Facing Fears, part 5

…the debriefing.

“How were the bugs?” I was asked. “Pretty unhappy I should think given how many of them I killed.” I answered. “And frustrated too, given the excellent defense the repellent offered.”

“Don’t you mind being in the woods alone?” Someone else asked. “My dear, you are never alone in these woods. There’s the loons, and the deer and the woodpeckers and then all the stuff you don’t see but you know is there, like the bears and the coyotes. And then there’s the blackflies.” Always the blackflies. Millions of blackflies.

In the beginning there were lots of blackflies. No matter where you looked you could see one or three. They seem to especially love the colour blue.

Oh my God, the blackflies. While paddling they were always with me; even in the wind they’d fly behind my back like so many small cars catching the low pressure tow behind a transport truck. June is the worse month for blackflies and this year they were worse than ever.

I’m pretty good at handling flies. They really only bother me when they bite and maintaining a thick coating of Deet juice on my exposed parts kept them from getting too personal. A stiff Westerly wind blowing down through the campsite all day was also a big help but as soon as the wind dropped they swarmed like 1983 mothers around a box of Cabbage Patch dolls.

The Swarming – a horror movie in the making.

When I chose my camping attire I forgot how much flies love the colour blue – they made a beeline for my blue-jeans the minute I exited the car and there are probably a few yet trying to find their way out of my pockets. (I wonder how their liking for blue evolved given there are so few blue animals. The only example I can think of right now is a cookie monster.) I spent enough time with them to develop a fascination and when I took a break from paddling I watched them more closely. They had an air of desperation about them, like I was their last and only hope. They crawled almost blindly over my pants, bumping into and crawling over each other while poking and prodding to find a repellent free patch of skin or a small hole in the fabric through which they could poke their teeny tiny toothed stylets. When paddling necessitated that I turn out of the wind, they dropped like paratroopers onto my arms, my chest and my cheeks. (that’s the chubby parts of my face, folks, my face-cheeks) Blackflies don’t like the dark so therefore they never went very far up my nose or too deeply into my ears. Eureka, that must be what ear-hair is for!! Some flies, like Friday night revellers at a pub, lined up to drink the sweet nectar from the corners of my eyes until they were evicted by my gloved hand, which I was loath to do because I can’t bear to have that sour neoprene smell so close to my nose. Where were all the bats and barn-swallows when I needed them? Oh right, the bats are all dead and I’m wilderness camping. No barns. Just blackflies.

The blackflies disappearance after dark overlapped with the arrival of the mosquitoes. (We called them nippers in Newfoundland) I ask you, do mosquitoes work on the clock? Do they shake hands with the day shift of blackflies as they pass in the gloaming on their way to punch their little time-clocks and park their lunch pails before they go out in search of fresh blood? Wait, they don’t carry pails because I am their lunch.

The curmudgeon in me says, as I smear on another thick layer of Deep Woods Off, that mosquitoes are all employed by the repellent companies to be extra aggressive to force us to buy more fly dope. Well I hope they get danger pay because I got pretty good at taking them down seconds before their little feet made land-fall. (They don’t really have feet but have setae at the end of their tarsuses. Or is that tarsi?) Some mosquitoes have specialized jobs. There is the outhouse mosquito who primarily works alone and the kamikaze mosquitoes who are trained to dive-bomb only when you have a pot of boiling hot water in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. Sometimes it’s worth the risk of third degree burns to take the little critter out. Others are trained to recognize a bared ankle or the removal of a hat from a thousand paces. You really do have to admire their skill and tenacity. I’d tip my hat to them but I wouldn’t want to disturb the blackflies. .

Blackfly grazing grounds.

“So why ever do you go? Why would you torture yourself like that?” they ask. Here’s why in point form:
• paddling and camping slows my busy mind and keeps me in the moment.
• I like being completely self-reliant.
• It keeps me out of the thrift stores where I buy random decorative stuff I don’t need. Nature needs no further decoration.
• All those blues and greens are so darned beautiful.
• I love to listen to the dawn chorus although it is better later in the fall when birds get up at a more reasonable hour.
• It is healthy to face your fears every now and again.
• Propelling a vessel down a slow lazy river is pure poetry.
• These trips makes me really appreciate how good life is when there are no blackflies, or mosquitoes, or ticks. Did I mention that I am afraid of ticks?

Keji has more than its share of ticks.

Here’s looking forward to new summer adventures. Sláinte.

© Judy Parsons 2019

Facing Fears, part 4

…..in which I am glad I stayed the second night and would have stayed another if I’d booked it.

The second night in the hammock tent was very similar to the first in terms of temperature and nocturnal noises. It was, however, a very different experience mentally. The loons still wailed mournfully at the moon, the barred owls were perched even closer to my camp, and there were many calls which I couldn’t decide were coyote or loon. Thankfully those were distant. No, the big difference was that where the night noises scared the living daylights out of me the first night, on the second they just annoyed. They didn’t make me jump or shiver, they just kept me from dropping off to sleep. I sang “Sing a Song of Sixpence” over and over (no idea why I chose that particular tune other than maybe I would have liked to bake a few Keji birds into a pie) until the next thing I knew I was being gently wakened by the beautiful dawn chorus; a plethora of songbirds, big and little, singing to greet the day. It made me smile and I birthed myself from my bag and put the hot water on for my morning coffee. It looked like a perfect day for a paddle.

Keji morning.

See that blackfly up top? There was no wind which meant all the blackflies were out with their blackfly children. I basted myself in Deet before I did anything else and it wasn’t too long before I was packed up and underway again.

I decided to go back the way I came instead of taking the Eastern passage along Hemlock Island. Not sure why unless it was a subconscious desire to see if the neighbours had survived the night. There was indeed a trickle of smoke from their campfire and all canoes were accounted for but a lot less shrieking going on. I respected their privacy and didn’t take their picture and slipped by unseen.

Another great day on the river. I saw things I didn’t notice on the way up, like this funky rock. I wished I had some little toy or token to sit in the hole for someone else to discover.

And here is another funky rock which demonstrates one of the few things I don’t like about kayaking at Keji. The water is tea coloured and it makes it extremely difficult to spot rocks before you are right up on them, literally. Many of them are steep ridged slabs which can do a fair bit of damage. I must have bottomed out four times. It is especially hard to sight them from the low position in a kayak when the sun is twinkling on the water. I always carry emergency repair tape just in case of puncture. Thankfully on this day I was spared.

A real sunker – I was often passing these rocks before I was seeing them..

It’s also particularly hard to spot the rocks when your eyes are elsewhere, head turned back to look up the river from whence you came. Once again the greens and blues prevailed.

It wasn’t long before I could spot the bridge at the eel weir….

and it was only then that I realized that if I stayed on this river, I could paddle right to my back door; once you’ve passed under the bridge, the Mersey continues on to Lake Rossignol and then flows out the other side and on down to Liverpool. There’s a lot of portaging to be done though, especially later in the season when the water is down. Click here for a link to info on paddling the Mersey from its beginning at Sandy Bottom Lake down to Lake Rossignol and here for Lake Rossignol to Liverpool. The second part has six NS Power dams so again, a lot of portaging, and sometimes they let extra water go, or when doing repairs, shut down the flow substantially. I’d like to do it someday but not alone.

Pretty soon I was back in my kitchen having a real cup of strong hot coffee, grateful I hadn’t succumbed to my fears or been eaten by bears. Cheers until next time.

Who’s a chicken? Not your Momma!

Stay tuned for a trip debriefing in my next blog entry.

© Judy Parsons 2019

Facing Fears, part 3

….Afternoon, in which I realize I have nothing to fear.

Is this what I look like when I’m happy? Need to turn that frown upside down, girl.

In the deep dark of the previous night I had decided to forfeit my campsite fees and give up and go home early but the beauty of the lake in the morning made me change my mind and I settled in for the duration. Lunch was followed by reclining on the beach and for a few minutes I was content to watch the butterflies (big Canadian yellow swallowtails), the many dragonflies, and the pileated woodpecker who was never very far away. Being terrible at relaxing I soon began to poke about in the ridge of detritus washed up by the winter storms; beaver sticks, broken bug-chewed branches, dried grass, sea glass, well, technically lake glass. When you are surrounded by so much blue and green and brown every little anomaly in colour or pattern tends to stand out, like this odd looking stone:

Rorschach rock.

or this humble cranberry. However did it survive the winter in such good shape?

A hardy little cranberry.

And how about these bleached sticks which the are full of bug burrows:

A well chewed stick.

Wait a minute!! Are those really random bug trails? If so, those were some talented artsy beetles. Surely this pattern was assisted by the hands of a human with a pocketknife or a sharp rock.

Prettier than average stick.

I resisted the temptation to bring it home; there’s a good reason the park people don’t want you to bring anything into or out of the park. You never know what infestation is hatching below the surface.

Hammock tent -daytime mode.

A good read followed by an afternoon nap was restorative and I probably would be there yet but for being startled by the sound of a cruise ship going by. For surely that’s what it was, given the amount of noise trailing behind it. I made a quick exit from the hammock and slipped over behind the wood-pile where I watched two bright red canoes go past just offshore. Ah, must be the new crew heading up to site 19 in the passage. Now don’t get me wrong, I relished the thought of having other humans between me and the location of the last bear sighting but I fancied the more woodsy-folksy type with guitars and songs about the leaving of Liverpool or red-winged blackbirds. This crew of five who were sporting more bare flesh than covered despite the flies, had apparently come to Keji to practice their outdoor voices at full volume and although I am not opposed to Beyoncé tunes they don’t really add to the ambience. It brought out the curmudgeon in me as I watched them yelling and play at trying to upset one of the canoes. Ah, I thought, might as well embrace it. They’ll be much better neighbours when half of them have been carted off to the hospital for bronchoscopies to retrieve all the blackflies they inhaled while shrieking. Anyway, as soon as they rounded the point I could no longer hear them so I came out from behind the woodshed and set about making supper.

Mr. Noodles makes a fine pasta dish if you throw away the seasoning mix and drain off the water. I added Bulk Barn cheese sauce, precooked real bacon bits, and those yummy crispy fried onions from a can. I used to add freeze-dried vegetables but didn’t bother to bring any. I may have been going feral for I couldn’t recall the last time I had fruit or a vegetable unless you included the fresh chive I put in my tuna wrap the night before. The two apples I brought returned home in my bag, bruised and battered beyond repair but there wasn’t a crumb of gingersnap left over nor any of the chocolate Jif to Go with which I slathered them.

Happily fed, I lit the campfire and roosted on the beach to watch the sun go down.

I waited forever for it to develop into a spectacle but it turned out to be a real dud so I settled away the campfire, brushed my teeth (guess I wasn’t totally feral) and inserted myself into my tent tube, making sure there were at least two flashlights within reach. Well swaddled and armed with a one inch pocketknife I lay perfectly still and waited for the nocturnal shenanigans to begin.

To be continued….

© Judy Parsons 2019

Facing Fears, part 2

…..the first morning, in which I enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Home is where the hammock is.

It was a bit of a rough night in the old hammock tent. Oh yes, it was comfortable enough and I was plenty warm, thanks for asking, but as tired as I was, sleep was not forthcoming. First it was because the wind was blowing and it whistled along the tent fly drowning out the potential sounds of approaching animals. I wished so hard for it to drop out that it did and when it became so quiet that I could hear my heart beating I wished for the wind to breeze up again. But it didn’t and so I read for a bit and every time I drifted to that oblivion of sweet slumber something screeched or wailed and woke me up. So between the barred owls with their Whoo-whoo-whoo-hoo and the loons with their profoundly mournful wails and whistles and what may or may not have been a distant coyote, I was awake half the night. I counted backwards from 1000 to keep from thinking about the trail running by my head and I was grateful that I didn’t hear the pitter patt of any paws on the dry leaves.

First and best cup of the day.

So it wasn’t until nine in the morning that I was on deck again. Getting out of the hammock tent is kind of like being reborn. In the photo at the top of the page you can see the bright green mattress poking out the slot. That’s the only exit that doesn’t involve a pocketknife. From inside you have to separate the Velcro and get a leg through to keep it from closing back up and then birth yourself right onto your feet where you stagger about like a young foal until you get your land-legs again. All part of the adventure. That first cup of coffee sure was welcome by the time it came.

Later I struck out in the kayak to explore. The blackflies were as bad as I have ever experienced outside of Labrador. More on them later. I slathered on the Deet and used my best zen practice to keep them from ruining my day. It sure was pretty out there. Being alone I didn’t venture too far from shore but really that’s where it was prettiest. Here’s a taste of what I enjoyed:

A most pleasant way to spend a morning and to work up an appetite for lunch. I’ll continue with the afternoon in my next posting.

A Blog housekeeping note: The comment box, which hasn’t worked in over a year has finally been restored; its reappearance just as mysterious as its disappearance. I look forward to hearing from you and to suggestions for future postings. In the meantime, the “click on any photo for a larger view” function does not seem to be working today. Sigh. Life is just a journey from one glitch to the next.

© Judy Parsons 2019

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Facing Fears

….in which I go into the not-so-deep, not-so-dark woods. Today’s costume: boater.

It seemed like a marvelous idea when I chose my Keji (pronounced ked’-gee) campsite way back when I was avoiding Canadian winter. Kejimkujik is one of two National Parks in Nova Scotia and sites get booked up quickly. I picked mid-June because I figured there would still be lots of water on the river (and there was) and it would be close to a full moon; I am afraid of the dark. (No kidding, when I sorted my camping gear from a previous trip I found that I had packed a head-lamp, a hanging lamp, three flashlights, and a bag of batteries) Later, in preparation for camping, I spent hours at the gym trying to turn my Florida flab back into muscle. In the meantime, I was really planning to cancel the booking because my nerves were getting the better of me. When I made the call to give up the site it was two days before I was to go and I was told that you have to give three days notice to get your money back. Sigh. Money talks. I chose a boat from the family flotilla and loaded up my gear. It was overcast as I headed down the number 8 highway to Keji. I am home now and it is all behind me and I am so much the better for having gone. Now lets see how many blog entries I can milk from this short adventure.

Ready to load.

I put in at the bridge at Eel Weir, feeling pumped after having already seen a doe (a deer, a female deer) and a few rays of golden sun. There was indeed lots of water on the river and I quickly paddled across small Lake George and into the Western Run along Hemlock Island where I investigated an old beaver lodge.

Apparently abandoned beaver lodge
Anybody home?

I’d been up this route twice before and was glad to find a favourite craggy little tree still standing although I think there is less of it now. I must look up that older photo.

Solitary craggy pine on little island in river
Solitary pine.

The weather was looking up and I savoured the blues and greens as I paddled against the mild current toward my back-country site, which was only accessible by boat. After a little over an hour of paddling I arrived with lots of energy left to make camp.

Campsite 18 seen from the shore.

That’s not a cabin you see up there behind the trees, it’s the wood shelter. The park staff stocks these remote sites with firewood so that the campers aren’t tempted to denude the surrounding area of trees to cut up and burn in their quest to stay warm or to roast s’mores. Did I mention that I am afraid of s’mores? I figure just a small waft of that sweet marshmallow filling on my breath as I sleep is liable to attract bears from hither and yon, from Keji to Yellowstone. I am also afraid of bears. Anyhow, I digress. No cabin for me, it’s tenting all the way.

Hennessy hammock tent. Version: the Scout. A grand place to hang out; literally.

The infamous Hennessy Hammock Tent was to be my home for the next two nights. It’s nice in that it keeps you off the ground. Unlike a regular hammock it has an upper enclosure of mosquito netting. The fly keeps the dew off and protects from light rain but it doesn’t work so well in driving rain. No matter, I fancy myself a fair weather camper these days so it does suffice. Of course there’s little room for anything but the occupant so I stored my packs in the wood-shelter and I hoisted my food up the bear cables which the park has installed at all the back country sites. Thank you park people for doing that. The less the bears smell of my goodies the better. Inside the hammock is a super-light air mattress, a down quilt (a sleeping bag is just too complicated to navigate in such a restricted space; you can easily tie yourself into a Granny knot trying) and a string on which I hang a light and a pouch full of flashlights. It’s pretty cozy – a bit like being hog-tied inside a sausage casing.

A few chips off the old block.

I made me some splits for the campfire I didn’t bother to light, and had a cold supper…

Looking up Kejimkujik Lake.

….and lounged on the beach and enjoyed the scenery until bedtime, which was way before dark because I didn’t want to wear out my flashlights. And I was tired – all the packing and loading and unloading and unpacking had taken its toll. I donned my night-clothes and…..

…WAIT! What is that? Had I really hung my hammock almost right over an animal trail? Yup. Sure did. Too tired to care, though the thought of it did come back to haunt me in the wee hours. Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the woodland critters bite! To be continued………

© Judy Parsons 2019

Birds of a Feather

…. or Birds of the Wildlife Park

Feeling a bit shack wacky today I took off for a ramble and ended up at the nearby wildlife park which is populated by rescued birds, beasts, reptiles and tourists. Well, the tourists aren’t rescues but a today a few were odd enough that they could be put on display. Anyhow, I’ve been several times now and know where to find my favourites. The eagles are always high on my list. You can stand within six or eight feet of them.

“Sonny, look at me when I’m talking to you. You have no manners”


“Yeah well ‘Awesome‘ ends with ME and ‘Ugly‘ starts with U … just sayin'”


“I don’t know what I’m going to do with him.”

I could spend hours watching this flamboyance of flamingoes, Yes, flamboyance is the collective noun used for a group of flamingoes. Stand can also be used but it is nowhere near as much fun.

Betcha this one’s name is Tom Dooley.

But why are they always pink in paintings? I say they are way more orange than pink. Then again, their reflections are kind of pink. I’m so confused.

What colour is my tutu?

Now this bird is pink:

Pink and proud of it.


“Am I a Heron?”


“Or am I a Duck?”


“Naw, I’m just a regular old roseate spoonbill.”


“Wish I was pink or orange. How is it that we got no colour at all?”


“White is not the absence of colour but all of the colours reflected.I’m tellin’ you man, we got it all. “


♫”Red or yellow. black or white, we are precious in his sight….” ♪♪♪ “C’mon guys and gals, wake up and sing along…..”

© Judy Parsons 2019

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And The Winner

..of the Great Root Beer Taste Test is…

Not this one:

Dang that root beer.


This one was ‘butterscotch’ root beer. It tasted just like it sounds; sickly. Dang it, that root beer was almost nasty. These are the varieties I sampled; all new to me:

Fitz’s and Faygo were both extremely pleasing, Stewart’s was pleasant enough and Route 66 and Frosty were so-so. In the end the winner came down to having all natural ingredients and being made from cane sugar.Traditional root beer is made from sassafras bark or sarsaparilla root; the label didn’t specify from whence came it’s flavouring agent but it sure was tasty.  Drum roll please. And the winner of the best tasting root beer in my neighbourhood goes to:

Fitz’s is mighty fine.


But I may want to rethink that. I just read on Wikipedia that natural sassafras has been banned by the FDA because it contains safrole which  is carcinogenic. Whaaat? Suck all the fun out of root beer now, why don’t ya. Oh. You can get safrole-free sassafras extract. Sounds like a lot of trouble when you can use fake root beer flavouring. And who is to say that the fake stuff isn’t carcinogenic. Have they looked? What the heck; I’ll take a Fitz’s and take the risk.

Judy Parsons 2019

Email comments to jgparsons@judypstickletrunk.com

And the Winner is..

…or In Praise of the Small but Mighty

And the winner of the news story of the week which brought a joyous tear to my eye is: SeaLeon found after being MIA for months. In second place was a story which brought me a few of those little emotional chest quakes: a young lad has the presence of mind to grab a snow-fence and, with the help of some other bystanders, improvise a fireman’s net to save a young fellow who was dangling from a ski lift. Way to go boys for keeping that poor young fellow out of a body cast. In third place comes the father-daughter duo who rowed across the Atlantic in 91 days. Ah, Dad, I wish you were still here; it might have given us ideas.

SeaLeon – a 1.8 meter sea-going autonomous sailboat from Halifax, NS.

For those few of you not following the Microtransat Challenge, Sealeon didn’t win.  You can find out more about the race by visiting the website via this link: The Microtransat Challenge. I have been following the race by checking SeaLeon’s position online after she was launched from Cape Breton Island on July 30, 2018. Every day I checked for updates. It was going well until late August when she went way off course but then she miraculously turned back and was doing quite well until she disappeared altogether after doing a large loop-dee-do on Oct. 14 . I was saddened then, and continued to check periodically but she never returned so I sang taps in my head and lowered an imaginary flag to half-mast and gave over to the fact that she was lying with the Titanic, the Willing Lass, and the Bismarck, at the bottom of the sea. Imagine my delight when I read yesterday that she been found, tattered but still afloat, banging up against the shore somewhere near Cork, Ireland. (Get it, Cork? A substance that bobs and floats?)

Go to the Mircotransat link above to view and enlarge the map.

Why am I so interested in the SeaLeon? (Which I miss-read as SeaLion for a few weeks) I dunno. Perhaps because I have a bit of the geek gene. I always loved hanging about with geeks although I am pretty quick to tune out once they break into Geek-speak. The idea of a totally autonomous boat, one that used solar power to drive its electronics and adjust its sails, rocked my socks. Perhaps it had to do with the cross-Atlantic challenge. Being from Newfoundland I have seen and read of all manner of small vessels setting out to make the trip across the open ocean. Many of them succeeded. I even had a bit of that bug myself. Twenty years ago I had the grand idea of one day sailing my sailboat solo, first to Newfoundland, then the following year on to Cork, Ireland. From there I planned to take her to her original launch point: Loch Goil in Scotland. That place also generated her original name – Lochgoil. (Try saying that three times over the VHF radio and being understood) In the meantime I had to work on my sailing skills, try and accumulate some resources so that I could leave work, and raise my children. The first two didn’t pan out and long before the kids were close to fleeing the nest the boat began to become more than a handful. When repairs demanded more than my finances or my know-how could offer, I sold the boat and got on with other things. I haven’t set a sail since.

And along comes SeaLeon. She didn’t win but by Jove she made it across the North Atlantic briny deep with her hull intact. Now dear readers, don’t get your drawers in a knot, I’m not inspired enough to revisit those lofty goals of twenty years ago. But now, thanks to SeaLeon and the mighty North Atlantic currents, instead of saying “I never made it to Cork” I can say “I might have made it to Cork.” That said, I do have a ten foot sailboat in incubation. Maybe when I name her I will call her Miss Medway or Medway Girl; that way her name will always lead me back to home port instead of oceans away.

You know what I liked the most about this story? Look closely at the tracking map. SeaLeon’s yellow route line managed to draw out a pretty decent rendition of a sea lion before she disappeared from the chart.

Sea Lion

In the end, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s whether you stay in the game. Congratulations to the folks at Dalhousie Engineering. I hope to see you on the water again next year.

Thanks to the sites who posted the original photos and maps – I borrowed them without asking.

Judy Parsons 2019

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What Am I Reading Now?

…or There’s Always a Lot More to a Story

It’s been a little while since I finished reading “We All Expected to Die.” I read it in lieu of doing my annual Boxing Day puzzle this year and although I smoked right through it at the time, I had to let it percolate a little before I wrote anything about it. This is not a book review. I don’t feel qualified to review such an academic work. As well, I am biased, having a personal connection with the author. On the other hand, I’d like to have an answer prepared in case someone asks me “What did you think of Anne Budgell’s latest book?” So here’s my humble impression…

Anne starts her book by giving us not just a comprehensive introduction to the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-1919 but also by giving us details of what each chapter will contain, and an idea of how the story has been researched and explained thus far. In essence she puts everything in context before she starts so it is clear from the outset that this is a not just about the effect of the flu on the Inuit, but about a global view of the epidemic. So also are we well prepared to find that, as good a hook as the title may be, this is not a ‘story’ in the traditional style of story-telling. She did not hand-pick the juicy bits to entertain us or work to develop a story to its climax. Instead, she gathered all of the information available and presented a well researched documentation of all things relating to the Spanish flu in Labrador. Her tack in this book is not sensationalist. The introduction contained one line which reassured of this and told me that this tale would be told with sensitivity as well as with accuracy: “I hope the descendants of survivors understand that by checking their ancestors’ stories, I intend no disrespect.” It also has the effect of shutting down any argument from people who have issues with someone else telling a story which they think should be told by the people to whom it happened. This shouldn’t be up for debate anyhow especially as Anne has solid roots in Labrador. As always, Anne works very hard to ensure that her intent is not misunderstood.

Years ago when The Dictionary of Newfoundland English was published, instead of marvelling at the work, all my father had to say about it was (and he did this with a broad proud grin) “I found a mistake on page _.” Were he alive today, and reading this book I think he would be confounded, for there is little likelihood of any errors or omissions here. We know this because Anne explains in great detail how this story has already been documented and how it evolved. If there is a stone unturned in her research it must certainly be of the most obscure and subterranean kind.

“We All Expected To Die” is a thorough documentary which speaks to her background as a journalist and radio host. In her writing she does not speculate, but rather interprets the facts. Neither she doesn’t leave it to you to have to read the bibliography for support; she presents the support for statements as they are presented. She follows the records to give us an overview of the population at the time, the effects of shipping and of the great war on that population, and on the people who actually kept the records. None of this will come as a surprise to you as you read, for Anne outlines all of this in the introduction. This might make for dense reading for the casual reader. It also makes me think that Anne would have made an excellent lawyer. (That, dear readers, is pure speculation on my part) Anyhow, what we learn from this thorough presentation of facts is that if the story was very grim, very grim, the response to epidemic was even more so.

Because this is a work of non-fiction I cannot complain about what isn’t in it. I went into this book knowing some about the culture and the environment of Labrador, of the Moravian and Grenfell missions, and of the effects of resettlement on the Labrador Inuit. I also have a personal connection with that part of the world; my father and his father were both floaters (seasonal fisherman) on that area of the coast. I too know what it is like to be waiting for the spring pack-ice to go out so that I could catch the steamer. What would interest me most in reading for pleasure would be the stories behind the individuals involved, the descriptive details that make me feel as if I am there on the spot shivering with the cold, smelling the decay, feeling the shock and despair. I would want to sit by the fire and smell the food cooking; hear the plink of the axe as it cleaved a frozen junk of wood. This book does not do that because it is a retelling of the truth and I appreciate that for as much as I want to experience the whole story, I don’t want anyone to make it up. Anne’s recounting of the details of the Inuit’s experience is the culmination of what must have been exhausting research. The stories are told as the people who experienced told them. I suspect those people often told just the bits they knew people wanted to hear and didn’t focus on the little individual miseries as much as on the great dramas. And, like those Grandpappies who fought in the trenches, they might need some fierce coaxing to talk about the thing at all because they really had little interest in reliving the horror of it. The Inuit, in their pragmatic and gentle way, have moved on. (I apologize if I am both speculating and stereotyping here)

We are told in the book that “How flu reached Labrador and who was infected is a multi-faceted story” and I appreciate that Anne took the time to study each facet and collate the findings into a well ordered chronology of events. If it seems repetitive at times it is because she has taken the information she has gleaned from her research and presented it from many angles. She doesn’t just want us to be informed, she wishes us to understand, just in case we haven’t figured it out for ourselves.

So what did I think of Anne Budgell’s latest book? I thought it was a grand piece of writing and a valuable addition to the annals of Labrador history.  I left this book with the understanding that yes, the devastation of the Labrador Inuit community was a tragedy which may or may not have been able to have been prevented, but what was just a big a tragedy was the establishment’s response to the crisis in their inability to think outside the box, literally the pine box. What are we to learn from this work? That we need to spend less time blaming and more time problem solving. Thank you Anne for taking the time to write it. I hope it becomes the accompanying textbook for a university level course on the history of Labrador.

We All Expected to Die is available from https://www.hss.mun.ca/iserbooks.

© Judy Parsons 2019 (excepting the book cover which I borrowed from Iserbooks.

Christmas, Day Twelve – Part 1

…or On the Last Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: a free pass to the 12th day of Christmas Beachfest.

Down at Seaside Villa:

Tamara: Judith, I just love your new dress. Did you get it just for the Beachfest?
Judith: Oh this old thing? I’ve had it forever.

Tamara: Is that Nellie May’s mousse cake? It looks divine but I hear she has weevils. I won’t eat a thing that comes out of Nellie May’s kitchen.
Sandra: We’d better tuck into these desserts if we want to get any before the kids see it.
Judith: Where are the kids anyway? The concert’s about to start.
Tamara: There’s a play over at the children’s stage. I told Brenda to bring them over by the band when it’s finished.

Brenda: He’ll shoot his eye out!

Kenneth: Welcome to the 12th Day of Christmas Festival – we’re the Cave Dwellers and we’re here to shut down Christmas with a few good tunes.

Kenneth: I’d like to dedicate this next song to the one I love….
Marvin (to self) : Let it be me. Please let it be me.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

© Judy Parsons 2019

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