The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #59418 Message #3546337
Posted By: gnu
06-Aug-13 - 08:25 PM
Thread Name: BS: The Mother of all BS threads
Subject: RE: BS: The Mother of all BS threads
SRS... otters. Minds me of a story I wrote a few days after my uncle died last fall. It was a rough exploratory thing... I repost it in first take form...
Thirty eight years ago, come October, my old man and my uncle collected me at uni on the Friday before Thanksgiving Weekend and we went north. Dad began making enquiries when we reached Plaster Rock as to accommodations. Said he was from Chipman and locals immediately identified with him as Chipman was, and still is, a lumber town with a big mill. He soon learned of Nick Deleavey's Sporting Camps and, with vague directions, we set off in search of same.
We journeyed north on 385 toward Riley Brook and found the piece of plywood nailed to a tree: "Nick's Camps". Chip seal road was behind us. About two miles in, we met a man on an old tractor and Dad asked after Nick's. The man was mute but "spoke" sign language, as did Dad. He shouldered an imaginary rifle and queried Dad with a look. Dad nodded. He pointed up the road, motioned "right" with a flat hand twist and bent wrist, and indicated the distance with thumb and forefinger. It was welcome news after many "How fuckin far is it?"s.
We arrived. There were three buildings. One was an old log cabin which was obviously built by experts. There were two recently constructed buildings… camps. The dog announced us. Typical farm dog. Big and loud. A woman appeared at the cabin door and held up one finger. Dad waved, smiled and nodded. She closed the door.
We looked around. A brook about eighty feet from the camps had been beaver dammed and the road continued across the resulting pond over a large log culvert. The woods were true Acadian Forest; a mix of huge hardwood and softwood and all the trimmings. The air was crisp and clean. Heaven.
A man looking about seventy five emerged from the cabin and took his cane from it's perch beside the door. Wide brimmed fedora, Humphrey Jacket and pants, suspenders over a Doeskin shirt, wool socks neatly tucked over Greb boots. I liked him. He slowly made his way to us. He was having a bit of labour, being not a lot taller than he was wide. He extended his hand to Dad, and introduced himself. "Nick." "Bill Owens, Moncton. My brother, chic, and my son, Gary."
We all complimented Nick on his heaven. He knew we were not Sports, not city folk. Nick said, "Bring yer own grub?" "Yes." "How many nights?" "Leaving Saturday. Eight nights." "Five dollars a bunk a night." Dad shook his hand. Nick pointed his cane at the nearest camp and said, "You fellahs get settled and I'll be over to advise you." "Thanks." He waddled back to the cabin.
It was a mansion. Eight beds. No bunk beds. Big table. Ninety six inch Enterprise with lots of firewood and a large drying rack for wet clothing. Four Coleman lanterns hung from the rafters. Full compliment of pots, pans, dishes and cutlery. Five dollars a night? For a mansion? How could he afford to give it away? The answer was not long coming.
A feast was had. Monster T-bones, spuds, onions, and shrooms washed down with cold spring water from the sink. A sink! A spring fed sink! Surely it couldn't get better than this? A knock.
Dad opened the door and Nick, kerosene lantern in hand, asked if we were settled and fed. Dad replied yes and asked Nick if he wanted a up of tea. "Love one." and he slowly made it to the table. He was about to take a seat at the side of the table, upon which Dad pulled out the chair at the head of the table for him. He understood proper respect. It wasn't lost on Nick who thanked Dad and acknowledge the gesture and nodded his acknowledgement and appreciation of good manners.
Tea was poured and a smoke offered, both of which were accepted by Nick.
"So, you lads are from Moncton."
"Yes. Born and raised. My mother and father were from Salmon River, near Chipman and they moved to Moncton after they married. Three boys, five girls." And so began a night of getting acquainted. Nick worked in the woods from the age of twelve. Landed a job with the railroad when he was in his twenties and walked, six days a week, nearly three miles each way through the woods. Tended a trap line and hunted along the way, sometimes in season. Stories were traded. Varied stories, about everything from boyhood memories to chilling war stories. Stories I had never heard. I felt honoured to be allowed to hear these stories. It was as if, for the first time, I was allowed a glimpse of my real father and uncle.
The hour drew late and Nick asked the question, "What are you fellahs after." "Deer." "Ain't no deer here. All moose and bear. Best bet is Burnt Church Road. Go as far as ya can and then walk into the old farms by the waters. Plenty a deer. Everybody had apple trees and they all left and moved to Plaster Rock and Perth-Andover to work in the lumber woods. Anybody in Burnt Church asks, tell em yer stayin with me. You fellahs get a good rest and leave an hour before dawn. I'll check in on ya after supper next eve."
I couldn't get to sleep for a few hours. The stories resonated in my head. And, I was one of the guys. I had no stories of my own but I was given a lesson in storytelling by masters that evening.
I woke early and shut off the alarm clock. At the time the clock should have wakened us, I quietly got up, stoked the stove, put the kettle on, went outside, and returned to the stove to start breakfast. When the temperature was reasonable in the camp and my cooking was near done, I said, in my best imitation of uncle Chic, "Hands off yer cocks and on with yer socks!" They both roared with laughter and did what well trained troops did; they flew out of bed and went outside.
Upon their return, I set a huge breakfast before each and myself. Nick's tales were recounted and commented on. Lots of laughs. I gathered the dishes and was about to pour hot water on them but Dad said to leave them for later. We quietly loaded the old Galaxy station wagon and were off for the old apple orchards.
We arrived at the end of Burnt Church Road at half passed six and started walking silently in the darkness. At light, Dad, in sign language, gave us our directions and indicated his intentions. We split up. It was magnificent countryside. Each of us explored our respective areas, met up at ten o'clock at the spot where we had split up, and walked silently back to the powder blue Ford for tea and cookies. Mum made scrumptious cookies. Molasses, ginger snaps that snapped and snapped the taste buds, ginger cookies sprinkled with sugar, shortbreads, peanut butter with a thumbprint full of strawberry jam - even strawberry jam tarts with crosses of pie dough made with her Master Baker father's recipe. All melted in the mouth. We discussed our recon and Dad decided on the rest of the recon which focussed on the area between the old farms and the water. We began again.
We repeated our scouting and returned to the wagon for lunch at one o'clock. I cooked Salmon River hash on the Old Coleman stove the way I was taught. Lots of onions and one sixteenth of an inch of "burnt" in the bottom of the pan. Delicious. As cook, I got to scrape the burnt and have it as dessert. The plan was laid. Something puzzled me. Dad's plan would put us at the vehicle a half hour early but I knew better than to question my father. He made Lieutenant eight months after induction into the Canadian Army on the day World War Two broke out.
We left the car in five minute intervals and met up again, a half hour early, at the first old farm. We discussed things in hushed voices. Dad pointed to himself and then at the ground. I was startled when Uncle Chic spoke loudly. "Okay. Let's head for the car. Let's go, Gary." He began to walk heavily and pointed to my feet. I followed in suit. He began a conversation with me about what we had seen. We walked two hundred yard and his voice and footsteps became more quiet. Mine also. I understood. At four hundred yards, we stopped and looked back. Dad walked into the woods. Twenty minutes later, he fired. It was a large deer. The work began.
We arrived at camp an hour late and hung the deer. The camp was spotless and supper was simmer boiling in a huge pot on the stove. Another large pot contained water for washing up. The supper table was set. Five dollars a night? Why were we the only ones in heaven?
We feasted. Nick arrived, grinning as much as my father, if not more. "Told ya." "Yes sir, you sure did. Depending on weather, we'll take care of that one on Wednesday or Thursday and half of it is yours." "You are not a Sport. I knew it when I saw how you were dressed. I thought someone stole my clothes." That was the first of many jokes. It was Saturday night. A deer was hung to cure. A bottle was opened. The stories were better than the previous ones. I slept like a babe. I was one of the guys.
I rose before dawn to explore. It was Sunday so I knew no wardens would be near, especially not on a private road before dawn, so I took my rifle. Talked with a large bull moose feeding in the pond below the road who seemed very curious and puzzled. He had startled me when he rose his head from under the water less than thirty feet from me. He quickly grew bored and returned to his feeding. I moved on. There was close to a half inch of ice on the beaver pond. I could hear something breaking the ice every so often. I stopped and peered in the direction of each shattering of ice. Two of them came scampering into view, chasing each other around and leaping into the air to come crashing down into the ice and disappear, then breaking up through the ice some distance away to repeat the display. Otter play! It was great fun to watch.
I watched the otters for near a half hour and decided to return to camp in time to cook breakfast. I hadn't had even a drop o the pure and I was as sassy as a squirrel. I figured the older folk weren't quite as chipper. They weren't. My imitation of "It's half past six, get yer hands off yer pricks!" was met with a tad less than laughter. But, they stirred when they heard Nick's voice.
Nick said he saw me leave the camp early and asked me if I was after jackin. No! We don't do that! I told him about the moose and Moosebirds I fed. Canada Jays, Whiskey Jacks, Gray Jays, Camp Robbers and a half dozen other names for my fav bird. Then. I told him about the otters. He said, "You had a rifle!" "Yes.Yes?" "Why didn't you shoot them?" "Why should I have shot them?" "Those river rats eat all the trout! I am tryin ta run a business here!" I apologized and said I would shoot them on site next time. A lie.
This story continues it's winding tale of the rest of the trip and becomes detailed in the accounts of the stories and the lessons I learned. I wrote it in one sitting in a matter of a few hours so it's very rough, as you have seen in reading it, if you have read this far, of course. It rambles as it was just a sketch, a brainstorm, for future consideration and a LOT of fleshing out for detail and reader edification is required to make it palatble. It goes on for a number of pages but I just wanted to get to the otters. I can still see them playing on the ice… through the ice… with the ice… with each other. It was magical. Shoot em? No. Feed em trout and charge yuppies more than $5 a bunk ta see em! Money maker, Nick!