A few days ago we drove out to Cape Spear to watch the whales.
Now, I have spent a goodly part of my life chasing after things that were supposed to be there, but were not. I have searched the beaches and the waters and the woods and the highways and the byways searching for everything from caplin to young women because somebody told me they were there.
More often than not, they were not. There, I mean, where they were supposed to be so that I could catch one or more.
I’m not the only one to whom this has happened. Our minister and his wife drove down from northern Ontario last summer to minister to we heathen. Perhaps that’s not the right word. Perhaps it’s us heathen. Whatever, the two things they wanted to see most, apart from a native Newfoundlander and Labradorian, were icebergs and moose.
Fortunately or unfortunately, they happened to tune into “Open Line” when Eugene Nippard, bless his heart, was giving Bill Rowe the latest figures on the number of moose that have been traversing our highways. Aha! Moose!
That’s No. 1 on the old bucket wish list that they wanted to see. So they rolled down the windows, slowed to 25 clicks and strained their eyeballs, trying to catch a glimpse of one of these big brown, hairy things.
Sure enough they did. Two weeks ago, 11 months after they arrived, over in Gros Morne. Up to that point, they were beginning to have some doubts about Brother Eugene’s credibility, not to mention my own
Oh yes, they saw some icebergs, too. This past week.
Actually, I am beginning to get a little concerned about our dearly departing clergy. I just wish I had noticed certain things earlier in our relationship when I might have been able to do something about it.
He and his wife, Marion, are returning to northern Ontario this very weekend. I should state unequivocally that Doug and Marion are fantastic people — great personalities, great pastors. It’s breaking all our hearts that they have to go, although we understand why they must.
I know for a fact that unrewarded searches of this kind can be quite traumatic. You begin to doubt the honesty of people who have been telling you stories about icebergs and moose, and wild bolognas that can only be hunted when the female is in season, and can be snuck up on while the bull is keeping her busy.
Then at the propitious moment you shoot the bull. It’s quite delicious when fried up with Kraft Dinner and served with half-fermented rhubarb wine. But I digress.
I’m afraid the stress has gotten to Doug. Yesterday we went for lunch together. I didn’t notice anything during lunch, but when we got to the parking lot, I realized he was about to crack.
He paused on the edge of the pavement and pointed at the only two cars parked there. A great huge one-ton van — mine — and a much smaller Toyota.
“Hey, “he said, “a car just like mine.” I squinted all around the parking lot, which was only a little smaller than the Avalon Mall.
“Yes indeed,” I agreed, “just like yours.”
“I’m sure lots of people drive Toyotas.” He paused again. “But it’s the same colour and everything.”
He moved closer to the vehicle and began to peer in through the windows.
“This is unbelievable, Ed. This is almost an exact replica of our car.”
He moved to where he could see the licence plate.
“Great heavens! This is our car, but where is Marion? I didn’t know she was coming up here. Why would she be here at this motel and not tell me?”
“Gee whiz, Doug,” I said “perhaps we should start searching the motel units. She wouldn’t be the first minister’s wife to go looking for something new and exciting.”
His face went blank for a fraction of a second, and then became suitably sheepish.
“I drove that thing over here myself, didn’t I?”
It’s not nice to laugh at one’s minister for any length of time, so after a while I stopped.
I myself have embarked on many such wild goose chases. One that comes to mind was the search for the famous submarine races off Point Pleasant Park in Halifax.
It happened on a double date when I first went to Halifax. We drove around for a while and then and then someone suggested we go see the submarine races at Point Pleasant Park. Great! So off we went.
By the time we got there it was dark and I was mightily perplexed. I asked several times about how we would see the submarines and all I got in response was giggles.
By the time I figured out what submarine races were really all about, I wasn’t at all in the mood for anything else, which didn’t go over that well with at least one of the girls.
Often my searches for things desired have to do with caplin. Around June, the only question asked more often than “You ready for Christmas?” is “Caplin in yet?”
“Oh yis, b’y,” the answer is sure to come. “They was rollin’ just after midnight last night over at Skipper John’s Cove about 72 clicks from here.”
So off we tear for Skipper John’s where indeed they are rolling by the millions around midnight. At least, that’s what we’re told. We never do find the place.
But we found Cape Spear, and would you believe it, the whales were leaping and blowing and having a whale of a good time, right in by the rocks. Really something to behold.
Not many tourists around yet, though. You could hear a scattered high-pitched squeal mixed in with the more sophisticated and subdued.
“Luh, luh” usually reserved for highflying aircraft and baby moose. Hopefully, the washrooms will be unlocked by the time the tourists arrive. It isn’t really appropriate to find women chasing around behind their youngsters with a plastic bread bag and a little shovel.
And it’s not at all pleasant if they empty the bag on the rock next to the rock on which you’re having your lunch.
Ed Smith is an author
who lives in Springdale. His email address