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Romantic Canada
Chapter III Longshoremen

STANDING firmly behind the craft, whether large or small, that crown both Bluenose Fishing and Bluenose foreign Trade with success is an army of men and boys heterogeneously grouped together as 'Longshoremen. We and them in each and every village-by-the-sea, wherever there is a beat. Here is a caulker, there a tar-boiler and pitch-runner, an old knitter of fishnet, an old sailmaker—needle and "palm", in hand—a woodcarver, an oakum-picker, an old boat-builder, "the weather prophet", and all the old fellows who lend a hand when a heavy boat is to be hauled up the beach, or to be pushed into the sea again. In the evolution of coastal-life these men are amphibious. In their youth they went to sea, but in old-age they retired, not to idleness, but to uphold what is known in the trade, as the "Shore-end" of fishing.

As one follows the long coastal road macadamized by the Maritime, the 'Longshore men and the 'Longshore women afford some of the most picturesque genre encountered anywhere in all Canada. They are unique, in that in every individual case, the product is "the Sea-coast's Own". And no two of them are exactly alike. They not only mend and reinforce, tar and paint, but they are the Historians, the Spinners-and-Weavers of Traditions, the story-tellers, that keep alive in the hearts of their listeners the sea-spirit.—without which, ships are useless. And so, some morning, when you come along over the cliffs, and see a smoke, black as the traditional pine-cone over Vesuvius before the burial of Pompeii, you know that some old fisherman and his pals are tarring the old boat.

The old boat that calls for tar is certainly a personality. Com-ing nearer, and taking care to keep to windward, you stalk this group and watch. First there is the fiery cauldron, that is the Tar-pot, above its blaze of driftwood, with its own special attendant, looking like a Prince of Darkness, wielding the long-handled dipper; and at a little distance by the boat two other figures with long brushes, calling for ladles of tar. Good and thick they lay it into the old seams and over the old plank, the smoke pouring upward like smoke of incense, offered on the altar of the great out-of-doors.

Such scenes are imminently in danger of passing out of Canadian life. For the old boat that calls for tar, and "the old-timer" that believes in it, are everywhere giving way before the-modern gasoline-driven launch—"Gasolener" the Newfoundlanders call it—with "speed" written all over it, and in its tanks "Power" to laugh n the face of gales and head winds. But whereas the "gasolener" may boast of these things, she can never boast of the atmosphere and spirit of romance emanating from such a scene as-"The tarring of the Old Boat."

The men who tar the boat to-day may have turned their hands to something else by to-morrow. On fine days the old sails are spread out on the beach to dry or stood to flap-in the-breeze from the mast hole of some old boat on the beach, long ago condemned as unseaworthy and gradually being disintegrated by the elements. Oh what lovely seats these old gunwales make for the audience of men and boys, eyes aflame with imagination, as some old grandfather of the beach, in the role of raconteur, makes the details of a noted gale live anew in the vision of his listeners To-morrow these listeners of to-day may themselves be tossing in the arms of a gale and half-drowned :n the volume of green water encompassed by the "crest" and the "trough".

Inanimate individuallties of every beach are the spreading fish "stages" generally of green or auburn-tinted spruce-boughs. These stage the women of the 'Longshore. It is a most interesting fact of the Court of King Cod that the entire family is here, even to the baby.

Catching the Cod seems to be the least part of the work when one beholds the amount of labour expended on the Shore End. Early and late, during the season, the women stand to their task of drying the fish. When the weather is fine two weeks often slip away before a batch of cod is properly hardened and "dry". Fish, best led for the long voyage to the West Indies and where Tropic heat is likely to cause a sweat in the "hold", the Canadian and Newfoundland fishwives "cure" until it is hard as the proverbial brickbat. The amount of fish lore contained in the heads of these women with ballooning skirts. is amazing. As judges of weather, they often put the. "Weather-man" to shame. Sometimes the coming cloud is entirely unseen by the mere stroller when these women begin pell-mell to take in the fish. And when a fine evening says it is safe to leave the fish out all night, these careful souls may be seen turning over each fish, "oil-skins" up, in case of a shower. These women turn easily to housekeeping duties, and often the out-of-door tasks accomplished, continue the web of romance with knitting, spinning and hooking rugs.

The sailmaker is a romantic figure in the doorway of some old "gear" house, as he is surrounded by willows of canvas, dark and mildewed, patching, roping and otherwise overhauling the old'mainsail. His, too, is a figure in imminent danger of passing. The dashing motor boat, blowing the spume from her bow, says, "The day of sails is over."

One summer, visiting with the Lighthouse-keeper's family their characterful little binnacle-home on the edge of the rocks at Peggy's Cove, our last day for adventuring having arrived, and even as we waited for the coming of the mail-carrier's cart by which we had engaged "outward passage", we strolled down to the waterfront to say a last farewell to our "old-timers". It was at that last moment, in what turned out to be the eleventh hour of his life, that we chanced upon a ninety-year-old grandfather in high boots and straw hat placidly catching up with his fingers the broken meshes of an old net. Mail-cart or not, we must have this picture! Click' As it happened, mending this bit of net was his last task. For before the picture which we promised to send back to him could come into his hand; the Great Reaper had brought him to his last illness and he was soon away.

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