Peter Smith

Dusk

“Old Christmas Day.” thinks Ralph, “Years back we would be listening to see if the animals would talk, like the old timers said. Now I’m the old timer. Where does the time go?”

He can’t move as fast as he once could, time and toil have made the joints and muscles slower than they were.

His face, leathery from years of the elements, filled with creases. Character lines some call it, just another sign of the advancing years, but those creases just add expression when his face lights up in a smile, as it often does. Especially when he remembers the grandkids.

Another Christmas come and gone. The house seems so quiet now, without the sound of their delighted squeals and laughter, the sound of their feet pattering across the old floors.

Sighing “Well, time to get the tree down I guess.”

“Why don’t you come live with us, Dad? Why do you stay?” It’s a familiar refrain, heard many times. It runs through his head again now as he slowly puts away the decorations, some nearly as old as he is, lost in his memories.

The crystal ones were his wife’s favourite, gone now these past 10 years. A wistful look on his face as he looks at them one by one, delicate and beautiful, but strong too, as she was.

After putting the things up in their old familiar spots in the back room, he removes the tree from the old metal stand, it too nearly as old as himself. “Am still able to get about though.” he thinks “Still cut my own tree.”

Carrying it outside to the woodhouse, he pauses and surveys the harbour. Smoke floats straight up from Silas’ chimney, the only other person that seems to be up yet.

It’s so quiet, the water black calm, vapour rising in the chill air. Like the whole world is just pausing, taking a breath. So quiet, he can hear the scrape of Silas’s chair over the old wooden floor.

Why indeed? There’s not a lot here anymore, he has few friends left, most passed on or gone to live with family. Of the old gang, just him and Silas and old man Cooper down the way. “Odd” he thinks, “Always Cooper, never Jacob, not even when we were boys.”

Trimming the branches from the tree with the axe, he grabs the trunk and throws it on his shoulder and strolls towards Silas’ house. Its not much, but Silas can burn it in the old wood range, plus he will have the kettle on, a cup of tea will be good.

“Its not the same anymore Si” he says, as he sips tea from the old china cup, toast and the jam dish nearby.”

“I know its not Ralph, but we’re not the same anymore either. We’ve seen more than one pan of ice come in the harbour.” He pauses “Kids after you to move away again?”

Ralph looks up “Yeah, as usual, and they are likely right, but this is home you know? All the memories are here, my life has been here. Ah the memories.”

Father’s Day – Uncle Hay

I visited home this past summer, and while our old house has changed with new occupants over the years, many things remained the same.

One being Uncle Hay’s property. It was like stepping back in time for me, and on this Father’s day, I am maudlin thinking about those old times and how close him and dad were.

Both of them spent much of their time in their respective workshops, and while dad’s is gone, visiting Uncle Hay’s, I could almost see him there, wearing his old denim coveralls, and I could imagine I was there on one of my multitude of “Run down and see if Hay has a <insert tool here>” missions.

I’ve gotten countless chisels, replaced broken drill bits, borrowed sharpening stones, and often had to make a return trip as Uncle Hay would ask me to bring down a tool of dad’s.

I can smell the old smells, and did when I visited there in September. The smell of sawdust, mixed with three in one oil, melded with the smell of rough lumber and planks, baked for years through the big multi-paned window that the sun seemed to beam through constantly.

I know I’ve been there on cloudy days, and in rain and snow, but somehow, in my memory its always sunny, motes of dust drifting in the beams, and I can’t tell you how much I miss it, and them.

Rest in peace. Greater, more loving men I have never known.

The Sawmill

If you’re familiar with Apsey Brook, you know that Roy Smith operated a sawmill business for many years. What you may not know is that Uncle Luther, Dad and Uncle Hay used to operate one too.

It was mostly for personal use, but I do remember trucks coming occasionally and buying some lumber.

You’d be hard pressed to believe it now, but if you drive down the wharf road, behind Roy’s old place, where the road kinda curves towards the wharf, it also used to go straight, and there was a bridge across the brook, similar to the old wooden one on the main road.

Apsey Brook

When I was a kid, it was our wading pool too, underneath the bridge in the cool, a decently deep pool formed. And just up the brook, this little point, where you could catch a pasty white trout, that while edible, weren’t very good, but we caught and ate them anyway. Plus we’d usually get one in the same spot for the well. Do people still put trout in their wells?

But you could and we did drive a truck across it. And if you went further, Ross had a big wide gate there that you could also drive a truck, or horse and slide through, and could loop right around by the old house and the new and come out on the road by the old school.

The mill itself though was very much alike a lot of the old mills. Roy also had one down by the beach, on the left hand side of whats now the breakwater road. And they were all similar.

A push mill, with rollers, and a table. I big heavy material of some sort of thing hanging over the blade, to stop the sawdust. Big belt drive to an old diesel engine. (I assume it was diesel anyway).

Off to one side a planer to dress the lumber, would have to change the belt from the motor to power it when needed. A wide door/opening on one side to roll the logs in, I think we had a sliding door on it. All in all, it was pretty much just a slap dash of planks, with big chinks in the “walls”

The picture above will be familiar, though not mine.

Was only used in summer mostly, wasn’t made for comfort, nor were any of them, and many had them. Every community had one or two, maybe more.

Before my time, but the Smith family originally had a watermill. I remember stories told of the young boys having to hike in the brook to dam pond to open the dam to get water to run to drive it.

Vincent Smith on the old bridge by the water mill. I can’t remember the name of the lady.

I wish I had pictures of it now, many a summer day was spent down there, playing with turpentine boats made from mill strips. And of course lugging up slabs as part of the winters wood and for splits.

Incoming Duck Missile!

In our ever lasting search for a water supply that would last the summer, dad tried many things.

In the summer of 1983, the year Keith had his accident, he and I dug a pipeline 660 feet through the woods, in the heat of summer, to a small brook that we somehow managed to get a huge concrete culvert pipe into. I remember the distance based on the amount of plastic pipe dad bought to lay down. When I was home this summer, I saw someone has a smaller culvert pipe in the same location.

Another thing he had done, tho I really don’t remember when, was he had a bulldozer dig out a big reservoir up behind the house on the hill. The water wasn’t very good, but sometimes in summer we’d lay a pipe across the ground and use gravity flow for water to flush the toilet at least.

To me it was always called the reservoir, but to many others it became known as the duck pond, cause sometime thereafter, dad also got 3 ducks, 1 male and a female, with the intent I guess of raising them for sale? give away? hobby? Not really sure anymore. But let me tell you, the eggs were amazing. So much better than chicken eggs!

We eventually got rid of them, mostly I think cause when we’d let them out, they’d often go down across Alice’s yard to the beach, and she complained about them and the duck crap.

But before we did, I remember they had at least one brood of young ducks. I can still remember them waddling across the yard following their mother.

One of the young ones was a little … slow. He had trouble keeping up, was unbalanced and un-coordinated. Hmmm….. No I am talking about the duck, not me!

I never realized how protective the mother ducks could be, and for some reason this one never seemed to like me much. The others would let me pet them, but she’d just hiss at me.

Well, if you know our old house, there was a rock wall dad made holding the hill back surrounding it. One day this slower duck, who’s name was not Peter, fell over the wall, and his mother was in a tizzy.

I went outside to pick him up and put him back up, but his mother didn’t like that either.

It was like a missile launched from a battle ship. All I remember was feathers and hissing as I was bombarded!

Incoming!!!!

Face of Many Colours

When we were young, we could make a ball field, or hockey arena, pretty much anywhere.

Across the road from Eric’s house there was a field, with some large rocks arranged in a rough diamond. Though pretty small, we’d often play ball there, especially when we only had a few people as the small size worked better.

On one particular day, and while I don’t remember the date, I know it was likely in the 80s as it was an election day, and mom was working as returning officer in the old school in Apsey Brook. So it was before it was torn down. I remember this because as events unfolded, I ended up driving in to show her the results of my encounter…

We often used to play ball with those old red and blue and white sponge balls, but this particular day, we were using a hockey ball. And not one of the softer ones, it had absolutely no give whatsoever. And it “encountered” me.

For anyone that remembers, the field was approximately between where Barry’s house and Eric’s houses are now I think, and we used to pitch from about 20 feet (if that) away.

I had just gotten new glasses from Dr. O’Halleran in Clarenville, not sure if same day, but not too long before. Eric and I, and I think maybe Bernard and Craig and Jim might have been there on the field. I was pitching to Eric, and he smacked the ball hard, right back at me, and right square in the glasses.

I remember looking down and the twisted mess and thinking, “Oh No, my new glasses” until I saw the blood start dripping on my sneaker.

The frame of the glasses had dug into my face making a circular cut all round my eye, and a nice bruise and swelling already starting.

A week or so later, Eric said he could count 7 colours there! So there lies the face of many colours story!

Reflections

This post is probably for me more than anyone, but feel free to read, or skip….

 

I don’t remember the exact date anymore, but sometime around the 26th of this month, it will be 22 years since I got in the old Corsica with Keith and came to Halifax for a 9 month course.  Mom and Dad followed to spend the winter up here too, and my sister, Annette, was already here; the main reason Mom and Dad came up.

Well Dad lasted 2 winters, passing in March 1998, but maybe his happiest years in a way too, spending them with the little girl he doted on.  I’m moving into my 23rd winter now I guess.  Funny how things work out, had no expectation I’d ever be here beyond my course.

I finished the course in July 97, and had a job starting the Monday (or Tuesday, I forget) after I finished, in Gander.  Packed up the old Corsica again and moved there from July to January 98.  At that time the school I had gone to offered me a job and the option of being close to Mom and Dad, and really having enjoyed my experience there, I moved back to Halifax.  Again, never really thinking about staying.

Apsey Brook from across the sound.

Well 22 years has come and nearly gone, a house mortgaged, brown hair (what hair? Hayley will ask) changed to gray, red beard changed to white.  And I guess somewhere along the line Halifax (technically Bedford) became home, even if I will always call Random Island home. When you look at it, I’ve only been here nine less years than there.

Not even gotten back much lately, but, and I guess this is where this comes from, I did go “home” in September for a week. It was kind of a good bye trip I think, and while I may very well go back again, maybe sooner, since Eric is so generous with a place to stay, it was still kind of a farewell tour.

Friggin’s Cove Pond

I got to visit old haunts, re-live memories, visit Dad both at his gravesite and in my memories at places like Friggin’s Cove Pond.

When you move, in your mind the people and things you’ve left behind don’t change. I had such thoughts – Walking from the old mill site across “the land” to McGrath’s Cove, walking down and seeing the old root cellars, other little things that no one but me would get, like 2 huge ant hills on the path from Uncle Hay’s to Colin’s.  It was all gardens in my memory.  The “paths” were often used by trucks back then, the gates big enough for horse and slide and vehicles.  Well without a machete, or perhaps a chain saw, that’s not happening anymore.  What were roads and paths are forest.

Gull (Sapphire) Rock

I went to the rattle (Friggins Cove Rattle that is) though it was dry, walked on “The Level” and Granny Walters hill. The sea arch at Phillip’s Point, Gull (or Sapphire to the older generation, though not sure what generation I am! Aside: Why did we kids call it Gull Rock I wonder?) Rock, saw the “black rocks” fishing mark. Saw an Apsey Brook sunset.  Visited all the communities; went across the neck, out to southwest arm, the brickyard, I can’t even remember it all already.

I loved it, always will.  And I miss the good friends I have there, pretty much all one family really, Bernard, Eric, Barry mostly, brothers from another mother.  But while its “Home”, I don’t know that I could live there anymore.  There are facets I love of course, but being there for a week and doing something every day isn’t the reality of anyone’s life.  And mainly I guess, for me, at least till she’s out on her own too, Home is where Hayley is.

 

Snook’s Harbour Pond

I’ve written a little about Aunt Ethel and Uncle Will before, but something I did know, but had forgotten was that Uncle Will wrote quite a bit of poetry.  I know I’ve seen this before, but had completely forgotten it, or where.  Thanks to Eric Cooper for the picture.  Enjoy and reminisce a bit.

School Memories

By Barbara Smith
Barbara wrote the following for a heritage site I was trying to get going.  Unfortunately wasn’t getting interest, so I shuttered it. The post is still useful and insightful though!

Back in the “really” old days, when dad (Hay Smith) was school age, the school in Aspen Brook had a full time teacher, but then for a number of years there were no, or not enough children to warrant one and the school was completely closed.

When I reached school age, mom (Cecelia Smith) and others started advocating for a teacher to get the school opened. However, because the number of children was too few, the Department of Education said it did not warrant a teacher. I was home schooled from kindergarten (if there was kindergarten then) until grade 2 (before official home schooling was even known in our area). I had a desk (borrowed from the old school) in the kitchen and each morning there was a specific time period when I had to do my work.

Aunt Rose (Bowring, nee Adey) who was teaching grade two in Corner Brook at the time, would send mom the curriculum and materials her school was using, I would complete all the work and tests and mom would send the tests back to her for grading.

Snooks Harbour School

By the time I reached grade three we were given funding for a half time teacher for the community. For grades 3-5 I attended the school in Aspen Brook for half the year and then went to Snook’s Harbour for the second half. Throughout all this time Snook’s Harbour school was open all year round as I recall. The building has been gone for many years now, but was located next door to the church and in front of the cemetery. One room of course and like all public buildings then, only one door (so much for fire escapes). As in all the communities, it was the centre for education and “times” and all community functions.

I do have some vivid memories of Snook’s Harbour School: the teacher had a table at the front as the desk and one particular teacher would get so mad he’d overturn the desk in his anger, on a regular basis!! But playing baseball on the field out by the water at recess and after lunch was always fun. I’d walk to Aunt Vic’s for lunch and occasionally if the weather was bad would stay there overnight.

For my grades 6, 7 and 8 we had a full time teacher in Aspen Brook and then for high school (9-11) I went to board in Clarenville, going up Monday morning with whoever was going up to work, sometimes getting to come home overnight on Wednesday night, but always getting home on Friday.

The Cremation

Back in the early 90’s I think it was, one of our regular clan, and one of the hosts of our semi-regular poker games, Ivan Patey, went away to the mainland for work.  He’d been gone a while, and none of us (the gang of people, I can’t speak for his family) had heard from him in quite some time.

Anyway, we had no clue how he was doing, or where he was, and yes we kinda missed and worried about him.  But of course we can’t show that!

We also have our streaks of dark humour, morbid if you will, and I’m sure most do, and while we were pretty sure he was ok (and he was) we also joked around that he had died.  Yeah it may not be funny to you, and sorry if not, but at the time, in the moment, we did, and I think he would see the humour in it too.

Around the same time, someone, Don Hart or Gary Cooper had the old club open again for a spell.  Never a very “going concern” business I don’t think, but was convenient for us.  In the closet there was an old jean jacket vest over a hoodie (memory fades, not exactly sure the look now) and no one ever claimed it.  I think it may have been there since before the club re-opened, but no idea.  It did however look exactly (to a few of us anyway) like one Ivan used to wear, so we claimed it as his.

One night, feeling especially mournful, a couple of us, who I’ll leave nameless, felt it was time to pay our respects.  So we took the jacket to the beach and set it afire and said a few words for our departed friend (departed for Toronto that was).

Missed ya then, and miss ya now buddy.  Sometimes I wish things could be as they were.

Chirping My Senses

Its funny how some sounds can stir the memory, it’s like it brings everything flooding back. Growing up in rural Newfoundland, we had tons of gulls of course, but also some rarer birds, like ospreys (fish hawks) and a number of bald eagles, in my part of the world at least.

But the noise that brings all of those back to me, is from none of these, its from what we called a “Sterrin” (God knows if I’ve spelt that right, or if you can even spell a wrong name wrongly).  From looking up seabirds of Newfoundland, it appears to me it’s most likely a common tern, though I wouldn’t be surprised if we mixed and matched those and the similar arctic tern too.

Not much to say about them really, except they had this very distinctive chirping call, and I loved the way they looked.  Seemed so sleek and clean as compared to the gulls. Have a look and listen below.