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Friday, 27 November 2015

Furry Tales of the Trail

The Confederation Trail is a trail system which is island-wide in Prince Edward Island, Canada. It is a great place to walk or bicycle on what was the original railway bed. In winter, it is used for snowmobiling. The other three seasons, my husband, Rick and I love walking this trail, especially when we have the granddog, Georgie, with us.


Some problems with my legs have kept me from the trail this year but we ventured out for a short walk. It was a cool day in early November and many of the trees had lost their foliage. The sun's rays shone through on occasion, illuminating the leaves that still clung to a few stately yellow giants.

As we walked along, Georgie enjoyed her time off lead when we were the only ones there. After a few minutes, a man appeared ahead of us, coming our way, making it necessary to put Georgie back on lead. 

Dogs are a great way to make friends...or enemies. So many people love dogs and ask about them, the name, the breed, the behaviour or the age. This was the case that day. Georgie broke the ice when she stole the man's gloves. Before long Harold Richards told us his name and we asked to take his picture.

Harold grew up in Little Sands, in eastern PEI although now he and his wife live in Summerside. His father was a lobster fisherman but the family was self sufficient. His father grew vegetables, raised some cows, pigs, hens. They had apple trees as well and picked strawberries and blueberries. Harold had two brothers and three sisters. The children all had chores and this time of year, helped their father cut wood for the next winter.

At the age of fifteen, Harold left home for Toronto after working with his father for two months. His father gave him a $100.00 bill for the two months work. Harold thought he was rich. Many islanders went to work in Ontario in those days and Harold had a number of cousins living there. He rented his own place for $9.00 a week. It had a table and a hot plate but he could not afford much else. 

At a store nearby, if he bought a pound of bacon, he received a dozen eggs free. However, Harold didn't have a frying pan so he used an empty sardine can as his frying pan. He worked at Laura Secord, making $1.25 an hour, then $2.15 an hour at his next job. Over time he improved his salary but life on the island called him back home.

In PEI, Harold worked construction, even working on the Confederation Bridge, linking the island to mainland Canada. He worked as a lobster fisherman as well as a scallop fisherman for twenty years. Harold retired four years ago at the age of sixty-six. Every day possible he walks the trail, enjoying nature, meeting people.

We met a friend that day and so did Georgie, in spite of her bad behaviour. We enjoyed speaking with Harold and later discussed what he told us.

Island Families, like many in rural Canada, were self sufficient, without a social safety net such as Employment Insurance which we have today. Families produced their own food and worked from dawn to dusk to survive. There is a proud history in this province and those stories must be told

Can you imagine a fifteen year old today leaving home, renting a place in Toronto and supporting himself? The courage, ingenuity, and determination Harold exhibited were incredible. Harold did it because that was what people did at that time.

Harold was a young man with the spirit of adventure and the curiosity of youth. He started with a sardine can as a frying pan. Necessity made him creative. Leave it to youth to adapt as required though some would not have been as successful as Harold. Well done, sir!

                                   Georgie eyeing Harold's gloves again

You never know what interesting people you will meet on the Confederation Trail especially when you bring the dog.

 Thank you to Harold for allowing me to post part of his story.


Anvilcloud said...

That was certainly an exceptional meeting. Happy trails to you.

Marie Smith said...

We look forward to meeting Roy and Bullet on the trail too. Not sure Trigger would be allowed

Unknown said...

I was thinking of my father who went to work on building the paper mill in Grand Falls at age twelve.Stompin' Tom Connors is another one. So many boys and girls who had to become adults long before their time. Great piece today Marie.

Marie Smith said...

Ern was an incredible man whose story will be told "if I lives" as Mom used to say.

Shammickite said...

Life has changed so much. What was routine for young men starting their working lives is so different now. Thanks for introducing me to Harold. When I walk in the nearby forest trails with Tessa (my son's dog) I meet and chat to so many people. A dog is a great introduction service!

Marie Smith said...

Dogs are such social creatures and can teach us how to make friends as well.

sousca said...

What a great place to walk Georgie (I am sure you are working towards adopting her!)
The old railway tracks make fine places to walk; we have a lot of them in the UK thanks to Beeching’s cuts in the 1960s, resulting in us losing a third of our rail network. Lots of the branch lines disappeared leaving many rural communities with little or no public transport, but they do make ideal places for walking and cycling.
Harold Richards is a good sport to let you include him in your blog, he seems to have worked hard and led a productive life.
I remember leaving school and home when I was fifteen, I worked on a large country estate and my starting wage was five pounds a fortnight working seven days a week, out of that I paid one pound ten shillings a week for my lodgings. When I left that job to work in a quarry my wage was eight pounds a week – I was rich! Hard work but happy days.

Marie Smith said...

Harold was a good sport and eager to share. Your story is fascinating as well. I am amazed at the stories people have to share if we but express an interest.

Have you thought of writing your story from those days. It would be interesting I think.

Ginnie said...

You have a healthy curiosity and people respond to that. I'm sure it meant a lot to Harold and what a lovely place for a walk.

Marie Smith said...

It is a wonderful trail. We are very lucky here in PEI.

Kathleen's Blog said...

I love the smells on trail walks in the fall!!

Marie Smith said...

Me too! The trail is a feast for the senses.

Shammickite said...

Ah, the good old days, eh?

Jackie said...

What an incredibly wonderful walk you had....and to meet Mr. Richards and hear his story was an added blessing to your day, I'm sure.
The scenery is beautiful! Thank you for sharing this with us.

Tomoko said...

Hello, Marie Smith.
Wow, What a very beautiful and long trail.
Thank you for visiting and your comment on my recent blog!

Marie Smith said...

Everyone has a story to tell and I love to help people tell them. The trail is a place of such wonderful discoveries.

Marie Smith said...


I am happy to meet you via blogging. Prince Edward Island was the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables. Apparently that series is very popular in Japan. We get many Japanese tourists here every year, visiting the various Anne/Lucy Maud attractions.

Thank you for visiting. I will visit you again too.

Marie Smith said...

I wrote a note below for Sousca

Tomoko said...

Hi, Marie Smith
Yes, Yes, Anne of Green Gables and Prince Edward Island are very popular in Japan. Many young girls like to read the series and many women who read the book love to visit the Island.I can imagine how many women visit the places. I read the series of the book when I was 20. Very lovely story!

Thank you for your follower of my blog. Sorry, my follower on my post has been disappeared. Your blog address has already been set in my blog. Actually, I will have a usual winter break from blogging soon. I will visit you in Next year again.
Many Thanks! Have a good day.

Marie Smith said...

See you in the New Year, Tomoko.