"August rain: the best of summer gone, and the fall not yet born. The odd uneven time"
- Sylvia Plath
How fast the summer goes!
As young boy growing up in St. Bernard's, summer started on the last day of school and came to crashing halt on the first day school opened.
I would bundle up some books, a few games and stash a few treats in preparation for the isolation of Barrasway de Plate - where our entire family spend the bulk of our Summers.
The Plate is a half-hour run by boat from St. Bernard's - about six miles. My father fished for lobster, cod and salmon along the hilly, rugged coastline making this the perfect location for a family cabin (as opposed to a shack).
The population could rise as a high as twenty if the Hackett's, Power's, Hodder's, Stewart's and Banfield's all converged at the same time. More often than not, it was just the five of us, our dog, an occasional Bear and the scattered Moose.
My brothers and I spent untold hours swimming in the ocean, paddling in our rubber dingys in and out of the barrisway, playing softball, building forts, trouting, exploring the woods, picking (well, eating) berries and climbing trees in between cleaning nets and hauling out fire wood.
August was a slower month for Dad, The Lobster season was over and the Salmon season was winding down. Dad would haul us into the forest in back of our cabin or down along Scotch Brook to cut wood for the winter. Despite it being the warmest month of the year we dressed up in heavy old sweaters and coats that were just covered in sticky old turpentine from dragging those huge logs out to the beach.
I recall the comradery, the tears, the sweat and dad loosing his patience from time to time. I certainly do not miss the sessions spend trying to scrub off the turpentine, which was stuck in our hair, eyebrows and arms, with butter and Pine Sol. There was work to do, like it or not, it had to be done.
The other not so job was cleaning the Salmon nets. It is hard to imagine how much old slub that the tides deposited in the nets. Dad would grab a hold of the net and raise it by the bow of the boat and beat the net, as it slid over top of the gunnel, with a rubber hose to get as much of the seaweed out as possible.
As messy as that was, cleaning the nets onshore was even less fun. On Sundays, the nets were hauled in. We would drag them up in the long gravel beach and spread them out allowing the slub to dry. Out came the old cotton gloves. We would go up and down the net rubbing the net together between our gloves breaking the slub into tiny pieces that just fell apart while the flies had a feast at our expense.
There was no power, just Kerosene and Coleman lamps. Every night we played games, listened to radio plays broadcast on stations from far-away places like New York and Boston. The nights always ended with us on our knees reciting the Rosary followed with dad thrilling with us ghost stories and signing Cowboy Songs.
Occasionally, Dad would purchase a case of pop. What a treat. We rarely ever had soda at home.The sugar elixer was an instant reward and drew the contrariness right out of yea. Cream Soda and Mom's raisin butter tarts never failed to re-energize.
That all seems like a lifetime ago. I am fairly certain this was the first summer that we did not get up for at least a night.
That really saddens me. The tranquility of those lazy, care free days of summers past. As an adult, I miss the fires on the beach and the unspoiled nights of stargazing that the dark pristine remoteness provided.
I still hold out hope for the fall.