Memories of long
ago inspires me to write this little tale of a fantastic man who travelled
about the countryside when I was a boy. Although I was a young gaffer at the
time I remember seeing him many times and heard many stories of his exploits.
He was known as Dick, the horse trader. He came from somewhere on the
Upsalquitch River. He came only in the summer and he travelled far and wide.
He would start in the Spring with a good looking horse
and a gig, a light two wheeled cart, something like a racing sulky that they
use today, except it had big iron tired wheels. He had an oat bag slung under
the seat containing oats, I suppose, and what else, who knows. He dressed in
plain clothes and on his head he wore an old felt hat, pinned up on one side
with a horse blanket safety pin. A small dark man, but as someone once said:
"Conceit is God's gift to little men," he had plenty of that and also plenty of
pluck. His trading was usually with farmers, although they did not trust him
too much, they liked him and his sense of humor and the challenge, and swore
when he came around next summer they would beat him at his own game, but I
doubt if they ever did.
About farming time he would
breeze into the farm yard with his horse, prancing and pawing the ground, fat
and. sleek, quite a contrast to the farmers horses as they were usually thin
after a hard winter. First Dick had a few preliminary things to do to get the
farmer in the mood, as it were. He would talk about the winter gone by and he
would say everything looks like a good summer for the farmers, in fact things
never looked better, and the farmer liked that.
would ask how the wife and family were. Maybe he could go in for a minute to
say 'hello'. This is just what the farmer wanted, it would give him a chance to
give the horse the once over. With a little warning about the horse, he was
gentle but a little high strung, in he goes but is back out in a few minutes.
In the meantime the farmer had given the horse a going over and thought he was
a pretty good horse. Of course nothing was said about trading horses. Horses
were not even mentioned up till now, but Dick wasn't quite ready yet - one
little thing more. Reaching into his hip pocket he brought out a little flask
he always carried there and in almost a whisper, invited the farmer to have a
little sip, and now little Dick was ready to do business and the conversation
would turn to horses. It would go something like this, - almost a dialogue. The
farmer , "That's not a bad looking horse you have there. Is he for sale?"
"Well, maybe, says Dick, but I would rather trade. Have you got a horse you
would like to trade?" "Yes, says the farmer, I have a real good horse in the
barn, he is a little thin now". So he brings out his horse then the bartering
begins in earnest. Each man pointing out his horse's good points.
Dick has a great advantage as his horse is beautiful
compared to the farmers, so they haggle for quite awhile. Then Dick says: "I'll
tell you what I'll do. You give me seventy-five dollars to boot and call it a
bargain. It should be a hundred but I like to be fair." So the farmer says
"O.K. I'll go and see if we have seventy-five dollars on hand." So in the house
he goes to talk it over with the wife. Finally he appears with some money and a
downcast look on his face and tells Dick fifty dollars is every cent we have in
the house. Dick feigns a little disappointment but after a few paces up and
down in deep thought, finally agrees. So with a pat on his beloved horse and a
hand shake to seal the bargain, he departs with his new horse. In a few days
the farmer finds his new horse getting thin and slowing down considerable.
Perhaps he is not getting enough to eat or is working too hard, so he feeds him
more and works him less but still the horse fails. At last he realizes he had
been taken and that he has an old horse that has seen the best of his days.
What he doesn't know is that his horse has been highly fed for two or three
weeks and then doped to give him spirit. He swears he will get even with that
tricky horse trader.
If he ever comes around again he
would be ready for him, but little did he know little Dick. So a year went by
and one Spring day who do you think breezed into the farmers yard? You guessed
it, little Dick the horse trader. The farmer had given this matter a lot of
thought and vowed he wouldn't be tricked again, and he had a trap set all ready
to spring. The farmer was plowing in the field this day. All the better for
Dick, that is. Now this farmer did not want to give himself away or admit he
was taken in the summer before, so he was very cordial. But Dick had been doing
a little thinking too and he knew the first thing to do was to disarm the man.
After a little nip from the almost empty flask, as it always was, for good
reason, because if it was full the farmer might take too big a drink and
whiskey cost money. So he made a suggestion: "Why not try my horse for a round
or two on the plow, just to see how you like him. If you do maybe we could make
a trade." So after a trial on the plough he thought he was a pretty good horse.
Now was the time to spring the trap he had set for that tricky horse trader. He
said: "I have another in the barn that I may trade." So he brings him out and
remarks he is a good horse but a little thin now but little Dick knew horses
too well to be fooled.
He recognized the horse as the one
he had traded last summer, but who would know it was the same spirited horse,
but Dick never blinked an eye, just laughed and remarked that old nag isn't
worth twenty dollars and I don't think he ever was much of a horse, but I'll be
fair with you and looking at his watch, remarked it was getting late and I want
to get home before dark, so give me seventy-five dollars to boot and call it
square. The farmer went into the house and came out with thirty dollars, so
Dick took the money, harnessed the old nag and left with a wave of his hand.
The farmer went inside to tell how that son of a gun had fallen into the trap,
he had so cleverly set, but the wife was not so sure and said so.
He stopped short as the thought struck him, maybe she is
right and so it proved to be. In a few days this horse was no better than the
one he had traded away and he swore vengeance on that little son of a gun of a
horse trader. Just wait until he comes around next summer and wait he did
because Dick didn't come around next summer or the summer after or maybe never
again. If he did you can be sure no farmer could get the best of a professional
trader like Dick.
This is only one day in Dick's life.
Sometimes he kept trading till his horse got so poor that he couldn't trade any
more. By this time he would have a little roll as he always insisted on boot as
this was his living. So he would go home and get another horse ready for the
road, and he would sally forth again. Sometimes the trade was quite fair but
always and always that little money to boot. He had an unlimited number of
tricks he used on his trading forays. He seldom used the same one twice and he
knew horses as good as any vet and was often called by anyone who had a sick
horse or just for advice. Farmers liked to see him come around so they could
boast about the horses they had or had known and it became a game with them and
like every other game, sometimes they won but not too often because that was
Dick's trade and he loved his work. They, the farmers, often told how Dick
could take any old nag and in a couple of weeks make him into a fat young and
prancing beauty and they all said they knew how it was done and every fellow
added a little until it became almost a legend in those parts. This is how they
said it was done:
To fatten a horse they gave him
cod liver oil and molasses-when he got fat and looked good, then a few days
before he was to hit the road he put a little black antomony and perhaps a
little dynamite in his oats. This made him nervous and high strung and put a
sparkle in his eyes and a little tea to stabilize all this dope, now he was
ready for the road. Then he could use a bicycle pump to pump him up in
different places to make him look fat. This was a little tricky because if he
didn't make a quick trade the air would leak out and he would get thin again.
Now I don't say this is what he did, but that is what the
farmers said, true or false I am not prepared to say. He traded for years along
the highways and byways wherever he thought there was a prospect.
Some said he was a schemer and a cheat. Others said he
was just a little man trying to make a living the way he knew best. Who can
Then came the first great war and little Dick sold
his horses and joined the army and went overseas to do his bit. One day about a
year after, his next of kin received a telegram. It read: We regret to inform
you that Private Dick-- is listed as missing in action. That was
One returned man said he saw him on the battlefield
but another said he had seen him in England after the close of the war, but I
have a feeling that little Dick, the horse trader, sleeps somewhere in Flanders
One summer day in
1899 two strange men arrived in Campbellton. They went into a saloon owned by
Robert St. Onge and ordered whiskey. After they had finished their drink and
left, Mr. St. Onge looked at a picture on the wall and remarked: "Those two
fellows look like those two bank robbers, Pare and Holden." They had robbed a
bank in Napanee, Ontario, and got away with quite a large sum of money.
Pictures of them appeared in the papers and posted in different places around
town. A reward was offered for their apprehension. Word was sent to Police
Officer John Duncan. He and a couple of overtook them somewhere at the lower
end of town and arrested them without any trouble. They were given a long
sentence. part of the country bank robbers were something special in those
days. People talked about Pare and Holden for a long time.
When I was nine or ten years old my Uncle Jack told me
the story. He said the money was never found and Holden had died after two
years in prison and never revealed where the money was hidden, or not exactly,
but he did say it was buried at the foot of a birch or maybe a cedar tree.
Somewhere close to Campbellton, perhaps around Sugar Loaf Mountain, or maybe
not, that's what Uncle Jack said anyway. He also said it could be under most
any birch or cedar tree.
Now we boys knew a lot of trees
like that so my cousin Howard and a couple of other boys decided we may as well
have a look. So armed with a pick and shovel we hit for the forest. We dug
under a few birch and also under a few cedar trees. We came home and told Uncle
Jack that we had looked under most every tree and found no money but we did
find a place where the ground seemed hollow when we hit on it with a pick. He
said: "that is likely a cave and I bet that's the place alright." So back we
went and dug some more, but we soon got tired and discouraged and came home and
told Uncle Jack that Pare and Holden must have buried the money somewhere else.
He said: "Now doesn't that beat all. You can't trust anyone these days." But I
have a suspicion he just wanted us out of the workshop as he was busy making
However we were not the only ones looking for Pare
and Holden's money. Every tree in the vicinity was under suspicion. Not only
boys but grown men were seen disappearing into the hush with a shovel on their
shoulders and a lot of mysterious holes under trees were seen and if anyone had
a bit of financial luck people said he must have found Pare and Holden's money
and some really believed it.