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5 - From Halls Bay to Badger



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

My story dates back to 1923, where I was the first woman to travel the Halls Bay line with my two small children, Norma, 2 years and Charles, 5 months.

This was a trip I want to forget. My husband had secured a contract in the lumber woods and I persuaded him to let me go along. So after he had gone to Badger and built our cabin he came back for me at Pilleys Island, N.D.B. There, with other men who were walking to Badger to get work in the lumber woods, I got aboard a small motor boat which took us 18 miles to South Brook. My husband had come from Badger by horse and carriage. He left the horse at South Brook to come for me by boat at Pilleys Island, and on our arrival at South Brook the carriage was there but the horse was gone. So my husband tried persuading me to go back by the same boat, but that didn't work. I had come from Chicago just three years previous and Pilleys Island was a lonely spot for me when my husband was not there. While he was coaxing me to go back, I looked around and the six or seven men who had come with us were not to be seen. I asked for them and my husband said they were walking to Badger and already were on their way. I convinced my husband I was walking also. I remember that I had two coats and my 5 month baby in my arms. And my husband had a lunch box with food for two days, and two blankets, and our 2 year-old daughter in his arms. We started our walk, which was upgrade, and the mosquitoes were out in thousands. We met them in cloud formation and we did not have our hands free to brush them away. The timber was very tall in places, and the smoldering heat and the burst of sun here and there made it very convenient for the mosquitoes. It was almost unbearable.

We walked six miles, all upgrade. Then we were on a high level and with just enough wind to keep us from smothering with flies. At that distance I could not hold up my baby. My arms had lost their strength. So I suggested a rest and a lunch at a little camp not far from the road. It was made of boughs, and had been used by the men who put the road through, namely the Halls Bay Line.

As we laid our children down they were bitten by flies and badly sunburnt. My husband was disgusted with me for letting me talk him into letting me walk. I kept telling him someone may be coming through from Badger and would give us a lift and sure enough before I could open our lunch box we heard in the distance the sound of a horse trotting. We weren't long getting out of the thicket to the road. This was a good friend Con Simms, who on seeing the horse my husband had taken to the Bay to bring us to Badger, and knowing same, had caught it and thinking he might catch the boat we were coming on, decided that he might get a trip back to Pilleys Island to see his girl friend. So Con and my husband went back six miles to get the carriage and our clothing or luggage. They told me to prepare lunch while they were gone. But the creaking of the trees made me fear the creatures of the forest especially bears. So I stood in the center of the road with a child on each arm and waited for them to go and come (twelve miles) and my arms did not give out. After lunch, we started by carriage. We rode until the dusk of evening, when we found a old camp with the ground for a floor, and the men who had walked ahead of us were there, trying to smoke out the mosquitoes by burning sods.

On my arrival with the children they extinguished the sod burning. Then came the rain. The men made a bed of boughs and in their humble hospitality gave me their bed. The children slept for a while until the rain soaked through and made our ground floor very wet.

The next morning, after a dry breakfast we started in misty rain. We rode as far as Gull Pond where there was another camp. This one had a stove, so we dried our wet clothing and had lunch, then continued to Badger. We arrived about 6.30 p.m. just as the people were finishing their supper.

We went to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Pinkston at Badger where we had spent our honeymoon. They were astonished to see us and we enjoyed a wonderful meal. Now our winter camp was about 7 or 8 miles from Badger so the next day we went to the woods. There was a very large camp nearby and two other small ones. The large one was operated by a Mr. Jones and they had their own private little camp also. Our camp was not quite finished such as doors and walls, etc. I covered the walls or logs with sheeting paper and put up a heavy blanket for a door. It was August and very warm. We used a young bull to pull the logs in place in the timber yard. Then the men cut wood until winter frost came. But during the warm weather I spend many lonely nights and was frightened of bears. My husband's army rifle was the only consolation I had. I would set up and think and plan night after night.

My husband would be in Badgertown on business mixed with a little bit of pleasure. He would laugh at me when I would tell him of my fear. But it was not until we got a door to our camp that they told me how the men in other camps had set traps and caught many bears.

When winter set in, the children did not get as many colds as I expected. But they both got a severe dose of "white mouth". And the baby had to go to Badger for his second circumcision.

On our way back to camp from Badger I drove the horse myself. On arrival, my brother-in-law took the horse, fed it, watered it. A short while later, it dropped dead with jawlock colic.

I wanted my husband to buy another horse as the A.N.D. Co. had several old ones for sale. But no, he was fed up. He went to Badger to borrow 15 dogs. We packed up, got a comatic or large sleigh, put a small feather bed on it, lunch box, coats and my two babies, then in the month of February, we started the journey back again to Pilleys Island, fifty-two miles, 32 by land, 20 by frozen bay.

The ice was very thin but we made the trip in two days and one night. We passed thousands of rabbits hung up on high scaffolds waiting for the roads to get broken to take them north for packing. We broke the road through mountains of snow in places. About one hour before we arrived at Pilleys a snow and wind storm came on and we could not see one yard ahead of us. The only thing we could do was leave it to the instinct of the dogs. And although the dogs had never been that way before, as they were from Badger, they took us to the right landing place. It was very slippery and the dogs were tired and hungry and the sleigh upset spilling us in the snow drift about 5 minutes distance from our home. But a neighbor Mrs. Tom Campbell who lived by the side of the hill came out and helped us in her house. She wasn't long getting a cup of tea.

My husband went back to Badger to get our luggage, and to his dismay our camp had been broken into and our possessions were gone. Among the loot was his rifle and my skates and many little things we treasured - all gone. On the trip I had left a coat with my camera, new shoes for the children and several little things in the pocket at one of the camps on the road.

Since then I have had eleven more children. My husband was killed in the mines at Bell Island in 1939, when my baby was three-months-old and the children were all small. Now most of them are married and I am a grandmother 31 times over.



Back to: The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories Menu

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

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