Treasure found by a brook

Bob
Bob Wakeham
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There's a chance it's dry as a bone by now, or so covered in alders that it's totally camouflaged and undetectable forever by even the most sophisticated of those locator gizmos.

But my 50-year old mental image of Radio Range Brook, teeming with pan-size mud trout, remains as clear today as it did the first morning I scrambled to keep up with my father as we trekked for 30 minutes though thick woods, along a barely visible path, to its awaiting pools.

In case you're wondering, this particular Saturday offering is not the poor man's Wangersky, not a vividly descriptive essay on nature or the use of the outdoors theme as an impetus for discussion of some public issue ("Not that there's anything wrong with that," as Seinfield and his wacky colleagues would reassure their worried collective conscience after making an offhand remark about gays).

Nope. This editorial excursion to the past is a belated Father's Day gift, a reflection on an endearing bond unhampered by acrimony, a friendship that had part of its origins at that small, nondescript brook a couple of miles from the "old terminal" in Gander, a building that witnessed enough history to fill a good-sized encyclopedia.

It was most certainly a brook - a gully, in some ways - definitely not a river; you could practically jump from one side to another (although such leaps often left me flat on my embarrassed face, the gift of a belly laugh for my father).

Radio Range, we called it, always leaving out the "brook," as in: "Dad, Dad, let's take a spin down to Radio Range." And, of course, the old man, just getting off shift, would always oblige, taking 10 minutes to discard his Trans World Airlines uniform, don his fishing garb and off we'd go.

When I was a small fry, say six or seven, or thereabouts, those trips did not allow much opportunity for Dad to wet his line, catering, as he did, to my time consuming and unco-ordinated efforts to conduct a personal cull of trout. I would less than delicately flick the pole back over my head each time I got a bite (which occurred on every cast), and send the line and flopping fish back into an entanglement of spruce trees and alders. Dad would crawl through the woods, find the end of the line and take the trout off the hook, straighten the line, put on another worm, and bring the rod back to me so I could repeat the entire process. We'd only stop when my arm got tired, Dad got tuckered out, and we'd take a break for a Coke and a bag of chips.

But a trouting trip to Radio Range with my father was only one of countless ways our alliance was fostered.

There were senior hockey games - enthralling, near mind-boggling to me then - a time when television was unavailable, making "Hockey Night in Canada" just some program we heard about. This was my NHL, and Dad, as president of the Gander Hockey Association and vice-president of the Newfoundland Amateur Hockey Association, went to each and every game. I tagged along, even on "school nights," when my envious buddies in Grade 5 or 6 were home in bed, wishing they were down at Gander Gardens cheering on the locals and praying for a racket.

There were also pre-dawn practices when I was a peewee hockey player, Dad in a half-coma in the stands after completing a midnight shift and taking me directly to the rink, or having been up half the night making a few extra bucks playing the drums in Ed Goff's band at the Airport Club, writing freelance articles for The (Evening) Telegram about some movie star wandering through the terminal, or rehearsing a play with the Avion Players (a theatrical group he helped create).

All those grand times laid the foundation for a relationship that has endured to this day, and has played a crucial role over the years in Dad (and Mom, too, of course) helping me overcome the various, sometimes traumatic challenges of adulthood.

My father is not as sharp mentally as he once was, and is slowly losing some of the amazing faculties of thought he once enjoyed.

But Dad still knows where he and I stand.

When my wife and I recently visited New Jersey, where Dad and Mom now reside, he grabbed me by the arm three or four times during the week, and said quietly: "Bob, b'y, do you know how much I love ya?"

Of course, I've always known.

Happy (belated) Father's Day, Pa.

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by e-mail at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com.

Organizations: Trans World Airlines, NHL, Gander Hockey Association Newfoundland Amateur Hockey Association Avion Players

Geographic location: Gander, Canada, New Jersey Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • weldon
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Got a lot of the same memories
    Thanks for bringing them back
    Keep the story line going

  • Bo
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    A lot of guys coming off the midnite shift were encouraged to make one more visit to the terminal restaurant before going fishing. The coffee there was so bad we called it Black Flag. The deal was drink two cups, go into the woods where the flies would feast on your coat and you could fish away. A lot of good fishin' in those days.

  • weldon
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Got a lot of the same memories
    Thanks for bringing them back
    Keep the story line going

  • Bo
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    A lot of guys coming off the midnite shift were encouraged to make one more visit to the terminal restaurant before going fishing. The coffee there was so bad we called it Black Flag. The deal was drink two cups, go into the woods where the flies would feast on your coat and you could fish away. A lot of good fishin' in those days.