Book Detail

Off in a Cloud of Heifer Dust ─ Some Ottawa Valley Yarns

Off in a Cloud of Heifer Dust gets us up off our chairs for a tour up and down the Valley, from L’Orignal to Lachute, Pembroke to Perth, Almonte to Allumette Island, to meet friends old and new, and share a story or two.

Brent Connelly spent nearly forty years as a forester in Ontario’s Algonquin and Lake Superior Parks. During that time, he had the good fortune to hear and observe some wonderfully entertaining stories unfold, most of them exchanged around lunch fires while drinking numerous mugs of strong tea. Although he no longer “commutes” to work in a mud-caked pickup, toting a lunch pail often filled with thick, meat loaf sandwiches, homemade dill pickles and butter tarts as large as soup bowls, he still gets the urge to prop a thermos filled with piping-hot coffee on top of the dash, this time to take a tour around the Valley, never knowing who he might bump into. For Brent, a stranger is a friend he hasn’t met yet.

Like the farmer, who offers up this sage advice: “A good cold will last seven days if you go to a doctor and a week if you don’t.” Or the storyteller, who “beat a jack pine pole with a dry stick for a long, long time before finally getting an answer.”

So, whether it’s on board a timber crib, rafting down the Ottawa River, tapping your toes to Don Messer and his Islanders, or slipping along ice-coated roads to get generators to people stranded and isolated by the Ice Storm of ’98, Brent invites you to brush off your clothes, slick back your hair, and climb on board, for we’re about to take off in a cloud of heifer dust.

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Author’s other titles:

Holy Old Whistlin’ ─ Yarns about Algonquin Park Loggers
Finer Than Hair on a Frog ─ More Yarns about Loggers and the Like
I Mind the Time Before I Was Born

 

1 review for Off in a Cloud of Heifer Dust ─ Some Ottawa Valley Yarns

  1. Anyone interested in understanding the culture and the attraction of living in Canada’s Ottawa Valley (the valley bounded by the Ottawa River in Eastern Ontario and the Outaouais in Western Québec) need only read Brent A. Connelly’s Off In a Cloud of Heifer Dust, whose subtitle, Some Ottawa Valley Yarns, is an apt description for what this book is about.

    Connelly is a retired forester, but unlike some retirees who assume that anyone can be a writer, Connelly can write! Introducing the chapter on “Art-of-all-Trades” Art Jamieson, the author says: “This will be no more than a small sampling of Art Jamieson’s experiences and achievements, much like skipping a flat stone across Art’s beaver pond of life.”

    Personal anecdotes by the author, and first person accounts by “salt-of-the-earth” individuals, capture the valley’s rustic ambience and rich heritage. There’s a “corniness” to some of these tales, but that’s part of their charm, and is to be expected because the escapades hearken back to simpler times still preserved—as much as possible—in smaller communities. There is no angry, sophisticated, highbrow humour.

    The stories also reflect traditional male and females roles. Here’s how the author begins his saga about grocery shopping with his wife: “Many men view grocery shopping as no better than an emergency trip to a tipsy, one-eyed dentist with the shakes . . .” Prior to the 1960s perhaps, but surely that’s still not true in valley towns today!

    Connelly has high praise—and deservedly so—for the friendly town of Almonte (population, about 5,000), 50 kilometres south-west of Ottawa. In 2008, he and his wife, Heather, moved there from Canada’s capital. He begins that chapter with an imaginative rant on parking meters. “I see a parking meter as an iron fist sitting on top of a round post waiting to slug a visitor between the eyes if the lineup at the bank is a few minutes longer than usual.” So part of the lure of moving to Almonte: no parking meters.

    Off In a Cloud of Heifer Dust is not only an entertaining read, it also rouses a longing for neighbourly values damaged by the frantic pace of today’s living. There are no references to time-wasting social media. Thankfully.

    I’ll close with the clever metaphor Connelly draws from his professional life: “A fitting footnote from this old Ottawa Valley forester is that no matter how mature and stately we view ourselves standing in the forest of man, or how many annual rings we have, or how far our shadow is cast, if we drill far enough through the furrowed bark of life, in each one of us there is still a little boy straddling a branch with a slingshot in his back pocket, a glint in his eye, and a harmless trick in his heart.”

    Amen.
    Reviewed by David Mulholland

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