred feet or more
And the backing of the waters
Will drive you from the shore."

I said, "Mr. Strumbert,
I've spent money here galore."
For I'd given up the notion
Of moving any more.

"But give me sixty thousand
As a compensation fee
And then for moving out
I probably will agree."

"But," said Mr. Strumbert,
"To this I'll not consent
Expropriation papers
Will at once to you be sent."

So he sent along the bailiff
With papers in his hand,
Including a sworn affidavit
That they wanted so much land.

They spoke of degrees and spiral curves
And a thousand things or more,
In a surveyor's language
That I had never heard before.

The description was confusing
This I will agree,
For it named some great big words
That were entirely new to me.

So I called up Mr. Lewis,
The old surveyor of the land,
To give me information
That I might understand.

I asked him not to speak of latitudes
And numbers on each state;
Just to make it plain and simple
What land they were going to take.

So he made an explanation,
Though confusing I'll agree
But I partly understood
What they would take from me.

I then and there decided,
That this would never do
For the taking of this strip
Would cut my farm in two.

I just made up my mind,
I'll not let them off with that;
So I engaged a lawyer
With a head both big and flat.

But though my little lawyer
Was shrewd as shrewd could be,
They got this piece of land
In spite of he or me.

This is where I saw
They had me partly beat,
For they could build the railroad
And tramp out all my wheat.

The old barn on the right of way
Was filled with straw and hay,
So I had to send for Strumbert
To come without delay.

Up to Arden's cottage
I took this welcome guest
So he could see my buildings
And all that I possessed.

I told him that my barn yard
Was always nice and clean.
And I owned one hundred horse power
On that old Gatineau Street.

"But," said Mr. Strumbert,
With the shaking of his head,
"You own no hundred horse power,
We own the river bed."

"You own the two hundred acres,
A little less or more;
And your title plainly says,
"You are bounded by the shore."

"Your price is much too high
As you must plainly see;
This is what I'll do,
If you going to deal with me.

"I'll let you keep your buildings,
But move them all away,
Except the concrete pig house,
You'll have to let it stay.

"I'll give you nineteen thousand
And a farm on Eaton's Hill
I'll here draw up an option
And give you a dollar bill.

"For chasing after you
I'll not lose my precious time;
So if you want to make a deal
Just sign on the dotted line."

Now, I was mixed with lawyers
And couldn't tell where I'd end,
Or how much ready cash
That I would have to spend.

So I signed up the option
As others there had done,
And took the blooming dollar
For I couldn't get no more.

For the next six months
I was in an awful state,
For the backing of the waters
Would soon me vacate.

Then I beat it to Tenaga
To the old Blackburn Farm,
Where I painted up the house
And put windows in the barn.

The barn was pretty old
And wasn't waterproof,
So I had to get George Baldwin
To shingle up the roof.

And to the house I built a walk,
But did not build it straight;
But I have it a spiral curve
And steered it for the gate.

I thought I'd play some tennis
So I fixed up the grounds,
And built an iron fence
To keep the ball in bounds.

The court was very nice
And good as good could be,
But there was no one there to play
So it was let to Lu and me.

We had to do our work,
Therefore, found no time to play
So it is needless to tell you
The court grew up with hay.

Some folks call this place Tenaga,
While others will dispute
And say it always went
By the name of Eaton's Chute.

"Why this should be Kirk's Ferry"
Others will proclaim,
But we get our mail at Chelsea
So isn't that the proper name?

So I'm abused and I'm confused
Ever since they built the dam;
I'm in a mess with no address,
I don't know where in hell I am.

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