Friday, February 16, 2007

Ragged Harbour on the Straight Shore

february 16, 2007
The map shows a squiggle. I figure it’s about another ten minutes drive on a dirt road...The tires scrunch along a tidal offering of pebbles and mussel shells until the car comes to rest, spluttering, at the end of the track...This must be the place. Cabin on the right, and a boulder-rolled, crescent-shaped beach sharp with the scent of kelp on our left...
Days are spent beachcombing and exploring... careful of crabs, but oblivious to the cold water, they wade out to a large boulder they’ve named Crocodile Rock. Afternoons are spent riding the barebacked boulder, offering the sun their pale naked bodies, and drifting their nets below the water, teasing the seaweed nurseries for glimpses of tiny lives.
(excerpt from Products of Erosion, Alison Dyer 2005)
In July 2002 I took the family on a road trip 'all around the circle' as in the song. One of our first stops was at the cabin of a friend, well-known local musician Eric West. His little cabin in Ragged Harbour is but a 15-mins drive from his home in Ladle Cove on the straight shore. Across from Fogo Island.

A stark and rugged coast. Bakeapple flats behind, cold ocean beyond - I was standing on a thin wedge of terra-maybe-firma.

Anyway, Eric graciously loaded us up with goods from his freezer - moose, caplin, greens, his mum's homemade bread, cake, squares. We were good. I squeezed the car over the mussel-laden dirt road and it farted to a stop in front of his emerald-green cabin. Kids piled out and quickly got a beach fire started for dinner. That night Eric joined us and we sat in the dark as he played guitar, enthralling the kids with his many songs including the 'Brass Button Man' - a song that sent gleeful shivers down the kids' backs as they thought about this strange fellow on Duck Island - not far from where we were now staying.

The Brass Button Man

One evening last July, I won't tell you any lie,
I was fishin' off Duck Island for a spell;
I jigged a load of fish, and a bucket full of squid,
And I thought that everything was going well.
I was steamin’ in the tickle with my load of fish to pickle,
When I saw a figure standing by a shack;
On his coat was shiny brass, and he held a captain's glass,
And he carried a load of crunnicks on his back.
(And I heard him say:)


"I'm the Brass Button Man and I'll catch you if I can,
I'll chase you up and down the rocky shore,
And if you're not so quick , I will trip you with my stick,
So you won't be on my island anymore."

Now as you might suppose
I took fright and nearly froze,
And I headed out the harbour right away;
But when I looked around
No where could he be found,
And I haven't seen him to this very day.

( But I heard him say:)


Now if you're on Duck Isle
And you're stayin' for awhile
Be sure to keep your doors locked in the night;
And if you hear strange sounds
Don't get up to look around,
'Cause if you do you're bound to get a fright.

(You might hear something say:)


© 1990 Eric West (Vinland Music )

Eric is an avid paddler and we'd planned a couple of day paddles. The wind had other plans so we kept our kayaking and canoeing short in the sheltered reaches of this bay.

But Ragged Harbour left its imprint on me. And the few days spent there - watching the kids make inukshuks on an island at low tide, eating meals on the rocky beach, and revelling in thunderstorm backlighting the tuckamore - turned into a short story, 'Products of Erosion’ published last summer in The Nashwaak Review.


Michael said...


Alison Dyer said...

Thanks Michael. I remember that holiday well, and hope to get up there & paddle with Eric again only further along the shore. Alison

Douglas Wilcox said...

Alison, I would love to have taken those photographs! They have brightened a very grey Monday morning. :o)

Alison Dyer said...

That's very kind of you Douglas. And with ice pellets pelting the windows here in a vicious blizzard (although my daughter tells me the snow fort in the back garden is now all ice,"really awesome," we need all the brightening up we can get :) Alison

Tina Chaulk said...

Alison, that's my home! Well, Aspen Cove is and that's right next to Ladle Cove. That is how I always explain it to people who ask where it is: across from Fogo Island. And I know Eric West really well (he gave me my first job in the arts, promoting a travelling show he and some others were doing). Spent more than one night on Duck Island too. Great pics and post, as usual.

Alison Dyer said...

Hi Tina. Would love to hear of some stories about Duck Island - and all the Wadhams - have been meaning to get there also with a friend who has the lighthouse-keepers place on Peckford Island! If all goes well, I might be up around Ladle Cove/Aspen Cove this summer. Alison