Apsey Brook

The Lunch Can

Recently, an old family friend, Gary Cooper, passed away.  Gary was more than a family friend though, he WAS family.  To everyone!

I’d lost touch with him, and many more for that matter, since I’ve moved away, and more so since my own Dad died. Not necessarily through anyone’s fault, though I’m sure my own anxieties and stresses have not helped my own efforts at keeping in touch either.  For that I’m sorry, and I miss you all more than I can say.

Thinking about his family’s loss, and my own, it made me think back to what was my first real memory of Gary, though probably not my first encounter.

Back in the days before paved roads in Apsey Brook, I rode the bike you see me on above.  And, if you didn’t know, my dad worked at the highways (I guess Department of Transportation, but we never called it that).  At the time I’m thinking of Jim Phillips also worked there.  Jim, to my recollection, never drove a car, but at the time he used to get a ride back and forth with Dad.

Everyone, or most everyone, in those days has the same gray lunch can, or very similar anyway.  I think I even took one to school!

In any event, on the day in question, Dad and Jim had mixed theirs up in the car.  I believe it was after supper, most likely so, because by the time they got home from work, it was supper time, but I went, or probably was sent, down to Jim’s on bike to swap them back.

Now anyone who knows McGraths’ Cove, knows there are two big hills, going down in the cove, and then back up to the point.  I’ve made that ride (and push) hundreds, if not thousands of times, but on this occasion, on the way back, with Dad’s lunch can looped over the handlebars, I hit a patch of loose gravel and went over the handlebars.

I don’t remember much about the actual incident, per se, though I remember lots of scrapes and scratches.  And I chipped a tooth as well, but what I do remember was Gary, picking me up in that huge old Monte Carlo (at least thats the way I remember it, but we all know how our memories can lie to us) he had and driving me to the house.

I’m not sure if he put the bike in the trunk, or if Dad or I went and got it after, but he took me home for Mom to fuss over, and probably add Mercurochrome to my scrapes.  Over the years, he’s done much more than that for me, and many more besides.  I remember asking him to take me somewhere once when I was, for whatever reason, carless, and he just tossed me his keys and said bring it back when you’re finished.

RIP Gary.  Love you.  Rest easy, till we meet again.

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.

 

The Alouette

“Alouette, gentille alouette”

We probably all sang that song in elementary school, though I’m sure I massacred it worse than most.  The song isn’t the only memory of that name though!

Back in the…umm..80s? and maybe before, as he had it a long time, Ross Smith had an old Alouette Snow mobile, very like the one pictured.

Later on he sold it to Dad, I hope for not very much, because to be honest it wasn’t worth very much! I did get to have a few adventures on it, one I’ve documented before.  Though more of a great memory of Uncle Hay than an adventure really. We went out on the sound on it fishing one year when it froze over, you can read about it by clicking this sentence.

I’m sure the machine in its time was a good one, but it was, if memory serves, a 1974 model, and weighed about 4 billion pounds.  For those who know such things, it had a 2 cylinder Kohler engine, it was probably very like the one mentioned in this article.  The 440cc that is.  It also had a center drive track that we had to replace, was pretty rotted out when we got it.  I think we had to order it in, and if I remember correctly, from Parts Unlimited (Thanks Dennis, I couldn’t remember the name) that was just in past Murphy’s as you went in around Shoal Harbour.   I remember Elvis Cooper and I stopped there too on our trip down to his cabin one winter.

It had a speedometer on it, and god knows how accurate it was, but I once took it on the ice up to Snook’s Harbour, and though it wasn’t running on both cylinders correctly, the thing was clocking 80mph.  I’m sure that was inaccurate, but it could definitely bang along!

But like I said it was heavy, you needed to be a lot stronger than me to deal with it to be honest.  Also was a pull start, and that could strain the guts out of you just getting it going.  I once took a ride in to Island Pond path behind Apsey Brook (which if you know the area, wasn’t a very good path to begin with), and when on the way out, slid off the track a little right by a goowitty scrape which sloped down to the brook.

Of course I couldn’t budge it, and of course, like always, it flooded, I ended up walking all the way out and having to ask Sam Kelly to come in and help me get it out.

After that, I honestly don’t remember much about it, which is probably for the best.

Afterthought: Lorne Patey also had an old Ski-Doo once.  A 1972 Evinrude I think it was.  Another name you don’t associate with snow mobiles anymore!

Radio Phone – Over

A short post tonight, but was somehow reminded of Radio Telephones today.  I can’t say I have much memory or experience with them, but there was a time when I was a small boy that for some reason dad was away for work.  Somehow I think it was only over around Clifton, but though that seems close, it is quite a jaunt, especially back in those days on gravel roads, and it quite likely was in winter.

rotary_1I am pretty sure it was winter cause my memory is pretty vivid of talking to him on our old white rotary dial phone, and it being dark outside.  I was pretty small, and was never a late night kid (some things never change).

What was kinda cool, or not cool about those phones was that you could talk, or listen, but not both at the same time (half-duplex vs. full-duplex), so the people on the phone had to take turns.  When you were done speaking, you’d say “over” so the other person knew you were done and then they could speak.

Small memory, but another small one with dad; I remember that holding that big old receiver and talking to him and saying “over”.

The Strange Case of Ralph’s Car

Not written in a bit, just because its not often a story comes to mind I’ve not already written! Probably cause I’m gettin’ old and just keep repeating myself. 😛

Anyway, was thinking about old times today, and for some reason, the strange case of Ralph’s car come to mind.  Now I’ll preface this by saying I really can’t remember if this is true, or if its me remembering a dream or something as true, but in any event, it SEEMS like it was true to me.

Back in the early 70’s, Ralph Smith used to have this big old car, well what car’s weren’t huge back then.  I remember Dad got a Chevy Nova in 72, and people thought it was tiny with its little 6 cylinder engine, but I digress. I believe Ralph’s was an Olds 88 or 98. something like the model on in this picture.  Seem to remember it was white with a green roof, but not sure.

f0258ed5fbec449322206f533c0c3783This car had some peculiar wiring issues in my memory.  Most are probably too young to recall, but back in olden times, we used to have these old car radios with analog tuners, and buttons you’d pull out then push in to set the channel.  AM radio of course, that’s all we had in those days, even if the radio could receive FM. On another topic for another day, who remembers scanning the dials late at night looking for skips? Remember getting all kinds of weird things like that, but I digress again. In any event, these old cars had an auxiliary option where you could turn the key backwards to listen to the radio, or use the wipers and a couple other options.

I seem to remember hearing about the weirdness of Ralph’s car, but then one day I saw it (or dreampt it, who knows, twas 40 years ago!).  We used to have a little store back home in Apsey Brook back then, well we didn’t was a small co-op of people that had it actually, but we were operating it.  Which meant going out to it with customers when they’d come looking not spending the day out there.  In any event, I remember Ralph coming over one day, and the car being parked outside on the side of the road.  Seem to recall me and Keith and Lorne being aboard with the radio on, and with the weird wiring…turning on the emergency signals, and then touching the brake, and the car would start!

Drop me a line with your old memories, or write me a post to add here, love hearing and relaying the old memories of home.

Calling All Kids!

One of the major things that’s changed over the years, is the sense of safety we enjoyed as kids.  No we weren’t any less brave or less of risk takers than today’s kids, but there was a sense that everyone watched out for everyone’s kids, and also that there were no external dangers like stalkers and the like.

We often were told to go outside in the morning, and unless hungry, may not be seen again till the evening.  Wherever you were, whoever had food, usually got something for you, even if it was a slice of jam bread.

But we also had to listen for when we were called to come home, and were expected to come right away.  Sound carried far in those small communities, there wasn’t any background traffic, or industry.  You could hear a door close pretty much anywhere.  But some people could be heard even further!

My Aunt Vick had this call, I’m not sure what to call it, maybe the closest thing was a yodel, but whatever you call it, it was piercing, and we had no trouble hearing her up at bottom from their house a half mile away.

There was also Ralph Smith. Ralph didn’t call out for Lorne (his nephew, who lived with him) he whistled.  And did that whistle carry.  Once, during a wind storm, the remnants of a hurricane I believe, we were on the beach, quite a way from their house, but even with all the wind, and the lop breaking, we could hear Ralph when he whistled.

Remembering Ralph also reminds me of another story.  He had this big old car, of course I guess almost all the cars were big back then, but anyway… It had some weird wiring issue.  In those days, you could turn “back” the ignition to turn on accessories, listen to the radio, etc.  This old cars ignition was so worn that you could do that without the key.  Well for whatever reason, when you did that, and turned on the radio, pressing the brake pedal would start the car!

Of course time muddles memories, and the exact combination of actions may be mixed up, but the story is true!

Brush that Stout off your Back! And Mind the Hornets!

Berries

Its that time of year, or it was when I was younger anyway, berry pickin time!

Really I guess there are multiple berry picking times, we go for Bakeapples in July usually, and Partridgeberries in September or even October, but when you mention berries to me, the first that come to mind are Raspberries and Blueberries, probably because they were so plentiful so close to home.

We’d sometimes go as a family, but often as not, I would go alone, or me and Eric would go off somewhere. We didn’t have to look very far usually. I loved picking blueberries, not sure why them since there was more bending over, but I did. There was a patch just to the right of the old road leading from the old school garden in Apsey Brook, and there was no trouble to pick a gallon or more there in a short time, some as big as marbles.

Whats odd to me, is that I never really cared for raw blueberries, I find the kinda tasteless, but still loved picking them. But once they were home and in a blueberry pudding, well then, yum!

Raspberries on the other hand, I loved raw, but disliked picking. There were a couple of reasons for that I guess. One, they were hard to pick clean (ie: with no leaves and all good berries) mainly because they ripened fast and spoiled fast and you’d always have some ones with spots on them. Another reason was there were always stouts around. Anyone from Newfoundland knows what a stout is, annoying as hell, always pitching on your back, bites as hard as hell when they do, and nearly impossible to swat. They have a black bar across their wings, and apparently are properly known as deer flies.

And lastly another reason I hated picking them was because a lot of the bushes grew amongst old dead falls back home, or at least the easily accessible ones, and there was always a hornets nest somewhere around. Even if you didn’t step in a nest, you were likely to get a sting from a hornet somewhere along the line. nasty bastards, they are mean, and like to sting just for pleasure I think.

The thought of stouts and hornets always reminds me of Lloyd Colbourne and Newfoundland Outdoors. There was an episode where I can remember now Lloyd saying “Brush that stout off your back there Bryce!”

Paths

Granny Walter's Hill, Old Road to Petley.

Granny Walter’s Hill, Old Road to Petley.

Apsey Brook, and even Random Island aren’t/weren’t highly populated places, but we seemed to have an abundance of paths around. It always amazed me how long they lasted, with not a ton of traffic to keep them without becoming grown over and disappearing in the brush.

I’m sure that likely has happened more so back in Apsey Brook in recent years because there are even less people now than was once the case.

But still, memories return of paths.  So many of them.  There was one from the old road down by the old bridge and Uncle Luther’s mill all the way to Uncle Hay’s, and yes even further though less plain all the way down to Colin’s house across the old garden.

There was one around Ross’s fence the sheep used to take to get down to the beach area up to the old school garden area.  There was one from Sam’s meeting the old road, and of course the old road itself that ran from over by Edgar Martin’s all the way to Petley! And of course off shoots everywhere, to get to all the ponds and berry patches along the way.

One from McGrath’s Cove to Friggin’s Cove Rattle, and likely beyond.  Paths to the steadies and to the barrens where Dad would tail slips for rabbits.

I’m sure each community had the same, as over the fields and through the stands of trees, and over the bog holes we’d make our way.

Just another memory of home, and the freedom we had, and something that stays with me over time as I think about how they formed, and how they remain.

Mothers in Changing times

Its Mother’s Day, and once again we give thanks to those wonderful Mom’s who were mom to many, nurtured kids of many families and kept them all fed and clothed.  We all had extended mothers in those days, and no one thought twice about chastising someone else’s child as they would their own, nor would us kids back talk, or fail to obey (well most of us and most times anyway).

We grew up in a simpler time though, and things have changed, some for the better, some for the worse.  When I was a boy, it was nothing for me to take off in the woods and be gone for hours, perhaps walking as far as Friggin’s Cove pond on my own, or to go to McGrath’s Cove or on the beach and wharf for hours on end, out of sight and earshot of everyone.  Or to get off the bus in Elliott’s Cove or Snook’s Harbour and only let anyone know when I showed up with Dad later on.  But in those days everyone who saw us was “minding” us, Aunt Vick looked out to me when I was there as much as mom did, and was just as likely to pull my ear or tell me off for whatever reason.

Nowadays, at least living in the city, those days are gone, I’d not think of letting my niece out of site like that, barely for a minute, let alone the whole day.  I know Random Island is still small, but the modern world has crept in there as well, and I doubt many would let their kids be off like that nowadays either.

There is no right or wrong here, things change, and in some ways I’m glad, but in some ways I do miss the carefree days we had, and wonder if kids today have lost something special with it in the name of the safety we feel we have to provide with all the people who now try to take advantage.

Our mothers didn’t love us any less, just the needs and times have changed.  Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who give so much to us who don’t realize how much it is till much later.

The roads that weren’t

Likely few know or remember it now, but back in the late 60s or early 70s, Random Island nearly had 2 more roads.  Some may still remember near the Apsey Brook cemetery they had even cut a “line” going through the woods, passing near Island Pond (not whats labeled Island Pond on the map, that’s Fox pond),  curving round it, and passing between the two ponds of Double Pond to meet up with the road to Bluff Head Cove Pond.

I really don’t know the real reason for this planned road, rumors had it it was mainly as a convenience for the ministers, but not sure how much influence who had on whom to get it started. It would have been nice for all of course, to be able to more conveniently connect to Petley, Britannia, etc, but unfortunately, it never came to pass.

I’ve added this map with the route highlighted, you can still make it out on the map.  Link to unhighlighted version below.

https://www.google.ca/maps/@48.1517425,-53.82556,2220m/data=!3m1!1e3

If memory serves correctly, there was another “line” cut from Lower Lance Cove to Deer Harbour before resettlement quashed that.  I seem to recall it even being started and being able to see the road going up over the hills, though my memory may be manufacturing that.  Others can correct or confirm!  But if you use the link here, https://www.google.ca/maps/@48.1375084,-53.6848017,2386m/data=!3m1!1e3 and scroll around, you can see google even highlights the “road” that wasn’t to Deer Harbour.

I’ve never made it down there, nor to any of the other abandoned communities out the end of the island, something I hope to correct someday, but it’s very disappointing to me that this road in particular was never completed.

So much work, gone for naught, communities that may have prospered, abandoned.  More money spent on resettlement than a road would likely have cost, especially since it had already been started.