Walk­ing in my own foot­steps

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Gary MacDougall is a re­tired man­ag­ing editor of The Guardian. He can be reached at pei­ivory­tower@gmail.com.

The old hills still look the same but sadly the faces I used to see on them are no longer there.

A half-cen­tury has passed since my Guardian pa­per-route days in the 1960s in Tyne Val­ley, so it’s lit­tle won­der few, if any, of my old cus­tomers are around.

That was one of my many thoughts as I re­traced the pa­per route this week.

One thing I had this time that I didn’t have back in my car­rier days was some com­pany. I en­listed grand­son An­der­son, soon to be 10, for my walk­a­bout.

Walk­ing up one of the four roads lead­ing in and out of the vil­lage, I glanced over at a fairly large tree. As a sapling, it had done its best to pro­vide a bit of shade for a fam­ily gath­er­ing my late mother was on hand for.

A lit­tle fur­ther up the road, I pointed to a lawn I used to mow for $2. I, or rather I should say Dad, pro­vided the gas and lawn mower for that princely price.

An­der­son wasn’t im­pressed by the re­turn on in­vest­ment, which led to a dis­cus­sion on in­fla­tion and the cost of liv­ing.

Re­turn­ing back to the Val­ley’s scenic cen­tre, we took a rest break. Off in the lower pond we spot­ted a pair of Canada Geese, who were shep­herd­ing five goslings.

Another mem­ory of the pond crossed my mind. It was a far dif­fer­ent day, a chilly win­ter one, cold enough to al­low mis­chievous young boys to jump around on ice cakes. I didn’t men­tion that ad­ven­ture to my com­pan­ion.

Up the hos­pi­tal hill road we walked; it’s the short­est but steep­est of the four. Back in the one-gear bike days, it was a chal­lenge to make it all the way up with­out hav­ing to jump off and start walk­ing.

This time we hoofed it all the way up, and in a lovely gazebo be­hind the manor we took another breather while lis­ten­ing to birds chirp­ing and en­joy­ing a gen­tle breeze.

At the top of the Bar­low Road hill sits a fer­tile field. In my younger days I helped dig pota­toes from that field. The good­na­tured farmer’s nick­name was Ra­dio, given to him by a grand­child.

Walk­ing back down the hill, I spot­ted a home that was once rented by the vil­lage’s bank man­ager. I re­called the banker’s wife was a great tip­per at Christ­mas.

I’m not sure how ex­cited An­der­son was with my com­men­tary. But, I did im­press him when I said I once suc­cess­fully recorded the scores of an en­tire NHL hockey sea­son on a cal­en­dar in one of the vil­lage’s gen­eral stores.

Atop the fourth hill, the main one that at the top forks into ei­ther the Canada Road or Allen Road, I was flooded by many mem­o­ries as I looked upon my old home, the vil­lage’s for­mer two-room school (now a day­care), the church I at­tended and a ceme­tery with plenty of MacDougalls in it.

Prior to go­ing up that hill, An­der­son and I were star­tled when a truck drove past us fol­lowed closely by a dog – an ex­tremely fast-mov­ing one. Im­pres­sively, the Bor­der Col­lie matched the truck’s speed all the way up the long hill.

I ran into a friend and in­quired about the dog. Sur­pris­ingly, he turned out to be the dog’s owner. He said Cu­pid of­ten gets to ride with the man in the truck, but he couldn’t this day be­cause the man was go­ing to work.

I told him I had been wor­ried how far the dog would have chased the truck, es­pe­cially given the heat of the day.

“Oh, he al­ways stops at the Credit Union at the top of the hill,” my friend said.

So, it seems, it’s not just me that the hills have made an im­pres­sion on. Just as they have helped frame Cu­pid’s bound­aries, they have al­ways helped frame my mem­o­ries.

Gary MacDougall

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