LEATHER SHOES TO WELLINGTON BOOTS
Who were these courageous women,
Those who boarded the rat-infested boats – reluctantly?
They were women in a world of men; the women from Donaghadee.
Dislocated from their native land and kin,
Forever scarring their soul and spirit;
They adapted to life in a womanless wilderness,
Learned the hard way never to fear it.
These pragmatic women came, wearing a long skirt and leather shoe;
To the shores of their new-found country;
They bore in silence the misery of isolation, tragedy, disease, and hunger
– overcoming adversity.
These rare women freely chose to follow their men to a land remote,
Holding the wilderness at bay;
They hauled the water, washed the clothes;
Suffered bears and blizzards along the way.
Who ministered to the wants and needs of helpless masculinity;
With not a familiar helping hand?
Who shared his feather bed and bore his child in a far-away drafty log cabin;
Alone in this strange wild land?
They did: Charlotte, Sarah, Margaret, Agnes, Eleanor, Letitia;
Elizabeth, Mary and Isabella too;
They learned how to harness a horse, drive a team; wield a cross saw;
And paddle a canoe.
They soon lost their long skirt and high-heeled leather shoe.
In the wilderness they quickly realized the follies of frivolous femininity;
This hardy woman donned woollen long-johns and wellington boots,
Displaying her diversity.
They learned to pack a rifle living in a cold harsh land where often survival
Depended on the taking of a life;
With a growing hungry family to feed they learned to take down a stag;
Bleed it with the quick flick of the knife.
When spring became freed by the bonds of winter,
He bid the family adieu;
He set off for destinations afar;
New supplies he needed to pursue.
Now left alone for days and weeks on end;
Loneliness set in soon;
Her only conversationalists were the maniacal bark of the coyote;
The haunting call of the loon.
She kept a light always aglow in the window,
Bannock baked; venison stew simmering on the hearth;
For she knew he would always return to claim his dream
– his own black earth.
Sometimes news of the death of a loved one from across the sea,
Someone she was never to see again;
Brought on feelings of hopelessness, resentment and despair;
Of treatment she thought inhumane.
One wild spring day, the swollen rivers overflowed their banks,
Somewhere in the middle of Saskatchewan;
Young Percy insisted he take the horses through the angry boiling river,
As his mother watched on;
He cried: With four horses strong, what can go wrong?
I know I can.
Eleven year old Percy drowned that day, performing the heroic feats of a man.
With the sagebrush relentlessly rolling on the endless plain;
That day his mother suffered treatment that went beyond inhumane.
They were men who didn’t fit in, the McCutcheons From Donaghadee;
They came and conquered the unknown;
These men didn’t accomplish it by themselves
– their partners provided the backbone.
They were women who survived a womanless wilderness
– made their menfolk fit in –
The Women from Donaghadee.
They gave us a gift – the legacy of history – now it’s up to you and me.
© Author – Angela Andrew.