Slap shots and stealing apples …

Online First Pictou Island Memories

Just east of the wharf on Pictou Island lies the home of Edward and Mary Rankin. This large house displays the fine architectural talents of past Pictou Islanders. That house was constructed from lumber sawed and taken from the woods on Pictou Island by Laughlin Rankin. Laughlin was Edward’s father and he passed away in 1945.

I have many heart-warming memories of Edward’s mother Katie. I remember Katie as being a small gray haired lady in her late 70’s when I was a young boy living on Pictou island. I lived about three quarters of a mile east of Katie’s house and many times I would venture down the island’s only dirt road to visit with her. Katie was a compassionate lady who always appreciated my company or any company as far as that goes. I bring to mind the many times she would place a glass of milk and homemade cookies in front of me when I visited with her. The memories of her homemade biscuits and rhubarb jam will always be with me.

Katie had a great talent for playing the piano and violin. I believed that she had made her mind up that she was going to teach me to play the piano. Katie would take me into her dinning room where her piano was kept. She would have me sit beside her on her piano stool and try to teach me how to play. I, however at seven or eight years of age, wasn’t that keen on learning those chords. I would have rather been out in the woods hunting rabbits or painting buoys in the barn with Edward. I do however remember learning how to play Little Brown Jug. That sure doesn’t seem like 40-plus years ago.

I recall a wooden lawn swing that was on her front lawn. She and I would sit for what seemed like hours on sunny days while she told me of days gone by. She would tell me stories about my grandfather Elias and his twin brother Charles. These gentlemen had passed away long before I was born. She would tell of her husband Lauchlin, George Rankin and Bill MacDonald going on the dusty dirt road in the old Model T. Katie passed away Oct. 14th 1968 and I, being one of her pallbearers, laid her to rest beside her husband in the pioneer cemetery on Pictou Island.

Katie’s only son Edward grew up being a lobster fisherman. Edward was quit a bit older then I was but he still allowed me to putter around and do things with him. There is a large barn and other buildings on his property. I as a young lad would help Edward coil rope or paint his lobster trap buoys in the barn.

Towards the middle of the barn was a fairly large room with a thick wooden floor. It was here where we island kids often played floor hockey. Some older island boys who would play floor hockey in this barn during the 1950s were Theodore MacLean, Cecil Rankin, Albert, Martin & Sterling MacCullum, Gorman Glover, my brother Vincent and Elwood Rankin. I believe that even Anderson and Alvin MacLean might have gotten their hockey start in that barn.

Edward always wanted to make every shot count – especially when competing against the other guys. There were times during winter months when Edward and I would be painting his buoys in the barn.  Without any warning he would suddenly say, come on kid, let’s play some hockey. He always used to convince me to be the goal tender and he would be the shooter. We would set up a pair of old boots against the wall for a net. Edward would assist me in wrapping burlap bags filled with hay around my legs and chest. Let me tell you, Gordy Howe had nothing on those slap shots that Edward fired at me! I think it was just a hard rubber ball that was used for a puck but I remember feeling as though I was in a shooting gallery. Edward would wind up with a shot and it would hit the wall behind me and bounce back to him. It would be about that time when my eyes would be opening only to see the ball coming at me again. I must say that we had a lot of fun and I don’t have to many scars to show for it, although I’m still looking.

There was an apple orchard on Edward and Katie’s property. I can recollect large beautiful red apples hanging from the tree branches. I also recall at least one tree being full of what we called August apples. I along with Sandra, Ann, Debbie, Jackie and Billy MacMillan loved to sneak down and climb those trees. I don’t think that Katie minded us filling bags with apples and taking them home. Edward on the other hand didn’t like for us kids to be climbing in his orchard trees and breaking branches. We being kids took great joy in doing what Edward didn’t like. With one of us acting as lookout, we would climb into those apple trees with the intention of stealing Edward’s apples and doing it without him catching us. Like the saying goes, those were the good old days.

Edward and Katie had chickens and many times I would gather the eggs in the hen house. My memory brings me back to this one cross roaSlap shotsster that wanted to rule the barn yard and he and I couldn’t see eye to eye. When he saw me heading out to gather the eggs, he would meet me half way across the lawn. First thing he would do was put its head down, lift its wings and away he would come after me. My little legs would move real fast during those years.

Edward and Katie had a German shepherd dog named Jock. Jock and I were pretty good friends and he was usually around to head this roaster off when he saw me hiking across the lawn with the roaster in pursuit. I was reading in mother’s diary where one day in 1959 Edward gave me that roaster. He put that big old bird in a burlap bag and tied it with a string. I felt much safer with him in the bag so I flung it over my shoulder and carried it home. I felt much easier when gathering Katie’s eggs after that. I felt even better knowing that big bird ended up on our supper table.