Saturday, 2 July 2016

The Tale of the Whispering Forest

Some say, that when the summer wind blows wild …
just before an August storm comes pounding, on lake cabin doors,
an old man’s voice, rave-whispers, ghostly gruff, as tough
as far off thunder, booming up … through cold, dark forest floors

Some say, it is the voice of Jimmy-Boy:
felling trees, he hauled and hoisted by the red pine ton …
denying his harsh mother’s words:
you’re no good Jim – you’ll die in a dirt shack, I swear, my son

Some say, that when his fortunes came to naught
and Jimmy was too old, by then, to start, from scratch,  again,
he vowed, he'd build a castle, and with might,
he’d silence the prediction of his mother’s cruel refrain

Some say, he built the three tiered tower, alone,
with rope and pulleys, bullying the massive logs in place,
portaging fifteen times to bring
store windows through the bush, to cast sunlight upon the space

Some say, Jim got the last laugh on his Mom;
Some say, his Mother’s words were wise:  they drove her headstrong boy.
Though, as it happened:  Jim drown in the lake …
The moral of the story is:  life’s short – live your own joy

note:  this poem was – loosely – inspired by a true legend, that I heard growing up in Northwestern Ontario.  Jimmy McOuat who – beginning in 1903 (when he was 51), and finishing in 1915 – built “White Otter log Castle” (on the shore of White Otter Lake) – after losing all his money in a gold mine he had invested in.  Many stories surround the tale (including an unrequited love story).  It is unclear whether it was his Mother, or a neighbour, who had declared that he would die in a shack.  Jimmy McOuat drown, a mere 3 years after completing his castle, which still stands today.

photo:  Forest Whispers – W. Bourke 

© 2016 Wendy Bourke   


  1. Ah, Jimmy proved his mother wrong really, rebounding after he lost his fortune, building his own castle. Sounds like a success story to me. It seems he DID live his own joy.

  2. Oh I hope he lived his own dream, and not to just to prove his mother wrong. Nevertheless it sounds like a full, albeit short life for Jim.

  3. The fact that it's inspired by a true event makes it even better. Well written.

  4. mothers ought not to be so bitter as Jim's...hope he had some moments of joy too...

  5. A great narration...and wise advice. Got to live your own joy!

  6. I would like to think that he still enjoyed his life and had proven his worth. Interesting story, Wendy.

  7. This has the definite air of folklore - i suspect both conclusions have a truth so yes..we must live by our own joy otherwise our inner castles may come crumbling down - how hard that can be though..wonderfully told..

  8. This is so beautifully written, and based on a true event makes it even more stunning.

  9. What a great tale this is of determination and self belief showing that he really had it in him. It was a joy to read.

  10. So enjoyable reading the poem and the back story. And what a long time it took to build his castle. I enjoyed this so much, Wendy. I love old stories.

  11. I love the telling of this tale with its moral....sometimes others can push us to realize our dreams and sometimes not as we think we are on our own path to find we were not. Only Jimmy or we could know....I hope he did live HIS life.

  12. What an intriguing poem! I especially like how you are starting with, "Some say..." in each of your stanzas. A nice structural device.

  13. Nice! Seemed a tall tale until I learned it was folklore. I like how you spin it out and the "some says" in the final stanza.

  14. Such a well-told tale, Wendy :-)

  15. Well... that was interesting and a delightful tale.

  16. I really enjoy your storytelling, in fact, I hope you do more like these. Sad, of course, that he drown so soon after completing his castle. But at least he did complete it and had some time to enjoy it. We do never know when "our time" will come. A sage moral!

  17. A very interesting and entertaining poem, Wendy. Thank you!

    P.S. Sorry I'm slow checking out posts these days…I'm lagging behind in life.