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The Rubber Tire Dray
My grandfather was very skilled with his hands. He had made the most of the equipment that he used around his property and in the woods. He had made his own dray cart, slides, hay frame, box cart and sleds. Also his own tools and implements such as hay rakes and handles for shovels and picks. All except the big wooden wheels on his dray cart. People at the time I came around were starting to use rubber tires on their carts because they were lower to the ground and more stable in rough terrain. My grandfather was slow to change but he had to admit the new way might be better cause the road to the old homestead was getting rougher every year. So when his youngest son who still lived at home bought his first car, grandfather got a chance to use the rubber wheels. My uncle bought a second car, same as the first, for spare parts. Together, grandfather and my uncle fastened the rear axle of the scrapped car to his dray. After a few trips to the old homestead and back, grandfather had to admit they were much better and more stable than the old wooden wheels. The cart was much more steady on the rough railway bed and the sharp turn heading to his new home. He didn't have to worry about the high load of hay rolling over as he did with the other wheels. So he was well pleased with the new invention, until one day while hauling hay he got a flat tire. Now, as you can imagine, this was a problem he had never faced before. Here he was, with the hay frame stuffed with dry hay which my cousins and I had stamped down good, as per our grandfather's instructions. On this particular day, there were four of us young fellas helping him, hoping to get a nice long ride home on the hay. The oldest among the four of us was a cousin from Bell Island spending a couple of weeks with us on vacation. He had a little experience with flat tires, as his father had a car. So he showed grandfather what to do. Fortunately for us there was a small toolbox embedded in the dray cart, into which my uncle had put a wheel wrench and a patching kit. My cousin loosened the wheel nuts and he, grandfather and I lifted the hay frame long enough for my other cousin to pull the wheel off and place a stick under the cart so it wouldn't roll over. All four of us took turns jumping on the tire to break it down so we could get the inner tube out and repair the hole. It took a while, and more than a few choice swear words from grandfather, until we got the tube out and patched. When we got the tube back inside the tire, the real fun started. Now, we had to get the tire back on the rim. My uncle had allowed for just such a situation, so he had put two pieces of old 'leaf spring' in the toolbox. My grandfather took one of these and began to pry the tire back onto the rim, which was working out fine until he got halfway around the tire and the half he had put on popped back off. He did this several times with the same result until he finally threw down the piece of leaf spring, tore off his salt-and-pepper hat and started in on the most ungodly round of newly-minted swear words you ever heard in your life. I was sorry that I didn't know shorthand cause it would have been great if we could have recorded them for posterity. Grandfather had assumed his classic pose with fists clenched, arms outstretched, face pointed to the heavens with a look of religious fervor etched onto his weather-beaten face. An endless stream of swear words came from his lips as he stamped his cap into the ground with both feet. As the saying goes, you had to be there. Meanwhile, the four of us were hiding behind the hay frame laughing our heads off. It was a show like no other you've ever seen or heard in your life and the admission was free. When grandfather finally became overcome with exhaustion, we boys emerged from behind the frame. My cousin from Bell Island who, like I said, had experience with flat tires, grabbed the two pieces of leaf spring and commenced to put the tire back on the rim. When he had gone about halfway around the wheel, he placed the second leaf spring between the leaf and the tire, which stopped it from popping out again. So in no time we had the tire back on the rim. Now all we had to do was inflate the tire and put the wheel back on the cart. Just grab the pump...which was a mile and half away in my grandfather's shed. Yes, you guessed it, the second act of the show started with a whole new slate of newly-minted swear words (where does he get them all?) and the hand and foot gestures to go with it. My younger cousin and I volunteered to go out home and get the pump. We ran all the way because we wanted to get there and back before the show was over. When we got to grandmother's door, we were too out of breath to tell her what we came for. She was concerned something bad had happened to grandfather or one of the other boys. When we could finally speak we told her we needed the pump and then we ran right back to the garden. We did manage to catch the tail end of the show, and told our cousins that next time they'd have to go get the pump. After all, they owed us for missing the first half. -Cyril Griffin
Living Next to a Graveyard
By Randolph George Healey Well growing up in my home town, no one lived close to our graveyard. We did walk past it many times coming from a game of cards. One late night my friend hid behind a grave stone, as soon as another friend who took a detour all the time because he lived down the road, (hold it now, I am still laughing) grabbed him, grabbed him by his ankle. This guy ran so fast he would of beat an Olympic Athlete in the 100-meter dash by thirty seconds. But this guy ran all the way home, which wasn't close. We laughed for days. Now moving back to NL, I bought a house next to a graveyard. Now I bought it by pictures, living in Comax, BC. I knew there was a graveyard but did not hesitate, the price was right and I thought I would have room to build my stone house, hmm, that's another story. The graveyard is in Port au Bras, Burin. This graveyard is visited by someone every day. I always hear a whipper snipper all the time or a lawn mower from Karl up the street. My contribution is mowing the front, good for me. A Person with flowers comes and go, groups come and go and funerals, come and go. But people come and stay awhile, not that short visit of saying hello. he trend now is being cremated and placed in a parent or loved one's grave. Which is what I want when the time comes but to me it doesn't matter where or when. Graveyards are a place to go even if you have no one there, to think of your family and friends. The dead are or mostly all, are in the same place, if you get my meaning, so they can relay the message to your loved one. So, if you don't live near a loved one's grave, go or still better walk to the closest graveyard and do your business there. Some might think it helps with the least visited graves. To me it's better than a church and it is opened all the time. If I see someone just standing with their heads down or even up, I am not going to look twice at you in the grave yard. That's my theory, so I talk to my dad, mom, brother and all the loving people that were in my life. All I have to do is poke my head over the fence, but I have been known to visit, walk up the lonely road to the end and back. Just to look around, to make sure everything is all right. Things like that become a habit and I am sure people helping out, cleaning up the graves and making things nice, is not a habit but a love of the person that they lost. On a windy day I get a few flowers in my yard, few are plastic but sometimes I get a whiff of perfumed smell from new ones in the yard. Flowers are important to some goers, maybe it's because they don't live as close any more, but I do like seeing them, like my mother's garden in the past. Which I hope my family visits my mother with fresh flowers, which I have never asked if they do. Flowers were important to my mother when alive, and should be in the afterlife. The earlier graveyard around the corner of the church and up the hill, I slowly walk past, most days has a view of the bay and town. None of the Facebook pictures show houses or the graveyard around my area which is just up the street from the normal famous houses around the bay pictures. For some reason I would love to go around NL and take pictures of every graveyard, with not the perspective of a trained photographer. Get a true picture of the surroundings and interview people living next to a graveyard. Might be a nice book, not the one I am trying to get published now. I am not familiar with graveyards but this one is taken care of by the locals. Not one person but Karl and family does a lot, even donated a water barrel to water flowers when placed, and it, is used. The yard is forty or fifty years old, has real plants hanging at the entrance, a big sign telling the rules, and a big old boulder to me that makes it kind of special. There're children, old people, people that were in accidents, and people gone before their days, they never speak to me but I do feel like a care taker for their souls by looking over the fence seeing if everything is okay. (Sometimes loud music is a problem, who have never heard of headphones. I see visitors at the graveyard wincing, and lose their precious thought at the consent blaring of bad music. Remembering when there was a time we slowed down and even stopped (turned off the radio, if it was on) at funeral procession and blessed ourselves, no matter what religion or who it was. We did it out of respect, but it's what my father did all the time, could have rubbed of, on us.) Its church is diagonally across the street where the Sunday mass is taken over by older people. There are no younger people complaining they should change this and that. These people are dedicated St. Andrew's Anglican Church goers. It's a great little old, au, like home inside and the mass is well you would have to go to feel the spiritual beauty. Most could walk to church and sure they did in the past when younger. The church is taken care of by people who clean, prepare for the mass, participate and again Karl up the street who fixes things and mows the lawn. They have a donate recyclable bin to make ends meet which is a job in its self. I am Roman Catholic and was a lector or reader, in my home town church for ten years. They said I did a good job, then some people would say I dressed well. Living next to a church and grave yard or cemetery they call it, makes thinking about people who are dedicated to a church not as nutty as I thought. People genuinely love helping the church and graveyard, with a low population of church goers these days. Years ago, my fiance and I went to many churches in St. John's to see where we (really, she) wanted to get married, our Sundays were booked. That's when I noticed graveyards and for years walked past one going to work. Some are cluttered, some are not, some are poor and some are rich with people taking care of them. I didn't and never seen people taking care of graveyards before, it just changes my perspective living next to one. When the fog rolls in, the scenery must be planned by some higher being, people will find me peeking out the window or just standing next to my trailer, watching the sea and the church as a back ground. It's not eerie or teenage scary, I cannot explain what it is, the closes word is content. Its where I want to build my stone house front window. You might think it's scary or even crazy living there. I don't think about it, I still turn my lights of, I still have weird dreams, I still see and hear weird things in the night, like I have been doing all my life. And I have lived in about fifty places in my life but never close to a graveyard. Some people ask me about living next to a graveyard, my response is - I worry about the living, not the dead.
A Fish for Dinner
We listen for the boat to come in You can only see them for a moment As they come between the hills and The entrance to the stagehead. Rest of the time they're hidden by The lay of the land. The boats all have make and break engines, Each one sounds different from the other Nan can tell the sound of Kelly's boat. Lots of fishermen from Old Perlican fish down here as well Nan can tell if they have a good haul, Cause the engine sounds different when the boat is full. "Sounds like a good day on the water," Nan says, as she listens for the boat. "Best you run over and get a fish for dinner, They'll be unloading soon." I take the shortcut along the graveyard bank It's quicker than the road. When I get there the boys are already at work Uncle John and Uncle Mike still go out every day With their boys Paddy and Mike, Jim and Din They work well together, everyone knows his job They go right to it, each to his own station. Mike prongs up the fish from the boat Into a big half puncheon tub Filled with water from the brook near the stagehead Uncle John, he's the Skipper, grabs a fish Without even looking he cuts its throat And passes it to Uncle Mike who pulls out the guts, Separates the liver, passes it to Paddy. It's fascinating to watch these men work They never seem to look at what they're doing I think they could do it with their eyes closed. Paddy starts the cut, passes it to Din He's the splitter, a good one He removes the sound bone, now the fish is flat. Din has been my hero ever since I started Coming to the cove. I follow him everywhere He takes me out fishing with them sometimes "Grab a fish,"he says, "I'll gut it for you." So I reach down in to the big tub and pull out a fish "That's not big enough," says Din I reach for another one, he says the same thing. Finally, Din reaches in the tub himself Pulls out a huge codfish, bigger than me "There. This will do just fine." Guts it for me. "Now take that home for you and Aunt Mag Be careful not to drag it on the ground." It's taller than I am, he shows me how to hold it. "Put your hand underneath the gills And hold it up straight." So I hold it that way It's four inches above my head and heavy. I decide to take the road back home Don't dare try to navigate the graveyard bank With that huge fish dangling beside me. On the way home I change hands several times. Cause the fish is long and heavy And I'm just a little boy who doesn't want It to touch the ground because it will get dirty. No one wants to get their dinner dirty. When I finally get back home Nan wonders why I got such a big fish. I tell her how Din picked it out "Who does Din think this is going to eat all that? Sure there's only me and you." She cuts in pieces, rolls them in flour, fries them with pork fat. It smells delicious and tastes even better. Nan cuts out the cod's head and fries it too, We can eat everything except the bones. It's comin' out my ears but I still want more. I'm thinking if angels ever sat down to eat, Codfish rolled in flour then fried in pork fat Would be their favourite meal. Cyril Griffin New Perlican, NL
A Storytelling Experience
Sharing memories. That's what the workshop was all about. Sharing memories and telling stories. There was a time when that was the most natural thing in the world. Such were times past when Newfoundlanders entertained themselves mainly by storytelling. Events humble or heroic, tragic or humorous were woven into yarns that brightened many a dull moment. In old harbours, storytelling was entertainment and the homes of storytellers never lacked company. Times have changed and entertainment today is a billion dollar business. Television offers great variety in programming. Cell phones with their text messages are commonplace and on computers the whole world is only a click or two away. Even our stories have become multimedia. We read the latest bestseller or watch it unfold on a screen. Lost somewhere in it all is the traditional appeal of a good story. That's the why and the wherefore of a recent workshop I attended. It was sponsored by the Shorefast Foundation whose aim (among others) is the revival of traditional storytelling on Fogo Island and Change Islands. Except for the moderator, hardly anyone present was a natural storyteller. His was no easy task as those ill at ease had to become relaxed and the more reticent among us coaxed into displaying a smidgen of gab. That being accomplished each participant had to share with the others some memory from their childhood. Around our story-telling circle, faded images from the past became vivid, for how else in a room devoid of any trace of our upbringing, could you savor the scent of freshly made bread, the aroma of pipe tobacco or warm to the fireglow at twilight before the lamps are lit and children gather in the kitchen to say the rosary. In stories old, we were all lost somewhere in our past lives when the moderator reminded me gently and most likely repeatedly that it was now my turn to share a memory. The others waited expectantly while I searched amid a confusion of memories that threatened to overwhelm my senses. Then from somewhere, seemingly far away, a small voice said faintly, "Go back to the beginning. Tell them about the sea." And so I did, as my earliest recollections were of the water. It could hardly be otherwise for the house in which I was reared was built out over the landwash. There, when the tides were high, I could hear the waves lapping against the skirting boards and swirling about among its foundation shores. Such sounds never gave cause to awaken me from slumber but if anything gave cause to sleep sounder. Some nights were never meant for sleep for when the moon was full a silvery highway came cresting up to my windowpane. For a wide-awake and wide-eyed young child it was a magical highway of dreams. I was trying to relate all this to the others when that small voice, a little louder now, repeated, "Tell them about the sea. Tell them about the sea." "The sea; the sea. I have a million memories of the sea," I answered silently and searched desperately for the one that would still that small voice in my head. Then, as a bud unfolds, a long lost memory emerged. It was a morning after a storm and I was a small child crossing the causeway that linked my island home, The Rock, with the rest of Tilting. I was on the old Rock Bridge and huge breakers were cresting in over the Bar and wrecking havoc on a harbour that dared make its living from the sea. The roaring of the sea was thunderous. I looked to see a frightened child but saw only a sense of wonder on my face. Then, as the memory unfolded, I saw the reason why. My mother was with me. She was my strength and my comfort and it was so good to see her as a young woman again. I lagged behind as we stepped carefully among the debris that littered the causeway. Then suddenly she came to a halt. The wooden bridge in the center of the causeway had been washed away and someone had laid a plank over the gap through which tidal waters surged and foamed. My mother had no intention of going back. Retreat was never in her nature and somewhere on the other side was her cow, which hadn't been milked for days. She ordered me not to move and then stepped out on the plank and crossed over. She returned and satisfied that the plank was solid enough to bear our weight took me by the hand. I didn't hesitate to follow her and down through a long spiral in time I watched in wonder as mother and child crossed over turbulent waters. We found our cow in a nearby meadow. On seeing us, it bawled impatiently, as heedless of autumn gales it was bursting to be milked. There was a milking stool on hand. My mother must have brought it with her for I can picture her sitting on it and her dark hair was damp from the mist blowing in from the sea. She talked to the cow, patting it reassuringly, as it was restive from the storm. Passive now, the cow remained still as my mother good naturedly cajoled it into giving every last drop and a young child watched as the milk swished and bubbled in her pail. At this point the memory faded. I cannot recall the return trip back over the causeway but I certain that she once again held my hand, as we crossed back over on a narrow plank, where a bridge used to be. Roy Dwyer
Grandmother's New Rake
My father's aging parents lived across the road from us. We did not call them Nan and Pop, such terms would be offensive to them. All our lives there were Grandfather and Grandmother, even their in-laws called them that. Now, these two people were dear to me, so don't go thinking I'm making fun of them just because my story might sound a little funny. These two people raised a big family during some of the hardest economic times known to this part of the world. They did that through hard work and much sacrifice with long periods of separation from each other. When I came on the scene they were both in the autumn of their lives, living along in a small house just across the road. They kept to themselves and when or if a stranger would knock on their door, he or she was met at the door, seldom if ever invited inside. My grandmother had some hens so she sold the eggs she and Grandfather couldn't use. Of course, when the poor hens were too old to lay eggs any more, she promptly chopped off their heads and had the hen for Sunday dinner. They were a close-knit pair, dedicated to each other as they had been for some sixty years or more. Now, Grandfather and Grandmother had indeed lived through some hard times. They both grew up poor, used to hard work with little reward, and so they were slow to complain. They worked closely together in the gardens where they grew vegetables or made hay for the horse and cow when they still had both. The subject of my story revolves around the making of hay. Grandfather was a fine hand at making things, he had made his own dray cart, box cart, a slide for hauling wood and later, sled for the same purpose. His pick and shovel both now sported homemade handles because he had broken the original handles over the years. Some said from using them at hard work, other said they had met their fate in an overheated swearing fit. Grandfather made his own hay rakes too, which stood the test of time. Until one day Grandmother came home with her very own store-bought hay rake she paid the ungodly sum of $3 plus tax for. As one might imagine, this hurt the ol' fella right where it hurt the most - his pride. Sure he could have made a dozen hay rakes for $3 plus tax and the money would have gone for tobacco and matches not labour and material. The thing looked ok with its smooth handle and even teeth. It was as light as a feather and probably just as fragile. Grandfather figured he could have raked hay with it for a month of Sundays and never have had as much as a single callous to show for it. Now, Grandmother was very protective of her new rake, which to her, was much better looking than the ones that Grandfather made. Very light on the arms and shoulders, she was quick to point out. She would not let us youngsters us it for fear we would break the teeth off. It didn't seem to matter if we broke the teeth off the other rakes. After all, Grandfather could whittle a new one with his pocketknife. To put the kibosh on it all she wouldn't let Grandfather use it either. She figured he'd break it on purpose, he being still somewhat offended that she had bought it in the first place. This only served to make him even more determined to get her back for buying the thing and then having the gall not to let him use it. Sure, if there was a person on God's Green Earth that knew how to use a hay rake without breaking the teeth of it, it was himself. They say Grandfather was born with a bottle of cow's milk in one hand and a hay rake in the other. (I imagine it was a difficult birth, probably where he learned to swear - from his mother in her racks of pain.) He could be a patient man when he wanted to be, so he held his tongue and temper until the right moment. It came one morning as my mother and I, with Grandmother and Grandfather, were walking up the road on our way inside to spread the hay grandfather had cut down the day before. As all four of us were walking up the hill toward the old railway track Grandmother with her new rake clutched closely to her side. Grandfather turned to my mother with a serious look on his face. He said, "Nellie, maid, I woke up this morning with an awful pain in my side. And I think it's gotten worse." My mother was worried, he being an old man and all, he could be having a heart attack or something worse. She said, "My God, Grandfather, what's happened to you?" Without cracking a smile, grandfather replied, "I rolled over in the bed last night and didn't she have that g d rake in the bed with her. One of the teeth dug right into me ribs." Grandmother, who at first was just as much concerned with grandfather's condition as my mother and I, stormed off ahead of us, muttering, "you're all there to make fun." She was at the garden twenty minutes before the rest of us. Grandfather never got to use the rake after that for sure. But he was satisfied that he had gotten Grandmother back for buying it in the first place. - Cyril Griffin New Perlican, NL
When I write about my grandfather it's about my paternal side because my grandfather on my mother's side died six months before I was born. So I never got to know him though I always wished I had. The grandfather I did know lived across the road from our house. This was not the same place where he was born and raised. He and my paternal grandmother lived alone after their youngest son got his own house just down the road from us and them. My grandfather was tall and lean - not an ounce of fat on him. He walked with a limp because, they say, he had a broken hip which didn't heal properly. Knowing grandfather, he most likely didn't give it time to heal before he was back at work. I don't really know if he came from a big family or not because he never spoke to me of his family. My oldest brother once told us that grandfather had come home one fall from the Labrador when he was still a very young boy in his early teens to learn that his father had died during the summer and his mother had left with whatever was the rest of his family. So he must have grown up pretty much on his own, with little or no education - he couldn't read or write. He could and did work very hard from an early age until he was well into his seventies. He worked wherever he could find it, on ships, in the mines, and the so-called lumber woods cutting pulp wood for the big paper mills. He endured many hardships in his life. But true to his nature he always recalled them with humour. Many times I would sit and listen to his stories of working in the mines or the lumber woods. They always made me laugh. My grandfather always kept animals, as most people did. Even in my time with him he always had a horse. He grew potatoes in great numbers even when it was only him and grandmother living together. He sold most of them to supplement his income. He knew from experience how to rotate the land so as not to deplete it. Grow potatoes in a piece of ground for a couple of years then let it go fallow and grow hay for the animals for couple of years. When I was a young bot I would help my grandfather make hay and store it in his barn loft for winter feed. These were some of my most memorable moments with him. He still kept the land he had grown up on, which was a mile or so inland from where he now lived. He had a hay frame which he attached to his dray cart. The hay frame was made by his own hands, except for the big wooden wheels with iron rims which were probably made by a local wheelwright. He would hitch his horse up to the dray car and proceed up the road to the old north shore railroad track. This track ran just in front of his old homestead in an area called Cherry Orchard. There he would load the dry hay into the hay frame and bring it home to his barn. This is where the fun starts. Now, grandfather didn't want to make any more trips to and from the old homestead than were absolutely necessary. So he would have me and perhaps a cousin or two around the same age stamp the hay down into the frame. We did this by walking through it time after time and pushing it own with our feet. Grandfather would always say "stamp 'er down good," and so we did. The problem came when we got back to the barn. We loved to ride atop the hay all the way home, but trouble started when grandfather started to prong the hay out of the hay frame. We had, according to grandfather's instructions, stamped 'er down so good the hay was almost glued to the frame. As hard as he tried, he could only get small amounts of hay loose with his prong. Then the swearing would start. Now, lots of people used to swear in those days when they were angry or frustrated, and it wasn't ideal for young ears to be hearing it. Grandfather could, as they said in those days, "make 'em and say 'em," other people's swear words couldn't cover the situation. He swore so long and loud my grandmother could hear him in the kitchen where she was making dinner. Meanwhile, we were hid away in the barn loft, laughing our heads off. Although grandfather was deadly serious with his swearing routine, we boys thought it was the funniest thing on earth. Even while we were stamping 'er down we couldn't wait to get home for the entertainment to start. As I said, our grandfather could say 'em like nobody else and of course he had the hand and foot gestures timed perfect to add flair to his newly minted swear words. So I caution you, if you should feel like going into your own rant sometime when things aren't going your way, be careful what your say. You may not only be guilty of sin, but also copyright infringement, which comes with a hefty fine. Who could forget that classic pose, with the two fists wrung-up at the end of those two outstretched arms, the reddened face staring toward the heavens, the look of religious fervor usually reserved for the born again Christian on his weathered face and that all too familiar retort on his tobacco-stained lips, "you're here again today on crutches!" (Reprinted here with permission, I hope.) All this while his two feet stomped his salt and pepper cap into the ground. Oh! But for the good ol' days. There is too much of my grandfather and his swearing fits, or all his stories of working in the mines, on ships and in the lumber woods to recount in one short story. But I thought the world of him and still do. Whenever my cousins and I come together we always get to talking about this times. We always laugh our heads off when thinking of grandfather's antics. It was good to breathe life into him again, if only for the little while it took to read this piece. Cyril Griffin New Perlican, NL
Ramblings on Weather Lore
The month with the most unsavory of reputations was almost over. The 'Cold Hungry Month' and the 'cold March winds' would soon give way to the gentler and milder days of April and May. That's usually the expectation for isn't there a saying that 'April showers bring May flowers.' Expectations, however, don't always pan out for April showers are often snow showers and holidayers on the twenty-fourth of May weekend often shiver in their tents and peer out to find a batch of snow on the ground. No doubt about it; our Newfoundland weather is highly unpredictable. And didn't a cabbie, the most savvy of townies, once tell a disgruntled and rain drenched tourist to, "Hang'er tough, ol'man. The sun will be splitting the rocks in another ten minutes." His forecast might have been a tad optimistic but, like that cabbie, most Newfoundlanders are hardly ever fazed by the vagaries of our weather. That's because at a very early age the weather was 'bred into' us as there was a time when we walked back and forth to school in blizzards and remained copying on the ice pans with our socks and vamps soaking wet. As outdoor folk we tend to enjoy all seasons while taking the extremes of our weather in stride. So, what's all this fuss about 'lambs and lions'in March? Well, people love using descriptive terms, don't they? 'In like a lamb and out like a lion,' and 'In like a lion and out like a lamb,' are most likely among the oldest sayings in weather lore. I didn't realize how old until I heard a reference to it recently on television. It was on an idle evening in late March and I was contented just to sit near the window and observe that spring had finally arrived. The weather had been mild and misty all day and in the twilight my old village was calm and peaceful. The snow, as they say around here, was getting a cutting and in the harbour the ice was turning black and tidal pools mirrored the light from a fading sunset. March was certainly going out like a lamb. The lion, however, had roared many times during the winter and I got to wondering if it had ushered in the month. As usual the weather channel was on as, apart from their forecasts, I find many of their related news features very interesting. Then the most timely of coincidences. The weather girls, as if reading my mind, were discussing the topic. I never did recall how March came in but I did learn that the saying relating to lambs and lions goes far back into the past. In fact their researchers found references to it, in poetry and story, dating back to the sixteenth century. "Well, my ladies," I thought, "That's very interesting but most likely much of our weather lore is far, far older than that." Homer, the most ancient of story tellers, relates how the Greeks looked to the sky for omens before launching their black ships to sail over the wine-dark seas to Troy. Two millennia later, so the Norse sagas relate, the Vikings also looked to the sky for favorable omens before venturing over cold northern seas on their voyages of discovery and conquest. Westward they sailed in their high prow'd ships that, though sturdy, were open to the elements. Fate must have been benevolent to the Vikings and many a sunset must have glowed red over the ice floes else they would never have survived to discover a New World and sojourn a while at Lance aux Meadows on the Island of Newfoundland. Undoubtedly, that most universal of weather proverbs, 'red sky at night, sailor's delight' has heartened many mariners since the dawn of sea faring. But not all signs and omens portend fair sailing as those accustomed to the way of the sea may cautiously observe that a red sky at morning will bring nasty weather later in the day or that, when gulls fly high, stormy weather is usually close at hand. Newfoundlanders, no less than the Greeks, the Vikings and other sailors of renown have learned by experience to heed the omens that portend bad weather. Sadly, the consequences of not heeding these omens can lead to disaster. And didn't the crew of the S.S. Newfoundland see the 'sun dogs' in the eastern sky on that warm, sunny morning in late March, 1914. Despite that dire omen, over a hundred and fifty sealers left their ship that was stuck fast in the ice, to walk miles across the ice floes in search of seals. In their exhausting journey over a hazardous ice field other ominous signs foretold that bad weather was on its way. A heat haze had enveloped some other vessels that a few moments earlier had been clearly visible on the horizon. The weary sealers were now far from their own boat and hadn't come across any seals. Apprehensive and discouraged some of the sealers turned back but over a hundred of them ventured onward to be caught without shelter in a blinding blizzard of a storm that lasted over two nights and a day. During that terrible time on the ice seventy seven sealers from the S.S. Newfoundland perished making it one of the worst disasters in our sea faring history. It wasn't as if those unfortunate sealers were unaware of the omens but for them the way of the sea was always fraught with risk and danger. And for generations of Newfoundlanders the way of the sea was the tall sailing ships that carried their dry-salted cod to Greece and Italy and other markets in the Mediterranean. After off-loading their cargoes they would return via the Caribbean where Jamaican rum and molasses were laded for St. John's and other ports on our Island. Those sailors of old often looked to the sky for signs of storm and took warning from the old saying that; Mackerel sky and mares' tails Make lofty ships carry low sails Thus with sails prudently trimmed for the gales the tall ships traversed the ocean wide. Today, with satellite storm-tracking and hour-by-hour forecasting, searching the sky for omens is little more than idle curiosity. I was reminded of that fact as twilight deepened over an old harbour. A new moon was visible over the darkening hills and reminded me that there were plenty of omens that I hadn't even thought about. I observed it for a while. "It's on its back; a bad weather moon," I thought and recalled my father making the same observation when I was only small boy many years ago. "Why is it a bad moon?" I asked. "Because it's always a bad sign when you can hang a powder horn on it, my son," he answered. I knew nothing about meteorology but I knew about powder horns as they hung from a nail or a muzzle loader in every household in the harbour. "It would be easy to hang a dozen or more on that new moon," I observed, "but there's hardly a powder horn left in the harbour." It was then that I started to swear. For a mere pittance the peddlers took away everything of value the old people had saved up as their treasures. The day the first peddler came in over the hill was certainly a bad omen for our old harbour. The scoundrel should have been shot with one of the lovely muzzle loaders he toted away. - Roy Dwyer
Larry and John
Two men lived in a big white house Just down the lane from my nan. Though they lived under the same roof They did not live together or speak to one another. They were different, Larry and John, as day is from night. Small and clean and bright was the end that Larry called home. Lace curtains hung from the windows, The walls were painted warm and bright. It showed the marks of a woman's hand, Yet no woman dwelled in this place. Nor had there been for many years. Down the dim and darkened hallway to the right, In a room so dismal and colourless With naked windows, bare unpainted walls and uncovered floors lived a tall lonely man we knew as John. There was no warmth or beauty here. No sign that Love had ever entered there. Different though they were, these two men, A common thread passed through them both. It was the love for a woman, long since gone. A wife to one, Larry, Sister to the other, John, no more. It was said that one did blame the other. It this was true I do not know. Cyril Griffin New Perlican
Thunder and Lightning
These days we hear a lot about climate change, I confess that I don't know or understand much of the science behind that concept. However, like most people my age, and I won't tell you what that is, I can remember when, weather-wise, things were much different. When I was young going to grade school there was lots of snow in the winter. Any time between mid November to mid-April the boundary fences along the roadside were buried in snow. Most time the roads weren't plowed at all during the winter. People with cars would store them in the garage or shed until spring. The same could be said about heavy rain, we hardly see any of that these days. Except maybe the odd tropical storm and even then it doesn't seem to last for long. I haven't experienced a major thunder and lightning storm since I was a youngster. Years later, when I lived in Ontario I did experience some heavy rain. The streets would run like rivers but ten minutes after it stopped you wouldn't know it had rained at all. The lightning would seem to come down and blanket the streets, the thunder was deafening and the smell always brought me back to when I was young. We used to have thunder and lightning storms that went on for days, usually in spring or early fall. After it was all over you would hear on the radio how some people's houses had been damaged by lightning strikes - some even burned to the ground. My dad's sister who lived just down the road from us had her house struck by lightning in one of those storms. The lightning tore away a portion of the roof of her old two-story house. She and her five children were in the house when it happened, her husband was away working. As you can imagine, this gave her a terrible fright. She refused to stay in the house along after that during a storm. So when the forecast called for a storm she would pack up her kids and enough grub to last at least three days and move in with us. We could watch her coming up the road with her three girls and two younger boys. She held the youngest boy by the hand, all the other were carrying bundles of clothes or food. She never came empty handed. We lived in a big two-story house slightly different that hers - the roof wasn't so high. It was quite the going on and we kids loved it because it was a great adventure for us and we didn't even have to leave home to enjoy it. The sleeping arrangements at our house had to undergo a little revision to accommodate our new arrivals. My oldest brother lost his private room with his own double bed, it went to my two oldest female cousins and the youngest girls slept with my sisters. All six of us boys shared the same room with two of us making room for our cousins. Of course it didn't matter, there wasn't much sleeping going on. My mother and my aunt slept together in my parents room as our dad was also away working. We had lots of fun telling stories and jokes, and having pillow fights trying to scare each other with ghost stories and others about the fairies. My two older female cousins lost out cause there were sharing a room just as they did at home. But they wanted to know what was making us laugh so much during the night. Breakfast was a riot as we all ran downstairs in the morning - mom and my aunt trying to feed us all while the biggest question was where were we all going to sit. This usually went on for several days. Occasionally a flash of lightning would come through one of the two kitchen windows and bounce off the stove. Mom and my aunt would jump away from the stove. We thought that was hilarious. We couldn't go outdoors because of the rain so we were confined to quarters, but we could always find something to occupy our time. Eventually the storm would end and things would go back to normal until the next weather event. This went on for several years until my aunt and uncle built a new one-story house and tore down the old one which gave them a big front yard. My aunt decided she would try to stay at home when the first thunder and lightning storm came, but she had everything ready to evacuate. She was nervous but she stuck it out and that was the end of our weather related get-togethers. Now it's just one of those beautiful memories we share whenever we get together. Cyril Griffin New Perlican, NL
A Bit of Speculation
Like many things taken for granted, I hadn't given it a second thought. He might as well have asked "Why is the grass green?" or "Why is the ocean blue?" on that sunny summer's morning when he came by my slipway where I was making repairs to my boat. He pointed towards an old stage near the slipway. "Why do many of your old buildings have white circles on their doors?" he asked. "I don't rightly know," I replied. I had a feeling the design was there for a reason and rather than dismissing it as a whim or a flight of fancy, I'd give it some thought. Like the stranger, I was now intrigued by the peculiarity and might come up with an explanation before he left. We chatted as I applied several layers of fiberglass over the damage my boat had sustained during the seal hunt. He had grown up on a farm in rural Ontario and had taken up photography to capture a cultural landscape where old buildings were rapidly disappearing. He realized the same was happening in rural Newfoundland, where he had arrived with a sense of urgency, to document what remained standing in old architecture through the lens of his cameras. "Do you mind if I take a look inside your stage?" he asked. I offered to accompany him. Halfway down the flake we paused on the long boardwalk leading to the stage. He got out one of his cameras and zoomed in on the old structure. "You're taking a picture of the circle," I surmised."Yeah, it got me puzzled. I haven't seen anything like it on old farm buildings back home. "Do you mind if I speculate a bit?" I asked. "Go ahead. I'd be delighted to hear your explanation." The straight, narrow walkway and the fact the stranger was wearing thick-lensed glasses gave an inkling to a possible answer. "Take off your glasses," I told him. He seemed surprised but did as I asked. "Now face the stage and tell me what stands out." "It's a bit hazy but that white circle on the door most certainly stands out," he remarked. "And so it should. Now visualize standing here in ages past. It's nightfall; no flashlights; no electricity in the harbour. A fog rolls in. An elderly fisherman is on a narrow walkway leading to his stage; its clapboard darkly preserved by a mixture of cod-oil and ochre. He's in a hurry, with fish to be done, before he turns in for the night. His eyesight is failing. Cataracts, high blood pressure or the onset of diabetes; he'll never know the cause as there are no doctors to advise or treat him. He doesn't have glasses. As darkness sets in, he treads carefully toward a totally dark building. A single misstep and he's out on a rickety flake. He stumbles over it into the water. Luckily the tide is out. He doesn't drown. In a litany of curses he makes his way back to shore." I paused to gauge his reaction. "Then what happens?" he prompted. "He still has fish to stow away. He changes into dry clothes. Then he makes his way back to the stage. Probably crawls down there this time," I observed. "And then what happens?" he repeated. "He's most likely hurting and is determined such a mishap won't happen again." "And?" he queried. "In an idle moment, he finds some white paint or mixes a bit of lime. Then with compass or dividers he makes a guide; a white circle, eye-level, on a dark stained door of a dark stained building. Now he can tread his walkway safely in the dark." "That makes sense,' he acknowledged. "Then seeing its useful function, other fishermen painted the circle on the doors of their stages." "That's likely the case," I observed, "And over time those symbols on their outbuildings may have become more decorative than functional. That's why so many remain to tantalize us today." "Well, it certainly had me tantalized," he admitted. "No doubt there's plenty in that stage to whet my curiosity." That I agreed on. Now I had to find an excuse to get back to my boat. -Roy Dwyer
When I left home in 1966, Come Home Year in NL, I didn't realize at the time that this would be my life for many years to come. I went to school the first year and in June 1967 I went to Toronto to look for work. I was only seventeen years old. It would be over three years before I would go back home again. I found what I still consider my first real job a few days later. It paid $65 a week salary, minus deductions, and room and board was $20. There were many young Newfoundlanders working in Ontario at the time. I was young, single, and had a dollar in my pocket. Life was good. I tried several times over the years to find work at home but there was none. I was still working in Toronto when I met the beautiful young woman who would become my wife of forty years. Strange thing about it though, was she lived next door to me back home, or more accurately just up the road. She wasn't living in Toronto and would not leave home until we were married for over two years. I know all this sounds confusing - try living it - but it's true. We never went steady, we never lived together before we were married. How could we? There was three thousand miles of land, ninety miles of ocean and four provinces between us. She's gone now over seven years and I still miss her very much. You know I asked her three times to marry me before she finally said yes? Thought I was dreaming, didn't want to wake up. All this happened over a period of years, why, you didn't think I asked her three times on the same night, did you? Anyway, we got married on December 7th, 1974. I came home a week before the wedding, left again a week later and went back to work. For the first seven years of our marriage, I was away for over four years. There were no turnarounds in those days. I worked two full-time jobs in Toronto at the time. Work started at 11:00 Sunday night at the Royal Bank Data Centre in downtown Toronto. The other started at 8:00am on Monday morning in Etobicoke, a western suburb of Toronto, until four in the afternoon. I did most of my sleeping on subway trains, streetcars and transit buses. I did this for two and a half years, might have gone on longer, but I got food poisoning and nearly died. I was trying to build a house back home for my wife and family, and I wanted it to be mortgage-free. Sometimes, every three or four months, on long weekends I would fly home. You could say we were newlyweds for almost twenty years, but it was no honeymoon. I tell people that my wife and I had two children and I never saw her pregnant and believe it or not it's true. I did try to surprise my wife when our youngest daughter was born by buying a plane ticket home for two weeks before she was due to give birth. But one day in June of that year, my boss at my day job told me that I had an urgent phone call from home. It was my sister-in-law telling me my wife had had a fall and was rushed to the hospital. Well, I left work, phoned Air Canada, changed my ticket, and got out late that night. My brother and his wife met me at the airport in St. John's. They said 'Congratulations! You have another girl!' So much for surprising the wife. I stayed home for a couple of years after that. When my wife got out of the hospital we moved into our unfinished house. We lived as a family for a couple of years, I found a job at home and was grateful I could come home every day from work. But there wasn't enough money to finish the house, so I left again and headed out west to Alberta. It would be nine months before I got home again. The little girl I said goodbye to in her crib could talk to me on the phone before I saw her again. If that wasn't bad enough, my older daughter hid under the table when I did get home. She said she wasn't coming out until the strange man went away. I recalled this same thing happening to my dad many years before when we were growing up at home. He worked away a lot. My older brother hid under the kitchen table and said he wasn't coming out until the strange man, our dad, went away. At my father's wake many years later I would say, 'I didn't know how much that could hurt until it happened to me.' What do you do? You're a married man with a wife and family who depend on you for a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, clothes on their backs, shoes on their feet and a chance at a good education so maybe they won't have to live like you do. My dad never say me down and told me what it was to be a husband or a father. He just packed up his tools and went off to work wherever he could find it. After Alberta, I got a job at the local post office, a part-time job that lasted for fourteen years. By then my wife and I had our first grandchild, a little girl, and life was good again. Until one evening we got a call from our family doctor. Our granddaughter was diagnosed with cancer. She was three and a half years old and would spend the next three years mostly at the Janeway Children's Hospital, most of the time in isolation. Things got tough both emotionally and financially. I had to get a full time job somewhere. That somewhere was Winnipeg, Manitoba where I worked for a years and a half and got home once for three weeks. One night I had a really bad nightmare: I was in a funeral home and there was a small white casket. I never slept for days after that for fear it might come true. The awful reality was that I couldn't afford to go home even if it did. I did get a transfer back to St. John's where I worked for another six years, night shift at the postal plant. I didn't have a car so I had to stay in a rooming house and go home by bus most weekends. My mom died about four months after I got home. The last words she spoke to me where 'are you home for good now' I said yes. To all the young men who still go off to work every day in NL, who leave home for weeks on end, who always say the same thing, 'I'd rather get a kick in the arse than get on another plane,' I hear you, son. You're living what was my life. We can only hope someday our kids will grow old enough to know we did it all for them and their mom, because we loved them. Cyril Griffin New Perlican
Mom Makes a Quilt
During the winter months, mom would make quilts for our beds. Quilts were thick and heavy, making them warmer than regular bed sheets. Mom had a quilting frame which she used for this job. The frame consisted of two long boards about the size of 2x4 studs. In each of the studs there was a hole, which was flat, not round, about four inches long. There were two flat slats which slid into these flat holes. The slats had tiny holes in them evenly spaced and probably made with a hot poker. These tiny holes were used for pins or nails which held the frame steady. The material consisted of many pieces of cloths, old curtains, dresses, worn out bed sheets and of course, empty flour sacks, some dyed blue or green. Sometimes women would buy a piece of cloth from a store so the quilt would have a uniform colours or pattern on top. All the smaller pieces were sewn together by hand at the kitchen table. There were several layers of cloth required to make the quilt. Every stich was sewed with love, there were many stitches. My mother's quilting from was very old. I think she said it had once belonged to her grandmother. It had a piece of sailcloth about four inches wide fastened the length of the 2x4 studs. You sewed the side closest to you to the sailcloth. Then you stretched your cloth to the other 2x4 stud. You tacked it to the sailcloth with a wide stitch of sewing cotton. Then you used the flat slats to tighten the material until it was taut. This was done by placing a peg or nail in the small holes in the slat. You sat on a chair and traced out your sewing pattern on the cloth in even rows right to left. Mom's pattern was shaped like the diamonds you see on a deck of cards about 18 inches high. There was a smaller cut-out inside this pattern. When you sewed, you went all around the bigger diamond, then you sewed the smaller one inside. This was done with a needle and a spool of thread, and mom wore a thimble on her finger to push the needle into and through the layers of material. This pattern was traced the full length of the material. Once this section was done, about four feet, you loosened the tack in the sailcloth and rolled the finished part onto the stud closest to you and started the process all over again. You can imagine the time and effort it took to make a quilt for a double bed. After this step was completed, you still had to sew a border around the whole perimeter of the quilt. Remember this is only one quilt - there will be others made between cleaning the house top to bottom, cooking and washing for six children, chopping wood, carrying water from the well and coal from the shed and feeding the horse. I may have said a time or two that I am not a writer or a poet, now I can add not a quilter either. This story is told from memory over sixty years old. Forgive me if some quilter might object to my description. I will, however, hold to the statement that every stitch was made with love. Cyril Griffin New Perlican