A SHORT STORY ABOUT SOME FOLKS FROM NOVA SCOTIA
A sea-mist hung over the dirt track leading down to Whale Cove. On setting out you might think there’s not much down there – a concrete wharf, a few sheds, a broken fishing boat and a couple of seagulls crouched on the rocks, hoping to get lucky. Certainly there were no whales. Still, we went to take a look, to stretch our legs, and all the while, through the windscreen of his car, a man watched us approach. And then we happened upon the darnedest thing we’d seen for quite some time.
I strolled up to the side of the man’s car. Stanley was his name. He looked pretty normal at first glance – though you can never be too sure. Anyway, he was just sitting there, relaxed, lifting something from a plastic bag, putting it in his mouth and chewing it with relish. Then Stanley took out another piece of whatever it was he was chewing on and nonchalantly passed it over his right shoulder, to the creature behind him. It reached forward and nibbled the morsel between his fingers …. well, I’ll be god-damned!
‘Hey, mister,’ I said. ‘You do know you’ve got a deer in the back of your car?’
‘That ain’t no deer,’ Stanley said, his accent combining the twang of the English West-Country, the lilt of the Irish and the drawl of a Canadian. ‘That there’s ma dawg.’
‘Your dog?’ I looked at the mutt slumped on the passenger seat and said, ‘He doesn’t look much like this one.’
‘Well, I do concede that he’s really a deer. But I treat him like a dawg. And he sure behaves like one, coz he never lets me up. I call him Buttons and he likes nothin’ better than to nibble on these here bits of dried pollack.’ Stanley points to the house beside the track. ‘This fellah livin’ here, he catches it and dries it and smokes it. You folks should try it.’
Whilst we all chewed on strips of dried pollock Buttons stuck his head out of the car window and nuzzled Christine’s hand. He was wearing a knitted, multi-coloured collar. Stanley came across the animal when it was no higher than the running board on his Subaru. Now Buttons filled the whole of the back of Stanley’s car. His back rubbed on the roof each time he moved.
‘Goddamn racoon was for draggin’ him off into the bushes.’ Stanley said. ‘Bin with me ever since.’
When the parks personnel tried to take Buttons from him, for it’s illegal to hold a wild animal, Stanley told them, ‘You can hush him off back into the woods, if ya so like. Only he’s just gonna come right back when he’s good and ready to do it. And then they said to me, “Well, Stanley, we can see you love that animal, and he loves you right back, so why don’t we just pretend like we never saw nothing”.’
The mutt in the passenger seat was called Molly. She was Buttons’ friend, confidante and all-round foraging buddy. The two have their own bedroom beneath the house, where Stanley has fitted a television with a 54 inch screen to the wall.
‘Some nights, when the wife’s gawn to bed, I goes down to their bedroom and lie out beside Buttons, with my head laid on his shoulder, sorta like this. We just watches the tv and that way none of us ever gets lonely.’
Two days later, in a tiny settlement, we met a lady who made quilts. In fact, she was a para-medic by profession and it was in her spare time that she made her quilts. It had grown into more than a hobby. Every moment of her spare time she was hand-sewing or machining quilts. When she wasn’t making them she was designing them, or choosing the material she’d make them from or simply dreaming about making them. Her showroom, a converted double garage at the front of her house, was full of them. I’m obsessed with quilts, she admitted, giggling. Though it was no joke what she was doing, for she’d sold enough quilts over the last few years to educate her three daughter’s through college. And that’s pretty damn impressive by any measure.
‘If ya think I’m crazy,’ she hooted, ‘then I got somethin’ ta really show yer.’
We followed her through the back of the showroom and into the house, down some steps and into the cellar. ‘Dave!’ she called. ‘Got some folks come to see ya.’
In the cellar we faced a multitude of model trains weaving the length and breadth of Canada. The walls of the room were painted sky-blue, dotted with white cloud, whilst scenes of the Rocky Mountains, the prairies, vast forests, beaches lapped by the ocean, farmland and city landscapes spread out before us; there were sidings and military bases and enormous factories, and more tunnels and bridges than anyone could conceivably want. There were wagons and cars and people and traffic lights – and kilometre after kilometre of track. The vastness of Dave’s model train set was simply stunning. There appeared to be no aspect of human life missing from it. Beneath one of the tables was a small bed where the grandson slept when he came to stay.
‘See,’ the wife said, giggling again. ‘Dave’s got it really bad.’
When he eventually appeared, Dave’s head bobbed up somewhere between Lake Superior and the Chapleau Crown Game reserve. ‘Oh yes,’ he exclaimed, ‘we only recently moved from across the road. The basement over there had become way too small.’
Dave was awaiting the arrival of the press. They were due that afternoon, to interview him and take some photos for the local rag. Making the final preparations before their arrival, he was rummaging in various drawers. One after the other he slid them back and forth, bursting with locomotives and carriages and signalling apparatus.
‘The detail you’ve gone to is unbelievable,’ I told him.
‘Oh, sure,’ he said, grinning at me mischievously as he returned triumphantly from one of the hundreds of drawers. ‘I removed this earlier and put it away. I thought the press might not approve.’
Dave produced the figure of a naked lady about the size of the nail on my little finger. He placed her on the sand between two trees, her feet just short of the ocean. ‘This is my nudist beach,’ he said, winking. ‘I always think you can never have too much detail.’
4 SIMPLE TIPS TO SURVIVING NOVA SCOIA
- Eat plenty of seafood …
2) Always remain well hydrated …
3) Make sure you understand what the weather’s doing …
4) Follow points 1 to 3 as often as needed, and then you’re good for some great hiking …
A VERY BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO SOME OF THE WILDLIFE OF NOVA SCOTIA
Typically, there are two types of moose out in the forests of Cape Breton. There are the real ones, like these …
… and then there’s the pretenders, those crazy folk who scurry about the woods with antlers on their heads. With the hunting season starting, old mouse-head here needs to keep his wits about him, or he’s sure to wind up on some dude’s sitting-room wall.
Continuing on the subject of wildlife we made an interesting observation concerning squirrels: whilst this one may look cute and fluffy gazing at us from the dormer window of his log cabin …
… In the outhouse they become little devils. As if the daily leap from tree to tree is not enough activity for them, to kick off their morning’s work they sneak into the outhouse for a crafty workout on the exercise wheel …
OUT AND ABOUT IN NOVA SCOTIA