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The McGregors

The year is 1897, and Mr. and Mrs. Jim McGregor are driving home late in the afternoon after celebrating Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. They will have to milk the cows because their son John and the hired man, Willie Ross, will be at the evening dance. But they are willing enough to leave the now slightly alcoholic celebration, for middle years have come upon them, and although their dancing days are not yet over, they are taken in moderation only. A young, black driving horse bears them speedily homeward. Gamey, having passed to his reward, is buried under the chokecherry tree in the first paddock, where he spent so many hours stamping and switching at flies.

Jim is only slightly grey and a few pounds heavier; Janet has achieved an agreeable roundness without being fat. They are a well-dressed, good-looking couple, well thought of in the neighbourhood and having some influence in township and church affairs.

They turn into the curving driveway, lined with young trees. The poplars and spruce are making good headway, the maples are taking their time. The stone house has matured too, the brash colours softened by the harsh Canadian weather. The house is shown to advantage by the towering trees of the west lot behind it. Jim has decided not to cut those trees: instead he will farm the lot like the grain fields, taking a crop of logs every few years. The lawns surrounding the house are green and carefully sheared with a very sharp scythe. Flower beds show bright on the slope, Janet's reward for hours of tending. The farmland is smooth now, well tilled and well fenced with zigzag, cedar rails. Grey stone piles dot the green fields; the farm buildings are neat and well kept. This is the pioneers' reward, the almost magical creation of something useful where there was only bush and swamp. The miracle of each farm, repeated many times over, creates the miracle of a new country where none had been before.

But Janet and Jim are not satisfied yet; they continue to plan for still better things, and it does not seem to them that this particular day is that much different from any other day. But perhaps, indeed, it is a peak. Perhaps never again will there be quite the same sense of accomplishment, the same sense of contentment mingled with anticipation as there is as they look now on what they have created.

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