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42 - Berry Picking

 

 

from The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

This is the true story of an experience I shall never forget. It happened in the year 1951, during the first week of August, when my husband's cousin Theresa came into the house and asked if I would go picking bake apples. I said no at first, but then decided to go for it was as lovely a day as one could wish for. Around 10 o'clock we left home with a flour sack and can each, a lunch, and a bottle of tea.

We had to travel a good distance to the Mush, Sutton Much (marsh?), it was called, and though the mosquitos were pesty, we picked until we thought it was time to go home. We sat down and had bread and tea - "a mug-up" - it's called - and then started on the way out, as we thought, but soon found we were going farther into the woods. Well, we kept going in over bushes and rocks, till we were in thick woods. We were tired, hungry and lost, so when dusk was turning to darkness we said to each other, "We will lie down, for the night is cold, and we're hungry and lonesome". We had nothing to light a fire with for we had used all the matches. It was a night we'll never forget and we got very little sleep.

Early next morning, a Thursday it was, I could see smoke in the distance and I said to Theresa, "Do you see the smoke over there?" She said, "Yes, what is it?" I replied, "It's the fishermen getting a mug-up and going out to the traps." Little did I know it was smoke from a fire or gunsmoke or that the woods were being searched by men from all the settlements around. All that day we kept going over the same ground, mistakenly following the morning's smoke. I got tired out, and Theresa being ahead of me used to sing out "Are you coming Nancy?" I would answer her, but it was around mid-day when I sung out to her and got no answer. I sung out twice more and still got no answer, so I told myself I was left in the woods alone.

At this point my way was blocked by a river so I walked along a short path till I got to the end of it. there was woods on one side and none on the other. I wanted a drink of water, but was afraid that if I once got off the path I would not get back to it. I was too exhausted and discouraged to do anything but lie down. Well, the sun was so hot that I was burned up and the flies so pesty I was eaten up.

I got up and wandered back to the river. When I got there I could tell by the sun it was getting late, so I began looking around for a place to lie down for the night. I said that whatever happened to me, I must get clear of the river in case of tides. I wasn't going to be drowned. So I crossed over and went as far as my two legs would carry me and lay down. Covering my legs with a dress and my face with a bandana, I slumbered into sleep, seeing the colour of the bedroom paper. I said "What is wrong with the house, it's so leaky?" and after a while I could feel the dampness going through me. I said, "If I had a coat I'd be much more comfortable", and finally I woke up. It was just daybreak; my eyes were closed so I gradually opened them. Looking up to the sky, I said, "If it continues this hot all day, I'm finished."

Except for the bake apples, I had nothing to eat. I had been stung and bitten by insects, scratched and cut by brambles and thorns; I was lonely and terrified and aching in every bone from my fitful sleep in the dampness of the night.

However, I pulled myself together, still holding on to a can I got from the Sisters at Trepassey Convent and with the bake apples in the floursack flung over my back. You can believe it or not, but I didn't go the length of myself, when something whispered in my ear, "Empty out your berries and keep hold of the empty floursack". I did so, leaving a trail behind me, and in a few minutes I could hear voices all around me.

Well, that's when I got excited. I didn't know which way to go so I stayed out in the open, hoping someone would see me. Sure enough, I heard Bert Fitzgerald singing out, "Stay where you are, Nancy", and out of the woods came Bert with Joe Pennel. right away I asked about Theresa. They told me she'd found her way home and told them where to find me. Then I lost all use of myself and could not remember another person in the world. Then men lit a fire and made tea (they told me afterwards that I drank it down like cold water), then made a stretcher out of poles and tied four corners with strips of flour sack. I learned that I'd been found in a place called the Big Brake, and had to be carried over miles of ground.

When we arrived home Father Malloney, our parish priest, and Father Curtis, home on a visit from the States were there. Doctor Leonard Miller, was also on the River at the time. Actually I was very lucky to have a doctor, for the time for blood poisoning was setting in. I reached the General Hospital in fair condition but too late to catch the infection so I got injections and was washed with baking soda. After a week in bed, I got around again and was able to attend the garden party in Trepassey, where I was asked time and again to repeat the tale of an experience I can never forget as long as I live.

Bake Apples - a small fruit which grows on marshes not unlike a raspberry golden in colour.

 

 

Back to: The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories Menu

This page transcribed by James Butler, 2000
REVISED: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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