Bur­ton K. Janes col­umn, ‘Just Won­der­ing,’ can be found on

The Compass - - OPINION - — Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at bur­tonj@nfld.net

On Dec. 23, 1947, a woman in Labrador writes in a let­ter to fam­ily and friends: “As I walked thru’ the woods today I could hardly be­lieve that I was here. It’s so peace­ful, quiet and un­be­liev­ably beau­ti­ful. Trees just laden with snow and no one ... near. So far I’ve not minded be­ing alone …”

The writer, Bar­bara Mundy Groves (1910-94), had trav­elled to North West River, Labrador, in 1944, to vol­un­teer with the Gren­fell Mis­sion. In the Labrador wilds, she made sev­eral dis­cov­er­ies, in­clud­ing a love for hunt­ing, ca­noe­ing and camp­ing, and for Rus­sell Groves, a fur trap­per.

Now, Anne Budgell, who worked more than 30 years in CBC ra­dio and tele­vi­sion news­rooms, uses Bar­bara’s letters and di­aries to craft a truly cap­ti­vat­ing story, the jour­ney of a so­cialite from Park Av­enue, New York, to a Labrador trapline.

By 1946, Bar­bara had fallen in love with Rus­sell Groves and, a year later, mar­ried him. They then spent two full winters on his trapline near Fig River, in the in­te­rior.

Dur­ing her first two years in North West River, Bar­bara wrote letters ad­dressed to “Ev­ery­body.” She also kept a di­ary dur­ing the two winters she spent on the trapline with her hus­band.

“I think,” Bar­bara wrote, “I am more con­tent and hap­pier than I’ve ever been in my life or ever will be again. I wish this winter here would never, never end.”

In 2003, when Anne Budgell read what Bar­bara Mundy Groves had writ­ten about Labrador, she was spell­bound, “not just be­cause it was an in­side peek at a time and place that fig­ured so promi­nently in my own fam­ily his­tory but be­cause she did things most women, even Labrador women, did not do.”

When Anne was six years old, her mother, Ruby McLean Budgell, who had grown up in North West River as the daugh­ter of a fur trap­per, took her to the Groves home.

“The small house was like ev­ery­one else’s,” Anne re­calls, “with a wood-burn­ing stove, hand pump for wa­ter, and kerosene lamps, but also with fine things not com­mon in the com­mu­nity: ma­hogany fur­ni­ture, Per­sian rugs, and pic­tures on the wall. The chicken noo­dle soup was served in pretty china bowls, set on a linen table­cloth .... No trou­ble to tell she was from ‘away.’”

It’s been said a good writer takes her read­ers on a jour­ney. Read­ers of Anne’s book, “Dear Ev­ery­body: A Woman’s Jour­ney from Park Av­enue to a Labrador Trapline,” vi­car­i­ously travel with Bar­bara and Rus­sell.

Two maps — Lake Melville in 1945 and Grand (Churchill) River in 1946 — are indis­pens­able to the reader un­fa­mil­iar with the lay of the land. Twenty pho­to­graphs show, among other events, the first time Rus­sell took Bar­bara duck hunt­ing and a fox he pre­sented to her. The Groves’ house, nes­tled in The Bight, North West River, evokes a sim­pler and, per­haps on many lev­els, a more peace­ful time. Mas­sive doc­u­men­ta­tion, in­clud­ing more than 300 end­notes, ties the story Anne Budgell tells to its his­tor­i­cal roots. On a per­sonal note: it warms the cock­les of this colum­nist’s heart to see in the end­notes and bi­b­li­og­ra­phy a book he wrote with the late John Par­sons in 1996.

Rus­sell made it home from his trapline for Christ­mas 1947. Bar­bara wrote on Christ­mas Day: “It started at 12: 30 when R woke and we opened presents and sam­pled cake … R gave me a new pair of snow- shoes. About six we had breakfast of deersmeat and a bit of hoarded ba­con and good but­ter. Back to bed again ’till about 9:30 — de­light­fully lazy … An­other mug- up then — ev­ery time we eat any­thing we end up with cake! R is now saw­ing wood and I’m get­ting din­ner ready — ’twill be bearsmeat and deersmeat, pea­spud­ding, red berries and cake and cof­fee. Re­ally go­ing to town today! We did al­right! Din­ner at 4 and just barely re­cov­er­ing now at 6:30! We were full. Beau­ti­ful cold, moon­light night, trees lovely in it. Wish I could get a pic­ture of our lit­tle home with lamp, ici­cles, cones, etc. I love it.”

Anne writes about Bar­bara, “Years af­ter her death, she was re­mem­bered as ‘Aunt Barb’ and sto­ries of her gen­eros­ity, kind­ness, and strong opin­ions were re­called with smiles.”

Per­haps Christ­mas is the best time to sit be­fore a fire­place, with one’s favourite li­ba­tion in hand, and read all about Bar­bara and Rus­sell Grove and the time they spent on the trapline.

“Dear Ev­ery­body: A Woman’s Jour­ney from Park Av­enue to a Labrador Trapline” is pub­lished by Boul­der Pub­li­ca­tions of Por­tu­gal Cove-St. Philip’s.

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