This is a short narrative about a trip that I made to Newfoundland, Canada, to visit my distant relatives.

We continued our journey to the bird sanctuary at Cape St. Mary’s, Tommy and I talking it up like long-lost brothers. I do believe that I asked him every question under the sun about fishing. He happily answered all of them with his good-natured Newfie smile. I was completely absorbed in the trip; it was unlike anything that I had ever experienced in my life. As a matter of fact, I have never felt more completely and utterly alive, neither before or after that day on the Kathryn M. I felt an unexplainable

connection to my ancestors, a long line of Newfoundland cod fishermen. I am not even certain how far back the line goes. I did, however, feel their eyes upon us that day.

We could barely make out the rugged coastline that rolled past the boat, but we could see the

bottoms of what appeared to be massive cliffs and rocks. Tommy informed us that we were directly in the center of the incredibly rich White family cod grounds. He pointed out a cliff in the distance.

“Old Fred White saved a guy’s life right over there,” he said. Fred White was the youngest brother of my grandmother, and Tommy’s uncle. I never had the pleasure of meeting him before he passed on, but from what I hear, it sure sounds like I missed out on a real character. Stories about Fred White usually involve him crashing one of his cars, drunk of course, but I was very interested to hear this story about his heroism.

“So this fella fell down that cliff over there,” continued Tommy. “We was out here on the grounds that day fishin’ when Fred sees this fella in the water down there. Billy pulled up close as he could, and Fred tied a line “round himself and dove in the water to go get him. When they got to the shore, Fred threw him over his back and pulled him all the way up that cliff. I don’t know how he done it.”

Well all looked up at the cliff in awe. It just didn’t seem possible. I couldn’t really estimate how high it was, but it was very, very steep.

“He was hung-over most every day,” said Billy, who had joined us on deck. “You’d see that old boy over there on the stern cuttin’ bait and t’rowing up over the side. He never complained, though. He was one helluva fisherman, yes. b’y!” We all laughed. Billy was almost as much of a character as Tommy was. He was very animated, smiling constantly as he told us stories. Almost every sentence he spoke ended with the Newfie saying, yes, b’y!

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  • Amara on Mar 16, 2009

    You’ve got something here. I feel that pull toward your heritage. Nicely written. Thanks for sharing these with me.

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