Bill West­cott re­flects on how he learned to spell ‘Car­bon­ear’

The Compass - - NEWS - BY BILL WEST­COTT

I was only eight years old when I learned to spell “Car­bon­ear.”

It was back in 1948 while on the first of many trips I would make to that jewel in Con­cep­tion Bay. It be­gan a life­long fas­ci­na­tion for out­port liv­ing and all it had to of­fer, and still does up to this present day.

Last month, my wife Betty and I de­cided to drive from our home in Clarke’s Beach to Fresh­wa­ter. Driv­ing through the mas­sive rock-cut head­ing down into the busi­ness dis­trict to­wards Car­bon­ear proper, my mind is in a re­flec­tive mood, and full of nos­tal­gia. I’m think­ing back about my childhood, 65 years ago.

Driv­ing around, it is im­pos­si­ble not to gaze at the mag­nif­i­cent scenery, a post­card panorama of sheer beauty with Car­bon­ear Is­land in the dis­tance — haunt­ingly rugged, its craggy face shag­ging down into the glis­ten­ing wind-swept waters of Con­cep­tion Bay.

Deep in thought I won­dered, “What would Felix and Betty think of it now? What would they say to me?”

I’m re­fer­ring to two of the most gen­uine and blessed peo­ple God ever cre­ated — the late Felix and Betty McCarthy from “the Burnt Head.”

Felix was born there and af­ter he mar­ried his girl­friend and soul­mate Betty, they, like a lot of their friends and fam­ily, moved away to St. John’s to work.

Felix was a car­pen­ter and gen­eral handy­man who could fix just about any­thing. He worked along­side my fa­ther at the U.S. Air Force Base (Fort Pep­perell) in St. John’s. They be­came close friends and even­tu­ally closeknit neigh­bours. It would be through their re­la­tion­ships with mom and dad that my life be­gan an ad­ven­tur­ous new chap­ter in­volv­ing Felix and Betty.

Fre­quent visi­tors

Un­cle Felix and Aunt Betty, as I soon be­gan call­ing them, al­though ob­vi­ously not re­lated, were fre­quent visi­tors to our St. John’s home. Betty and my mother were faith­ful church­go­ers and grew to be­come so­cial and spir­i­tual friends. Dad and Felix en­joyed the out­doors, gar­den­ing, fish­ing and for fun, games of horse­shoes played of­ten in the open field out back of our prop­er­ties be­tween Pen­ny­well Road and Prowse Av­enue in the west end of St. John’s.

In the early years of mar­riage, Betty and Felix had no chil­dren — three would come later. Of­ten af­ter school mother would send me to McCarthy’s house to run er­rands for Felix. Trips to the gro­cery store for a block of but­ter, a bag of su­gar or a tin of Car­na­tion milk, rak­ing leaves, pulling weeds, shov­el­ling snow or any small jobs a young boy could han­dle. They were al­ways gen­er­ous to me and of­ten wanted me to stay for sleep­overs.

One early sum­mer, I was eight then, Betty asked dad if I could go on a hol­i­day with her and Felix ‘round the bay to Car­bon­ear. They were go­ing over for a week of sum­mer va­ca­tion and wanted me to come along. “It will be good from him,” Betty said to Mother.

Seven years have elapsed and I am still try­ing to make sense of it. Yes, I un­der­stand gov­ern­ment cut­backs, slow re­sponse time, pre­cious time lost be­cause of po­lice pro­ce­dure. It is harder for me to un­der­stand why the of­fi­cers came from the Bay Roberts de­tach­ment and not the much-nearer Har­bour Grace sta­tion, but I ac­cept this as a bud­get-trim­ming mea­sure.

I also un­der­stand him. He thought I was a se­nior. There were some old-age pen­sion stubs ly­ing about the house. They be­longed to my late mother. The teenagers must have dis­cov­ered them dur­ing the first break-in and passed the in­for­ma­tion along to their older, bolder friend. It would ac­count for his sur­prise as he looked at my rel­a­tively youth­ful face un­der the porch light, his fee­ble at­tempts at ap­pease­ment when he is faced with a feisty mid-

As he me­an­ders down the hall, I lie there in the dark. I am pre­pared for ev­ery­thing — the knife, the ski mask, the rope. I won­der what he wants. I sup­pose he just wants to ter­ror­ize me, but I won­der why. Fi­nally, he throws open the door to my bed­room.

dle-aged woman.

Yes, he thought I was a se­nior. A se­nior whose house he could ran­sack, a se­nior who would cower and scream or whom he would pet­rify into si­lence. I think of the many 80-some­thing women I know who live alone and cher­ish their in­de­pen­dence. What would they have done if he had en­tered their home? It is doubt­ful they would have acted like me. A heart at­tack or stroke would claim them quickly or force them into the lin­ger­ing death of a nurs­ing home, their much-cher­ished in­de­pen­dence gone, their lives shat­tered per­ma­nently.

He is not just an in­truder. He is a mur­derer. He is a mur­derer who will never face jus­tice be­cause the law does not rec­og­nize his ac­tions as an act of mur­der.

I won­der if the Moun­ties ever went back to ques­tion the teenagers. They know who he is, of that I am sure. But then, I have never heard from the Moun­ties, ei­ther. I have only ex­pe­ri­enced law­less­ness. I have never re­ceived jus­tice.

Sub­mit­ted photo

Bill Wescott is pic­tured here, with the Town of Car­bon­ear in the back­ground.

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