After 40 years on this little farm, I am still not sure where I live.
I now have three addresses: one for Canada Post, one for the township and one for Google Maps. None of these organizations will recognize the others’ description of Lot 30 Concession 9 in old Nottawasaga Township.
Lord knows I have tried. Canada Post has been the most co-operative although it changes its mind every so often and adds a new wrinkle. It has always agreed that I live near Nottawa and every so often it offers a helpful hint to pinpoint exactly where. First it suggested I start using the new fire code number. Then it turned out there were two identical four-digit fire code numbers on the same road in the same township. So they suggested I add the word North.
I say ‘they’ when I really should be saying ‘she.’ Louise is our vigilant postmistress in the Nottawa general store. When she gets a peculiar parcel addressed to “Wingfield Farm” she furrows her brow and says, “That must be Danny,” and hands it to Rob who delivers the mail to a box out at the corner of the Jardine Sideroad. Of course, it is not Jardine anymore. The township changed all the names several years ago from West Church, Jardine and Min Baker to 33&35, 30&31, and 27&28. We all know the numbers of our own roads but nobody can remember anyone else’s. So we still go by the West Church, Jardine and Min Baker in conversation and when giving directions. I imagine visitors must leave our community totally mystified by people who can direct you without reference to a single road sign.
The township was dissolved 25 years ago to form Clearview Twp., supposedly to reduce costs. Clearview now embraces two of the old townships and the two towns of Creemore and Stayner. Again, no visitors will ever discover Clearview because it remains an idea in the mind of God. It is a post office box and a depository for dog taxes but apart from the colossal municipal building in Stayner and a couple of fire stations, it has no physical shape or form.
Google Maps says I live in Duntroon, which is five miles south of Nottawa and it hasn’t had a post office for 15 years. Billy Campbell, my long-deceased next door neighbour, had an ancient feud with the postmaster in Nottawa and changed his address to Duntroon a half-century ago. When I moved in, the mail driver said I could choose one or the other because both drivers had to come out here anyway. I opted for Nottawa but somehow ancient information dribbled down to Google and they placed me in Duntroon. There is no helpful person like Louise that works for Google Maps and no request I have made to them has ever been answered. But they do place the marker on the correct place. If you type in my Canada Post address, it refers you to a location in Craigleith eight miles away or down by Creemore. So the trick is to use Duntroon instead of Nottawa, except nobody thinks to ask for me in Duntroon because I have lived famously in Nottawa for 40 years. I helped make the village T-shirt that says Not-Ottawa and for many years I served as a member of the Village Idiots, a select group of patrons for the Nottawa Village Restaurant, or Rhonda’s diner, as we used to call it . . . or McKenzie’s if you were an older resident and remembered Harry McKenzie flipping bacon and eggs behind the counter.
I always chalked it all up to living in an odd neighbourhood but as I travel around I find that a lot of people in rural Ontario share my problem. Every road now goes by a name and often two numbers. As a writer I would say that these roads are over-described. The cheery voice of Siri always makes me feel hopelessly lost because I remember roads that had names like Hogback and Magnetic Hill instead of just numbers. When I fell out of the haymow one winter evening a few years ago, my wife took no chances getting the ambulance here. She talked them in just like George Kennedy coaxed down Karen Black at the controls of a 747 in the movie Airport 1975.
Ask any of the courier drivers and they just look at the sky and shake their heads. One of them confided that Canada Post was his first best guess, and sometimes Google Maps added an extra hint. But the most reliable locator was his trusty cell-phone and a direct conversation with the homeowner.
Dan Needles is a writer and the author of the Wingfield Farm stage plays. He lives on a small farm near Collingwood, Ont. His website is www.danneedles.ca.