Every special occasion — Christmas, birthdays, quarantine because of communicable childhood diseases — was a reason to be given colouring books: Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, and occasionally Tarzan.
Oh, and a pack of 64 Peacock crayons, their tips as sharp as arrowheads. After colouring several books from furl to furl, those crayons were worn to one-inch stubs and cast aside like shells emptied from six-shooters, or p’raps melted into waxy rivulets on the kitchen stove’s cast iron back, eh b’ys?
As I’ve remarked elsewhere, last summer — to calm my travel-frayed nerves and despite curious stares from iPad-tapping tots — I coloured mandalas 30,000 feet above the Canadian Rockies.
Last week — neither Christmas, nor my birthday, nor was I diseased, unless “dis-eased” by Life On This Planet counts — I received a spanking new colouring book: Bobbi Pike’s “The Colours of Newfoundland and Labrador” (Creative Publishers). Needless to say, I was tickled 64 shades of primary colours.
In her Introduction Ms. Pike suggests colourists (?) might visit her website and view vividly coloured photographs of original paintings. Of course, all the colours have been scrubbed out for the colouring book’s pages.
I did browse the website. I admired the colours. I shut down the website, flipped open the colouring books and totally ignored Ms. Pike’s colours because …
… because, some would say — granddaughters in particular — Pop is a contrary old troll.
I flipped to the Cod page.
There, Bobbi — may I say “Bobbi”? — has sketched a picture of a codfish. Its skin is circles and arcs and wavy lines. And Ol’ Mr. Cod is about to swallow one of Bobbi’s signature crows.
I selected my colours: orange, red, purple, yellow, brunt umber. Then, contrary troll, I coloured the cod to look just like a friggin’ conner.
Living up to my epithet, I refused to colour Cool Scent of Summer because there is an iceberg in the picture. Newfoundland’s summers are far too brief and chilly for any celebration of icebergs.
Pop is a contrary old troll.
I turned the page and coloured its backside: Deep Bight Memories.
I knew the dilapidated sawmill pictured, its aged waterwheel falling apart and — oh, look, there’s a crow caught in the collapsing frame.
As I searched for fewer than 50 shades of weathered grey, I felt an overwhelming urge to scratch my… well, let’s say I’ve played in sawdust piles and I remember the itching associated with sticky spruce sawdust in one’s under-drawers.
The Newfoundland page is basically a map of Newfoundland. The drawing is stogged with swirls and flower-like mandalas and three crows are embedded in the weave.
B’ys, remember Friday afternoon’s in Joey’s post-Confederation schools when addled, desperate teachers busy-timed restless scholars with this assignment? “Draw a map of Newfoundland and label all the bays and peninsulas.”
I ’low Friday afternoons would have been much more fun if we had had Bobbi’s map to colour.
I didn’t colour all of Pucker Up, just the codfish that I transformed into another conner. I didn’t colour the sou’wester or the bottle of rum because I find the whole Screech-In-Kiss-A-Cod scenario offensive, belittling …
Pop is a contrary old troll!
Buckets and Boots is my favourite page. Sure, I’m in the picture.
It’s capelin scull. Three youngsters play on a beach littered with capelin. Three crows wing off to the eastern.
The girl in the foreground has sorted a handful of capelin and tossed them into a bucket. Obviously she isn’t me. I’m one of the two boys.
One bay-boy is wobbling in the wave wash carrying an empty dip net. Give him a minute and I’m certain he’ll scoop up a net-full – the capelin are rolling. This bay-boy is industrious. He isn’t me.
Do the math. I have to be the other bay-boy.
I’m standing back on in my knee rubbers and staring at the water. I’m showing no interest in the capelin lying around my boots. Knowing me, I’m wondering how to catch some of the flatfish that have followed the capelin ashore, or — seeing that my fist are balled up out of sight in my coat sleeves — sulking about something or other. P’raps I’m pouting because I don’t have a dip net.
Take a close look at my broad, noble neck – its muscles rigid and inflexible – and then answer this question: do you think this broody bay-boy hears chanting from the future when he is an old grandfather?
Pop is a contrary old troll!
“Thank you for reading,” says the contrary old troll.
Harold Walters is a retired teacher living in Dunville, Placentia Bay. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.