and Me ©
February 6, 2013
We was headen back to our home port of Bonavista about four hours east of St. John’s when Captain Gord Willingham put aside his pipe and growled, “The arse is fallin out of er Jeb. With those damn government quotas, can’t make a living with this no more. Ain’t no good like before. Fishen’s gettin as ugly as a boiled boot!”
I tipped back my Sou’Wester to survey the look of despair on Old Gord’s weathered face.
“Families is eating the putty outta da windows,” the Captain continued. “Fishin just can’t put food on the table no more. Fear this’ll be our last trip to the Banks.”
I been expecten this for some time. This was the end of my way of life. Fishen was the only thing I knew and liked....besides foot-stompin music-maken with my gitar.
My future looked dim, the same as most of my friends. Out of work and no hope of a job.
Once ashore, I headed for Walkham's Gate Pub to drown my sorrow and ponder my future.
I sat down with the regulars and ordered a pint, and then another, and then another. Borrowed a gitar and started to jam with some of the guys already well into the tank. Hoped songs like “Doin' the Newfie Stomp” would lift my spirits.
Half cut, and with all the courage my beer could muster, I drunkedly belted out, “I’m done with this place. I’m headen west. Packing my gitar and tent on my Harley tomorrow and bikin to Alberta. Heard there’s lots of work there. Nuttin to keep me here. Jobs gone, families mostly gone, and my girl run off with another guy. I’m gonna see the country and claim some of that western gold. Aint no use hanging around here on the public dole,” I stammered.
Next morning I arrived at Sydney, my first time on the mainland. I was a little homesick already but this feeling was reduced by my urge to see the country and for this small-town guy to see those big cities I heard about like Montreal and Toronto.
Over the long trip, my love, reliance, and companionship for my bike grew....sorta like what happened with our fishin boats that protected us through so many storms
While bikin in the solitude and beauty north of Superior, I even started talkin to my companion, Harley. Started calling him Hoss.
“Gotta stop to camp,” I said to Hoss. “Let’s find a comfortable spot. Figure you’re as hungry and tired as I am.” Like any great friend, Hoss was always faithful, reliable, and agreeable.
When we reached the wide open Prairies, Hoss, and I started feeling like we really belonged in the west. Home was completely erased from our minds by the adventures that lay ahead.
Before we knew it, we were in Calgary amazed at the richness of the many brand new shiny skyscrapers and all of the business people hustling about in their rich business suits---a far cry from our laid back way of life, and the sou’ westers, the heavy rubber aprons and work gloves and the slickers and hip waders that defined our work dress, not to mention the laid-back fellowship over singing, dancing and maken music that also defined our East Coast way of life.
I stopped in the first big office building i saw. Happened to be a huge rich looking rust coloured marble building with the name Trans Canada on it. Don’t know what they did, but went in to ask about work anyway. Figured nuttin to lose! Worst to happen was they’d tell me, “Ain’t got no work.”
I was directed to the personnel office where I was met by a richly attired young girl. “Wonder if you got any work for a hard working East Coast fisherman ma’am,” I stammered. Just got in and lookin for work.”
“Well,” said the pretty clerk, “You look strong, hard-working, and reliable. There’s plenty of jobs in Calgary. Just can’t get enough workers these days for the new pipelines we’re building, especially with our booming economy. Pays good for unskilled workers and you’d have a chance to learn a trade--equipment operator or welder or such. We can start you in an initiation program tomorrow. You’d work two weeks at a time in a work camp and then we’d fly you back to Calgary for two weeks off.”
“Wow!” I thought. “Why did I wait so long to come west? Evenings at those work camps with all the guys will be just like those home town nightly gatherings at Walkham's Gate Pub. I’ll get a chance to sing and make music with the gang every night”
First pay day had me feeling like a millionaire. ”Never seen so much money. It’ll sure give me a good time in Calgary on my time off. I’d have to work months for this much on the fishin boats,” I thought, as I excitedly anticipated the time I’d have there.
The fellowship at the work camp didn’t quite work out as I thought as there seemed to be a lot of fighting and arguing over everything...and no one seemed interested in makin music. Only drugs, alcohol and gambling seemed important. And debts were settled nightly in drunken drug assisted stupors....so different from Walkham's Gate Pub.
All this heightened my desire for my time off in Calgary.
Upon my arrival in Calgary, with all that cash in my pocket, I was feeling that time in the big city would compensate for my disappointment at the time spent at the work camp.
It wasn’t long before I found that big city life was very impersonal with its hustle and bustle, its ear-busten music, and lack of friendship among the people. Eveyone seemed alone doin their own thing in the crowd. Calgary life was sterile compared to the richness of life in Bonavista. Calgary weren’t no better than the work camps.
“Hoss,” I said, when I reunited with my best friend, “This place is just not for us. Money ain’t everything. Ya can take us outta Bonavista, but ya can’t take Bonavista outta us. We’re like fish outta water! Let’s go home!”
And Hoss gave an enthusiastic holler as his engine roared to life... and off we went.