A Story - At The Crossing

A story told by Doug of English Harbour, Newfoundland

On this side of the crossing is Penny Pond and over there is Ivaney Pond.  It’s the same water, only, cut across by the road makes it two ponds.  The stages and flakes were still here when we were kids.  They were all along the harbor edge on the pond side, stretched all the way across the pond.  You could walk from one side to the other on the flakes.

Years ago there were 200 dogs in English Harbour.  All of them were kept under the stages, all the year round.  They were working dogs, used in the winter to pull sleds.  That’s how they got their firewood out, slid it on the snow.  In the winter the dogs were fed dried capelin and salt herring.  When the capelin rolled in in the summer they were collected up and spread out on the ground until they were dried, crunchy.  Then they were put in a barrel with a smaller barrel pressing them down so they wouldn’t take up so much room being kept.  Before the salt herring was fed the dogs they were soaked in fresh water for four days.  In the winter they had to a cut hole in the ice on the pond to get the salt herring in fresh water.  They went into onion bags, loose mesh bags, that got suspended in the water for four days.  Those were large dogs they had.  In the summer they were fed lumpfish and cod heads, just throwed under the stages for the dogs.  They was treated well, just not like pets today.  They were working dogs. Every one was chained to a stage post.  They’d chew through a regular collar, like ones made of rope or leather, so they had to put metal collars on them.  Each one was made special, just the right size to fit that dog’s neck.

“Starnie Tickle,” that’s what those little fish are there in the pond.  They’ve got barbs that come off their sides, sharp barbs.  If you step on one it can be bad, give you an infection.  There’s eels in there, three feet long.  My brothers and me used to tie those little trout hooks along a line and just walk along the spit to the island (used to be a little island in the pond, got swept out in a big storm).  We’d have two or three eels hooked on by the time we’d walked around the island.  Then only threw them back in.  It was just for fun, you know.

That big old iron piece sticking out there on the shore was what they rendered out the cod livers in.  For the oil.  There was a coal-fired boiler under it.  That boiler you can’t see any more. It’s down under the mud there where the processing plant was.  Big three story building.  They put the oil in barrels and shipped it out right from here; cod liver oil went all over the world from English Harbour.  That old iron piece was the kettle, like.  There’s another piece in the field up past Fred’s house, somebody put it there for a doghouse, that was the dipper they used in the kettle.

Oh, there’s lots of antiques under the water.  See, the pond was where everything was throwed out back then.  There was two grocery stores right there along the road.  The back part of them stuck out over the water on posts.  The mud’s 15’ deep.  I bet if you could get in there you’d find lots of old stuff, bottles and the like.  And brass, lots of brass.  Those old one-stroke engines had lots of brass in them.  When parts broke they didn’t have a way to fix the brass so they sent away for new.  All the broke stuff went into the pond.

People haven’t changed, really.  Back then they wanted the newest and best, just the same as most do now.  Sometimes the old stuff is best, though.  Back then they mixed all that what came out of the kettle after they got the oil, with ocher to make a kind of paint.  Cod offal, with ocher to make it red, smeared on the walls of all the buildings.  Made all around smell pretty bad for a while.  It soaked deep into the wood, never rot.  When they was making changes to the church some of them old boards were taken out, perfectly good boards, and replaced.  We took them out of the scrap pile and used them on our house.  Better than new.