Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Almost Making History 3

It seems that making history, becoming famous, changing the world is as much about having dumb luck as having great talent, superior intelligence or innate predisposition. There are so many stories of people that just happened to have the right idea, at the right place and at the right time that I decided to write about those that happened to have the wrong idea, at the wrong place or at the wrong time. Note that the names, dates and events have been changed to protect the innocent and ensure their continued anonymity.

Mary McMillan was a sickly young child. Living with her parents in a small farmhouse, lost in the wilds of Upper Canada. Days where she would feel better, she would almost always be seen walking around in the forest behind her parent's farm. Mary had a passion for trees and it seemed she new all of them almost intimately. Her father, J. A. William Stephen (Jaws to his friends), enjoyed watching her bushwhack. He hope that if one day she would recover from whatever it was that made her so weak, he would take her down to the southern US in the spring to see all the fruit trees in bloom.

Mary was allowed to walk almost anywhere in the forest except for the area close to Old Dr McCooeye's farm. Old Dr McCooeye was not well liked by the people of Dundela. He was a taciturn figure, known for his love of cider and goats (don't ask...), and his dislike for women of all ages. Mary new Old Dr McCooeye well enough. Not only had she heard all sorts of rumours about him but she also experienced first hand his dislike for women. One day, when she had an exceptionally high fever, her parents saw no other choice but to fetch Old Dr McCooeye, even though they had vowed never to do so. After all, it seemed the life of their daughter was at risk. Mustering up his courage with a glass of Brandy, Mr McMillan put on his coat and ran to Old Dr McCooeye's house. After some hard bargaining, the doctor accepted to come to see Mary in exchange for an important quantity of cider and a visit with Mr McMillan's goat (again, don't ask...). When they arrived, they both went directly to Mary's room where Mrs McMillan was caring for her daughter. There, the doctor did a summary examination and said to Mary's father, not even looking at her mother or herself: "It is the simple fact of the weakness of her sex that makes her this sick and for that, there is nothing I can do...". Mr McMillan was livid but, in order not to cause a stir with his neighbour, gave Dr McCooeye his cider and showed him the door. In spite of the doctor's diagnostic, Mary did recover; but the whole event left her with a strange mix of fear and anger towards Old Dr McCooeye. And so, every time she went walking, she did her best to avoid his farm.

On a beautiful fall day of 1811, Mary when for a walk in the woods. She was feeling quite well and so decided to go farther than usual, to see different trees. As she walked, she noticed a beautiful apple tree she'd never seen before. As it was late September, the tree was full of red and green apples and Mary decided to taste one. It was sensational. As she was having her apple, she noticed through the branches Old Dr McCooeye busily examining a goat. She had not noticed the apple tree was so close to the doctor's farm. Her first reaction was to throw the apple she was eating in the general direction of the doctor and the goat. The goat, smelling the sweetness of the apple ran after it and the doctor followed. Now out of sight, Mary was able to quietly eat another apple. The next day the same scenario repeated itself with the same results.

Noticing his daughter always going in the same direction in the forest, towards the doctor's farm, Mr McMillan asked his daughter to be careful to which she replied: "Oh father, don't worry. An apple a day keeps the doctor away...". Mr McMillan didn't dare ask what she meant by that but did think the saying was a good one.

So Mary kept going to her apple tree and chasing the old doctor away. After a while, Dr McCooeye's neighbour noticed that the doctor and his goats seemed to always be running away from the same area of the forest. He decided to investigate. Taking his old shotgun, he made his way to the spot and found a beautiful apple tree. Tasting one of the apples, he thought to himself that he had never tasted an apple so good. And he hadn't. Mr McIntosh had just "discovered" a new variety of apple that would make him famous.

Mary never really new that she had, indirectly, contributed to this discovery. She finally did get better and ended up marrying a peddler from Kingston and disappeared into the abyss of time.


  1. Thanks for the visit and the comment. You live in a beautiful part of the world. I was in Quebec City with my cameras about three years ago.

  2. I came in from David's post. This is a cute story, indeed.

  3. I'm sure there are a million of these lost chances stories over the years of time. Thanks for sharing this one and congrats on your POTD from David!

  4. Thank you for the kind comments! I really enjoy writing the "Almost Making History" short stories. Although they are fiction, I feel as though I am giving ghosts from the past a second chance!

  5. huh? They're fictional?? I thought they were real. I'm so deflated now.

  6. Nick, I am so sorry to have caused your deflation! If it helps, they feel real in my head!!!