Change of scenery

Smith fam­ily finds ideal sum­mer home on Change Is­lands

The Pilot - - Front Page - BY CLARENCE NGOH clarence.ngoh@gan­der­bea­con.ca

Salt­box house is the per­fect get­away for this fam­ily from New Mex­ico.

CHANGE IS­LANDS, NL – At the end of the gravel road on Gran­fer’s Cove is a salt­box house.

Re­cently re­stored, the bronze-or­ange sid­ing blends with the idyl­lic land­scape com­ple­ment­ing the blues of the wa­ter, browns of the rocks, and greens of the grass. It is a har­mo­nious com­po­si­tion – one that at­tracts many visi­tors and some sum­mer res­i­dents who keep com­ing back to call it home.

The price to en­joy the peace and tran­quil­lity is worth pay­ing.

The own­ers, Gregory and Karen Smith, with their son Caleb, have trav­elled over the past three sum­mers to Change Is­lands from New Mex­ico in the United States.

“We drove 10,000 miles last year. It takes five to seven days of driv­ing, about 600 miles each day, and about 11 to 12 hours a day of driv­ing,” Greg says.

Al­though they could fly to cut down on travel time, they drive be­cause their two dogs travel with them, and “dogs are not al­lowed to fly out of New Mex­ico from May to Oc­to­ber be­cause of the heat in the cargo hold of the air­plane.”

With the dogs in the ve­hi­cle, “with stops, we nor­mally pull 15-hour days, but the journey is part of the trip,” Greg adds.

The pur­chase of the home and their love for Change Is­lands came about by chance. Karen and Greg fre­quently talked about vis­it­ing New­found­land.

Greg ex­plains, “Ev­ery (New­found­lan­der) I’ve met is the friendli­est per­son – that is the pri­mary rea­son for vis­it­ing New­found­land.”

As they started their trav­els in New­found­land be­gin­ning from St. An­thony, a friend sug­gested they meet up with

an­other res­i­dent of Change Is­lands, Peter Stacey.

“Two hours af­ter the call, Peter called to check in and give some trav­el­ling tips along the way. And ev­ery two days, Peter would call and ask if we were com­ing to visit them on Change Is­lands,” Greg says.

Wary of the ex­tended hos­pi­tal­ity and Stacey’s per­sis­tence, the Smiths de­cided to spend one night on Change Is­lands to ac­com­mo­date the re­quest.

They got on so well that “we

stayed for five days,” Greg said.

The visit was such a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, Greg told Stacey, “if a house at the end of a gravel road, with no neigh­bours on ei­ther side with a wa­ter view be­comes avail­able, I’ll buy it.”

Two years later, a house fit­ting that de­scrip­tion – the Knee’s house with view of Gran­fer’s Cover – was up for sale.

At the time the offer was made, Mr. Knee was sick, Greg re­calls.

“Three months af­ter the offer was made, Mrs. Knee said she did not want to sell it. But two months later, in the mid­dle of the night, their lawyer called, and said they wanted to sell it now, but it had to be done that night.

“At 8 p.m. the con­tract was signed, and at 12 a.m., Mr. Knee died.”

Karen de­scribed the first night in the house as “rough.”

“The fumes from the heat­ing stove were so bad, I blocked the door to the bed­room be­cause I was afraid of get­ting as­phyx­i­ated. I told Greg I am not sure what we did (by pur­chas­ing the house),” Karen said.

She also re­calls the pres­ence of a trou­bled spirit on the first night.

“I was in the back bed­room, and all of sud­den my hair went up on my arm, like there is some­thing in the door­way, it felt like not a good a spirit,” Karen said

“Is that you, Mr. Knee?” Karen asked, then added, “we are good peo­ple, we have kids and grand­kids and we will take care of the house.

“And then the pres­ence of the spirit went away.”

The Smiths en­joy the open space that Change Is­lands pro­vides, but they come back be­cause of the gen­eros­ity of the peo­ple.

“When Ge­orge, our very large Ger­man shep­herd died, I called a friend on the is­land who hap­pened to be out of town to help me. But within 15 to 20 min­utes, about 10 men came and gave me a hand to help bury Ge­orge,” said Karen.

“That’s the kind of peo­ple that are here.”

CLARENCE NGOH/THE BEA­CON

Caleb, Karen and Greg Smith have spent the last two sum­mers at their home on Change Is­lands. The fam­ily en­joys out­door ac­tiv­i­ties, and takes the op­por­tu­nity to go hik­ing and kayak­ing around the is­land.

CLARENCE NGOH/THE BEA­CON

Caleb, Karen and Greg at the location where Ge­orge, their Ger­man shep­herd, died last year. A group of men helped Karen bury the dog at this location, and some ge­ol­ogy stu­dents on a field trip last year named it Ge­orge’s Point.

CLARENCE NGOH/THE BEA­CON

A wooden plank with the words, “4 of Aug 1914 War” was found when the house was ren­o­vated. The Smith home is said to be 104 years old.

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