The artists’ mega-quarry protest

Horning’s Mills is a tiny gem of a hamlet, set in rolling farmland, field after field of potatoes scattered with woodlots under a cloudless summer sky.  There are other crops, vegetables and strawberries, and a trout farm, but it is the rich dark green of potato plants that seems to cover the earth to the horizon.

Not far from Horning’s Mills, the land that has been purchased for the proposed limestone quarry stretches for 937 hectares (2315 acres).  It is expected that 765 hectares (1890 acres) will be quarried, to a depth of up to 208 feet, which would put the bottom of the quarry below the water table.  Where will the water go?  What will happen to the rivers and streams and creeks that flow today out of this watershed?  What will the impact be on local wells?

We can’t begin to cover here everything – past, present and future – about the proposed quarry.  If you google Melancthon mega-quarry you can access many websites with loads of information.







A group of Ontario artists organized a paint-in, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, 2012 to protest against the mega-quarry.  A generous family in Horning’s Mills showed their support for the artists by allowing them to set up their easels beside their private lake.  We were taken up into the estate by horse-drawn wagon, along a trail cut through beautiful woods.  Between the trees we saw artists busy at their canvasses in quiet leafy corners all along  the shore.

Kudos to the artists and volunteers for a delightful and well-organized event.

The Barrie and District Raging Grannies supported the artists’ protest with a few protest songs of our own.  Here are some of us taking time out on a shady veranda with a stunning view of the lake.

A tour of the mega-quarry site

At around noon, three Grannies joined a group of people who went back down to Horning’s Mills to a bus tour of the proposed quarry site.  Granny Marjorie (left front), granny Molly (centre front) and granny Anita (right front), with a number of others, climbed aboard your standard yellow school bus and set off along Hwy 124.  Lyle Parsons (google him too, he’s quite well known from a story CBC did on the Melancthon mega-quarry) handed out helpful maps and provided a very interesting running commentary.

It was noon.  The sun blazed down.  Yellow school buses are not designed for passenger comfort.  You know the kind – high-backed seats, windows that don’t open except for tiny sliders at the top, no ventilation – and so on.  As Lyle pointed out the once-upon-a-time family farms we passed, most with no farm buildings at all left standing, he choked up a little.  These farms had once been farmed by friends and neighbours, people he grew up with.

At that moment, Molly’s head fell forward, low, as though in deep, sympathetic sorrow.  Marjorie’s head appeared over Anita’s high seat back.  “I think Molly’s not too well,” she said, and Anita joined Marjorie in her ministrations with face-cloth and cold water to face, head and neck, but our fellow gran was out cold.

“Is something wrong?” asked artist Dale Hamilton from the next seat.  “Our friend seems to have passed out, ” we told her, “it’s probably the heat, she’s heat sensitive.”  And to make matters worse, Molly was sitting in the window seat, right up against the hot glass, on the sunny side of the bus.

Dale, bless her, made her way up the bumping, rattling bus to Lyle and the driver.  The driver promptly pulled over, and Dale called 911.  People pulled all the little window sliders open, and flung the front and rear doors wide open.  A sweet cool breeze flowed through and granny Molly began to come round.  We helped her over to the shady side of the bus, to a seat where the air was fresh and moving.

Dale was still on the phone, calling 911’s questions back to us, you know the kind of thing: Has she had a cough recently? fever? chills?  Is she having pains in her chest?  Etc.  Marjorie and Anita got the answers from Molly and relayed them back.  No privacy eh, but by then everyone on the bus was like family.

There was a long wait before the ambulance arrived, and a fire truck too, but it gave Molly time to perk up.  Lyle announced the bus would take Marjorie and Anita back to Horning’s Mills, so that we could collect Molly’s car (Molly was to have been our ride home!) and go to whichever hospital the ambulance crew decided to take Molly to.   After that, if people wanted, the tour would continue.

“What time’s your next tour?” Molly asked, concerned she was messing up the tour schedule.  Quick as a flash Lyle replied, “Oh, would you like to go again?” and the laughter broke the tension.

We didn’t get everyone’s name, but bless you every one.  “Thank you so much for your kindness, and the wonderful care you all took of me,” Molly says, insisting we add, “and that includes my friends Marjorie and Anita.”  In turn, Marjorie and Anita join with Molly in thanking everyone who took such good care of three Raging Grannies who got a little more than we bargained for on the tour of the Melancthon mega-quarry site.

Granny Marjorie looks on as the ambulance and fire crew settle Granny Molly on the gurney.  Photo by Natalia Shields

 All’s well that ends well

After their once-over, the ambulance crew decided Molly was well enough to be taken to Stevenson Memorial in Alliston.  This was good news, it’s the closest hospital to Barrie.  The ER staff must have taken a bit of a turn when the gurney rolled in bearing an older lady in full Raging Granny dress!  Little wonder they gave her such a thorough going over with every test in the book, perhaps to make sure a psychiatric assessment wasn’t required.  Whew!

Marjorie and Anita collected Molly’s car and drove to Alliston.  It was another three and a half hours before Molly was finally released, but in spite of the circumstances, and the hospital environment, it was good time spent well together.

We are so thankful that granny Molly is none the worse for the experience.  As for grans Marjorie and Anita, it was an adventure to remember, but not one we want to repeat in a hurry.  Next time we’ll carry honking big battery-operated fans.  Or something.