Carl McNeil, the oldest man in Fullarton, was of Scottish descent as his name implied. Carl was well-educated and well informed, a pleasant man to visit with, but not worldly wise; his values came from a different era. He never married, never had a driver’s license, never smoked, never tasted tea, coffee or strong drink.
He farmed most of his life, but by the time we arrived in Fullarton he had rented out his land and was living in an old two storey brick house. He only used one bedroom and the kitchen and dining room. The house had no running water and no central heat.
Carl was a thin man, his back bent from years of hard work, making him look shorter than he really was. This part of Ontario is too wet to produce a good grain crop if the land isn’t tile drained. Carl tiled his land by himself, digging long trenches by hand and laying sections of heavy round clay drainage tile. When he retired to Fullarton he dug up his entire yard by hand each spring and planted white beans. These beans are a major crop in the area, the kind of beans that are used to make baked beans. Carl would pull the bean plants In late fall and spend the winter shelling them by hand and sorting the beans. The result was a number of bags of top quality beans that he would sell to the owners of the big grain elevator in Mitchell.
When he was 85, Carl needed to have the battery changed in his pacemaker. A friend drove him to one of the hospitals in London and the procedure was performed. The next morning he signed himself out of the hospital, walked to the bus depot and bought a ticket to come home. He got off the bus at Russeldale, the nearest village along the highway. He walked the three miles to Fullarton, found the door of his home locked and didn’t have the key with him. He put a ladder up to the second storey bedroom window, climbed up, pushed the window open and he was home.
He continued to dig up his yard by hand until he was 95, then his neighbour offered to do it with his rototiller. Carl kept on growing beans until he was 99 and then went into a nursing home.
He died at the age of 100, outliving all his close relatives. His will gave bequests to some of the neighbours who had been his closest friends over the years, plus one special bequest that got Carl’s name in newspapers across Canada. Being a frugal man, Carl did not want to leave this world with any debts against his name. Therefore he gave a bequest to the government of Canada to pay off his portion of the national debt.
2 thoughts on “A man of simple tastes”
I’m happy to hear more details about Carl. Thanks, Christine, for giving me a link. Thanks, Bob, for writing the character sketch.
Pingback: Carl Was A Character | Christine's Collection