Meat For The Winter

Father, Cyril Thornhill, and I went turr-hunting one time. We went out in the bay towards Belleoram, out across Mal Bay. I asked Cyril if he was going gunner but Cyril replied that he was no good with a gun. We were about three or four miles off from Long Harbour Point when we ran into the turrs. I killed a couple and Cyril said, ‘My jingles, that was all right.’

‘Oh yes,’ I replied, ‘but you wait, I’ve got to miss a few yet.’ We went a little further and he shot a couple more.

I was using a 16-guage shotgun. After I killed the first three or four turrs, the spring in the gun didn’t throw out the empty shell casings from home loaded shells the way it did with new shells. So I pushed the ramrod into the gun to hit out the empty shell and quickly loaded another shell, forgetting all about the ramrod. I fired at a turr and there was a big splash in the water. ‘What was that?’ I asked. When he looked back, Cyril was laughing hard. ‘My jingles,’ he said, ‘you fired the ramrod!’

We went on, picking off a scattered turr as we went. Sometimes I missed and fired twice at the same turr. We kept that up until it was time to turn around and head back.

When we got in off Crant’s Cove, the pin came out of the shaft and the engine started to spin over like crazy. Cyril said that something had gone wrong. Willoughby Riggs, Cyril’s wife’s brother, happened to be right there on the spot. He shoved off his dory and towed us to Anderson’s Cove, about 15-20 minutes away.

Another time John Evans, Darius Hatch, and I went over to Langue de Cerf bight. We used to go there sometimes when the turrs were in that area. On this trip, when we got about halfway between Black Rock and Langue de Cerf, about halfway across the bay, that’s when we ran into the turrs.

Darius was up in the head of the dory with a 12-guage shotgun and I had my 16-guage. Phil John was running the engine. When we saw the first turrs, Darius got up and came towards the stern of the dory where I was. I asked where he was going and he said, ‘Oh, tis you got to do the shooting.’ I said, ‘You’re just as good as I am perhaps even better.’ So Darius went back up in the bow again.

We steamed up alongside the first lot of birds; he fired and killed a turr. We continued on like that, killing a scattered one as we went. Sometimes he’d get a double shot and kill two at the same time. We got over in Langue de Cerf bight, no distance off from the land, and ran into in big companies of them.

We were heading up towards Grand John and it seemed like the further we went, the more turrs there were. We fired all their shots except one, so we turned around and headed back. After we had gone a ways, I said, ‘Now, I want to fire that one.’ ‘Yeah, all right,’ Darius said. ‘You want to wait until we see a good company of them all together.’ I said that was what I planned to do.

Soon we saw a big company and Darius said, ‘Now, there’s going to be your chance.’ The turrs were real quiet. The dory steamed up alongside them and I put up the gun, lined up five, and fired. Five turrs were left dead on the water. Darius was all excited. ‘I told you that you should have been up forward. Look at what you just did – five with one shot!’

Father and I went out another time in our own dory. We put a couple of rocks in the stern so he could get up in the bow. He brought the tiller ropes up to steer from there. He was beside me so he could watch and slow down when we saw any turrs.

We weren’t very far out, heading towards Black Rock and I said, ‘Oh, my juice, there’s one just ahead of us.’ They (the turrs) were real close that time. I put up the gun and shot at it, but didn’t touch it and it dived. After a little while it came up again. I shot at it again and the same thing happened. We had a big chopper in the dory and I used that to chop the sight off the gun. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I wanted to give up but Father told me to have another shot or two. I fired six shots in all before I got that one.

By and by we saw a couple more so we went on off further. This time Father took them on the other side of the dory bow. I fired and killed both of them. ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘that wasn’t so bad.’

‘No,’ he said. ‘A lot of that was my fault why you were missing the first time. You know, I was taking the turrs on the wrong side and you were firing right at the sun, making a blur on the gun.’

So we went on. Perhaps I killed three or four before I’d miss a shot. I might miss perhaps one or two and then I’d get in a spurt and perhaps I’d kill seven or eight before I’d stop. Shells were not scarce. We used to buy powder and shot and load our own. We saved the empty shell casings and had the equipment for loading them. When we figured we had enough, we headed back to Anderson’s Cove.

As we were coming in, I said, ‘Mom got something ahead of her tonight then.’ Mom always picked every turr and was really good at it. We used to hang them up on the house in big bundles. That was part of our winter meat, along with maybe a couple of sheep. There were no moose in Long Harbour at that time and you had to go a very long way back in the interior of the country to find caribou.

Around the middle of October, we would get ready and go up in Long Harbour with our rabbit snares. Everyone had their own area, with a cabin to stay in. Everyone knew their boundaries and no one ever went on to someone else’s ground. We would set whatever we could, maybe 30 or 40 snares. We checked them in between cutting firewood. When we got home we would hang up the rabbits and eat them before they spoiled. We always made sure to eat first the ones we caught first. If we had enough for a while, we would take up our snares as we didn’t want to have any go bad.

One time I had a moose license by myself. So Archie Thornhill, Cecil Pope from Stone’s Cove, and I went up in the bottom of Long Harbour, in Merrill Herridge’s motor dory. I had a 30-30 rifle belonging to Sophie’s father. Archie wanted to carry the rifle and he wanted to have the first shot.

We were walking through a big field of birch up inside of Perham’s Island, and I saw this big root, as I thought, like a stick that had blown down. I looked at it, but thought it was nothing because it wasn’t moving. Archie and Cecil were a little bit ahead of me and they didn’t see it. I looked down and I saw the hair move on his back. I couldn’t whistle, so I stopped, took off my cap and threw it at Archie. He spun around. When he did, he caught a glimpse of the moose going through the birch.

I said, ‘Now, you see that. By you having the gun, we lost that one. My son,’ I said, ‘You’re not moose hunting.’

Cecil said, ‘No, Henry, my son, we’re not. I agree with what you said. We’d likely have got that moose if you’d had the gun.’

‘We’d have had a good chance, because I saw him before he moved,’ I said. We hunted a bit more but saw nothing else for the day.

Sunday morning, it was dirty, half sloppy snow and rain, but not cold. Archie said, ‘Let’s go up on Spout House partridge hunting.’ Spout House was up in Long Harbour, between Schooner Brook and Sandy Point.

‘My juice, Archie,’ I said, ‘today is Sunday.’ But Archie didn’t want to stay in the house all day, so we went. He took my Winchester shotgun and I took the 30-30. when we got to Spout House, here they were - the partridge. Archie started firing. We had our pack sacks just about full when he said, ‘That’s enough, isn’t it?’

I said, ‘I don’t know if you’d ever get enough, but we got a good many.’

Right up on top of Spout House, we were sitting behind a little rock, having a smoke and I said, ‘Archie, look at the big rabbit.’ We could see the rabbit going. It went a little bit and stopped. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘that’s an awful size of a rabbit. I’m going to have a shot at him with the 30-30.’

I put the bullet right alongside the rabbit but never touched it. It ran a little bit and then stopped and looked around towards us. I thought I could catch it so I told Archie to give me the shotgun and I went towards the rabbit, shotgun in hand. When I got to what I thought was almost within shot, I ran and when the rabbit started to run I was handy enough that I fired at it. I broke off two of its legs and I ran up close enough that I put my foot on one of its legs. I called out to Archie to come and see the biggest kind of rabbit. It was about the size of a fox and I had never seen one like it before. Archie was laughing when he got over to where I was and he said, ‘Harry, that’s not a rabbit, that’s a hare!’ I knew there were a few hares up there but I had not seen one before, although Archie had. After I got home I weighed the hare and it was six and a half pounds.

Monday morning we went back again for more partridge since we had done so well the first time. I gave Archie the 30-30 this time. After I had killed two or three partridge, Archie said, ‘Henry, stop!’ I asked if he had seen something and he said, ‘Come here. Look!’ There was this big cow moose, half sticking out through this big spot of woods, looking around. I guess she had heard the shots. Cecil and I stopped. Archie shut her up and started to go towards her. When he was about 50 yards from her, he fired three shots and never touched her.

‘Well, well,’ Cecil said, ‘what did you give him the gun for?’

I said, ‘I thought Archie was just as good as I with a rifle.’ Cecil figured it was just as well to go home after missing two. It was starting to get cold and so we decided to come home. We didn’t get a moose but we had lots of partridge.

Two or three days after that there was a ‘time’ up in the Orange Lodge, supper and dance. There was a crowd there and I was sitting between Rhoda and Cecil’s daughter Ruby. Arch Pope was playing for the dance. Cecil walked along to me when he was out in the dance and said, ‘Can you whistle yet?’ Ruby wanted to know what he meant so I told them the story. After that, whenever Cecil saw me he would say, ‘Can you whistle yet?

As told by Henry Herridge.

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