Downhome Magazine

Rencontre with George

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In 2016, I met George Fudge, who was picking blueberries up by the trail to the Friar in Francois. He'd kindly showed me the way to the top. Then I'd told a Cape Cod friend, Peter, about the amazing beauty of Francois. Then he told Teresa, his girlfriend at the time. Then both of them traveled there and, to my surprise, Teresa bought a house there. They stayed for a couple of years, then came back to the States during the pandemic. Teresa most kindly allowed me to stay in the house while I was in Francois. She was still in the States.<br />
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And so in Burgeo, I parked my car and walked on to the MV Marine Voyager. Four hours of amazing scenery later, I met Gerald on the wharf in Francois. &quot;Hop on the back!&quot; he told me, and off we zoomed down the boardwalk on his quad over to the other side of the outport. There he gave me the key to Teresa's house. The house was winterized, so no water. Thus I hunted for a pot by the incinerator, found one, and would use it like they did in the old days. <br />
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A few days later, after hiking up to the cave and then up to and around the Friar and down the steep rope trail, I walked down the boardwalk to George Fudge's house. There, George greeted me, and I asked if he could take me to Rencontre West, a resettled outport round the corner or sort of. As a photographer, I was mesmerized by such places, quite unique to Newfoundland. George suggested 9:00 the next morning. &quot;Rouncounter is all blue!&quot; he said, meaning blueberries all over the place. And so the next morning, I walked down the long boardwalk again, under a couple of clotheslines full of drying cod, then past George's colorful house to the wharf, hopped into his 50-year old boat, and off we went, his grandson 15-year old Christian, at the helm, the skipper. <br />
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George sat in the back outside the cabin with me and pointed out Lance Cove, the new salmon operation, then Parsons Harbour. Further on, upon a solitary beach, he pointed to the old piling remnants, where the old Rencontre store used to be. Then finally we entered the harbour. There were only about 5 or 6 houses/cabins there, one of which was 100 years old, according to George. Quite a beautiful, solitary place with bald mountains and vast expanses. George and Christian anchored the boat, then detached the punt and one by one we stepped into it. Each of us put on a life jacket. Christian did the rowing. Then up on to the ladder of the small dock we climbed. <br />
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Off I went exploring, while they began picking. Berries all over! I examined each cabin, a pile of wood, once a cabin, and the small overgrown graveyard. Paths here and there, marshy here and there. I took plenty of photos and viscerally felt for those now long gone. I waded into the water up to my knees to get to the last cabin, but still couldn't quite get to it. Nice cool water. George and Christian had sprayed themselves with bug spray. Black flies and mosquitoes all over! Eventually, I finished exploring and ended up picking berries with them. Not much at all was left of old Rencontre.<br />
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At noon, George declared, &quot;Time for lunch!&quot; So, back on to the main boat we went. George cooked mackerel in the boat cabin, but Christian opted for a heavy baloney sandwich cause he didn't like mackerel. George then handed me a fork and a piece of toast, buttered and with molasses, and a couple of pieces of mackerel. Very, very tasty! Then he offered me more, then more again. And so I ate my fill for the day. Then he brought out some molasses/blueberry cake he'd made earlier. Delicious! He offered me more and more. Then he made tea, and I sipped in the sunshine. Marvelous! Then back to shore we went and picked and picked away, ever hunting for the best spots.<br />
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Finally, at 3:50 we bolted. Such amazing scenery as we left the cove. Then, as yet another treat, George told the skipper to swing into Parsons Harbour. And so finally after years, there it was before my eyes. The old dock was all that remained. Now a new little white shed was on it. George said two guys from Hermitage came there now and stored their stuff in it, and it had a stove in it too. He told me he brought a woman to Parsons a while ago to see her father's grave, but it was very rough to walk around there now. He showed me where all the houses and the church once stood. Now, it was completely empty. His wife, who was born there, didn't want to return for that reason. <br />
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As we entered the fjord in Francois, I gazed up at the lighthouse and realized what an endless mountainous trek that would be. George said only 26-28 people lived in Francois today. At the dock, we unloaded, and I carried some stuff up to George's house. Christian had his &quot;bike&quot; (quad), so we loaded some stuff on to the back of that too. George gave me the last of his homemade cakes to take back with me. And so I thanked him royally and walked off alone down the sidewalk. What a generous feller indeed! The sun was now shining nicely upon some of the sheds. On the way back, I talked with a guy, who'd stopped on his quad. I told him George had told me he was done picking for the year. He said, he wasn't surprised, cause George had begun on August first, whereas he only started on the 15th...<br />
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G. Tod Slone<br />
Barnstable, MA, USA

 
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