The Newfoundland Mission
September 29, 2012

Gentle readers. I have deceived you. Okay, “deceive” is a mite hard. Let’s say I haven’t been completely forthright about mule Polly and my mission here in Newfoundland. While it may seem we’ve been stumbling aimlessly around The Rock, we’ve actually been on a record quest. Record as in vinyl, not world.

The object of my mission: find the photos on this album. Here, Matt Tucker and his film crew take a look at my vinyl. They appear amused. Mule Polly less so. (Mablerly, Newfoundland).

For the post few months, I’ve been writing occasionally about what Polly and I have encountered on our trek across Newfoundland. Herring, caplin, molasses bread, icebergs, moonshine and crusty fishermen.

But that’s just the side show of what we’ve been looking for. Call it the by-catch if you want to get all fisherman about it.

You see for the past quarter year, Polly and I have been looking for four pictures. To be more precise, we’re looking for four photographs on an album. An album as in a record. LP. Vinyl baby.

For reasons of adventure, I won’t get into the details of the record too much. Like give out the title. Don’t want folks to search engine the album to death and email me longitude and latitude co-ordinates of the pics I’m questing. No need to go on a mule mission then, right?

I will say I bought if for a dollar in a small southern town. The four photos on the cover of the album are all Newfoundland scenes. They date from at least the late 1970s. Could be much older. Yes, I know things look differently now. They are:
Picture one: A rock with a wave crashing on it
Picture two: A harbor side fishing village in front of a hill
Picture three: A Newfoundland house with a guy out front cutting hay
Picture four: A boat ramp

I carry the album around with me in the wagon. Most days, I pull it from its secret location between the whiskey bottle and the toilet paper. Just to show it to someone. Ask them, “hey, do any of these photos look familiar”. Most days, folks say, “Boy (they pronounce it “bye” in Newfoundland), that could be anywhere.” Then they go back to fishing, farming, truck driving, flossing, eating breakfast, drinking tea, harvesting icebergs or looking for whales.

Inside Polly’s wagon. The interior is removable. In this photo, the furnishings, including the wood stove, have been taken out for fall cleaning. The album resides behind the shelf running along the right side.

But ask folks the same question for a quarter year and sooner or later someone is bound to say, “Bye, that’s down by where the dog used to lie in the road over Trinity way…”.

Here, in an excerpt from a letter I wrote a friend recently, is how the hunt’s going…..

“So I hear from this gruff fisherman that photo number three is in Trinity. Sure thing. He says, “That house is by the spot in the road where the dog used to sleep.  Only he’s dead now so you’ll have to ask around a bit. They’ll be able to tell you down there where he use to nap. Not sure how he died but he’s gone.”

Great. This guy’s got huge hands. Almost broke my howdy hand when he shook it. Surely he’s pulled enough nets in his life to know where such-and-such a house is. And besides, no one else has a clue so I might as well give it a shot. So Polly and I head toward Trinity.

Three weeks later, in Keels, I run across two pretty girls. Be about thirty. I mean real pretty. And they look at photo three and giggle in french accents (they were from Quebec) “we know exactament where this house is. It’s in Trinity!“ 

Brilliant. I’ve got picture three nailed. Sorta the Pretty Girl, Gruff Fisherman Telemetry Thing. All I have to do is get Polly there and we’re golden.

Flash forward half a month of wagon travel. I’m heading into Trinity. I’m at the bend in the road where the girls and fisherman say the house will magically appear. I pull out my camera. House in picture three is coming up. I hear the wind chimes. Sorta like when you go to heaven and you’ve donated lots to the church. You played your cards right, sly dog you. The sound of the car crash recedes. The tinkling fades in….

Then I see the roof. But damn it there’s a chimney where there’s not supposed to be one and there’s a forest where, in photo three, there’s a cliff. And there’s no man out front cutting hay with a scythe by the driveway. No, the driveway is way too short and it’s blocked off by a No Trespassing sign.

Aw hell…. The house I trekked out to wasn’t even close to the one in photo three.

I haven’t shown my album to any pretty girls or strong fishermen this week. I did give a young boy in Trinity a ride in Polly’s cart.

I never saw the stupid dead dog.”

So that, folks, is what Polly and I have really been up to this summer. The rest, as they say, is just the story.

I hope I’m forgiven. Good luck on whatever your questing.

Gotta run now. Got a hot lead on Photo number four….

Here are some scenes from our search. Most are from the Bonavista Peninsula on Newfoundland’s East Coast. Thanks to Eric, Karen and Benjamin at the Maidment House Bed & Breakfast in Trinity, Newfoundland for some great meals, wifi and the tin of tea!

Four beautiful ladies: the three ladies on the right provided some great leads for where my photos might be found. The lady on the left – mule Polly – is less amused. She’s the one that has to tow my wagon on this lark. (Maberly, Newfoundland)

Diane and Will of Birchy Cove pitched in on the search. No clue on where to find any photos but they brought us some beautiful eggs. Thanks guys!

We found guns, too. Here’s a doozy unearthed in my record quest.
Of course you can’t seek high and low in Newfoundland without involving potatoes. Here, Reg Durdle of Birchy Cove digs his spuds. He stores them in a root cellar. Thanks for the samples Reg!
Traditional Newfoundland root cellars. Islanders traditionally relied on root cellars to store their root crops over winter. (Maberly, Newfoundland)
Here’s one of Reg’s potatoes. It’s a Newfie Blue. Named after its color, it has a distinctive purple-blue band a quarter inch inside the peel. Cook this potato and it turns creme colored. This one went down a treat with a feed of fresh cod, dandelion and a shot of 12 year whiskey. Hoozah!
Down at the watering hole. I usually water Polly once a day. Here, she’s sipping from a brook that drains into Trinity Bay. (Maberly, Newfoundland).
Sundown. Another day of searching draws to a close. Inside, the wagon, the record awaits another day of exploring.

(Map note: the map shows you the point of land in Maberly where Polly and I spent three days asking folks where the photos on the album might be found. While I came up with no conclusive answers, I did learn that Polly likes to eat bamboo forks. Whole other story.)

Posted Saturday September 29, 2012 by Bernie
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