October 30, 1998 Halifax Herald
Ah, the precious memories of youth!
Ah, the precious memories of youth!
I made my first trip to a Nova Scotia Guides meet when I was 9 or 10 - either in 1947 or 48 - with my late Dad and his hunting and fishing buddy, the late Ernie Anslie. The meet took place in what is today Kejimkujik National Park. I'll share with you some of the pleasant memories of that long-ago experience.
On the eve of the meet, we set out at dawn in Ernie's pick-up truck from Shubenacadie Indian Reserve for what was then a long, drawn-out trip over rough roads to Keji - eight hours plus.
Nova Scotia roads in those days were a far cry from what they are today; trails probably would be a better descriptive word for some of them. They had bumps and potholes galore and were so crooked that you could almost see your taillights as you drove around hair-pin curves. If someone were to argue that the old roads had been mapped out by staggering drunks instead of surveyors, I would decline to contradict.
Anyway, we traveled over the Rawdon Hills via No. 14, a dusty dirt road, to Windsor, where we connected to route 1 to Annapolis and then onto route 8 toward Liverpool, which was also, if memory serves correctly, mostly a dirt road.
The drive, except for the thrills that Ernie's driving at times provided, was largely uneventful. The exciting moments came when Ernie, a successful farmer who loved to appraise milking cows as he drove past pastures, became so totally engrossed in this activity that he would forget he was driving. On these occasions shouts of “ERNIEEEEE” would come out of one or both of us.
Upon arrival at the Meet, we set up camp on a small knoll. Then Dad, who couldn't read or write, volunteered to fix supper. This gave him an opportunity to try out a new acquisition, a pump-action gas stove. The way he went about doing it I'll never forget:
Without being able to read the instructions, he managed to set up the stove and then turned on the gas. Discovering that he didn't have any matches, and without turning the gas off, he went to a hugh community bonfire, about 100 ft from our camp, and got a match from one of the campers who were sitting around jawing and enjoying the warmth. Returning to the tent, which was now filled with gas, he lit the match. Pow! The tent puffed up like a balloon. Dad came out with a shocked look on his face. From that day onward, he got someone to read the instructions before trying out a new appliance.
During the meet, Dad won the moose-calling championship and I won a fire-making-without-matches contest. However, the best part of the meet was when the older campers told entertaining stories at night around roaring bonfires. An elderly Mi'kmaq lady, whom I remember only as Mrs. Tony, was the best. I'll relate an edited version of one of hers:
"One beautiful late-Summer Sunrise, with the invigorating smell of Mother Earth's ripening produce in the air, an unarmed and dignified young Mi'kmaq warrior named Stoney River set out for a day of hiking through the forest. After walking a few miles, he came to a meadow which had a small stream meandering through it and stopped to soak up the sunshine and appreciate the scenery.
“The air was warm and comfortable. This induced Stoney to set down with his back against a boulder to do some serious meditating. In spite of the burden of the seriousness of his thoughts, he soon fell into a deep untroubled sleep.
“After a lengthy interval, he awoke to see an enormous black bear contentedly eating ripe blueberries off nearby bushes. The vista gave him quite a shock, but he managed to keep his wits and recall what the Elders had taught him and his childhood peers to do to protect themselves in such situations: If they ever came face to face with a bear while traveling in the wilderness, and if they had no way at the moment of making a dignified and safe retreat, they should do exactly as the animal did.
“Therefore, being a person who had learned his lessons well, Stoney immediately began to emulate the bear's every action. Thus, in bear fashion, he ate blueberries directly off the bushes by using his hands to hold the bush while chewing the berries off with his teeth. When the bear went to the stream to ease his thirst, Stoney did the same. As the day wore on - or, from Stoney's perspective, dragged on - he copied all the actions of Brother Bear with unflinching devotion. This included cooling off by rolling around in the stream, eating more berries, relieving his water, etc.
“In late afternoon, Brother Bear took some time off from his labours to sit and sun himself. After lazing around for a spell, he stirred and moved off a short distance and moved his bowels. This action caused young Stoney to blurt: Ah, Brother Bear, I'm way ahead of you this time; I did that when I first saw you."
Ah, the precious memories of youth. To this day I can still recall the wonderful aroma of the smoke of the campfires and close my eyes and see the silhouettes of the happy figures sitting around in the shadowy light enjoying peace and tranquillity!
Daniel N. Paul