A ran­dom act of kind­ness

The Compass - - CLASSIFIED -

Mother’s Day is long past, but any day is a good day to write about a mother beloved.

My mother, Eva Janes (nee Bur­ton) — you need no longer won­der about the ori­gin of my given name — was kind­ness per­son­i­fied. She loved noth­ing bet­ter than do­ing ran­dom acts of kind­ness. I re­call one such in­ci­dent in vivid de­tail.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, our fam­ily lived in Port aux Basques, where my late par­ents pa­s­tored the lo­cal Pen­te­costal church. We lived not far from Wreck­house which, Robert H. Cuff writes, “was named for the propen­sity of high winds fun­neled down from the Ta­ble Moun­tains for blow­ing trains from the tracks.”

The le­gend of Lockie McDougall (1896-1954) was still alive.

He and his fam­ily had made Wreck­house their home since the early 1930s. Known as the “hu­man wind gauge,” Lauchie was con­tracted by the New­found­land Rail­way to “sniff ” the wind and phone Port aux Basques when­ever he de­ter­mined it was un­safe for trains to travel through Wreck­house. In­deed, once, when of­fi­cials failed to heed his warn­ing, 22 cars were swept from the tracks.

Lockie’s wife, Emily, ex­plained in a later in­ter­view, “He’d use his hand, go out­doors and come in, tell you right where the wind was. Smart, my dear, he was some smart.”

Fol­low­ing Lockie’s death, Emily con­tin­ued the prac­tice of wind smelling.

“I’m the woman what looked af­ter the wind in Wreck­house,” Emily once said in an in­ter­view.

Day af­ter day, she re­ceived phone calls from the New­found­land Rail­way con­sist­ing of a sin­gle ques­tion, “What’s the wind like to­day?” In­vari­ably she’d an­swer, “‘Tis good now, but there’s a big storm com­ing up.”

Ad­mit­tedly, she did lose two trains. “Blowed off the tracks, but it wasn’t my fault,” she ex­plained. “A big storm come on. Thank God no­body got hurted.”

I re­call the day my mother said to my fa­ther, “Eric, per­haps I should bake a few muffins and bring them up to Mrs. McDougall at Wreck­house.”

Know­ing Mom was de­ter­mined to carry through on her first instinct, Dad said, “As you wish, dear.”

On Satur­day, Mom and Dad gath­ered us sib­lings in his first car ever — a Ford Fal­con — and drove to Wreck­house. Mom walked up to the weath­er­beaten McDougall house and knocked.

“Mrs. McDougall,” she said, “here are a few muffins I felt strongly to bake for you.”

The 60-year-old lady grate­fully re­ceived them. Mom re­turned to the car, sat­is­fied she had done her good deed for that day.

A year later, Emily dis­con­tin­ued the prac­tice of look­ing af­ter the wind in Wreck­house and moved to Port aux Basques. She lived with her son, Lochie, who cared for his mother who, by that time, was suf­fer­ing from Alzheimer’s. From that town, she said, “I loved it up to Wreck­house. I’d go back to­day if it wasn’t so lonely.”

It’s been a long time since I passed through Wreck­house. I’ve been told the McDougall home even­tu­ally blew down. A plaque was placed at the for­mer site of Wreck­house to com­mem­o­rate the McDougalls’ ser­vice and a sign was erected to warn tourists of the wind.

In June 1994, En­vi­ron­ment Canada an­nounced a pro­posal to spend $80,000 study­ing wind con­di­tions at Wreck­house, in or­der to de­ter­mine how best to serve traf­fic. In all like­li­hood, hir­ing a “hu­man wind gauge” to suc­ceed the McDougalls was not part of the rec­om­men­da­tions.

There is a Ran­dom Acts of Kind­ness Foun­da­tion which, ac­cord­ing to its web­site, is “founded upon the pow­er­ful be­lief in kind­ness and ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing re­sources and tools that en­cour­age acts of kind­ness.”

Peo­ple are en­cour­aged to par­tic­i­pate in the kind­ness pro­ject: “Do you have a kind­ness idea or story to share? Whether large or small, easy or chal­leng­ing, sub­mit your kind­ness ideas. We’ll add your ideas to our data­base and share it with the kind­ness com­mu­nity. If you’ve got a story, we want to help you share it with the world! Be­come a mem­ber and sub­mit your story, in­clud­ing im­ages and videos, if you have it, and we’ll spread the word.”

There was no such or­ga­ni­za­tion in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so ev­i­dently my mother was ahead of her time by her ran­dom act of kind­ness shown to Emily McDougall of Wreck­house. Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at

bur­tonj@nfld.net

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