Pictures out of Newfoundland this time of year remind me of a conversation I had with an elderly gentleman on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland about fifteen years ago. He was an interesting man, salt of the earth, friendly and eager to talk to anyone who stopped near his home. I think of him every time I see pictures of polar bears in Newfoundland.
Photo by Ocean View Photography, Newfoundland Wesleyville
It woke the neighbourhood. Somewhere nearby a car sent its repetitive horn blasts into the quiet of the night, alarming everyone for several streets around. A rash of break-ins in the area recently meant more people installed alarm systems in their homes and cars. Periodically we woke in the early morning hours when a wireless alarm sounded.
There was a time when an alarm was less high tech. I learned of such a system when my mother, mother-in-law and I visited L'Anse aux Meadows on the tip of the Northern Peninsula in Newfoundland. It was the summer tourist season; we visited the former Viking settlement, drove around the area, stopping where the road led to a small turn-about near the ocean. We were at the far northern tip of our beautiful island, in a place where it looked like a nor'easter could sweep away the little house and shed not twenty feet from the water. You could see the coast of Labrador in the distance.
As we walked around, a friendly, elderly gentleman came out of the house and approached us. He asked, " 'Ow ar ya taday?"
"We're fine. How are you?"
"Alright. Can't complain too much, ya knows. Nobody wants ta hear it anyways," he said.
"It must get really bad here in the winter, when that wind blows onshore. Have you ever had any damage?" I asked.
"Yees, moy dear. Me an' da Mrs. 'ad ta leave a few toimes when da seas were warshin' o're da 'ouse. 'Ad ta use da boat one toime cos everyting were awarsh. Got da goat out o' da shed just afore 'e warshed away," he added.
"Oh my. I'm glad you got out and saved the goat too. I hope that doesn't happen very often," I said.
"Few toimes o're da years. 'Ad ta sove da goat, Mrs. Cudna 'ford anudder one," he said.
"Do you use the goat for milk?" I asked.
"Yees, Mrs. Not only dat. She's a good 'larm too, moy dear. Lits us know wen a polar bear is 'round. Kicks up some racket she do when deres a bear comes ashore in da spring. Wen 'e gits dat toime o' year and da goat is goin' nuts, we knows wats 'bout. She'll woke us from a deep sleep, moy dear. Goats ar' great fer warnin' 'bout da bears, Mrs," he said.
Would a goat be a good alarm for thieves, I wonder? And the milk would be a bonus!
Note: Polar bears are not usually residents of Newfoundland. In the spring, they float south on the ice flows from Labrador and swim to the island.