Cow tripping in the dark

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PICTOU ISLAND 1954

A very mild winter occurred 1954. There was no snow anywhere on the ground for the month of February. Pictou Island’s only dirt road was nothing but mud.

March 3 was a sunny calm day and my father sailed his boat, The Slo-Mo-Shun from Pictou Island right up Pictou Harbour and tier at the old freight shed wharf. There has been very little scattered ice in the Northumberland Strait so far. Dad returned that same day and Punch Patterson, Elmer and Gorman Glover, Margaret Jack MadDonald, Bill Cole MacDonald, Roy MacCallum and Spike MacDonald accompanied him.

It turned colder on March 5 and by the next day the ground had frozen hard enough so that the trucks could again travel on the road.  March 11 saw more scattered ice between the mainland and Pictou Island. A severe snowstorm accompanied with strong Norwest winds happened the next day on March 12. A lot of scattered ice on March 27, however, Bush MacDonald and Lauchie Dan sailed around and through it to Pictou.

Telephones were a privilege to have in your home during those years. Up to that time we didn’t have a phone in our house but on April 22  my father went to a meeting and obtained permission to install one. I was much to young to remember those times but I do remember that two large batteries operated those wall crank phones and had to be replaced once a year. When a family obtained permission to have a phone, they had to cut their own telephone poles and install the phone wire from the road to their house. Pictou Island’s Heckie Patterson helped my father to plant those telephone poles along our lane.

There was a beautiful young lady teaching in the Pictou Island School during 1953-55. Her name was Miriam Wong from Pictou. Miriam lodged at our house while teaching school on that little island. She met and fell deeply in love with Heckie Patterson. I read in mother’s diaries where Heckie was always at our place during those years. Now many years later, we all know why. Hector and Miriam were united in marriage in New Glasgow on Aug. 11t, 1956. A grand wedding celebration followed at the home of Teddy Paterson in Pictou and a dance followed at the Pictou Island hall.

April 30 was trap day. My father fished alone but he had hired a gentleman by the name of Neil Deon to help him put the lobster traps out that year. Pictou Island resident Annabell MacLean died in Pictou hospital on June 3, 1954. She had been battling an illness for some time. Her remains were transported back to Pictou Island that afternoon on Ernie Rankin’s ferryboat. Our minister that year was Rex Krepps and Annabelle was buried three days later.

The engine in my father’s boat broke down while fishing lobsters on June 18. Arnold MacMillan towed my father into the island wharf then he and Dad went to Pictou in Arnold’s boat after a new engine block. Dad, Arnold and Heckie got the motor up and running for the next day. Severe thunder and lightening storm July 3. Lightening struck a building at Jack Rankin’s and it burnt to the ground.

My mother’s sister, Ivy Davis, with her three daughters Patsy, Eileen and Margie along with Theresa Slawnwhite from Pictou were spending a few days on the island with us. I read in mother’s diary where Mother put Aunt Ivy and Theresa to work papering our kitchen walls. Sometime later, Mom, Ivy and Theresa took us kids for a walk to the north side of the island to see the lobster factory. We walked a one-mile trail that began behind our house and went through the woods to the north side of the island. Then we walked back to the south side and went swimming at the beach. Later that evening, Theresa and Ivy walked east to visit with the Patterson family. Keep in mind that there was no lighting of any kind to show their way after dark. They were walking along the darkened lone dirt road when suddenly they both stumbled over a large object on the road. Someone’s cow had lain down right in the middle of the road and they both fell over it. I’m wondering which one of them got the worst fright.

My father bought a three-year-old 1951 Ford Harris tractor on Sept 28 and paid $700 for it. In 1951, that tractor brand new would cost $1,250. Ernie Rankin took his ferryboat over to the mainland on Oct. 3 and took Dad’s tractor back to the island.

Helmut Bruauer was the Pictou Island schoolteacher 1954-57 and he and his family moved over from the mainland on Nov. 23. School started on the island two days later on Nov 25. Vinie & Theodore MacLean, Cecil & Judy Rankin, Shirley Munro, Elda and Dolina MacCallum came to our place after school that day with my sister Rita. I’m thinking that they must have had a school opening party. I don’t know why school didn’t start in September. It appears that the island kids had an exceptionally long summer vacation in 1954.

jimturple@eastlink.ca