A sim­pler life than it is to­day

The Southern Gazette - - EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT - Out From The Har­bour Harold Wal­ters is a re­tired teacher liv­ing in Dunville, Pla­cen­tia Bay.

Hard to imag­ine liv­ing in a com­mu­nity with­out au­to­mo­biles, eh b’ys?

In [Flanker Press], Rex Brown re­calls such a place — Tack’s Beach, a place where one al­ways yielded the right of way to the men with the hand bar­rows.

Un­til it was re-set­tled in the late 1960s, Tack’s Beach was an ac­tive fish­ing vil­lage on King’s Is­land, part of an ar­chi­pel­ago deep in Pla­cen­tia Bay. Like many other New­found­lan­ders, the people of Tack’s Beach were up­rooted from their out­port homes and more or less forced to shift kit and ca­boo­dle, bed frames and bread pans, to more cen­tral­ized growth [?] ar­eas.

Fifty-plus-years later, a gen­er­a­tion of grey­haired New­found­lan­ders still re­flects on those ear­lier times in their for­mer homes. In this book, Rex Brown re­flects on life in Tack’s Beach be­fore re­set­tle­ment. He takes his reader’s hand and leads him — yes, yes, or her — all around the har­bour, chit-chat­ting and yarn­ing as they mo­sey.

Brown points out var­i­ous houses and prop­er­ties: the Bolts, Greens, Bar­retts, Browns; the church, the shop, the school, the wharves. Al­most like an an­i­mist, he even points to nat­u­ral ob­jects as if they have souls of their own: the Big Rock; an enor­mous free­stand­ing spruce tree; a ven­er­a­ble, totemic plum tree.

For­mer res­i­dents of Tack’s Beach, their ex­tended fam­i­lies and oth­ers al­ready fa­mil­iar with the com­mu­nity are most likely to iden­tify with the par­tic­u­lars in­di­cated: the au­thor’s fam­ily home, the road to Broad Cove, for in­stance, and the his­to­ries of in­di­vid­ual fam­i­lies.

While the item­ized fea­tures of Tack’s Beach don’t mean much to me, it is kind of spooky to re­al­ize the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the au­thor’s life and mine; be­tween cer­tain as­pects of the au­thor’s, dare I say, per­son­al­ity and mine.

Both reared to a large part in the 1950s, the au­thor and I grew up to be school teach­ers. Per­haps our pro­fes­sions were pre-des­tined, and be­cause of that, as boys we suf­fered ob­vi­ous de­fi­cien­cies, at least in the eyes of the men with the hand bar­rows.

Brown con­fesses that his skill set was “what­ever is the di­rect op­po­site of jack of all trades.” Even­tu­ally, he man­aged to mas­ter the six-horse power At­lantic en­gine in a trap skiff. Nev­er­the­less, he “for­ever felt in­ad­e­quate.” I know the feel­ing. Ev­ery other bay boy in my out­port home could heave over the fly­wheel of an en­gine or steer with a sculling oar. Not this bay boy. I never did mas­ter sculling or un­der­stand the im­por­tance of an ig­niter. For frig sake, even now I some­times call a neigh­bour to help me re­place a spark plug in my lawn­mower. I get the im­pres­sion Rex Brown en­joyed a game of pid­dley and maybe ex­hib­ited some skill at smack­ing the pid­dley stick. Not me. And you know I was too clumsy to ever walk on stilts. What? Don’t in­sult me; of course I could ride a bike.

There was one bay-boy pas­time at which I was adept. I could stomp my boots on milk cans and squat them on my feet as horse­shoes. Lube tins, by the way, were su­pe­rior to milk cans be­cause, be­ing larger, they curled over the in­step and gripped like ski boots.

Rex Brown’s fam­ily well was “di­vined” he says by Un­cle Fred Eddy. The well in our gar­den on Ran­dom Is­land was also di­vined by a wa­ter witch who marled back and forth un­til the skiver of forkeyed alder in his hand bent down like a knotty fin­ger point­ing to un­der­ground wa­ter. Truly. No doubt, life out the bay — or around it for that mat­ter — in many ways was sim­pler than it is to­day. A life­time ago, young­sters would run half a mile to see kit­tens be­fore they opened their eyes; or a day old lamb frol­ick­ing in a grass-gar­den; or the rare wolf fish trapped and hove up on the wharf; or the rarer yel­low lob­ster Mr. John Henry once landed in Tack’s Beach.

Both Rex and I suf­fered [!?] through lengthy church ser­vices dur­ing which the num­ber of hymns was more daunt­ing than an in­ter­minable ser­mon, es­pe­cially if some of them had seven or eight verses plus a cho­rus. Lordy. I don’t know about Rex, but I know more than one Sun­day I beavered my teeth into the wood of the seat in front of me and gouged notches still vis­i­ble.

And that was be­fore Mammy dragged me to my feet to join the singing while the or­gan huffed like a bel­lows in a painful Protes­tant drone.

Thank you for read­ing.

gh­wal­[email protected]­sona.ca

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.