Paddy Ri­ley’s pickup and suit­cases in Car­bon­ear

The Compass - - OPINION - BYWILLIAMO’FLA­HERTY — 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 fishi

“Set the gull’s eggs un­der a broody hen ‘n’ you’ll get pet gulls,” ad­vised Harry, he all of nine years-of-age.

Harr y had two of them and de­clared that they “wuz jest as smart as pet crows,” and needed only to be fed caplin and lit­tle fish from Cum­min’s Pond, up there in North­ern Bay.

We were over in the West­ward Beach search­ing for gull’s eggs when a loud com­mo­tion oc­curred; it was com­ing from the Sal­mon Drung, down a lit­tle ways be­low the highroad.

“Dat’s Tucker’s truck, comin’ down to the beach, dat’s wot it is,’’ said Teddy.

The four of us scram­bled up the cliff and headed to where the sound was com­ing from. A short dis­tance up the drung was a truck mak­ing an aw­ful racket, and spew­ing blue smoke, parked in front of Paddy Ri­ley’s place. Stand­ing proudly by was Paddy him­self, declar­ing to who­ever would lis­ten that he was home for good and was go­ing to make his liv­ing “haul­ing fish.”

Well, the like of that was never known be­fore in Long Beach: Paddy Ri­ley with a truck. Or, for that mat­ter, any­body else there with a truck.

No­body in the place had a mo­tor ve­hi­cle ex­cept, of course, the priest; fur­ther down the shore the Tuck­ers had a gen­eral store, a coal shed and bought salt fish in the sum­mer and fall; they needed a truck. But the rest of us, the crowd in Long Beach, we got

Wil­liam O’Fla­herty

by us­ing a horse and slide in the win­ter, a horse and box-car in the sum­mer, and, more of­ten than that, our two God-given legs.

Well, sir, the word soon got around about Paddy Ri­ley’s truck, and half the chil­dren in the com­mu­nity came to look her over. To us, she was the grand­est thing you ever did see and it was ob­vi­ous that she pos­sessed a pow­er­ful en­gine — as demon­strated by the won­drous sounds that she emit­ted when Paddy got be­hind the wheel. Mind you, there were a num­ber of rusty spots, a crack in the wind­shield and a bro­ken head­light, but hey, noth­ing is per­fect, and we young­sters im­me­di­ately adopted her as a proud part of Long Beach.

The fol­low­ing Satur­day — a few days af­ter Paddy ar­rived from St.

To us, she was the grand­est thing you ever did see and it was ob­vi­ous that she pos­sessed a pow­er­ful

en­gine — as demon­strated by the won­drous sounds that she emit­ted when Paddy got

be­hind the wheel.

John’s — we were all out of school, and we heard that he was plan­ning to drive to Car­bon­ear on truck­ing busi­ness and was will­ing to take us along for the ride. Most of us had never been that far; in­deed the only one I knew who had gone there was an older boy, 10 years-of-age, who went there with his fa­ther to meet some­body at the train sta­tion. When we ques­tioned him about that far­away place he stated that ev­ery­body in Car­bon­ear walked around with suit­cases. It ap­peared to him that ev­ery­body there was on the move, go­ing some­where else. That was of mi­nor im­por­tance to us; all we hoped for was a day trip to that town in the back of Paddy Ri­ley’s truck.

Four of us got per­mis­sion from our par­ents, yours truly in­cluded.

Early on Satur­day morn­ing, with lunch bag in hand, we piled into the wooden back of the truck and Paddy started her up. With a great roar, with blue smoke bil­low­ing from the tail pipe and from un­der the hood, up the Sal­mon Drung we trav­elled for a quar­ter-mile un­til we reached the highroad, close by the grave­yard, and there the en­gine died.

Un­daunted, with head un­der­neath the hood, Paddy tin­kered with the beast, helped along by var­i­ous people walk­ing along the highroad who were quite lib­eral in their ad­vice as to the cause of the en­gine break­down.

“The damp weather,” stated one, “jest like my bat­tery ra­dio that gave up one week ago; the fog is the cause of it all.’’

“Wa­ter in yer gas; dat’s it; guar­an­teed. Wot’s-his-name English had the same trou­ble last week. Had to get a fella from Car­bon­ear to fix the prob­lem.” “No spark in yer bat­tery.” The fac­tor that was com­mon to all the ad­vice given to poor Paddy Ri­ley was that none of the people knew what they were talk­ing about, and, the truth be known, nei­ther did the un­for­tu­nate owner of the truck.

The four of us stayed in the back of the pickup un­til noon; then, not see­ing much progress be­ing made, we ate our lunches and went home when Paddy threw up his hands, swore a mighty oath and walked down the lane to­ward his home close by the salt wa­ter.

The next day was no bet­ter. A man from Burnt Point — said to be knowl­edge­able in mat­ters of pickup truck en­gines — vis­ited and de­clared it was a mir­a­cle that the ve­hi­cle “ever made it round the bay in the first place.”

The next day the truck was pushed down the Sal­mon Drung and came to rest next to the fish flake, just bor­der­ing on the West­ward Beach. There she stayed, de­serted and mourn­ful, the grass grow­ing up un­der her, her tires slowly go­ing flat.

Paddy Ri­ley went back to St. John’s to work in the tun­nels un­der­neath the South­side Hills, the em­ploy where he made enough money to buy the un­for­tu­nate ve­hi­cle sev­eral weeks be­fore. He never came back to Long Beach.

We vis­ited the truck oc­ca­sion­ally, get­ting be­hind the wheel to make be­lieve we were go­ing to Burnt Point, and even all the way to St. John’s. Once or twice we pre­tended to go to Car­bon­ear, and were ad­vised to bring along our pre­tend suit­cases, so as to fit in with the lo­cals.

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