Confessions of a Mountie
I was halfway through high school before I realized that I didn’t really want to grow up to be a Mountie.
Once upon a Career Day a member of the local Labrador City detachment visited Labrador City Collegiate and gave a presentation that disappointed me. For frig sake, i t put me on the road not taken.
Still seared into my noggin is the image of one of the slides the Mountie showed our class — a stack of books so high a cat couldn’t jump over it.
You needed to study to become a Mountie!
That single image gunned down my desire to join the RCMP.
To think that all my life, from the time I was a wee bayboy’ I’d dreamed of reaching manhood and jumping into Mountie boots to become a rootin’- tootin’ gun- shootin’ Mountie just like Sergeant Preston.
Yes, Sergeant Preston, eh b’ys?
Sergeant Preston of the Yukon sat tall in the saddle of Rex, his Mountie mount. Along with his faithful police dog, Yukon King, he fought crime page after page in his very own comic books.
Truly, my dream stemmed from the adventures of Sergeant Preston…
…Sergeant Preston and the Mountie from Clarenville who occasionally drove his police cruiser down over the island “showing the flag” to paraphrase Frank Pitts in his book Confessions of a Mountie [Flanker Press].
As do many erstwhile Newfoundland bay-boys, Frank Pitts and I share childhood … well, not fears I s’pose, but common threats to our naughty boys’ well-being.
When Frank’s mother found him guilty of stealing a hulahoop she threatened the Mounties on him: “What will your grandfather think when I tell him the Mounties have taken you to jail?”
I can’t remember what crime I committed. I’m not confessing to stealing a couple of soft- centered candy from the shopkeeper up the road but maybe Mammy was convinced I had been a sweettoothed thief when she caught me by the scruff of the neck, shook me a shake and said, “My son, the Mountie is going to come down from Clarenville and take you to Reform School.”
Oddly, p’raps, I was never threatened with jail as Frank was. It was always Reform School for me. Always. Well, the time or two I was accused anyway.
Frank Pitts’ Confessions are delivered in a f orthright manner, not at all like someone baring his chest and pleading for any kind of mercy.
He speaks honestly in the voice he might use if he was sitting across the supper table from you, his chair pushed back, a cup of tea in hand and chit-chatting about his life as a Mountie.
I can imagine Frank chuckling as he recounts amusing stories. I’m thinking of one in which Frank faced an axe- wielding, foaming- at- the mouth drunk and recognized the man was a Newfoundlander. Frank told the raging man that he also was from Newfoundland, Bell Island, in fact. “Go on, b’y!” said the drunk. Situation defused. I imagine Frank’s voice quietening, becoming solemnly hushed as he tells with grotesquely graphic details about some of the horrors he witnessed as a Mountie.
I’m thinking explicitly of the scene of a highway accident at which Frank viewed a child’s destroyed face, a sight so horrible that his mind refused to consciously register the fatal wound, choosing to protect Frank’s sanity and allow him to cope by showing him the child’s face without the ruin.
I especially l ike the way Frank Pitt’s has structured his confessions. Chapter by chapter he returns to a standoff in which bad guy Burt confronts him, waving a machete and crazily demanding to be shot.
Every time he returns to this stand-off I want to bawl out and say, “Frank, shoot the machete out of his hand, b’y!”
Sergeant Preston would’ve winged Burt and caused him to drop the machete or Yukon King would’ve leaped and chomped Burt’s wrist.
Eventually Frank shuts me up: “Some would even ask, ‘Why didn’t he shoot the machete out of his hand?’ They’ve seen that in the movies.” Or in comic books. I say this with respect and admiration: Confessions of a Mountie is a nice and simple little book. It has fewer than two hundred pages. Its prose is straightforward and unpretentious. Its content is honest, even modest.
Likely Confessions of a Mountie will never share a shelf with powerful little books such as The Old Man and the sea or Of Mice and Men. Frank Pitts is neither Hemingway nor Steinbeck, yet Confessions of a Mountie is a gem- dandy book nonetheless.
Thank you for reading.
Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org