I’m a city girl. The day I left home in Vancouver, my mother said, “Don’t marry an easterner.” I’m sure my mother didn’t have any real prejudice against easterners; she just wanted me to live a little closer to home, but I disobeyed her; I married a boy from Ship Cove.
If you consult a map of Canada you can see that the community of Ship Cove, on Cape Onion, is as far removed from Vancouver as possible, and outport life is as far removed from city life as you can get. That’s where the culture shock comes in; I just haven’t managed, yet, to cross the cultural bridge from city to rural life.
And that brings to my remembrance a high-speed chase on Route 437 last fall.
That November morning dawned crisp, clear, and cold. “It’s a perfect day to haul our wood home,” said Len, as he finished his morning tea (he should have had his wood home last summer, but he was away in St. John’s working).
Len doesn’t have a truck, but one of his brothers has a truck and one has a tow-behind. Both brothers were willing to help, so they picked Len up and drove to the gravel pit near Shoal Arm Hill on Raleigh Road to bring the wood home. A few hours later, two loads of wood were stacked in our back yard. Meanwhile, Eliza Colbourne, Len’s sister in L’Anse aux Meadows, put her spyglass to the window, looked across Sacred Bay, and noted that Len and the boys were hauling wood. “Winston!” she called, “Len’s hauling wood! Let’s go and help.”
I had some errands to run in St. Anthony and knew nothing of Winston & Eliza’s plans. Just before I left the house, the phone rang but, before I could pick it up, it disconnected. I noticed it was the Colbourne’s number and called back, but there was no answer.
Minutes later, I was on the road to St. Anthony. At Pistolet Bay Park I met Len and his brothers returning with a truckload full of wood. A short while later, I crested Fox Head Hill on Raleigh Road and noticed a vehicle driving ahead of me, and it looked remarkably like the Colbourne’s truck.
“Can’t be,” I said, dismissing the possibility, “they only just phoned me before I left, and there’s no way they’d be driving away from Ship Cove. If that were Eliza or Winston, they’d be driving toward me.” (What I didn’t know then, was that they had been up and down the road searching for Len’s pile of wood, and had just made a U-turn)
The truck slowed down right near the gravel pit where Len’s pile of wood lay and, as I drove past, I thought again how much it looked like Winston and Eliza’s truck, but with the afternoon sun in my eyes, I couldn’t see the occupants. It seemed to me they must be ‘scoping out’ our pile of wood. Immediately, my ‘city thinking’ kicked in, and I thought, “That might be somebody looking to steal a load of wood; I’d better warn Len as soon as I get to town.”
Moments later, looking in my rear view mirror, I noticed the same truck speeding up behind me, headlights on, four-ways flashing. “What are those people up to?” I wondered. “They’re in a powerful hurry; I guess I’d better speed up.” The faster I drove, the faster they drove. In Toronto, you wouldn’t stop for people who drove their cars like that; you’d get out of their way as fast as possible. To my way of thinking, that was the only thing I could do.
At the branch road to St. Anthony, I rounded the corner on two wheels, barely stopping at the sign, and checked my rear-view mirror again. Ah! They were doing a U-turn and heading back down the road. What strange people, I thought. I’m glad they’re off my back…
Hours later, when I returned to Ship Cove and saw the black and white truck in our back yard, and Eliza and Winston unloading and stacking wood with Len and Rick and Bob—I knew I’d really messed up.
Five faces turned my way, and five people shook their heads in disappointment.
“Mary,” said Winston. “We chased you down the road to try to get you to stop. We only wanted to ask you which pile of wood was Len’s.”
It just goes to show, you can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl; at least not that quickly!