Cold Cash: A John Dunn story

John-DunnA pre-Christmas party of friends at Bill Meehan’s in Nepean had broken apart, and swirled away from the main current to form islands of separate conversations comprising guests in threes and fours only. In one of the fours George Eades and I discovered a mutual acquaintance, Bob Brown, whom my father, as physician, had attended about 1951.

The circumstances of that incident came to me from Mother. Seems Bob was driving to Almonte, alone in his car, when the tire on a front wheel blew. The blowout occurred right in the middle of the rock cut at George Jessup’s gate on Highway 44. The automobile suffered major damage in the crash, and Bob was badly shaken up, suffering a fractured leg and a number of cuts, bruises, and contusions.

It happened that my father was the first other person along that road on that morning, for he was on his way to see a patient in Huntley. He stopped, of course, and with the contents of his black bag, he bound up Bob’s wounds and made a splint for the fractured leg. He put Bob in his car and brought him to the hospital in Almonte where the nurses scrubbed Bob’s wounds, tidied up the splint work, and gave Bob the anti-tetanus insurance.

The hospital was overfull at the time and could not offer Bob a bed for proper nursing care. Nothing daunted, my father simply brought him to the Dunn house, where there were plenty of unoccupied beds, and there Bob stayed for a fortnight in recovery.

Perhaps two or three years later Mother asked if I would drive my parents down to the Brown house. They’d been invited to dinner, which would include me, of course.

Bob had built two houses on the edge of a small ravine, perhaps a half mile beyond Pinehurst on Baseline Road, one for him and his wife, the other for his daughter.

We arrived about four-thirty. Royalty never enjoyed a friendlier visit and a dinner to remember. Bob just couldn’t get over his great luck the morning of his accident in front of George Jessup’s gate, and the fact that the Good Samaritan that came along was not only a doctor who proceeded to bind up his wounds, but who turned around and took him to the hospital in Almonte, and after that, took him to his own home and looked after him until he was fit again. How could any man in an accident run into instant friends of that magnitude? Bob wondered, because that’s what happened to him. And he and his wife couldn’t do enough to express the bonds of friendship that the accident on the Almonte road had generated between him and my father.

George Eades remarked that the fastness of Bob’s friendship for any man, once made, nothing could ever shake it. Bob’s friends held him in the highest esteem.

Bob was a barn-builder, said George. One time, probably in the late 1930’s, when Bob wasn’t too busy he did some repairs to the Honeywell barn (where Somerset Towers is now), and it amounted to a couple of hundred dollars of work. Maybe three.

Bob didn’t send a bill for the work: he didn’t need to. He and the Honeywell boys were friends. One day, however, Bob found himself short of cash, and in need of some. Quickly. He went out to the Honeywells, and, on enquiry, was told that the two boys were out in the barn. Out to the barn went Bob, opened the door, and stepped inside.

Sure enough. The two boys were milking. And, on hearing the latch lift, both lifted eyes to see who had come in.

“Good day, Bob,” said one.

“Day, Bob,” echoed the other.

“Good day, boys,” responded Bob, and leaned against the door, waiting.

The milking went on. Spurt, spurt, spurt, spurt, the rhythmic milking pail song.

Bob loosened his winter coat, reached a toe forward to snag a spare milking stool from under the steps to the hay loft, and sat down.

“Keepin’ cold, Bob,” observed one of the boys from the lower flank of a Holstein.

“Mighty cold,” replied Bob.

The spurt frequency slackened, slowed right down, and the boys finished stripping the two cows. But surfaced from down under holding a pail of milk in one hand and a milking stool in the other.

“Was there somethin’ you was wantin’, Bob?” one asked.

“Well, yes, I guess there is,” said Bob.

“And what might that be, Bob?” enquired the other as he poured his pail of milk through the strainer into the milk can.

“Findin’ myself a bit short of cash,” said Bob. “Was wonderin’ if you could let me have a little money.”

“Well, now, Bob, we’ll just look and see about that. If you’ll just be comfortable there for a moment, we’ll go and see what there is, and we’ll be right back.”

Both boys set down their milking pails beside the calf pen and went back into the horse stable. Five minutes went by, and they returned, the second boy dragging a feed bag with oat hulls clinging to it.

“Here, Bob, take whatever you want,” the first of the boys said.

Bob looked a bit surprised as the second simply handed him the sack.

Bob pulled the tie and the end opened. He drew it back and peered in. Money, all in bills lay inside, a lot of it in bundles tied with twine.

The boys had meanwhile picked up their milking pails and resumed milking.

Bob thought he should count the contents. As he got into it he almost came unnerved. The sack held $75,000! Bob’s face reflected nothing but calm. “Thanks, boys,” said he, turning to lift the latch of the barn door.

“Glad to help Bob,” came from the two boys on their three-legged milking stools.

John Dunn
Dec. 1980.