Diary of a Labrador trap­per

The Compass - - OPINION -

Jer­rett mar­ried Ruth Miche­lin. In his diary, he writes about “the fun that a wed­ding gen­er­ally cre­ates. I don’t feel none too firm on my feet.”

When his chil­dren were young, Jer­rett used to talk about Labrador. “ He just loved the Labrador,” Ge­orge re­calls. “I can tell by the things he wrote in his diary.”

At some point, a fam­ily mem­ber do­nated Jer­rett’s orig­i­nal diary to the Pro­vin­cial Archives of New­found­land and Labrador. The man­u­script was re­dis­cov­ered in the move to The Rooms. Ar­chiv­ists then copied the diary for Ge­orge.

“It’s so in­ter­est­ing,” the son says with ob­vi­ous pride in his fa­ther’s lit­er­ary ac­com­plish­ment.

Ex­cerpts from Jer­rett’s diary fol­low.

Ex­cerpt 1: “All is silent, save for the oc­ca­sional cry of some of the winged crea­tures of the woods, and a pretty scene presents it­self.

“Pad­dling silently and swiftly up the river in the shadow of the over­hang­ing trees are seen sev­eral ca­noes. Na­tives or In­di­ans, cu­ri­ous to know who has come from the land out­side, and what news they bring.

“Lit­tle knots of trap­pers ly­ing idly in the grass and sun­shine, smok­ing and also eye­ing the new­com­ers. For this is Sun­day and no­body does much on Mon­days at this time of the year, much less on Sun­day. And so we go on shore and join the groups and talk, smoke and laugh; and so the day passes hap­pily.”

Ex­cerpt 2: “On shore at day­break to see if we can­not get some game to help swell the pantry’s now-de­pleted stock. Am lucky enough to se­cure three black ducks when we again reach Pack’s Har­bour at 10 p.m. Clear cold night.”

Ex­cerpt 3: “ Wed­nes­day morn­ing. Blow­ing very strong from north, very cold. Cut­ting wood all morn­ing. Wind mod­er­ates about noon and we see the Hud­son’s Bay Com­pany’s boat start­ing off, also bound for Rigo­let. Leav­ing North West River at 3 o’clock in the af­ter­noon we head down the bay. Calm and clear, so de­cide to run all night. Down to Mul­li­gan Point by dark.

“ Won­der­ing where the H.B.C. boat is tonight as we have not seen her and we are anx­ious to catch her as they have boasted some­what of the speed and seago­ing qual­i­ties of their boat, so more or less a race has started.”

Ex­cerpt 4: “ Up at dawn, ea­ger to be off, afraid that the other boat might steal away in the early morn­ing hours, but on com­ing out in the open bay see no sign of her ei­ther ahead or astern. This is a fine day at last and, af­ter a few hours un­event­ful run, we ar­rive at North West River. Find the other boat is not yet there.

“ We are met at the land­ing by over half the pop­u­la­tion of the place ply­ing us with ques­tions as to how we fare and where the other boat had got to as there was quite a bit of anx­i­ety felt for us see­ing there was such a con­tin­u­ance of stormy weather.”

Frances Lawrence, her­self a di­arist, writes: “ There is some­thing very spe­cial about read­ing an old diary and be­ing trans­ported back in time to a long for­got­ten moment. Each en­try is a tiny time cap­sule.”

Lawrence’s ob­ser­va­tion is no less true than in Jer­rett’s diary. His is a sig­nif­i­cant doc­u­ment that is wor­thy of be­ing pub­lished as a stand­alone book. The sense of im­me­di­acy draws the reader back to a past long since gone, at­tempt­ing to recre­ate for pos­ter­ity’s sake a moment in the di­arist’s life.

Ruth and Ernest Jer­rett. While liv­ing in Labrador, Ernest kept a diary of his trap­ping ac­tiv­i­ties.

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