Over this Labour Day weekend, my brother and his wife, Frank and Michele (Taylor) Pretty, have a fishing derby at their cabin in Placentia Junction, Newfoundland. This is the fourteenth year for this derby in honor of Michele's parents, Jack and Mary Taylor.
This fishing event started after Mary died and Michele, with the help of her father, organized the derby on the last long weekend of the summer. The cabin was the place Jack and Mary spent the best months of the year. It was a fitting way to celebrate and remember Mary's life in a place she loved so much.
The cabin at Placentia Junction is a beautiful spot on a pond, along the T'railway (the old rail bed), just off the highway on the road to Argentia/Placentia. It is a heavily forested area, with several ponds and summer cabins dispersed through the woods, by the ponds and on both sides of the T'railway. In more recent times, some people live there all year long though the population jumps significantly starting mid spring.
One of the wonderful things about the Junction is that people are so relaxed. After a long winter of busy work days and family life, everyone who frequents the area looks forward to the break from the regular routine. Here life slows down, the air is clean and fresh, the quiet envelops you, people are friendly and the weather is often better than in the city. Such was the case for Jack and Mary Taylor.
Both Taylors loved the cabin, and went there for decades, starting when their children were young. One of the things they both enjoyed, but especially Mary, was fishing; she spent many hours, casting a line, waiting for the big one. After Mary died, Jack enjoyed measuring the fish for the derby and being such a gregarious person, everyone became his friends soon after they met. However, Jack especially enjoyed the time spent with family who gathered to celebrate with him.
After Jack died, Michele and Frank bought the cabin and the tradition of the derby continues. As many of the seven children and their families as can make it visit the Junction this weekend to fish or just join in the fun. Saturday night, Michele and Frank host a family dinner after which the fun begins with stories, music, song and dance.
In the derby, each entrant pays $10.00 and the prize money is allocated to the anglers catching the four longest fish. There are enough other prizes donated by friends, family and businesses that every year thus far each participant has received a prize. The highest number of participants was one hundred and fourteen. The number of participants is dependent on the weather usually; the first year there were eight, last year, ninety-five.
List of winners
The Taylors are a close family and all live on the Avalon peninsula. There are five girls, Belinda, Heather (Cookie), Michele (Mickey), Colleen, Jackie. The two boys are Noel and Damian. My brother, Frank, who was raised in a family of two children, who only has one child, Samantha, and whose parents are both deceased, is fortunate to be part of such a large family.
There is a writer in the Taylor family as well. Heather, called Cookie by her family, has had numerous stories published in Downhome magazine. She is the family's poet laureate, Newfoundland's answer to Robert Service. Cookie wrote this poem the year her father died, 2007.
Dad's Last Prank
By Heather (Cookie) Taylor Benoit
Well, Labour Day is here again and the derby's on the go.
Mickey wants the big one, but Damian, he says, "No."
He's gonna walk his legs off till he finds that fishin hole
That's gonna give up the big one and land it on his pole.
So, for miles and miles he travelled, over marsh and hills and vale.
Tried Second Pond and Burn's Pond, and Healy's on the way.
But, the fish they weren't a bitin', seems his luck had all run out
But he vowed that he would not go back until he had "that trout."
So, on and on he soldiered, till he couldn't go no more,
The flies they had him eat to death and his feet were mighty sore.
He'd set out in the morning and fished and walked all day
But now it's almost 9 o'clock with the darkness on its way.
He sat on a rock at the edge of a pond, and down he laid his pole.
He hung his head in sadness, he felt he'd lost his soul.
When all of a sudden the winds came up and the waters, they did churn,
A light shone down from the heavens above, and his eyes did burn.
Then Damian heard a voice from above that brought him to his knees.
And tears of joy welled in his eyes, he couldn't hardly see.
Damian felt so happy...How could he be sad
For the man from above who was speaking to him...It was his dear old Dad.
"Son," he said. "Don't give up. You'll have that trout tonight.
Just cast your line in the water. I'll be your guiding light.
There's a fish in this pond, it's 2 foot long, with your name upon its head.
Now, pick up your pole, God love ya son,"...and that was all he said.
So Damian grabbed his fishing pole and stood at the edge of the pond.
He looked across the water, it had become quite calm.
Down from the sky came a beam of light which landed straight ahead.
And Damian cast his line out, directly where it led.
And then out of the water, the trout it seemed to soar,
It grabbed the fly into its mouth and turned away from shore.
But Damian knew that it was his, for Dad wouldn't let him down.
So he played it well and got it in, then headed back for home.
It took him 3 long hours, but he didn't mind the walk.
Even though he was eaten alive and beat up from the falls.
He finally reached the cabin with a big smile on his face.
"Quick someone get the measuring board, I think I've got first place."
So Frank put the board on the table and measured from tail to head.
The trout was exactly 2 foot long, just like dear Dad had said.
Damian danced and screamed and cried. He couldn't believe his eyes.
He yelled,"I've finally done it boys, I've finally won first prize."
But the smile disappeared in the blink of an eye when Frank delivered the blow.
He put his arm around Damian and said, "There's something you should know.
Mick went across the road today, she was gone only a minute or two.
She caught a fish, it was bigger than yours, for it was 2 foot 2."
Damian won the derby the year his father died.
The original copy of the poem
Greetings from Prince Edward Island, everyone. Have a great derby.
P.S. Hope you catch that big one this year, Michele.