Q&A

Seven farms and four wives later. . .

Marni Jackson June 30 1980
Q&A

Seven farms and four wives later. . .

Marni Jackson June 30 1980

Seven farms and four wives later. . .

Q&A

'I broke my back, broke my arm... broke my heart'

Marni Jackson

David Trumble

David Trumble is the same age as Canada—113 years old. Most of his life has been spent logging, mining or farming the area around North Brook, Ontario, the village north of Belleville where he still spends his summers. Trumble has outlived four wives, 12 brothers and sisters and most of his 19 children; a son, Elwood, born when Trumble was 75, lives with him in North Brook, and he has a sister in California.

In the first decade of his second century, Trumble decided to become an author. His new career was somewhat complicated by the fact that he doesn’t read or write,but with the help of Toronto writer Glen Ellis, his stories of the old days—the very old days, before hockey was invented—have been collected in two books, When I Was a Boy, and The Road to St. Ola. A third book is now ready for print. For the past two years his eyesight has been dimmed by cataracts, but he still tends a large gar-

den and has days “when I figure I could jump over the moon. Other days, I couldn’t jump over a spoon. ” When Toronto writer Ma rni Jackson visited David Trumble in North Brook, he was walking back from town with a cane, wearing a Massey-Ferguson cap and sneakers.

Maclean’s: Is that your grandfather’s cane?

Trumble: Yes, it’s about 200 years old. My grandfather was 104 when he died. It’s made out of hickory.

Maclean’s: Do you live a healthy life? Trumble: In a way I do. I don’t live a happy life any more; I can’t see, you know. If you can’t see nothin’, you can’t do nothin’. All your enjoyment is in your sight.

Maclean’s: Have you had many accidents, many close calls in the course of your life?

Trumble: Let’s see ... I broke my back; broke my spine. Broke my legs, broke my arm ... broke my heart.

Maclean’s: How many times did you break your heart?

Trumble: (laughing) A good many times.

Maclean’s: You've worked out of

doors all your life. How is the earth changing?

Trumble: Well, never in all my days have I seen a winter so mild as last winter. Maclean’s: Why do you think that is? Trumble: I think they’re monkeying too much with the atmosphere . . . they’re going to the moon, monkeying with the moon, going where they claim no man goes ... of course, we know that’s a lie.

The earth’s not giving the nourishment it used to give.

Maclean’s: Do you follow the news? Trumble: The news is getting so I don’t care about hearing it. It’s all bull. Maclean’s: Do you watch TV?

Trumble: Oh I do, yes. I watch a little. I used to like television until they got too much foolish stuff on it. I’ll just give you one instance: where could you get anything foolisher than The Newlywed Gamel Now, we’re supposed to be people; we’re not dumb animals. But you listen to the Newlyweds . . . (he shakes his head ) now that’s a disgrace. Maclean’s: Do you listen to the radio? Trumble: I don’t care much for the radio. Same thing, when you get down to it. When we first had radio, you were getting something that happened . . . now you’re getting a lot of bull. Just putting on something to make a laugh. Maclean’s: Do you read the Bible? Trumble: I only went to school one day in my life. How do you expect me to read? Maclean’s: How can I put this then; is religion a comfort to you?

Trumble: Oh much, much . . . when you’re downcast and you don’t feel yourself and you’re just ready to give up, some small voice says ‘plug on.’ Maclean’s: You’ve lived all over this

area. What house do you remember being happiest in?

Trumble: When I built my first house out of hemlock, when I was first married. I was 28. I went and got married and I was working in the gold mines. Then I went to work cutting cordwood to put in the boiler to crush the gold up. I left that then and went to farm; seven times I’ve bought farms, worked them and then sold them. In my first house I raised up nine children.

Maclean’s: What did you do when you worked with a carnival?

Trumble: I was the Wild Man, eatin’ snakes. I was all dressed in bearskins, and the snake couldn’t bite that. I’d just grab the thing in my hand and pretend to eat it. Scare the women half to death. But the snakes didn’t agree with my stomach, so I had to quit.

Maclean’s: You didn't really eat them, did you?

Trumble: Naw. I didn’t eat them. Maclean’s: You fought in World War I, at Vimy Ridge. Did you learn anything from the war?

Trumble: I learned to mind my own business and keep my head down. I got a bayonet through my hand, right there. But they say I’m not an ordinary man, I don’t know. There’s something different about me; I don’t wrinkle up much, I don’t get childish. Some people there in town, they’re so childish I can’t talk to them.

Maclean’s: How old are they?

Trumble: Round about 90.

Maclean’s: I understand you've also been on TV a few times.

Trumble: I was on stage once with a Toronto man who does the news ... an old man ... he knows everything. Maclean’s: Gordon Sinclair?

Trumble: Yes. I don’t care for him. I gave him a slug right on the stage. You can’t talk about the government, I said; the government will give you a dollar with one hand and take it away with the other. And he said, you’re crazy; you don’t know when you are treated well. And I said, I’m the one to know how I feel, and I DON’T LIKE TRUDEAU! He’s the biggest bullshitter that ever was. That’s when I hit him. I expected I was going to be locked up for it.

Maclean’s: And that was the last time you were on TV?

Trumble: Yes. I was 109 at the time.

Maclean’s: Do you think you know when you're going to die?

Trumble: I think so. I pretty near died the other day. I knew I was going through a dying stage; I just felt dizzy. Maclean’s: What kind of shape do you think the world is in these days? Trumble: Pretty bad. You don’t know yourself what to do; you don’t know what to believe. If you’d listen to a lot of people, you’d think the moon was made out of green cheese. You can’t hardly

believe a picture anymore. The Bible says go out and preach my word, and don’t take any money. Now, they’re dyin’ to get preaching to make money. Maclean’s: Were you poor for most of your life?

Trumble: Well, principally. I didn’t have too much. But I always had lots to eat; I could make things go and I could make money. When I couldn’t work no more I said, “Well, the old body’s worn out, but I’ve got a brain yet. I’ll work my brain.” So I made some books. I made about $2,500. It was better than settin’ around dreamin’ about it.

Maclean’s: You published your first book when you were 107.

Trumble: I defeated the devil, that’s all. Maclean’s: Do you still go into the city? Trumble: There’s nothing in the city ... just Gordon Sinclair. But I rather like that other man . . . smooth-faced fella ... Charles Templeton.

Maclean’s: Did you think you would live to be this old?

Trumble: Well, no J didn’t. I don’t think it was my doing, whatever made me live so long. I’ve got something yet that God wants to show me what to do before I pass away.

Maclean’s: Don't you think your books are important?

Trumble: Yes, very. I wish they’d get the third one out.

Maclean’s: What do you think it is about the way you live that has kept you strong?

Trumble: I never eat all I want; I stay hungry. I’ll just eat what I think is enough.

Maclean’s: If you were able to get up on stage and give people advice, what would you tell them ?

Trumble: I was up on stage there in Ottawa, and Trudeau said, “Mr. Trumble what do you think of Canada anyway?” And I said, I’ve worked for about 104 years, worked to make a good place to live and a good government, and then Mr. Trudeau got in, and in 12 years he’s ruined the whole country, (smiling) He almost killed me . ..

Maclean’s: Why do you think he's ruined the country?

Trumble: He can’t tell the truth. Maclean’s: Do you drink or smoke? Trumble: I haven’t had a drink for five years; I smoke a little bit, but I can’t find anything in the Bible about not smoking. Some preachers say if the Lord intended a man to smoke He’d put a chimney in his head, and I say that’s just a mistake He made, that’s all. But I can smoke or leave it alone.

Maclean’s: You must have relatives everywhere...

Trumble: Oh, every place I go I’ve got a bunch of kids ... I must have 200 great-

‘We’re supposed to be people, we’re not dumb animals’

grandchildren. Some of them are all right, some of them ain’t; they’re mixed up, like a dog’s breakfast.

Maclean’s: Do you have any regrets? Trumble: I didn’t love the women enough. I should have had more love. My wives . . . some wanted to fly high, and I let them go. My first wife, she ran away after we raised our family. She went away and I’ve never seen her from that day to this. I don’t know if she’s dead. I hope she isn’t.