Life on the Great Northern Peninsula
Adrian Payne, author of Life on the Great Northern Peninsula (Flanker Press) was born in a time when “a man was judged by the size of his woodpile in the spring.”
Although I arrived on this planet six or seven years later than Adrian, a man’s woodpile still was weighed in the balance when I was a bay-boy. Not only did the size of the woodpile mattered but also the neatness of how it was … well, piled up, stacked.
Ah, those stacks, especially after the wood was sawed-off and piled up in tiers like fortresses.
I friggin’ hated them … … because it was my job during summer while Pappy was gone away to work as a carpenter in St. John’s, to lug the dried, sawed and split junks into the woodhouse and re-stack them until the woodhouse was stogged to the rafters.
I hated lugging in wood almost as much as I hated making the hay, a summer activity that in this memoir Adrian Payne claims was “a fun-filled time for us children.”
I can’t agree with you about that, Adrian ol’ man, even though mid-day lunches of Lemon Crystal and potted meat sandwiches were delicious interludes.
Haymaking was a hot, itchy occasion and the only time I almost had fun jumping down the hay in the loft I skivvered my noggin on a nail in the hayloft hatch and ripped off a flap of scalp that would have made a coup-counting redskin proud.
Haymaking was not fun. It was friggin’-well hateful.
All the same, as a fellow who’d read something I’d scribbled once said to me regarding similarities in our bay-boy youths, “Harry, b’y, you lived my life.”
So, Adrian, b’y, to some degree you lived my life.
For instance, perpetrating acts of cruelty (?) on starvation grub.
Consider gull glees, baited hooks tailed out for gluttonous gulls to glutch down and get snagged in their tongues or throats. Despite the fact that “gulls were a real treat for Sunday dinner for a lot of people,” catching starvation grub in such a fashion would surely be interpreted an act of cruelty nowadays.
For frig sake, a youngster caught tailing out gull glees would be enrolled immediately for psychiatric counselling and some kind of ‘pathic certification.
As would youngsters who mistreated sculpins which I may have done one bad spring when the ice was in and sculpin tails fried up with scruncheons helped appease our famished guts.
How exactly did I barbarize sculpins?
I’d be stund to answer that question, eh b’ys? Who knows the statute of limitations on sculpin abuse?
Adrian and his buddy Charlie were warned to stay out of Charlie’s grandfather’s hayfield because they would beat down the grass and make it hard to mow. Charlie’s grandfather threatened to sic The Ranger on them if they disobeyed him.
Perhaps in hopes of hindering imminent hateful haymaking, I sometimes trampled through Pappy’s grass garden despite being warned that The Mountie would come down from Clarenville and whip me off to Reform School.
Once, rushing to finish sawing off firewood, Adrian shuffed too hard on his bucksaw and ripped a two-inch gash across his finger. “I still have the scar today,” he says.
Have a look at this left hand of mine. See the scar in the meat below the knuckle of my index finger? I ripped it with a bucksaw.
Unlike Adrian who was scravelling to finish his chore so he could go to his sister’s wedding, I was simply a stund bay-boy who scoated a bucksaw up a tree to saw off the top before felling the tree.
Adrian once had a dog named Spot.
I still have a dog named spot, although mine is ceramic. Mammy bought him for me from a peddler shortly after Confederation pupped (!). Spot has always been faithful and today he sits patiently atop a stereo speaker. I’ve convinced an impressionable granddaughter that years ago, when Spot grew old and sick, I turned him to stone. Truly.
Listen, I’m not going to bother reminiscing about head lice for fear of generating memories itchier than haymaking.
Adrian Payne has written this memoir so his grandchildren will know and appreciate what life on the Great Northern Peninsular was like when he was young.
I commend his endeavor but …
… but, Adrian, don’t try to convince your grandchildren that haymaking was fun.
Thank you for reading.