When the Explorer first came to Bruce County back a third of a century ago, the stately old elms of the countryside were already dying. Dutch Elm disease was first officially identified in France as early as 1918. The disease reached Great Britain in 1927, crossing the Atlantic a decade later. By the start of the First World War, the beetles that bear the elm killing fungus were leaving their mark on one of North America's finest tree species. The days of the shady elm were numbered. Ulmus Americana, the white or American elm had been discovered growing throughout Bruce County by early settlers. With its distinctive shape, likened to a fountain or a wine glass, the elm could and did attain heights of 12O feet. With a lopsided leaf, reddish purple flowers, it has rows of samaras or winged singleseeded versions of the familiar double maple key. From the first, elms had a mixed reputation. Henry David Thoreau considered them superior to people. Walt Whitman, walking under elms, was inspired with "large and meliodious thoughts." The Duke of Wellington was depicted standing under a large elm during the Battle of Waterloo. Boston's original Liberty Tree was an elm while there were also elms on the Plains of Abraham. But woodsmen found the elm wanting. The narrow forks that form the acclaimed vase shape made for weak branches that had a tendency to crash down on people below. After the death of Bruce County's elms, the dead trees were often bucked and left by the side of the road for firewood gatherers. Elm, it is said, warms you twice - once when you attempt to split its twisted, interlocking grain and again when you burn it.