Copyright 2012 by Mollie Pearce McKibbon
Friday, Oct. 16, 1812
We almost lost Henry today. It was a terrifying moment that seemed to last hours. Henry has been so brave about it all and Mother won’t stop fussing over him. But, I must tell you this might have happened even if we had not been at war. It was one of the frightful possibilities of this wild country.
Mother and Evvy were making bread at the time. I was pulling turnips from the garden, getting them ready for winter storage. We have very harsh winters here. I heard Henry calling from the barn where he had gone to milk the cow. I dropped my spade and went to see what was wrong. Our barn is just a bit larger than our house and has only two windows, both open to the air, one large for tossing down hay bales and one small. They don’t let in a lot of light, because of the tall trees behind the barn. There are three stalls, one for our two horses and one for our cow. We have a lot of farm implements hanging on the opposite wall or leaning up against it. I could hear Henry, but I couldn’t see him at first.
“Henry, has Molly trod on your foot ?” I asked.
“Get Father’s gun, Addie,” he replied . I still couldn’t see him but I could hear something snarling and Molly lowing.
The horse stalls were empty, because Father had gone to help William cut his hay. He usually kept his gun with him during the day, so I knew there was no use going to look for it. I picked up the pitchfork and walked cautiously towards Molly’s stall. By then my eyes had adjusted to the dimness of the barn and I could see my little brother at Molly’s head, his hand gently stroking her muzzle. There, behind her, crouched with its teeth bared and back bristled, was a tawny cougar.
I have to tell you, Janetta, that I never once thought I was in danger. All I knew was that I must do something to protect Henry. I gripped that pitchfork with both hands and lunged directly at the cat. I fell short of killing it but the fork grazed its ribs and it turned on me furiously, at which point I lunged again, this time more successfully. Hearing the commotion, Mother and Evvy rushed to the barn, in time to see Henry hit the wounded cat soundly on its head with a shovel.
Mother screamed and grabbed Henry. Evvy stood still staring at me in shock. I began to shudder and couldn’t stop shaking. Henry made sure the cougar was dead and retrieved the pitchfork.
Permit me to state, dear Janetta, that I was never so frightened in all my life. Father later said that it was a young cougar, probably half-starved, that had smelled the cow and entered the barn. William thought perhaps it may have been in the early stages of hydrophobia, because cougars usually keep away from mankind. To be on the safe-side, Father and William donned gloves, dragged the cougar away and burned it and the wooden pitchfork.
Later, Father spoke to Henry, Evvy and me very seriously, telling us that he had decided, because he and William might be called away in the militia, we must learn to shoot a musket to protect each other, but because it would upset her, Mother must never know.
I know I shall be dreaming about that cougar tonight. I don’t like to hurt God’s creatures, but I am so thankful that there isn’t yet another grave in the orchard.
Sunday, November 1, 1812
It is much colder now and the frost gets heavier every day. A few snowflakes fell yesterday, but not enough to deter Evvy and me from our weekly visit to Elizabeth. Elizabeth asked Mother if we could come to see her on Saturday mornings as she was very lonely without female company. It is true of course, that Elizabeth does get lonely when William is working in their bush or spending time with the militia, but it is partly to hide from Mother, what William and Father are teaching us, all three of us. It is no problem for Father to teach Henry. It is expected that a son should know how to shoot. I doubt that even Mrs. Randall and her sister, Miss Blaine, would approve of three young ladies learning to shoot a musket. I expect even Charles would be shocked.
However, Father is determined that we become capable of protecting our home from intruders, animal or enemy. William is just as concerned for Elizabeth. In the past few weeks we have learned to load and shoot Father’s and William’s muskets. Shooting is one thing; actually making the musket ball go where it is intended is quite something else. Evvy, Elizabeth and I are improving somewhat, but it has taken some discipline to overcome the tendency to shut one’s eyes when pressing on the trigger. Father says, if nothing else, the noise we make and the shock of seeing a woman with a musket, should scare anything off.
Corporal Charles Houghton, rode up from Fort Wellington, to bring us the latest news of the war. It is very encouraging and yet so very sad. Despite overwhelming odds, General Isaac Brock and his valiant troops met the American forces in the Battle of Queenston Heights and won the day on October 13. Sadly, General Brock was also killed during the hard-fought battle.
Charles said that the flag hung at half-mast for a week at the fort. General Proctor will now be in command of our forces.
Charles has paid me a very kind compliment about my smile. He said it lifted his spirits immensely and that he would be honoured if I would accept a poem he had written in my honour. Of course I thanked him and blushed.
He pressed a very pretty scroll wrapped with a lovely blue satin ribbon into my hands. He asked me not to read it until he had left and so I said I would not. When I did open the scroll, it was addressed to the “Heroine of My Heart” and was praising my killing of the cougar. It made me blush to read such flowery praise. I don’t think William or Father would have approved but no other person shall ever see it, not even Evvy.