Vintage Vernon (part 2)

Fishing keeps us - part of us anyway - boys forever ... Geoffrey Norman

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My father's pressure cooker

My father came to live with me in 1971, when I bought my grandmother's old house. Larry and I had been renting it since January 1 1970. One of my first jobs was to put in some insulation. This particular evening I was up over the kitchen working, walking on the rafters which are spaced about three feet apart. I believe this part of the old house was an old hen house, nailed on to the main house long before my time. Above the kitchen is really a stoop space, you can almost stand up. So it is difficult moving around spanning three feet. I had the ceiling over halfway finished when I slipped and came right down through, ruining the ceiling, fetching up on my ribs across a beam. My old boots flew off and hit the floor alongside of my father, he was not impressed to say the least. Thinking back on it, I probably might not have slipped had I laced up my boots properly.

I was sitting in the kitchen recouping, putting on my boots, in a bit of a daze watching my father. This is what I remember anyway, he was making soup. He had this huge pot, a pressure cooker, it was full to within an inch of the top and was boiling. As he closed it, he said, "Darn it, I forgot the celery," and immediately opened the pot. Hey, this is something I never saw before, a pressure cooker blowing up. When he opened it, it blew. I couldn't believe a pressure cooker could build up that much pressure that fast. The soup went all over the walls and ceiling, and the old man was wearing quite a bit of it. The only place there was no soup was in the pot and on me.

This all happened in two seconds, my father turned toward me, the pot cover still in his hand, blood running down his forehead and said, "God I believe that staggered me." No more pressure cookers for him after that, so he threw the rubber gasket in the garbage but not the pot. The next morning he was rubbing the top of his head and complaining about a lump the size of an egg. I started thinking about the weight off of the pressure cooker and where it went. I looked at the ceiling above the stove, sure enough there was a good sized dent. I found the weight down behind the stove and realized that the cover had hit him so hard, that he didn't feel the weight hit him on the top of his head. He sure knew about it the next day though. But the pressure cooker was not finished with him yet.

The only thing worse than two women using the same kitchen must be two men, my father and I using my kitchen. Thankfully it didn't last too long when he decided to get a small trailer, twenty-three feet. The trailer lasted long enough for us to put a piece on the old house for him. Back to the pot, he was making a stew in the trailer, but he was not by the stove this time. When it blew up he lost his whole pot of stew, he said it went everywhere. For weeks he was finding meat, carrots and potatoes just about anywhere you could think of inside of that trailer. Somehow the cover got half locked on, with no gasket and no weight on the top and it still blew up. The locks were half broken off all around the pot, this time it went in the garbage.

I started telling this story around, hoping to find other pressure cooker stories. The best one came from Effie Corney. After telling her my father's story, she told me about her brother. She told me that her brother was cooking a whole chicken in his pressure cooker when it blew up. She said he looked for that chicken for a month before he found it, down behind the mops and brooms, behind the kitchen door. They kept the inside kitchen door open against the wall all the time, so that chicken's final flight had to be across the room, hit the ceiling just above the mops and dropped down behind them. She said after a month the only thing he could do was bury the chicken.

Return to Part 1
Grant Covey's Oxen

My father told me a story, that when he was a kid my grandfather leased the use of his road down to the back shore to the man who had the road work for the government, and who also owned the fish plant and grocery store. My grandfather always owed for groceries, he could never get it paid off or find out how much he owed and when he got paid for the road or fish, it was always the same..."I'll take it off your bill." This turned into a feud sooner than later. He did the same thing with my father when he worked on the road.

Back to the oxen, a pair of oxen were also hired to haul gravel for the road. Then there was an election and the government changed. The oxen were on the wrong side of the political fence and had to be fired. Then oxen with the right political pedigree had to be hired. I don't know if Grant's oxen got hired or fired but it had to be one or the other, not many people were well enough off to own oxen. The more things change the more they stay the same. Years later when all these old guys were long gone and I was teenager, I tried to get a job on the road. No way, not until a few weeks before an election, then I found my self digging a ditch where there didn't need to be a ditch, but it only lasted until the election was over so that wasn't so bad. Ha! - Ha!

This must be why I love politics, must be in my genes. Got to go now.

Oscar Fredericks and Harold Covey

I was one year old when my grandfather, Oscar, died at fifty-one years of age, so I don't know too much about him. Only that he worked himself to death, trying to make a living during the depression. He must have had a good sense of humour though, because there is a little story that he left behind that he embellished to the point where I'm not sure how much truth is in it. Maybe my father added to it also, for the sake of the story, oh well the names are true. I did hear one story about my grandfather lancing his own boil with a knife. Once while painting his boat he ran out of paint and ended up with one side blue and the other side green.

My grandfather used to go away sometimes in the spring and summer, double dory fishing, or to P.E.I. lobster fishing for a cannery. There was no money to be made at home and that made one less at the table. So Oscar and Harold Covey (from Paddy's Head) went over to P.E.I. lobster fishing for the season with a bunch of other men. They fished two to a boat, right off the beach. Every day they would drag their boat down over the sand in the morning and, after working all day, drag it back up again. Now Harold was a big strong man who never swore and got real upset if any one else did. Oscar and Harold usually got finished ahead of every one else and had no help to haul up their boat, but they would be there to help with all the other boats. This went on for some time and I can tell you that a soggy flat bottom boat can stick into the sand like a suction cup. One day Harold and my grandfather had just got their boat put away when the other boats showed up. Harold must have been in a bad mood or not feeling well, he said to my grandfather, "Oscar I suppose we should help them but they never help us, you come stay right by me and don't pull to hard." They all started to pull but the boat didn't move, the men started to swear and Harold got upset. My grandfather said he could feel the gunnel separate from the boat and he and Harold walked up the beach with it in their hands. That made it worse, the swearing got worse, Harold turned and said, "If you fellows would have pulled like us the boat would be up now, but we did our share."

My grandfather and Harold worked six days a week and had Sunday off. Their favourite thing to do was borrow their boss's horse and wagon and see the countryside. This worked out good for them, and the horse. I should add that Harold was a kind man and wouldn't harm a fly. One Sunday when Harold went into the barn to put the bridle on the horse, so he could bring the horse out to the wagon, the horse bit him. Without thinking, Harold, just like lighting, hauled off, hit the horse in the head with his fist and killed it stone dead. My grandfather said he heard the noise but didn't know what it was and started in to the barn. Harold came out of the barn crying, saying, "What am I going to do, how can I tell the man that I killed his horse." That pretty much ended their summer lobster fishing in P.E.I.

HAROLD COVEY (from The History of Indian Harbour)
(Harold) Often rowed a dory from Indian Harbour to Lunenburg to purchase groceries. He was at odds with local merchants and refused to purchase goods from them. On one trip, he and brother, Clifford, purchased four barrels of flour. They carried one barrel on each hip to the dory. Some local residents asked where those strong men were from. The answer given was, "They're just a couple of the boys from Indian Harbour - you should see the men." Harold didn't return from one such excursion. His empty dory was found but his body was never recovered.

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Pat Donoghue, Canada, ©1997