Why This Country Is So Nice
Starting in 1934, Lyman Chapman and David Putnam, under the auspices of the Ontario Research Foundation, began the process of surveying and mapping southern Ontario. What they weren’t able to cover on foot, they traversed by automobile. Their work, published as The Physiography of Southern Ontario is still the definitive work from which all physical geographers and geologists start.
They have been credited with being the first to identify and name the Oak Ridges Moraine – the opening line in the chapter reads “The Oak Ridges interlobate moraine stands out as one of the most distinctive physiographic units of southern Ontario.”
While Lyman Chapman was recognized as one of the world’s experts on soils, little did his colleagues realize that he was an aspiring poet. Unpublished, but shared with friends, is a delightful poem he wrote called “Why This Country is So Nice, A Poetic Interpretation of the Physiography of Southern Ontario.”
Mr Chapman was born and raised on a farm in the Humber watershed, close to where Humber College now sits. He graduated from the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph and received an Honourary Doctors of Laws from the University of Waterloo. He was married to Edith, had one daughter and retired to Thornbury where he became an avid apple-grower. He was in his eighties when he died, sometime in the late 1990s.
He and Mr Putnam are an inspiration to all friends of the Oak Ridges Moraine.
(A Poetic interpretation of The Physiography of southern Ontario)
by Lyman Chapman
The reason, I assure you, why this country is so nice
Is that it once was buried under many feet of ice.
It snowed and snowed in Labrador and piled up high and higher;
The glacier then moved southward right to southern Ohio.
The evidence is plain to see in almost any filed
In the rounded granite boulders which came from on the Shield.
It wasn't just a simple thing, uninteresting and dreary,
There was one lobe in Lake Huron, another in Lake Erie.
The ice was thinnest in between , above the Dundalk highland,
And as the glacier melted, this land became an island.
The glacier lobes first split apart just south of Orangeville;
The spot is marked at present by a great big hill of gravel.
The deposits that the glacier left are called by funny names
Like drumlins and eskers, and kettle lakes and kames.
The sediments of glacial lakes are known as varved clays,
The strata are like annual rings; as least so Antevs says.
The glacier would first recede and then advance again
To bulldoze up a knobby ridge called terminal moraine.
A series of these ridges, all littered thick with boulders,
surrounds the Dundalk upland, away out on the shoulders.
The drainage from the melting ice flowed to the south and west
And left a lot of gravel which for concrete is the best.
The sand was carried farther into glacial lakes to drop;
And if you smoke tobacco, this is where they grow the crop.
The finer stuff, the silt and clay, was carried out beyond.
The lowland bordering the lakes was one great settling pond.
The north of Lake Ontario it happened once again;
Two lakes split apart to build the Oak Ridges Moraine.
The sandhills tend to blow about in any little breeze
So maybe they should never have been cleared of all the trees.
North and south of this moraine the lands are highly prized;
The soils are full of limestone, the surface drumlinized.
Two glacial lakes on either slope which were short-lived we feel
Left varved clay at Schomberg and in Halton, York and Peel.
Two long-lived lakes which these two tribes of Indians probably saw
Are named for the Algonquins and their foes the Iroquois.
The glacier had receded now beyond the Thousand Islands
Into the eastern counties where it's all lowlands and no highlands.
With warmer weather here to stay, the ice went on to thaw
Until the ice-front had withdrawn beyond the Ottawa.
The final stages of retreat were simple as can be,
The land was very much depressed, the ice front in the sea.
When once relieved of all that ice, the land began to rise;
The bottom of the Champlain Sea is now before your eyes.
The till is mostly buried, while sand and clay prevails,
Sea Shells are scattered all about and even bones of whales.
There are boulders on the surface due to action of the waves -
Why, down there in Glengarry they can hardly dig their graves.
The land uncovered latest by the waters of the sea
Etait, naturellement, la plus bas de l'Ottawa Vallee.
The sand beds east of Ottawa were deposited in a bay
Brought down there by the river from Petawawa way.
The channels cutting through these sands into the clay below
Snow that the Ottawa at first did not know where to go.
It settled in the northernmost, because if you must know,
She like the Province of Quebec more than Ontario.
To end this sketch of history, one only has to say
For many years the Upper Lakes drained eastward at North Bay,
While undulating bordering lands until the drainage shifted
From north to south, to Sarnia, because the land uplifted.
The silty flats and boulder belts below the shorecliffs bold
Were the latest lands uncovered. They weren't so very old.
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