Cash­ing in ‘poached’ eggs for cig­a­rettes

The Compass - - OPINION - Dr. Wil­liam O’Fla­herty worked a 40-year ca­reer as a coun­try doc­tor in New­found­land and New Brunswick. He was the coun­try doc­tor in Western Bay, on the north shore of Con­cep­tion Bay, from 1967 to 1989, and was born in the tiny fish­ing vil­lage of Long Bea

When I was a small boy, about 10 years old, I re­mem­ber think­ing I was a big fella, and it seemed fit­ting and proper that I should learn to smoke. Now, mind you, I had at­tempted a trial of that ac­tiv­ity al­ready, but it was done us­ing my mother’s loose tea or dried alder leaves that I rolled up in a piece of brown paper; a few whiffs of that stuff and I de­cided that there had to be a bet­ter way to spend my time.

One bright sum­mer’s day, in July, I think it was, with time hang­ing heavy on my (and my bud­dies) hands, I de­cided to go for the real thing.

Four of us, all about the same age — the same group fa­mously re­ferred to by the priest as be­ing “filled with devil­ment” when he caught us rob­bing his ap­ple trees — de­cided, af­ter due con­sid­er­a­tion, that a pack of Bu­gler was what was needed. You know, the blue pack­age with the cig­a­rette pa­pers in­side the cel­lo­phane and a pic­ture of a bu­gler blow­ing, what else, his bu­gle. The only prob­lem was that none of us had any money that day and a pack of Bu­gler cost 13 cents.

This rag­gle-tag­gle four­some con­sisted of Harry, Teddy and a Woodfine (his name fails me), as well as yours truly.

One of the group sug­gested that Jackie, in his shop at the bot­tom of Gull Is­land Hill, would give it to us on credit. That idea we im­me­di­ately gave up. Af­ter all, a crowd of lads from Long Beach was not what Jackie would con­sider a good credit risk; not even for 13 cents.

There were other ways than one to skin a cat, we fig­ured.

Down in the val­ley lived Lige and Julie and they had a sta­ble where they kept a horse and a cou­ple of dozen hens.

We knew the place well; we of­ten went there, on a Satur­day morn­ing, when we were out of school, to play poker — cent and two; Lige wel­comed the com­pany, and was no slouch of a poker player him­self, of­ten wip­ing us out of our few cop­pers.

Af­ter mak­ing sure that Lige wasn’t home — he was on the wa­ter — we pro­ceeded into the barn, un­in­vited. It was empty; the horse was in the gar­den out back and the hens were gone, free rang­ing around, un­der the watch­ful eye of His Lord­ship, the rooster.

They were never fed dur­ing the sum­mer, these hens; they roamed every­where, liv­ing on the land, and in­gest­ing things that, with­out a doubt, you would much pre­fer I not de­scribe.

There were no eggs in the lay­ing area in the barn.

“She jest now picked ‘em up, I betcha,” said Woodfine.

“Dat’s wot she didn’t,” says Harry, “dem hens spends their time up in Paddy Finn’s grove, up dere be­side the highroad gravel pit.”

“Yis,” says Teddy, “they wuz in dere yes­ter­day, crowin’ like it was Easter Sun­day all over again.”

“Easter Sun­day. Wot the hell dat’s got to do wit’ it?” I asked.

“Don’t be so frig­gin’ stunned,” says Harry, “don’t ya know hens lays buck­ets of eggs come Easter­time?”

Into Will John­ston’s grove we went and soon found, un­der a clump of blasty boughs, a hen’s nest with 13 eggs. “Bingo!” roared Harry. Into an old gal­lon paint can went the eggs and down we traipsed to Lige and Julie’s place.

She was get­ting some­thing ready on the stove for when Lige came in off the wa­ter, pay­ing lit­tle at­ten­tion to us. She was used to our com­ing and go­ing, prob­a­bly ex­pect­ing us to leave since Lige wasn’t home.

The gal­lon can of eggs was on the floor for a full 10 min­utes be­fore she no­ticed them.

“Fine lookin’ eggs ye got there. Where did ye get ‘em?” “Found ‘em.” “How many ye got?” “Thir­teen.” “Wot are ye goin’ to do with ‘em?” “Dunno. Bringin’ ‘em home, I s’pose.”

There was dead air for a few min­utes, she busy­ing her­self at the stove, mut­ter­ing that the hens had stopped lay­ing lately.

Make no won­der, my eyes said to Harry, what with the bunch of them do­ing their lay­ing up there in Paddy Finn’s grove. “How much ye want fer dem eggs?” “Thir­teen cents.” “My, dat’s a bar­gain.” Very soon, out the door we went with the 13 cents and down to Jackie’s shop, and then up to Paddy Finn’s grove with the pack of Bu­gler. We each made a stab at rolling our own cig­a­rette, and, as you can imag­ine, the re­sults were not ob­jects of beauty.

In­deed, 15 min­utes later, nei­ther were four Long Beach boys, es­pe­cially when we all tried to in­hale, and be­came nau­se­ated, dizzy, and “green around the gills.”

I re­ceived a few days later a “talk­ing to” from my fa­ther; he had got­ten wind of the baccy pur­chase, pos­si­bly from some­body who was in Jackie’s store when we dished out our 13 cents. Al­though he was a cig­a­rette smoker him­self, he was against his chil­dren smok­ing, since he main­tained it “stunted yer growth.”

I fol­lowed his ad­vice and never tried it again un­til, years later, in St. Bon’s, in the boarder’s smoke room, where most of the 90 of us started the tobacco habit and where you were odd man out if you didn’t smoke.

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