The day set to go up Newman Sound Bay to Big Bight was a big deal. My father and his logging partner had already spent over three weeks up there building a log cabin. It was long and partitioned in the middle: our family on the left and the other family to the right. Winter supplies were stocked up in advance, and the horse for hauling out logs over the coming winter months was already up there too.
Last-minute things were loaded in the boat at Sandy Cove wharf. Big Bight was over 7 miles away, and for the one-hour plus trip we all huddled together, in the open boat under warm blankets. We had lots of figgy buns and jam breads to eat along the way. As we were approaching Big Bight, we could see in the distance the roof of the log cabin. We were only minutes away from our new winter home away from home. The cabin was located on a heavily treed plateau, close to a small brook that trickled down to the shoreline. We soon adjusted to our new surroundings and came to realise we were snuggled away in deep dense woods, well protected against the cold, and the coming snow storms and blustery winds of winter.
My father used to cut logs with a bucksaw and axe. He along with his logging partner would start cutting together. And once they accumulated a good supply, and dependent on the coming of the snow, his partner would become a full-time teamster. Seeing big loads of logs on double bobsleighs, being hauled out to the shoreline, for springtime shipping, was a common sight.
On those rare days when my father was logging close to the cabin, my mother would prepare a hot take-out meal, with lots for me too, and I would walk out the snowy woods road. On arrival, my father would already have a fire going, and would have thick layers of spruce boughs spread out on the snow. He and I would then sit by the crackling fire and have a big feed. Those were the days, eh?
My father’s job was back-breaking, bone-tiring work. After cutting the logs he would often have to drag or lug some of them to the horse trail. His relentless sawing and chopping and dragging and lugging, allowed for few breaks. Toiling in often cold and blustery weather of swirling wind and snow, attested to his strong will and perseverance.
My mother was always busy too. With a family and a log cabin to look after, she did it all in an easy and cheerful manner, and had a marvellous way of coping with the highs and lows of everyday living. Whenever any of life’s troubling clouds appeared on the horizon, her no fuss, self-confident way, assured us that everything was going to be alright.
To us the long winter months were really short winter months. Although we were shut off from the outside world, there was no sense or awareness of being isolated. As for my take on it all—the big outdoors country right at our door contrasted wonderfully with the warmth and cosiness of our log cabin home. Everything seemed just right.
On cold wintery starry nights, along with everything surrounded by deep dark woods, combined to make it our personal winter wonderland. Excitement seemed to be always in the air. My mother and father were in their thirties, and young and filled with life were we.
God was very much a presence in our lives at the cabin. Every night under the watchful eye of my mother, we would dutifully kneel by our respective beds and say our prayers out loud. God’s spiritual presence was a reality in all we did, and that his blessings kept us all safe.
On our return to Sandy Cove in early spring, political changes were blowin’ in the wind. Canada joined Newfoundland in 1949! Word came forth that to qualify for Family Allowance Benefits (money) children of school age would have to attend school, full time. Henceforth, the long practice of many Eastport Peninsula fishermen who plied the Labrador Sea, cod fishery in summer, and complemented their income in winter by working Up-the-Bay along with their families, came to an abrupt end. Progress, eh?
As we approach Christmas in the here and now of 2023, may the Spirit of God, the Spirit of peace be with you all your days.