Wednesday Evening, August 17, 1938
Nova Scotia Pictures
By Nellie L. McClung
Last night the sky carried many mares tails. So we were expecting wind, and this morning the trees are bending and the surface of the Avon is ruffled and sparkling with white-caps. Blue shadows are running over its pink surface and a sailboat on the far shore dips and bends. But the rain has all cleared away, and the weather has a settled feeling.
The steamboat, carrying gypsum to New York by the Bay of Fundy, passed this morning on the high tide at 8 oclock and not one of us saw it. The passing of the river boats is an event, which no one willingly misses. The first night I arrived my hostess told me she would give me a call when she heard the whistle, and she did at 2 a.m., and I saw through sleepy eyes, just a steamboat passing. But now I know more about the gypsum boats. I was taken to the gypsum quarry at Wentworth one day. We followed the Empress as it came up the river and saw it leave the Avon, and turn into the St. Croix, making its way, around sharp corners of this small river to the dock where the cars of gypsum were waiting to be taken aboard.
The St. Croix is only navigable at high tide, and even then the passage of the steamer becomes a matter of inches and minutes. Captain Munroes tug-boat conducts the steamers to the dock and it is accomplished by skilful pushing and shoving.
We stood on the railway track that hot day, rubbing mosquitos from our ankles and watched the big empress slide into the dock without as much as a jar to the platform. The boats carry a few passengers, and are so popular that reservations must be made months ahead. The trip from Wentworth to New York takes fifty-two hours each way, and the day we were at the dock, fifteen women came down the gang-plank, evidently American tourists.
I would not have known American tourists from Native Nova Scotians coming back to Eden but the Hants County people who were with me could not be mistaken. A sight-seeing car was waiting for the visitors so we took it for granted they would spend the twelve hours seeing Nova Scotia, and return on the boat.
There is something fascinating about this river transportation. We saw a boat sitting up on her bed, high and dry, at Port Williams, unloading her coal from Wales or perhaps Germany. She would take back a cargo of lumber. We saw trucks filled with lumber, running into Windsor, to load a sea-going vessel. Soon the vessels returning to Europe will carry apples, Gravensteins, Russets, MacIntosh Reds and Northern Spys. The small rivers, (though none of them are small at high tide) bring in wood to the pulpmills. Across from the house I am in, we can look at the mouth of the Cogmagun (which is an Indian word for Crooked River), and see the scows coming down to the pulp mill at Hantsport.
One of the farmers here told me that in the years when Nova Scotia traded freely with the United States, he and his neighbors owned four schooners and a brigantine, and shipped potatoes in bulk no bagging or boxing to American ports. In return they took boots and shoes, and cotton clothing, and made money on both transactions.
There were American vessels in the rivers then too. One, he remembered, brought molasses, and was called the "Lasses Jug."
The sea takes its toll of the people here too as it does everywhere. We visited the Burlington Cemetery a lovely quiet place, with high oak trees sheltering the graves. When families have lived for a hundred years in the one place, the cemeteries assume a great significance. "Lost at sea aged 35" I read on one stone, and heard the story. He was the grandfather of one of our party: Captain of his own vessel, he sailed away, one summer day, and was never heard of again. His widow was left with her year-old son, and had a twenty dollar gold piece in the house and nothing else. There was no insurance, but she owned her house, and by weaving and spinning supported and educated her little boy. There have been three drownings in this family of young men, who each left one son. There have been three, so now the spell is broken!
There is no foolish attempt to discredit certain beliefs here. The sea carries its own mysteries, and the people who live on the sea, accept them.
One of the graves, on which flowers were laid that day, belongs to a young girl, who was a lover of animals, and had a way with them. When she died her cat would not go into the room for months and the team of horses, she had petted and loved, refused to draw the hearse, which contained her coffin.
There was nothing morbid in the visit to the cemetery. The dead are merely those who have gone on ahead, and their memories are all pleasant ones.
There are many women in this part of Nova Scotia, in business, and in sole possession of the old family homes. Fifty-three per cent of the tax payers in Grand Pre School district are women. We had dinner one day at Mary Eatons camp at Grand Pre and saw how one woman is carrying on. Marys house is a lovely old one, looking out at Mt. Blomidon, and here she entertains the passing travellers, with all the grace and dignity of the old days.
Her house is open from the twenty-fourth of May until late in the autumn, (for the Grand Pre autumns must be a dream of delight with the crimson maples, and copper beeches and the apples ripe in the orchards). People from all over Canada and the United States know her, and the home cooked meals she serves.
We had fresh salmon from the Basin of Minas, with egg-sauce, home grown vegetables, and a deep cherry pie with amber coffee and parkerhouse rolls. Miss Eaton travels in the winter and brings back ideas and art treasures from many lands. We ate our dinner on a chintz-covered table with flowers in a low brass bowl, which matched the flowers in the table cloth. The plates and cups were also in the chintz pattern.
Outside we crossed the lawn to another tea room, where in the centre of the room are exhibited handicrafts
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NOVA SCOTIA PICTURES
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of the district. On the wall hung a hooked panel of the "Bluenose," on the sea. A young woman was weaving at a loom and showed us how she made the patterns; and in the cabinets and shelves were hand-carved figurines of wood, hand-painted shells, quilts, rugs, sweaters, etc.
"Abundance" and "stability" are the two words I would use if I had only two to express my impression of this part of Nova Scotia. Perhaps I am seeing it at a very favorable time but this is what I see as I travel the roads trees bending under their load of apples; children playing on the beach, or sailing little boats on a tiny stream; a woman shelling peas on her verandah; barefooted boys driving home jersey cows; a yoke of oxen drawing a load of hay; tourists picking wild strawberries beside the road; a flock of sheep cropping the grass in a lovely meadow; cattle knee-deep in grass; haymakers putting up hay, which smells like the "Sweet grass" baskets; happy people digging their own potatoes, and turning out a good crop; quilts and rugs airing on fences; church spires standing above the trees; running streams everywhere.
NELLIE L. McCLUNG.