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1 - When The Whales Came Up For Breakfast



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

The morning was fair, the sea calm, not a ripple to disturb the silvery surface that stretched farther than the eye could see. It was one of those heavenly days when God's blessed peace seemed to settle down upon the face of the deep, changing it into a symbolic river of life or a sea of glass mingled with fire.

Occasionally a submarine monster would push its dark head through the shining surface, and immediately disappear again. But, to our astonishment, three whales, evidently father, mother and child, came up from the regions below and lay upon the face of the waters. We had seldom known whales to act this way, but these were either seeking food, or taking a bath in the warm summer sun. We might have enjoyed watching them had they been steering a different course. But lo, they were coming straight for our boat! This was most unusual, and we could not understand its meaning.

My father was quite reconciled and seemed to regard it as one of the special privileges that come into a fisherman's life. At that time there were no whale factories on our coast; therefore, to get an opportunity of viewing the royal family of the sea at close range was indeed an exceptional privilege. I frankly confess that I was a coward, and could not braggart it through like my older brother, but gave way to fear and great excitement. My father bade me to be quiet and not alarmed at the approaching giants, for he was prepared to settle with them when they were near enough to the boat. His words would have sounded like mockery had I not had great faith. He had brought me through many a storm. Often when the wild wind roared and the angry waves dashed over our tiny boat, he would wrap me up in his old oil-skin coat, push me in the fore-cuddy, then sing for my encouragement one of his old sea rhymes such as:


"Poor sailors are born for hard weather,
Great guns that blow big or blow low.
Our duty keeps us to the tiller;
Where the gale drives, we must go."


And at other times when circumstances were favorable and fish more plentiful he would sing:


"Sometimes aloft, more times on deck,
Some other times below
When the thought, Polly, rolled in my mind
And the stormy winds do blow."


Dear old dad is gone now. He has made his last voyage. And I trust that he has anchor in that Blessed port where there are no more storms, no more whales, no more oil-skin jackets, and where little kiddies such as I was then are never more afraid.

Those far-off days seem to me now like some half-forgotten dream. But on with my story.

The whales were drawing nearer and my big brother was fast losing his braggart courage. Only that he feared the fate of Jonah he might have jumped into the sea, so terrified was he at the sight of the approaching monsters. I was overcome and my heart was beating like a little steam-pump, yet I had faith that father would deliver us. By what means such a wonderful piece of work could be done, I knew not. Childlike, and knowing nothing else to do, I threw myself upon his word and hugged up close to him and waited for the deliverance which seemed so long in coming.

Thank God it came. When the whales were so close that we could see their eyes and their awful mouths, Father, quite unconcerned, took the water pail and dipped some sour water which had lain in the boat all night. This he scattered over them and the scent of the foul water was more effective than dynamite. They instantly sank as though they were charged with lead and wa saw them no more until they came up to breathe about a half a mile away.



Back to: The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories Menu

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

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