There was a fair bit of tension in the Field, Ontario, home of Ronald Dubreuil last week. Then again, there was also a fair bit of water. The entire first floor—French Provincial living room suite, floor lamps and all—was submerged in scummy liquid after the worst flood in the history of the tiny township 35 miles northwest of North Bay. The swollen Sturgeon River had swallowed up 40 houses, leaving almost half of the population of 550 (most of whom are French-speaking) homeless. One report out of Northern Ontario described Field as “the Atlantis of Canada.”
But it was no lost golden continent— merely a humble Atlantis of modest $30,000 homes and simple furnishings, a town where a substantial portion of the population collect welfare and where even
a natural disaster starts folks thinking bitterly about the institutions that dominate their lives. The town’s lumber mill had also been ravaged, sustaining millions of dollars worth of damage. Altogether the outlook was so gloomy that people could be forgiven for embarking on what one OPP constable laughingly referred to as a “town spree,” when a sizable supply of 40-ounce whisky bottles was liberated from the flooded Field liquor store. And even the most sober flood victims—facing uprooting for at least six months, as the decision is made whether to rebuild or relocate the town with the help of a $2-million provincial subsidy—seemed vague and indecisive about even the most practical, immediate matters.
Upstairs in the Dubreuil home, away from the smell of oil and backed-up plumbing, Dubreuil, a former mayor of Field, was distractedly leafing through important papers wondering which ones to save while two women, acting on his absent and distraught wife’s wishes, were madly shoving everything they could find into green gar-
bage bags and throwing them out the second-storey window into waiting motorboats. “She mentioned something about a white wedding dress," whispered one woman, but Dubreuil sternly decreed that clothing and some sentimental objects would be left behind. Like many other of the town residents, they had motorboated through Field, commenting in a shellshocked but faintly jovial way on the strangeness of skimming over the tops of street signs. They had battled other disasters in Field before—two lesser floods, and a tornado in 1970—but this time many residents said they hadn’t the heart for starting out all over again. Still, there was no loss of life in this disaster, so the townspeople who value land and family above all could emotionally afford to be a little down-toearth about their material losses. In fact, there was the hint of a twinkle in the eye of Deputy Fire Chief Dan Maurice when he waded into the Dubreuil home, hat slightly askew, to announce: “Mike Brown’s piano drowned. There goes another three grand." Judith Timson
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