To some degree, Ray Guy must've lived my life or portions of it.
Smidgens of my life - and yours too if you were born and reared handy about the same time Confederation pupped - are scattered like the caraway seeds in Granny's tea buns throughout the pages of ‘That Far Greater Bay’.
Originally published by Breakwater Books in 1976, this collection of Ray Guy's newspaper and magazine articles is now back in print, published this time all shiny and new by Flanker Press.
Commenting on certain of the teachers he encountered as an outport juvenile [!], Guy writes: "One schoolmaster in particular was really big on getting us to speak properly ... because they says we talks quare."
We talks ‘quare’?
I didn't know I talked quare until I was thirteen and my family broke up house-keeping on Random Island and shifted to the wilds of Western Labrador. That was back in the days when there were still some Newfoundlanders who - should Joey have appeared in their midst - would have stooped and kissed his fundament.
An idealistic school teacher in Labrador City enrolled me in a speech class - an after school speech class at that! - because I talked quare and he intended to mould my vocabulary to fit some Mainland Standard, I s'pose.
A Trinity Bay boy, I said ‘t'ink’, not ‘think’; ‘j'ine’, not ‘join’; ‘b'ys oh b'ys’, not ‘oh my goodness’.
An erstwhile outport juvenile, I became a delinquent of elocution and cut speech class until the teacher despaired and leaved me be.
Should we ever converse, you'll notice that in times of heavy weather I still talks quare, I t'ink.
Ask any doddering ol' bay boy his favourite summer pastime in the halcyon years before ‘Sputnik I’ was launched and he'll say catching connors!
I learned to swim while catching connors. I fell into the briny so often while clambering down the side of the wharf to pick conks off the pilings that I was forced to dog paddle or drown.
Of course, connors weren't "eating fish."
Guy writes: "Some mainlanders call them perch and eat them, the dirty devils."
Granny once made a similar remark about some local epicureans who were suspected of eating horse flesh - "the dirty ghosts."
About catching flatfish, Guy says: "...they won't take bait. They must be jug."
Not always true, Ray.
Right after capelin scull, while the beach is smothered in spawn and slub, and freshly dead capelin are rolling in the tide-line lops, it's possible to lure flatfish ashore.
Tie a capelin corpse to the end of a piece of trouting line and heave it out five or six feet to where flatfish are covering the bottom as thick as lichens on ancient stones.
Drag the capelin ashore, easy.
A flatfish will pursue.
The flatfish will follow the tempting grub until his bulging berry eyes almost break the shallow surface.
Now he's handy enough to grab.
Snatch 'en out of the water and sling 'en into the tidal pool behind you where, by day's end, his carcass will stink worse than maggoty fish guts.
Like you, like me, Ray Guy lived in hard times, times when it was so cold "The chamber pots under the bunks froze solid enough to bear up a Volkswagen."
The winter I was ten, we lived in the woods. I slept in a top bunk carefully lying flat on my back, my nose mere inches from the undersides of the roof boards.
It was so cold...
It was so cold that my breath formed icicles on the boards above my head and in the morning I had to slide out of my bunk sideway for fear of poking out my eyes.
Near the end of the book, there's an essay called ‘When I Was Small’.
It contains this line: "When I was small I used to lie down on my back with my head under the rhubarb leaves as big as elephant's ears with the sun shining down and make the world turn burning green..."
That's a dandy image of childhood, idden it, b'ys?
It's June as I scribble. Out in our garden the rhubarb is growing. What would the neighbours think if they saw this old scribbler lid down beneath the leave making the world turn burning green?
Thank you for reading.