Monthly Archives: June 2012

Happy Anniversary Floyd and Francis!

Today marks a very special day for another set of friends who take up “two” fingers on my five finger friend hand.

Paula and I were so very lucky to have met such dear people as the Marlatts.  It is not often when couples are so compatible with both members of another couple.  But, such was the way with Paula, myself, Floyd and Frances.

We first met in New Lowell.  We were all much younger then and modest in our means.  Frances used to come in to buy supplies from the General Store.  She was a spectacular looking woman (not like my Paula – but a close second!).  Floyd was a miserable, ugly bugger (eh, Floyd?).  Okay, he was a young, handsome Kenny Rogers to be kind of looking guy.  Well, I guess it happened that Paula and Frances were immediately two peas in a pod with their good looks and incredible fashion sense.  Floyd and I were a bit wilder and sure did enjoy a good party.

We got to know each other and worked picking tobacco leaves in New Lowell at one point.  New Lowell used to have a lot of tobacco farmers and smoke houses.  We seemed to get along quite well and lo and behold if we didn’t learn that each couple were avid bridge players. So – our week-ends were spent playing bridge with each other.  We used to like to tease the girls that we “let them win” every once in a while, but the truth be know, they were pretty good opponents.  I can say that now –

Well, as time passed, each couple moved away from New Lowell – but we never lost our friendship.  We’d visit each other often when Paula and I moved to Barrie and Floyd and Frances moved to Dundas.

Floyd became quite a successful contractor – with his wife keeping him in line – she had control of the books.  In fact, Floyd was who we trusted to build our beloved home at RR # 1.  Don’t tell him, but I think he did a pretty good job.

There was one winter before we moved to the farm, we lived in a little house on Donald Street.  The Marlatts came to visit – between their three children and ours, plus the adults and grand-pa, we had a house FULL.  Paula and Frances were busy cooking to feed this mob of people.  Wouldn’t you know it, that night there was one hell of a snow storm.  It snowed all night long.  The next morning we awoke to a winter wonderful – and closed highways.  Everything was closed.  There was nothing to do but get out the sleds, the eggs, the snowmobiles – and have fun.  I joked with Paula and the Marlatts years later that they out us out of house and home.

There were so many adventures with Floyd and Frances – we travelled to so many wonderful places together.  The girls would always cook the most exotic of foods and Floyd and I would always be sure to sample the rum.  One of the nicest vacations we had together was when we traveled to Mazatlan, Mexico.  Fantastic.

When Paula passed away, Floyd and Frances came to Barrie to support our family.  Floyd picked up my spirits – we always joked around together – there was always this standing reference to bananas.  Remember that, Floyd? Frances helped Stacey to select Paula’s outfit – Francis ensured that Paula looked her best – even in death.

Well, today, if they were here, I would certainly raise a glass to Floyd and Frances:  “Good health, good friends, good food!”

Congratulations, my friends.  I sure do miss you – but am with you in spirit.


Categories: Family and Friends, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

And then there were four…

I’ll bet you are curious why I’ve chosen this title for this post?  Any man would be so lucky to have one beautiful woman in a bedroom – but I – had four of them today!

As you may know by now, I live at home with two live-in-nannies, and have 8 other care-givers doting on me (including my daughter).  As a result, I am still living in my own home and am receiving excellent care.

This morning, I woke up during shift change – so, naturally, there were two lovely ladies.  In addition, Mely (a former care-giver) had come for a visit – and my daughter dropped by after church.  Yes – I awoke to four ladies in my bedroom.  I thought for sure I was dreaming.  What man wouldn’t?

In any case, it didn’t last – people went home and life carried on as it will.  I think to myself, “I wonder if tomorrow I will wake up to five ladies?”  Yes, life is good.  Eat your hearts out, gentlemen!

Time for wine.  Cheers!

Categories: Duff History, Family and Friends, Life's Lessons | 2 Comments


My father always said that when you die, if you can count the number of good friends on one hand, you were one of the lucky ones.

Throughout my life, I have been blessed with family and friends.  I don’t think there was a single week-end on the farm when friends didn’t drop by for a visit.  Of course the Triple – B (bonfire, body-builder, and billy burgers) probably helped influence that drop-in visit, but nonetheless – they came. I’ll have to include the pool on that list – but it wasn’t part of the Triple-B! (wink)

It seems that the older one gets, the less visitors one has.  I guess it’s difficult to understand me sometimes as it isn’t as easy to articulate as it once was for me.  I was known for my songs, bagpipes (which were instantly produced by plugging your nose, tilting your head backwards, and striking your throat with the side of your hand while humming a tune), and my jokes.  But these days, I prefer to sit and listen.  My new role suits me just fine – you know, “wise old owl sat in an oak, the more he heard the less he spoke…”?

Anyhow, a very good friend of mine, Martin Langmuir, came to visit me yesterday.  It was one of his routine visits to me. Martin and I met over 30 years ago at Air Cadets.  He was a young then too. There was something about Martin that allowed he and I to develop a very close relationship.  He was tall and skinny and I, well, I was a member of SAC (short-ass-club). Martin and I would train our cadets every Thursday night and once the kids all went home, I’d teach Martin the protocols associated with enjoyed a beverage in the Officer’s Club.  It’s not so easy to develop the ability to place one’s foot up on the brass rail effectively.

I guess another reason Martin and I were able to become such good friends too is that Paula welcomed him into the family almost instantly.  He, of course, liked good food.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

As I mentioned, I don’t talk as much as I used to and I get awfully tired quickly.  Last night, Martin came and shared a glass of wine with me.  He chatted and I simply listened.  I don’t think we need words as this moment.  Funny how a simple memory of the times when he and “Cathy” summered in the cabin in our woods can flood my mind with thoughts.  I wish I could say what I wanted to say to Martin, but it’s just too difficult to express memories into words when they are so emotional.  Martin and Cathy took such good care of that cabin-in-the-woods.  It’s still there, by the way.. a little worn out, but the memories seem to spill out of it.  If only those walls could talk, boy they’d have some stories to tell.

If I could say what I wanted to say to Martin it would be to say how thankful I am to have had such a great friend for such a very long time.  He has seen me through some very good times and is supporting me through some not so good times.

Martin’s weekly visit is something I look forward to – it is something I get ready for both physically and mentally.  I want to be “there” for him, my friend.

Last night Martin reminded me of the “obstacle course” that we built in the back 40 for the air cadets.  There was a well, rope course, stump-jumping kind of thing, and more but I don’t recall the challenges at this point.  The cadets would be required to camp (survival training) for the week-end in this same location.  They were, for the most part, pretty good.  It is kind of funny that their survival training was simply how my family and I “lived” in the woods while our house was being built. Martin and I had a lot of fun teasing the boys and scaring them at night by making scratching noises on the tents.  We pretended we were bears… I think some of them still believe there were bears that they had to hide away from during survival training to this day!

Only Martin and I can share all the memories that belong to us.  The hard part about losing a friend is that you have no one to share those memories with.  They become exclusively yours, and, although still very precious, because you can’t share them with someone, they don’t come to life as much.  I wish for my friend Martin to know that I have always appreciated his friendship and the memories that we carry together.

To you, Martin, I raise my glass and say, “The dew may kiss the butterfly, a man may kiss his wife good-bye, the sparkling wine may kiss the glass, and you my friend… farewell”.  (Not really farewell yet -but Martin, I know you always got a kick out of this one!  Martin, my good friend, thank-you.  Long may your “lum reak”  (chimney smoke)!

Categories: Family and Friends, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Who Has Seen The Wind?

"Sunrise, sunset"My favorite quote, written by W.O. Mitchell: “Who has seen the wind?  Neither you nor I.  But when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.”

Every morning, when Paula and I lived on the farm, we would be given breath.  We sat at our breakfast table and looked out through the sliding glass door to a most magnificent landscape.  The cedar trees were gracious.  They must have been nearly my age today – even then.  Two of them sat side by side in some random act of kindness.  These cedars hosted a variety of birds and species of critters that one could not imagine nor capture merely by eye.  The morning gross-beaks were the most frequent flyers in these trees.  They would arrive en masse in the winter – disappear into the cedar trees and then emerge as though in an ambush – for the sunflowers seeds Paula insisted I put out for our guests each morning.

One morning we were watching our outdoor program, when a hawk flew right into the window.  God he was magnificent!  He hit the window with such a powerful force that Paula and I thought for sure he was dead. Paula was in a dither.  “Bill, what are you going to do?”.  Funny how these types of wild-life incidents became an automatic personal responsibility.

“Nothing.”, I replied.  “What can I do?”

“Save him”.  Paula insisted.

Well, I don’t know anyone who has given mouth to mouth to an hawk before but I think Paula would have been grateful if that “hawk-man” exchange could have been me.

Needless to say, I didn’t give the hawk beak-to-mouth, but I did go outside to check on the thing.  It was still breathing – the talons were HUGE.  I knew that whenever those things must have hooked a mouse there was nothing that that wee mousie could have done but give a squeal.

I came inside and Paula immediately said, “Is it okay?”

“I think it just stunned itself, Paula.” I replied.  It will be okay.

My words seem to ease her tension for a while.  “Besides, there is really nothing we can do.  It’s had a wonderful life here on the farm – it was free to soar in the air and take its pick of fine food – it was free to nest in the back 40 and to have a family.  What a life.”  Oh, how I always wished I could soar like that hawk.

But, it was not this hawk’s time to go.  Almost in an instant, the bird “snapped to it”.  There was the initial wobble, and then – it was gone.  I don’t know if it was the wind – but the cedars shuddered – I think the hawk took full advantage of those cedar trees for some necessary R and R.

What a spectacular view Paula and I had.  We never did see the hawk again – but our morning breakfast at that table by the window were never the same after our magnificent visitor had graced us with a view from our own chairs.

Who has seen the wind?  Neither you nor I.  But when the cedars bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.


Categories: Life's Lessons, The Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hello Paula

message from Stacey: I wrote this post on behalf of my Dad last year. He was leaving the world at this time and I wanted to understand what he was thinking. Funny how these words came to my mind. I think they represent what he thinking quite well. I was always very happy to remember that Dad admitted I taught him how to express his emotions – that only came after Mom passed away and I would force him to speak of her. I knew it hurt him – but I also knew that by talking through his emotions he would be able to process them. Please, enjoy this interpretation of Dad’s last love story.

Story: Hello Paula
I lost my Paula November 12, 2010 and my life has never been the same.

When I met Paula, she took my breath away – and she has that same effect on me today.  I have always believed that Paula was the “one for me”.  I don’t know if you believe in destiny, but I sure do.  Paula was my life – we shared so much together.  When you live with someone for so long it’s like you become each other – but still we were still very independent.

We enjoyed so much together – we golfed and played bridge – farmed raspberries and made maple syrup – we danced until the sun came up – we raised a beautiful family – we laughed and we cried.  We’ve been through births together and we’ve been though deaths together.  What a wonderful life we had.

Each time the phone rings – I wish it were Paula at the other end.  Losing a partner is like losing a limb.  She was so much a part of me – sometimes I find it difficult to get out of bed thinking that I’ll have to pass by her bedroom to get to the “outside” world.  And I am struggling with that journey these days.  I used to walk by her room and feel comforted that my Paula was there, resting, but she was there.  Paula was always there.

I believe that she is waiting for me.  I don’t know why the good Lord has not called me yet.  What is my purpose?  My daughter and I often speak about what it is that I have yet to do… but for the life of me.. I don’t know.  Who does know.  Stacey asked me once when it was my time to go – who I would look forward to seeing first.  What do you think I answered?  Right.  Paula – and my Lord.

Dennis Posno – the minister at my church said that he believed she’ d have a wonderful meal all prepared for me – as she always did – with all the fixings -as she always did – and say – as she always did – if I didn’t ask for seconds she’d say, “you don’t like my cooking”.

I can’t wait for her cooking -and I can’t wait to taste again.  As one ages, one loses the enjoyment of “taste” – but I give it my best by telling my daughter (who cooks Paula’s recipes for me to enjoy) that I enjoy her meal.  Lately – this is becoming more and more challenging as my appetite has diminished.

Paula is waiting for me… I see her in my dreams.  I hear her singing, “good night Irene, good night, Irene, I’ll see you in my dreams”, and hope to hear her beautiful voice once more for real.

Paula is waiting.

I know she is ready.

But am I?  Paula is still the only one who takes my breath away.

Only the good Lord knows what is in store for me and when I can hold my dear Paula in my arms once again.  And then, I’ll smile.


Categories: Family and Friends, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments


It was two years ago, today, that I wrote this post on behalf of my father. The image that is the most powerful remains the one of my Dad smiling. He didn’t know, at this point, what I was writing. He was “out of stories”, as he put it. Yes, I just sensed what I felt he would say. Funny how you can get to know someone so well that you can communicate by just being.

My Dad’s smile was famous in his building. He was known as “Smiley” by all the women. Of course, my Mom saw the other side of the smile on occasion! grin. Nonetheless, Dad’s reputation earned him a very flattering nick-name. He was proud of this nick-name.

So many times, Dad made others smile. He told me – near the end – that he thought he had figured out his purpose. When I invited him to share his insight, Dad was hesitant. Finally, he said, “I think my purpose was to make people happy”. I thought that was so wise. I thought it so appropriate, remembering the reputation he had earned as an “entertainer” because of the long string of jokes that he would tell around the bonfire all night long. Honestly, the jokes and the songs would never end. I thought it so right – for a man who earned the nick-name, “Smiley”.

Two years later— I hope you enjoy this repost as a tribute to my Dad.

– Stacey

Original Post:
One of my wife, Paula’s favorite songs was composed by Charlie Chaplin and her favorite rendition was sung by the man with the golden voice, Nat King Cole:  Smile

I’ve re-copied the lyrics for your reading pleasure (feel free to sing along in your head as you read if you like!)

As I have reached yet another mile-stone in my life and feel myself with less and less energy, I have felt it important to smile.  And that’s what people who meet me comment on.  I’m glad I can make them smile.

Smile, though your heart is aching

Smile even though its breaking

When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by

If you smile through your fear and sorrow

Smile and maybe tomorrow

You’ll see the sun come shining through for you


Light up your face with gladness

Hide every trace of sadness

Although a tear may be ever so near

That’s the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what’s the use of crying?

You’ll find that life is still worthwhile

If you just smile


That’s the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what’s the use of crying?

You’ll find that life is still worthwhile

If you just smile!



Dad's smile earned him a bit of a reputation!

Dad’s smile earned him a bit of a reputation!

Categories: Duff History, Life's Lessons, Mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Dam

As much as I love animals, there is one that has stymied me for years.  This creature is hard-working, tenacious, and capable.  In most circles, if this animal were a corporate employee, it would be fast-tracked up the corporate ladder.

I first encountered “the beaver” in 1967 when Paula and I purchased an 82-acre tract of land just west of Craighurst.  Yes, this is the place I’ve written out in previous posts (On Duff’s Pond, The Night Bandit to name two).  It was the boonies in 1967 – nothing near by.  No humans to slow the growth of the beautiful maple forests or the old oaks.  Nothing to obstuct Mother Nature except God himself – God…. and the beavers.

There was a beautiful stream that ran through the property – it was spring fed.  Those waters were crystal clear and mighty cold.  This stream was a perfect habitat for minnows, frogs, and the summer supply of water cress.  The beavers loved this stream too and when Paula and I explored into the back 40, we found that they loved the stream so much, they had build and established quite an extensive dam.  The dam must have been more than 40 feet long with two overflow channels.  It incorporated several trees and flooded an area that was navigitable (and we did build a raft for the kids to ride on) by vessel.

At first blush, anyone would have thought, “Gee, this pond is beautiful.”  The kids would often sit in the shade of the wild cherry tree that stretched its branches over the waters of the pond and do their best at fishing.  I have to admit, it seemed like a real oasis.  The sound of the water trickling over the spillway of the dam was quite calming.

When one walked upstream, however, one could observe quite quickly that this beautiful little oasis came at a price.

I guess the beavers had a good life there with all the nice soft trees so close at hand – and no humans around.  They propegated and their family grew.  With a growing family comes a growing appetite and the beavers needed to make the dam bigger to host the larger family.  They knew the current dam was at its limits so, instead, they went upstream and began the construction of the “granny suite”.  Of course, the second dam flooded a great deal of land where beautiful trees were growing.  If the trees remained flooded for too long they too would die.

I knew I was in for a fight.

I recruited some help from my cousins and early one morning we headed upstream to dam # 2.  To deconstruct a beaver dam by hand takes a great deal of strength and time.  The branches are so interwoven into the structure and glued together by mud!  It was tough work.  Eventually we were able to get a hole large enough to create a slip-stream for the backed up water and we let the water pressure behind the dam take care of the rest.  The water gushed through the dam.  Soon, well, in about an hour or two, the water was back to normal and I could hear the trees saying, “thanks”.

We headed home – tired and quite pleased with our work.  We had left the branches and twigs and such beside the dam with the intention of taking them away to clean up the next day.  I had a great sleep that night and was anxious to get back to cleaning up the next morning.

After a fantastic farmer’s breakfast, my cousins and I headed back to the dam.

Well, the beavers had not slept that night – they had been, in fact, very busy.  The water level of the pond was right back where it had been the day before!  I must admit I was a little stunned.  How on earth they had managed to stop the water and re-build I’ll never know – beavers are quite the engineers.  My cousins and I decided that the only thing to do was to rip the dam apart a second time.  “Surely that will discourage them”, I said.  So – away we went to work again.  This time we removed the wood at once.

Tired, and dirty and mosquito bit, we headed back for Paula’s culinary delights.  Once again, we anxiously awaited the next morning to see what would happen.

I saw it in the distance this time – I knew this meant war.  I had under-estimated my opponent.  The dam was re-built – this time better and stronger than ever.

From that time on, I had a new respect for this wonder of nature.  I always imagined the beavers watching us struggle to dis-assemble their engineered interlocking wood – and laughing.

The fight was won… but the battle was far from over!

Categories: Duff History, The Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

In Honor of My Father~Father’s Day 2012

What a beautiful tribute to your father – a true hero. How blessed are we to have such fantastic role models!


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A Father’s WIsh

I still remember my own Dad.  It has been over 20 years, maybe closer to 30, since he passed away.  Funny how one never really becomes accustomed to being fatherless.

My Dad, George Hunt Duff, was a hard worker – but in his old age he worked hard at play too.  He was a WWI vet, farmer, owner of the New Lowell General Store, postmaster, and general good guy. He would sing, “Oh froggy went a courtin’ he did ride, uh-huh…” to Stacey when she was young and she’d ask him to sing it over and over again.  One year, we got Stacey a tape recorder for her birthday (imagine -at one time that was considered to be quite the technology!) and she recorded my Dad telling jokes, singing songs, and recounting stories.  I think she might still have that tape.  Funny to hear his voice so many years after he has been gone.

My Dad was an entertainer and a traveler.  How loved to go to England when he was in his late 70s. I used to think that was so old!  He’d explore and visit friends – all on his own.

My Dad gave me a good life – we didn’t always get along as most kids will fight with their parents and I was no exception.  I was blessed, however, to have had the opportunity to get to know my dad as an adult.  Our relationship became one of mutual respect.  He was proud of me for where I had arrived in life and I was proud of him – well, simply because he was my Dad.  My mom passed away much earlier on – we never knew what happened to her but she just lost the ability to walk.  My Dad did everything he could for her – but medicine was so much different then.

He lived in his own home in New Lowell and shared it with a family who he knew were struggling at that time.  He was very generous.  I guess it was more of a symbiotic relationship as that family – who needed his generosity and kindness were also giving my Dad the gift of his own independence and ability to live (and die) in his own home.

The matriarch of that family called me one morning to say that she had been by my Dad’s side when he experienced a heart-attack and died.  He knew he was going and just asked her to stay with him.  What a way to go – in your own home, surrounded by friends, and quickly.

Yes, I still think of my Dad and how he taught me the value of family and to always look at the bright side of life.

So – 30 years later, Dad, I wish you, “Happy Father’s Day”!

May all of you who read this blog – have the opportunity to meet your parents as adults.


Categories: Duff History, Family and Friends, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My 91st Flight

To date, I have logged over 2 000 flying hours.  Only two of those hours have been logged in my 92nd year!

Yesterday’s flight was spectacular.  There is nothing like being in a plane.  My son’s birthday gift to me was this flight.

Around 1:30 we (my son, and the Dancing Nannies who are now, I guess the Flying Nannies too!) headed out to Oro Airport.  By 2:00 we were in the air – well, the Nannies stayed on the ground. The weather was perfect – blue sky with only a hint of cloud to make things more interesting.

We flew over Barrie and also over the old homestead in New Lowell and Craighurst.  It is amazing how being so far above the scene one can see so much more.  It is remarkable how quickly the trees overtake space when left to do their own thing.

What a thrill.

Oh, and I flew the plane for a while! 

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God. 

  Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941



Categories: Family and Friends, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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