Many years ago, an English poet wrote about people with no patriotic sense. He had harsh words for them:
(They shall) go down to the vile dust from whence they sprung, unwept, unhonoured and unsung.
Of course, Brooks was talking about those who did not love their country. But in the good old, bad old days of early outport Newfoundland, the berth-stealing fisherman was looked upon much as a horse thief was in the old West. The only difference was that the horse thief ran the risk of being strung up to the nearest strong branch.
In the culture of those early days in our part of the world, he ran the risk of being thrown overboard with a large rock tied around his neck.
Not quite as badly regarded as the berth-thief was the fellow who didn't go to church at all except perhaps once on Easter Sunday and once on Christmas Day. He didn't even get to the Sunday night service, which was a definite no-no. No television, you see. Nothing much else to do except involve yourself in social interaction with your friends and neighbours.
Sometimes the minister would have a sing-song after the service for a good clearing out of the lungs. Or someone with a piano or an organ would invite some people over for lunch and again a few songs.
But even this wasn't enough to attract the sleeveen who never came to church. They were few and far between.
Other signs of immoral character were seen in the fellow who shot 100 turrs and didn't share, especially with the minister.
But no more. There are now more men who don't go to church than who do. More women in that category, too.
Can't ostracize them all. Can't label them all as sleeveens who are bound for hell in a big hurry. Some of them are obviously truly moral people who care for their neighbours. Who share practically everything they have, even if it's only a few caplin (who cares how you spell them - I'll eat them regardless), or a few fish or a few pounds of potatoes. Who throw in a package of Purity hard bread just to make it a meal of fish and and brewis.
These are truly Christian men and women, even if you haven't seen them darkening the church door.
Love that last expression - to darken the church door. Some of them would brighten it up, bless their hearts.
So what's our standard of truly moral behaviour these days? The Great Commandment which Jesus said was the same as loving God with all your heart - love your neighbour with all your heart, too. And that includes the elderly, the lonely and those who just need an ear.
Oh boy. I'm getting dangerously close to a sermon again. Really sorry about that.
Let me tell you what I think, as if you could stop me. Well, you can by not reading any further. But you've come this far; be a shame to waste all that time.
I haven't been able to lay a fly on the river for 14 years, one of my chief regrets. Not the chieftiest (OK, you spell it), but well up there. For the latter part of my salmon fishing career, I think I could take only two. Rivers were closed at the slightest pretense, as they should have been. The poachers were busy back then, too.
Now they've increased the number of fish you can take legitimately. You can go to Labrador if you want to get into the larger ones. The rivers here in our territory have been closed for more than a week as I write, again with almost no rain, for the rivers are low and the waters warm.
But that isn't all by far and away. The poachers are at it again, damn their eyes.
I'm told by serious and conscientious fishermen that jigging is taking place on the river at an unprecedented rate. You make sure you have a large enough hook on your fly and let it sink under the chin of an unsuspecting salmon. Then you give a sharp jig, the hook strikes home and all you have to do is land it.
Of course, you may kill it with this method of "fishing" if you lose it, but that doesn't matter to these "fishermen." A lady friend of mine fishes the rivers every opportunity she gets. A few days ago she told me she spent 10 hours on one river, hooked one, lost it and lost her tackle. She wasn't in the least discouraged and was soon back on the same river again.
That's a bona fide fisherperson. And she was disgusted at what she saw - young men, older men, fathers and sons, and even clergy were jigging fish, right, left and centre.
At one point she was taking a spell on the riverbank when a man sat down beside her. He had been fishing on a rock, he said, and had hooked a nice fish. Told her that he had gone back to that same spot to try again, but the clergyperson had pretty much nudged him to the point of pushing him off the rock.
My friend had had as much as she could take at this point. She marched across the river (figure of speech) and confronted the chap who was causing such a problem. Then she spoke her mind - as she can, without drawing breath.
Last week at the great bicycle race, the Tour de France, some idiot threw thumbtacks on the pavement. Some 30 riders had blowouts, including the fellow who had a good chance of winning it all.
The riders in front, realizing something was wrong, persuaded each other to slow down until the others could change their tires and catch up. Sportsmanship and jigging salmon. Any connection?
This concludes my lecture on identifying moral figures in our communities. I hope you can draw a distinction between lectures and sermons.
Draw any conclusions from the lecture?
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org