Loyalty – the Story

Loyalty, the historical fiction story is now complete. Editing done. All it needs now, is a agent or publisher that would like to bring the “sweeping saga” of Ireland, United States and Canada,  to life.

Synopsis: Loyalty

The Year 1798. Rebellion. Ireland is ablaze. The British 23rd Light Dragoons, smash into the line of United Irishmen Rebels and French Army. A slaughter of the rebels ensues. Posted to Donegal, the handsome Isaac Preston of the 23rds meets the pretty, yet strong-willed Sarah Porter, a captain’s daughter. Her proud, overbearing father forbids her courtship by the tenant farmer’s son, he of inferior class. Facing a decision between love and privilege, she chooses to elope, leaving a life of comfort for common living in the Belfast Barracks. History unfolds conflicts and challenges, with Isaac employed as an agent on an Irish estate, the family fleeing the Napoleonic Wars to New York State, imprisonment during the War of 1812, Sarah’s harrowing four year survival as a lone parent, homesteading in the wilds of Ontario, the Upper Canada Rebellion and a shootout with pirates. The fearless Sarah is recognized for her “true heroic British courage”, the stubborn Isaac remembered for his lifelong membership in the Orange Order.

Loyalty is tested on many fronts and on many levels.

Based on the true story of Sarah Porter and Isaac Preston, this sweeping saga of the Jane Austen era, follows the key events and historic characters they touched: General Sir Edward Pakenham; Archibald Acheson, Governor General of Canada; Benedict Arnold; Sir John A Macdonald and the pirate Bill Johnston.

As Canada approaches its one hundred and fiftieth birthday, we should celebrate those who built and defended Canada, people like the Prestons.

The opening lines …

The rider had been on the move for four days. Four days of little sleep; pursue and be pursued, fighting and fleeing, living and dying. The line was now drawn. Desperately tired, he was, nevertheless, ready. It was his duty. Yet another battle was being waged, his disdain for those of the other colour.


Milking Time

On summer vacation, I recall walking the Holstein cattle in from overnight pasture at six o’clock in the morning as the sun rose in the east and our feet got wet with the dew. The smell was of things growing, and if there was a fresh cut hay field beside the fences, that sweet smell of clover, alfalfa, brome grass and others, filled my nostrils. Birds would be calling, swallows soaring and diving; catching insects. Later in the day, the Meadowlarks and Bobolinks would hop from fence wire into the grasses, when you got too close.

Back to the cattle. When you arrived at the pasture, the cows knew it was milking time. They roused from their lying or standing positions as the gate opened. My grandfather would call. “Co boss, co boss” which I always assumed was his version of “Come Bossy”. The lead cow would respond, venturing first to the laneway. We then circled behind making sure all were moving along. In their pecking order, they left, teats swollen, waving back and forth, looking for relief. We followed. Back at the barn, the door opened, the lead cow, entered, moving to her spot in the stanchion line. The others moved into theirs, all in relation to the lead cow. My job as a boy would be to lock the stanchion around the head, keeping bossy in her place.  Then I would be allowed to portion out feed to each, hay and silage corn in winter, milled grain in the summer.

stable 3

The Holstein herd – photo 1940’s.

Once the cows were “locked in,” my grandfather would milk them in order, cleaning the teats, attaching the “Surge” vacuum milking system (see photo below). The “Surge” buckets would then be poured into transfer pails. The milk house was detached from the barn, so all pails had to be slogged about 150 feet. Inside the milk house the milk was poured through a paper filter into the metal milk cans. (next photo). At the end of the process, some milk and or the filters for the barn cats to enjoy.


Cans were stored in a chilled water bath. Full cans were picked up on alternate days. Destination: for many years the Silverwood’s dairy in Peterborough. When dairy farmers upgraded to chilled bulk tanks, in attached buildings to the stable, it was time to retire for my grandfather. (1967).


Delivery in the 1940’s

Human Catapults

Accidents on the farm do happen. Witness the recent deaths of three Alberta sisters, who smothered in a grain bin. A university friend of mine had his foot torn off in a grain auger. My cousin’s father was blinded by an exploding tire. I have a terrible incident involving tree removal in my book. A death. And it was true.

Fortunately farm safety organizations, better practices and safer equipment raise awareness and reduce risk. However, one must be careful. As a child I was cautious, which was a good thing and maybe that was a reason why I was allowed to spend time on the farm. I do recall my grandfather warning me not to go into the silo alone. The fermenting silage gave off carbon dioxide, which displaces oxygen. The back end of a large cow was scary, for a small child, never mind when she decided to pee or poop. Sometimes a back leg would shoot back if she was annoyed. My grandfather had a femur broken from a cranky cow kicking out. I gave them lots of space at the back end. The whirling knuckle joins of a tractor’s power take off drive was also frightening. The guarding, poor.


Here is a typical barn sketch with ramp access to the upper level.


Back to the story. Many days during hay season when the weather was fine and the threat dew or rain was coming, we would squeeze in another load of baled hay after supper. My grandfather would end the day by driving the tractor and loaded hay wagon into the barn, often by 9 ‘clock.  Unloading could wait for the following day.

This particular morning, my grandfather and I began unloading the bales from the wagon, front of the wagon first as we had the bale elevator positioned near the front of the load. As the load was half removed, there was a simultaneous crack and ejection. Both of us were catapulted up and out the barn door, a distance of about thirty feet, onto the ramp. Luckily we both a landed on some bales. Slightly bruised, my grandfather and I laughed at our flying expedition.

I surmise that the “U” or other bolts, snapped which held the wagon deck onto the wood undercarriage, due to the counter weight effect. My grandfather said when we picked ourselves up, “I guess I will have to fix that wagon.” Yes and no more flings out the back door.




Moving Day January 1925

Bernard Preston purchased the 100 acre farm at Lot 3, Concession 12, North Monaghan Township, Peterborough County in 1925. With a loan from his father, he and my grandmother began their life together, following their wedding January 21, 1925.  I remember him telling me and anyone who would listen, that the day they moved, was the coldest day in his memory. Late-January. Buffalo robes would not keep his new wife Blanche or him warm, hauling household belongings by horse from Lindsay in an open sled. The distance was 38 kilometers. A trip with a loaded sledge and pulled by horse at 3 miles an hour, would have been an 8 hour trip! Weather records for January 28, 1925, the high was -16C and the low -38C in Peterborough. Whether or not they moved that day, the entire week was brutal. Imagine that trek and arriving to a cold house. Ouch! Oh, the warmth of new lovers.

Home spring 1926 A

Here is the house and barn, April 1926. Looks pretty bleak – but when things warmed up – green and bountiful!  It was a fine productive farm, light loam, with a gentle rolling terrain. The back eight acres were the sugar bush, the rest all arable.

My grandparents were hard working, not for complaining (maybe a little bit) but digging down and getting on with it. Life provided set-backs, The Depression, poor crop years, the War Years, but they thrived. So, when times are hard, just get on with it.