Oh, what a beautiful mornin’,
Oh what a beautiful day!
Many of you will recognize those lines from “Oklahoma,” that marvelous Broadway musical of years gone by.
I’ve never been to Broadway, but did see the movie starring Gordon McRae and Shirley Jones. Ms. Jones went on to star as the singing mother of TV’s “Partridge Family.”
Anyway, I sat down to begin writing this week’s column and waited for the muse to inspire me. I looked out the window and realized this was what my father used to call “a pet day.” We’d be sitting in his boat or mine, “as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean,” with our lines hanging over the side waiting for the first fat cod to come along.
“Yes, my son,” he’d say, as the sun bounced sparkles off the water, “a pet day.”
This is a pet day.
The waters of Hall’s Bay are a mirror in which the leaves of the yellow birch interspersed with the random scarlet of the maple are reflected in stark detail from the surrounding hills.
Strangely, though, it’s my father that I see most clearly, sitting contentedly in the stern of the boat, drinking cold water from a Mason jar and munching on a thick slice of molasses bread and butter.
It’s the kind of day from which lasting memories are made.
I see the water curving away from the bow of the Kyle as she plows through the oily swells around Fishing Point before turning into the harbour at St. Anthony. The four of us in our family are all excited, although my parents try hard not to show it. It’s the first time we’ve been back home since leaving for the first time, although it’s only been a couple of years, and returning is a delight for the soul.
It’s a pleasure we will repeat for many years.
The four of us — my parents, my sister and I — are in a tent pitched on the rocky ground near a small pond on the New Harbour barrens. Someone has told my father that the pond is alive with trout, so here we are. Not a ripple of wind on the water as the sun sets in a glorious sky and breaching trout break the surface of the pond in their thousands.
Not one of those trout comes for a hook or a fly, not even a Parbelle, his favourite.
“It’ll be different tomorrow,” Dad promises. “Trout bite like crazy in the early morning.”
So do mosquitoes, all through the calm, windless night and the calm, windless early morning.
At dawn we get out of there faster than a squid can squirt backwards. Insect repellent wasn’t as well advanced in those days. All we can do is try to outrun them in our car.
Neither cars nor roads were very advanced back then, either, and it seems whenever we stop, the skitties are right there with us.
Pet days and memories.
We are in Lunenburg, N.S., on a beautiful fall’s evening. Our family is living in Halifax and I am a freshman at Dalhousie University. My parents want to visit a Capt. Iversen who used to command one of the Grenfell Mission supply boats out of St. Anthony. He’s really pleased to see us.
Later we visit the famed shipyards and then go for a drive around Lunenburg harbour.
It is almost dark and the lights of that fabled little town are softly reflected in the still waters. It was so beautiful, I take a picture with my new 35mm camera, state-of-the-art for that time. The slide, which I still have, turned out even better than the original view, if that’s possible, and still reminds me of that lovely day.
Sailing at Summerford
I am sailing into the lovely little harbour at Summerford on New World Island on a warm August day. The tide is ebbing and the shoreline seems full and swelling.
Sweet on the air is the smell of sawdust from the Small’s sawmill near the beach. Across the road in the garden is the family and their families with whom I will spend the next 12 months, and who will help me minister as I can.
I am the new student minister and I think that no one ever started a position such as mine in the midst of more beauty and promise.
Pet days and memories.
I don’t know what time of night it is, but I remember the year well enough. My father has just purchased a brand new, sky-blue 1959 Chevrolet, the one with the large fins along the side. Unfortunately for him, he’s also just developed severe sciatica so that he can’t drive the thing.
But I can. because I’ve just gotten my driver’s licence. As long as I can come up with the two bucks necessary for gas for an evening bumming around Halifax, he’ll let me take it. Talk about faith in your son! Talk about the kind of son who can merit that kind of trust! Right.
The time of night is immaterial. It is late. I am parked in my father’s brand new, sky-blue ‘59 Chevy on the side of the street that runs around the park on the top of Citadel Hill overlooking Halifax harbour and the city of Dartmouth on the other side.
Not as well developed up there then as now, of course, or as well lit.
The harbour between the two cities is fair shimmering. The lights of both merge together on the waters and make them appear almost as one.
Don’t know if municipal politicians have ever used that as a metaphor for the two jurisdictions merging into one — as if they’d want to.
There’s another reason I haven’t forgotten that night and that time so long ago — I was not alone.
Pet days and pet nights and memories.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.