Cultural References

By Jim Hagarty

One of the challenges for a writer is to not leave his readers behind. It is easy to do. One way to lose them is to use references they don’t understand. I try hard not to do that but I don’t always succeed. I sometimes uses cultural references that might be lost on some readers, in part because of my age. Recently, for example, I wrote about how voters took the members of a political party “to the woodshed” in Canada’s most recent national election. What does taking someone to the woodshed mean? And what is a woodshed, anyway? Woodsheds were common when people heated their homes with fireplaces and woodstoves. Wood for burning would be kept dry in a shed dedicated for that. And why would someone be taken to the woodshed? In the old days of corporal punishment, a father would take his kid to the woodshed to administer a smacking. The threat was always there? “Do you want a trip to the woodshed, boy? Well, just keep it up.”

Also, in a story about a one-room schoolhouse of old, I used the expression, “the three R’s”. What could that possibly be? The three R’s referred to Readin’, Ritin’, and ‘Rithmetic.

By Jim Hagarty

I have started another new page for my blog, called Click on the button to find a weekly collection of great photos taken by my friend and fellow blogger Al Bossence and posted daily at Every day, Al and his doggie Pheebes go on a long trip in the countryside in southern Ontario where Al finds lots of great things to photograph. Al and his wife Kelly are RV nomads in the winter months throughout the U.S. and spend summers in their lakeside resort village of Bayfield, Ontario.

pine cones

The Three R’s

By Jim Hagarty

This is a very old one-room schoolhouse in a rural setting near Goderich, Ontario. It is similar to the one I attended as a kid except that the one I went to was sided in brick. This one was probably sided in clapboard originally and then eventually covered over in its present-day “insulbrick”, a substance that was similar to asphalt shingles except that it was designed to give the appearance of real brick work. I am grateful this building is still standing. It appears to be situated on a private farm property. Some day it might disappear. The old schoolhouses had two doors – the one on the left entered into the boys’ “cloakroom”, the one on the right, the girls. The school I attended, as did my father and my grandmother before me, has long since been torn down. When the schools were closed in the 1960s and ’70s, they were sold off to individuals and many of them were transformed into homes, a few into businesses.

Some Heatwave Battling Tips

By Jim Hagarty

I have a few helpful suggestions for coping with the extreme heat we have been experiencing this week.

First of all, fill your freezer full of popsicles. Secondly, do not tell your children you have filled your freezer full of popsicles. When they discover that you have filled your freezer full of popsicles, and tell you they prefer those big, long “freezies” to popsicles, do not, as they sit there sucking the frozen particles out of plastic tubes while gripping the tubes with towels so as not to freeze their fingers, tell them about the advantages of popsicles. About how they taste so much better, for starters. About how you can break them in half and leave one half in the freezer while you eat the other, thereby avoiding the freezie meltdown effect whereby the last half of it is just juice by the time you get to it. And about how no towels are needed because you get to hold onto a nice warm, dry stick while you cool your innards.

Having now forever turned them onto popsicles, do not teach your children how to figure out what flavour of popsicle is contained within those non-clear wrappers. How, if you hold them up to the light, you can learn to distinguish the orange from the cherry and the grape. Don’t, whatever you do, tell them the orange is the best flavour. Do not do these things unless you are prepared to arm-wrestle your children for your share of the eight orange popsicles that come in every box of 24.

Even more importantly, lick your popsicles, do not chew them. Especially, do not chew four orange popsicles in a row. If you do, washing your mouth out several times with warm water to try to reduce the excruciating pain in your teeth will not work. It will take two pain-killer tablets to ease the discomfort.

Transporting your body from one locale to another in numbing heat is also made easier if you do not commit this fatal error: Do not buy a new car in December!

“Would you like air conditioning?” the salesman will ask, as he and you stand in a drifted-in car lot being blown off your feet by a blinding snowstorm in 20-below weather.

“Air conditioning?” you will laugh, almost haughtily. “Yeah, right. I don’t think so.” Who needs air conditioning in a new car when the fingers you are using to put the keys in the lock are about to break off from frostbite?

No, whatever you do, make sure you buy your new car during the height of the tropical season when you might be inclined to not only ask for air conditioning, but to demand it. Maybe even two air conditioners in case one of them breaks down. Otherwise, you will have to get used to cooling off while driving using the primitive method your ancestors used: rolling down all the windows in your car. This works not too badly except that you can’t hear the radio with your eardrums being battered by the winds created by your open windows.

There is also the problem of trying to keep everything battened down, as items are apt to whirl around the inside of your vehicle as if caught in a tornado before they fly out of the car and leave your possession forever.

If you buy one of those little personal battery-powered fans you can hold up to your face, take care not to hold it too close to your nose as these little suckers mean business (see two pain killer pills, above). People with hair also report emerging after such a journey looking like Curly from the Three Stooges.

If you are male, at least you have the blessed option of being able to waltz around your yard topless, though whether the neighbours might consider that a blessing is an open question. If you are female and you try that, you might soon be sharing your yard with a host of voyeurs.

If all else fails, go buy yourself one of the newest things on the market: an outdoor patio fan. No longer need you swelter by the pool uncooled. (Oh yes, I forgot: Install a pool.) Now you can create your very own wind.

Still, the very best body-cooling device is your shower. Keep gradually turning that temperature dial to cold, but make sure you stop just before you faint.