Zachary Lacasse, O.M.I (1845-1921), “One of most read authors of the end of the 19th century.” (Dictionary of literary works of Quebec, 1978, p. 139) presents himself.
That year, one of my sisters was hired by the trustees to run the school. I did not want to go to my sister’s school: I thought I knew as much as she did! But when opening day came, my father threatened to bring me there by the hand, so I took my bag and went to school grumbling. After the prayer to the Holy Spirit, my sister introduced herself briefly to the pupils: “It is with pleasure that I accepted to teach you, children that I know and who me know. I hope that you will be good.” I interrupted her saying: “Yes, mum.” Two of my small companions burst out laughing. “Zachary Lacasse, she said to me, you will respect me like the others.” “But I respect you too; I call you “mum.” “Take your books and get out, you wise guy.” “Yes, mum, that is what I
The next morning, it was still dark when my father called me: “To work now, quickly. After your prayer, you will go to work on Claude’s land. There are 25 acres of fence to put up. And you know that I won’t have any laggards in my house.” I left and began working earnestly. For more than an hour I tried to remove a large cedar pole, but I could not manage it. I was perspiring profusely. My strength gave out when I saw my father coming on his horse with a pail in his hand. “Here, he said, I brought your lunch.” “I am not hungry, I won’t eat.” “As you like! A farmer who does not eat soon becomes rich. I predict that you will die a great lord of the parish of Saint-Jacques-of-Montcalm.”
My father had also brought an elm sledge-hammer. He shook one of the stakes. “But, my boy, if a fence is to keep in wild animals, the stakes must be deep in the ground. Here is a sledge-hammer and a small bench to allow you to do your work.” Then, he left. I got up on my small bench. The heavy mallet was fixed to a long handle. I tried to raise it as high as my head. One of the legs of the bench yielded and I was about to fall into the muddy ditch. I started to cry bitterly. Suddenly a piercing cry penetrated my ears: “Work, my boy, it is not yet the midday.” Oh, no! I saw my father running towards me, with that cherry switch in his hand. I told him, on my knees, that I was not made to be a farmer and asked him to go to school, that I would listen to my sister. “Go eat your lunch, he said, you will go to school, and you will ask for your sister’s pardon on your knees. But remember this: If you want to start your game again, I will start mine again. This time, it will be final.”
I went to the school, publicly asked forgiveness of my sister who told me to go take my seat. She was teaching multiplications. The pupil at the blackboard was having a hard time with it. “Who can do this calculation?” I seized the chalk: “I multiply 328 by 4, Miss Lacasse; 4 times 8 is 32, Miss Lacasse; write 2 and carry 3, Miss Lacasse.” “Stop your Miss Lacasses, and just do the arithmetic.”
There was no “mum” any more at the school, but a teacher, approved by my parents and representing their authority, to whom I owed the respect that I then gave her. This is one of the first means which God used to make me a priest. If my father had sacrificed his duty to my whims, I would have remained at the house, choking the attraction of grace in my heart.
André DORVAL, OMI