Red Rubbers

The sea played an important role in the lives of all who lived in Newfoundland’s small coastal outports. My family was no different. We lived in Anderson’s Cove, Fortune Bay, which was built next to the ocean, at the base of a cliff.

During the first six years of my life, I grew up with the sea literally at my doorstep. There were Mom and Dad, Granny and Papa (Dad’s parents) and myself. My sister didn’t come along until I was five.

Where land was scarce, people sometimes built their homes in strange places. Ours was half on land while the other half was over the water, supported by wooden shores.

Stretching along the shoreline, between the house and the store (storage shed), was a slip (wharf) made of lungers (round sticks). I wandered out and fell through a hole there one day. When Mom missed me, she could hear me but couldn’t see me. Eventually, I was rescued, none the worse for my mishap. I doubt that I learned any lessons from it either! At least not then! My actual memories of my birthplace are very limited. However, many stories of my childhood escapades have been related to me by well-meaning family members over the years. I do recall looking out the door and across the “road”, just a few feet away, was the straight, upward face of a cliff. That was the side of the house that was on land. Looking out the window on the opposite side of the house, you could look down into the ocean. You could actually fish for connors at high tide when the water rose up around the shores.

From the time I was big enough I loved to be in the dory with Dad. When I was four years old, I had a new pair of red rubber boots. I thought I had the best rubbers in the world, and I was so proud of them. Now I wanted to wear them on my next dory trip.

Dad was going to haul the lobster pots and I went with him. He put the lobsters in a locker at the rear of the dory. Of course, his warning not to get back there among them fell on deaf ears.

Curiosity got the better of me. I crawled back for a closer inspection of these interesting creatures. Their claws were not pegged and one giant claw grabbed me by the leg. Well, it looked giant-sized to me! I started to scream:

'Oh, me rubbers! Me rubbers!'

Concern for my leg, caught in what felt like a vice, didn’t enter my young mind. It was the fate of my precious new red rubbers I was concerned with. Just one illustration of how mixed-up a child’s priorities can be.

© F. Herridge
Published in Canadian Stories, December 2000/January 2001

Non Fiction
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