The Lad from Pointe de Bute (Chapters 1-3)
A Historical Fiction for Young Readers 8-12
FROM POINTE DE BUTE
Esther and Richard Provencher
© 2014-17 by Esther and Richard Provencher
Dester Publications. All rights reserved.
This story, one day in the young life of John Trenholm Jr. is written for Esther, my wife born in Cape Spear, New Brunswick to the family of Thornton Ogden and Dorothy (Allen) Ogden on their 96 acre Cape Spear farm along the shores of Northumberland Strait, New Brunswick.
of the Yorkshire Trenholm(e) family
and their descendents:
John; sons, Edward, Matthew and John Jr.
sailed from Liverpool, England
March 16, 1772
on the Duke of York, arriving
in Acadia (Nova Scotia) May 21, 1772.
The setting for this novel is the
Cape Chignecto area of Nova Scotia
later called, New Brunswick.
'Personal Diary of John (Johnny) Trenholm Jr.
Inverma Farm, Westmorland County
New Brunswick, January 3, 1827
…So long ago, the summer of my twelfth year, first day of July, year of our Lord, 1774 was filled with memories of a young boy hurrying to complete his regular morning chore.
That day, a magnificent blue sky, dotted with clouds like bits of peppermint remains locked in vivid detail within my thoughts. Carefree ramblings and the innocence of youth continue to leap with joy from the hidden spaces of my mind.
They allowed this aging and frail man many hours of joyful remembrance, and helped me to overcome difficult periods in my life. Often when I think of that enchanting day, I merely have to close this diary, lean back, shut my eyes. And…ah yes, remember.
Summer was surely a plan made in Heaven, and filled to fullness like a sail upon the wind. And such was my frame of mine on that most prosperous day of boyhood times.
It was a happy occasion to dally along and remember being in the center of a gathering of families, and listening to the latest tidbit of news. All came from the surrounding countryside to our home.
Da had much pleasure in his heart for those special occasions, as area farmers held high respect for his wisdom…and long speech. Yes, I still remember young Mattie standing by the oak tree. It was a blessing to have such a fine companion to share my thoughts. She was indeed someone who understood the adventures that ran rampant in my mind.
Mattie was like a sister I never had. Yet, she was more than a sister. And my heart acted strangely around her. Little did I know I be courting her one-day. During those long ago memories, I did not realize how quickly I must begin to grow into a man. And that my world although full of imagination and childish moments, was preparing to roar like a lion.
There were times of distress, which caused that boy of my past to turn to loved-ones in order to overcome my heart-felt fears. I also learned much from my friend, Monsieur Robert Mercier how terrible the tragedy of the Seven Years War had on everyone.
He said, “Les Acadiens tried to hide wherever possible to avoid being rounded up for deportation.” And after a period of exile, those that did return discovered English settlers on land Acadians had developed for over a century. It was a most difficult time to wonder if my home, Inverma Farm, was such a one, that we may occupy land once owned by others. Was it possible? I asked myself on many occasions back then.
But I must cease from my notations and carry on with this diary. That day from long ago began, fifty-four years ago, when…
Early morning chores were done and Da said not to be tardy.
He understood a boy’s heart was filled with the thoughts of a furrowed sail, billowing in a restless wind. It was his wish my roots never be forgotten, far across the sea in Yorkshire, England.
Arriving in this new land May 21, 1772 with my Da and Mum and two older brothers, Edward and Matthew on the Duke of York was furthest on my mind right now. It was a usual habit that my day could not properly begin without the drift of salty air.
And thoughts of my plate harboring a large piece of freshly baked fish for my ‘tum’ hurried these bare-footed steps.
Smoke arising from home fires drifted shoreward. Swirls the color of tar curled into morning’s early sky, lazy drifts seeking their own private paths in the sky. Open windows allowed pleasant odors to escape from a collection of buildings making up the tiny settlement of Pointe de Bute, Nova Scotia.
This is where our family took up residence these past two years. It was a difficult journey overland from Halifax to this distant land, awaiting a fresh batch of settlers.
We, all of us were eager to confront this new territory, and the many miles of forest blessed our wayward eyes. Now this commotion along the seashore was a familiar busy hive of activity. Boat hulls were receiving a coating of pitch. A dock was under repair and haying movements from busy scythes a-bustling in nearby green fields.
Each morn I trod this footpath used wisely by many from our fine community. It afforded any passer-by a golden view of happenings on the south shore. It was my own selfish desire to adopt this passage, with its brambles and sharp rocks, rather than take the longer, and not so interesting second path.
I could almost smell the muscled sweat from toiling men, and hear their heavy breathing of fatigue. Mum always chided Da if he did not freshen up prior to setting down to supper, and I understood the needs of my own growing body.
Today held a hefty bluster of wind, with strength enough to quickly coax any stubborn sloop to hasten a mooring against the shore’s dock. And the white thrashing of waves stood aside as each prow raced to disgorge its hold of produce.
“Ahoy! Johnny!” one of the men shouted from a beached dory. “Ahoy…Monsieur Mercier!” was my own bubbling response to his cheerful good wishes.
The older gentleman had befriended me since my family first came to this new land. From my way of thinking he was still young, even if there was a tint of gray about his temples.
It was he who helped me seek out the best of each morning’s fish-catch. So I may check the gills for freshness and avoid looking like a young fool in the selection.
His kindness included treats, such as the time he gifted me with a penknife. It continues to remain a prized possession, and at the moment nestled snugly in the side pocket of my trousers.
There have been many occasions when my limited skills allowed me to carve a whistle. And that too is a tool on a lace around my neck. At times it provides me with a pastime from the drudgery of some daily chores.
I heard it said on occasion during a meal at home, that the man was simply wise to take a young lad like me under his wing. Especially since he was earning wages for being our hired hand. And Da was away in the fields or on business on many occasions.
It was his solid instructions to look after this rambunctious boy so as not get into a hay-full of trouble. To me, Robert was simply Mr. Mercier, my friend.
Da first hired him to perform haying and other garden chores when there was need for extra help, on our farm named, Inverma. And Da felt there were opportunities in-between tasks for Mr. Mercier to use his skills to teach me about the ways of this land.
Monsieur Robert Mercier was one of a small number of French Acadians who remained in the area. “I lived many years, near this Northumberland shore,” he once stated.
Stories were spoken in hushed whispers about the man. It was said he hid from the British and lived secretly for many years in these lands.
“All these fertile farms along the shore once belonged to my family and friends,” Monsieur remarked one evening after having ‘supped’ at our home. But then, I always enjoyed the merriment of a good tale. Little did I know at the time, there was more truth in what seemed to be a good piece of fiction prior to my hurrying off to my bedside.
“Let not the ramblings of a displaced farmer turn your head boy,” Da had chided from the other side of the table.
He always chuckled heartily at what he called “light jabs,” but I was a little sad for our guest. He seemed to speak with a passion and his arms kept flaying at the air, as he spoke.
I compared his movements to the flies I try to scoot from back of my head when my friends and I hasten to the pond for a well-deserved swim.
‘Robert’ was also the name of my Grand Papa in England.
Da said Grand Papa had some fears about the long sea voyage and his health was very particular about coming to a strange land.
My stride this morning along the Atlantic shore was as usual, a delight. But I felt I must hurry and fetch the choicest fish for breakfast. Mum and Da were waiting.
For a short period of time, I watched Robert working with a group of the town lads on shore duties. Incoming boats required many willing hands to help prepare the community for the coming winter. Excitement fanned my cheeks into a bright red tinge as a Sloop brushed towards shore, its sails gathering in each huff of wind.
And preparations were being made to unload what was surely a hefty herring catch.
Shouting from some neighbors joined in the gathering as everyone rushed forward to welcome the approaching craft.
It was a scene that constantly stirred my imagination.
And it was natural for any boy to flush with excitement. Not too far a distance away, other lads were attending to their family’s needs as I. “Tommy!” I shouted trying to be heard above the melee. But it seemed my young friend was occupied with some task, listening intently to instructions from his uncle.
The wind pressed hard against my thick mop of brown hair amid the duties being displayed aside the shore. Such a delicious moment in the life of any boy had to be enjoyed to the full, as I gazed at their activity.
Skipping happily along the shore, I was unmindful of the many broken pieces of clamshells sticking to the soles of my feet. It reminded me how much our new land was surrounded by such simple ocean treasures.
No matter which direction prevailed on this land, ocean water easily provided a greeting of crashing waves pushed along from strong gusts of wind.
My bare feet even accepted particles of course sand which announced themselves between these slender toes. This was such a perfect day for little boys to set their hearts by.
A blue sky was filled to overflowing with white clouds, some even taking the shape of sheep and cows, commodities of great abundance in this area.
And the clamor around me producing a tingle, that arose from growing heels to the billowing hairs on top of my head.
My sworn duty this precious day was to select the finest freshly caught mackerel and return home with our breakfast. And I was comfortable knowing Monsieur Mercier was nearby with assistance should the need arise.
“Hurry back lad,” Da had spoken earlier as he stacked our woodpile back of the farmhouse.
The twinkle in his eye knew of my joy in this early morning chore. Da taught me well to be reliant, and it was not my habit to tarry longer than I should. Now there began a race against time since I had given to gawking at the colorful images around me.
Our home, called Inverma Farm, was set off on the western side of the main road, from Aulac to Cape Tormentine. It was made up of 348 acres of marsh and upland. The hill adorned in lush hay sloped gently towards the Atlantic shore, giving a pleasant view of early sunlight.
It was said that Yorkshire men like my Da, were hardy and efficient farmers. I was properly pleased to be the son of such a respected man of the fields. It was a proper designation for any humble man.
As I trotted along the well-worn path, I could still see my Da as brightly as the Blue Jay that alighted on that nearby tree.
As Da leaned against the fireplace, pipe in hand my face was flushed from the welcome warmth of dancing flames.
Father was a large man of almost 300 pounds. He was called John Senior but myself, John Junior affectionately called him “Da.”
Instead of ‘John Jr.’ Da called me, “Johnny.” It was in honor of my great grandfather who now rested, bless his soul, back in England.
Da said his resting place was in a small cemetery on a rocky slope with a view of the sheep farms below. I loved to hear tidbits about the England we left behind. Memories from tales of Yorkshire farms stretching far and wide, and spacious, broken up only by rocky fences, still captured an excitement in my senses.
“Your father was a considerable scholar before taking up farming,” Mum proudly stated one night during a tucking-me-in.
“And you are so much like him, always scuttling about with mysterious intent.” I often held onto that thought during the years ahead.
It was a treat I relished, of her comparing me to Da. And as my carrying cloth bag rested across my left shoulder my mind was filled with interesting thoughts and questions.
Many times I had to endure a teasing since I often could be seen hiding like a shadow between the branches of my favorite oak tree. True enough I needed my own privacy, a hide-a-way to think, to plan and sometimes to sulk. “Up there,” I often related to Da and Mum, “I can hear everything around me, almost like being inside a Trojan horse.
And from beneath the branches, I am invisible.” Yes, I mused, ‘Johnny’ was quite acceptable for a boy with eleven years of residence on this good earth. I was pleased as a pickle with the name.
My good mate Tom, of the same age as I, also received an honorable mention. Everyone called him, “Tommy.” I came to know that younger lad who also crossed the sea from Yorkshire on our same stalwart ship, the Duke of York. He was an orphan boy kindly brought to start a new life with his uncle.
My eyes always sparkled in that huge sitting room, the flicker of flames reflecting the eagerness of a young wolf captured in the bathing of bright moonlight. On a windy night such as then, I once observed a proud creature leading his mate into the shadows of trees just beyond our pasture.
Did those men who sat about in our large sitting room have memories of similar sightings? I wondered at the time. Continuing to stare out the window I remembered looking wistfully at the tall elm tree I was fond of climbing.
It was near the comfort of home, simply a short rush across an open field. It was a safe haven, easy to climb for a surefooted lad, and provided my proper escape from any frightening moment.
Once there, nothing could hide itself from my searching eyes, thus allowing me ample opportunity to wait patiently for any help. An occasion did occur last summer when a Coyote came too close and I was frightened. I did spend much time high up in the tree, in what I sometimes called the ‘Masthead.’
And shouting commands to a make-believe crew of sea mates below, often occupied my mind.
The hideaway was my secret lookout, and watching from the farthest edge of a huge branch, I was able to observe any activity in the area. Chickens, cows, sheep and even an errant fox were unable to remain unannounced from my prying eyes.
And when I cupped my hands in the form of two circles, one atop the other, it created a most accurate child-like telescope.
Through these rounded fingers; and I quickly created that instrument once more, nothing escaped my vision. Around the room of visitors was a collection of whiskered faces, like Da.
The women wore bonnets and several children including my brothers had homespun clothes. My starched shirt always chafed my neck. But I was growing into a man, and it was dutiful not to complain about such a minor discomfort. Scratching the itch on my neck had me keeping a sharp eye out for mum.