I reminiscence to past years and I envision those Pictou Islanders I once knew. There was Duncan and Verna Rankin. They lived about one quarter of a mile away and were our nearest neighbours to the east. There was a hay field separating our houses and we could clearly see each other homes. That field today, however, has all grown over with a thick growth of trees.
I remember Duncan as being a cheerful man who always managed to be able to make a happy ending to just about any situation. For whatever reason, I can create Duncan in my mind driving his red pony tractor from his house down to the beach with fence posts on the wagon behind.
Like his brother Vernie, Duncan also had a magnificent apple orchard on his property. Many times I along with Judy and Nina Rankin, Sandra, Ann, Debbie, Jackie and Billie MacMillan would be climbing in those trees and shacking the apples to the ground. Our mother’s would make the best apple pies from those apples.
Besides being a fisherman as like most islanders, Duncan also was a farmer. My father and Duncan like most Pictou Islanders were very good friends. Many times my father and Duncan would get together to dip their sheep in a solution to rid them off ticks. I recall the many times when my father and Duncan would be in my dad’s boathouse discussing fishing, bending trap bows, planning lumber, working on a boat or whatever. Duncan was always one of the first to be at our place assisting my father when Dad would be constructing a new boat. Dad would call Duncan when it was time to take a new boat from the boathouse. Within a short time, Duncan would have many other islanders at our place to assist my father.
My memory has me recalling Thelma, Susan, Hughie, Skit and Captain John MacFarlane. They lived closer to the east end of the island. Hughie and Skit were fishermen and their brother Captain John was a retired gentleman who was know to us islanders as Buck. I was very young but I do recall Buck longing to visit and do errands for other islanders. He would daily walk the islands only dirt road just to visit, chat and have a cup of tea with other islanders. Many times Buck would stop at Howard MacLean’s “post office” pick up our mail and walk the two miles west to deliver to us. You could say that we Pictou Islanders at that time had our own mail delivery.
It seems like only yesterday that I would walk the 2.5 miles east to Charlie Munro’s house with my guitar over my shoulder. Charlie, his wife Ida and children Shirlie, Francie and Sandy were an island family who were very musical inclined. They, along with Vernie and Isabel Rankin, would usually provide the music for the many old time dances that were often held in the island hall. Charlie’s daughter Shirlie taught me to play the guitar. I visualize walking past Vernie Rankin’s place on my way to my guitar lessons. Vernie’s property was one of many properties on the island that was very picturesque. I recall the house being set back a ways from the road with a neatly cut lawn going right to the road. There was also a beautiful orchard on the east side of the house with the grass being kept neatly cut beneath the proud standing trees. I can envision this property as a picture on a calendar.
It seems like only yesterday when I would walk up and visit with the Patterson family. They lived in a large farm house almost a mile east from us. I reflect back in time and think of Tina, Ena, Sue, Jenny, Clara, Pinky, Punch, Heckie, Malkie and Dougie. I believe there might have been other Pattersons but I remember only these. Dougie was a small man who was known as the Pictou Island barber. I don’t believe there was one Pictou Islander whose hair wasn’t at one time cut by Dougie. Many times when my father would race his boats, Dougie being small and light would be with him as his throttle man. Numerous times while walking on the island’s only dirt road, I would pass by the road grader being operated by John Angus MacMillan. John Angus would be hauling the road grader with his dozer while Neil (Pinky) Patterson would be manning the grader. There was a large wheel on the back of the grader that Pinky would use to raise or lower the scrapper. I can still hear Pinky yell in his high-pitched voice “helloooo Jimmie” as they passed by.
I bring to mind Roy and Cassie MacCallum. Roy was a master off many things but I remember him as being the Pictou Island carpenter. Usually if a building was to be constructed, Roy would be the one to offer his services. Howard MacLean and his wife were the Pictou Island postmasters. A two-seater plane was used to transport mail and sometimes passengers too and from the island. The plane would land in a field behind Howard MacLean’s place. Many times the pilot would drop the mail in a burlap bag because weather conditions would not allow a safe landing.
These are only a few of the many people whom I have known on Pictou Island. Most of these people mentioned have passed away but their lives have created a memory that will remain forever.
Isabell and Vernie Rankin