Family Lines

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Tag: Gaspereau

The dammed fish

Creek with snow.

The creek in winter.

My sisters and I spent a lot of our free time playing in the Nova Scotia woods with the neighbourhood kids. Since there were only a six houses in the area there wasn’t a lot of children but there was a lot of things to do. Sometimes we liked to go to the creek behind our family’s home and build dams.

The creek is what’s left of a mighty river that used to power a mill up the road. In 1950, the Nova Scotia government stopped up the river and made a lake by constructing a dam for hydroelectricity. And that was the end of the mill and the river and the beginning of the creek.

The dam.

The dam.

The creek was full of nimble water spiders and pretty florescent green dragonflies and beautifully freckled speckled trout. You had to stand still and stare at one spot in the dark brown tea coloured water before you could spot a fish. We think there were some gaspereau fish, also known as alewife, under a rock where the creek pooled. But never caught one so was never sure.

I always dreamed of reeling in a big fish in the creek. The trout dad taught us to catch were tasty but small. I wanted some that had heft, that would fight, that would make a good story.

One summer day my siblings and our friends cooled off by heading to the creek. We waded over to the other side to explore that part of the waterway. There were a couple of small streams branching off and we decided to dam a section.

We worked hard. Gathering rocks and large sticks and then moss to use as mortar. A wall took shape, resembling the inside of Nick’s log house. It reminded him he had to go home and he headed off, scaring his parents by getting lost for a couple of hours in the forest. We stayed and finished our project. Wouldn’t you know, the dam held the water back. Success.

A couple of months later and it was autumn. Nick and I were hanging out and needed something to do. What about checking out the dam? Off we went into the woods. Ducking under branches, jumping over rocks and leaping across the creek in our rubber boots and sweaters to find our handiwork.

It was still doing a good job but being kids we decided it needed to come down. So we started to pull at the sticks and loosen the rocks and grab at the moss.

What was that? I could see the top of something large and dark near the surface of the water. On the creek side that was dammed.

Stepping into the water I leaned down and peered into the churned up murky creek. It was a fish. A very big fish.

I shouted to Nick and he had a good look at it too.

“That’s a big fish!”

Here was the fish of my dreams. I needed to catch it. Since I didn’t have a rod or a net I would use my hands. Nick helped.

We wrestled with the several pound fish for a good five minutes. It was slippery and floppy and strong and didn’t want to leave home. Then, with one heave I threw it onto the land. It didn’t just lay it. It went wild with fury and scared me.

I had caught the fish. Now what? I didn’t want the fish to die. Besides, it wasn’t fishing season and I didn’t want to break the law. So I pick it up and slipped it back into the creek. The undammed part. And watched it swim away.

Playing the French horn blows

French horn.The flute is so pretty. Silver, slender and refined. I had my heart set on being a flutist when singing up for band in Grade Six. I tried out many instruments but what I really, really wanted was that flute. However, I huffed and puffed but I couldn’t make a sound on the damn skinny thing. When it came to the French horn I was a natural. So I was told by the band teacher. Zut!

I was the only French horn player in the Grade Six band – a combined musical group of two schools, Gaspereau Valley Elementary, the country school, and Wolfville Elementary, the town school. I felt awkward enough having come from the “hick mountain”, not wearing the right brand of clothing, having to take the bus, having to sit in the urban music room with the town kids. Playing the French horn just added to my feelings of rural barbaricness. Why oh why did I have this stupid instrument that I had to stick my hand into?

During band practice, when the teacher called on each of the instrument sections to listen to the harmonies, there were enough flutists to drown out the missed notes. There were enough clarinetists to take the blame for the squeaks. There were enough trumpets to blast through the allegro. Then there was…me. Just me.

I was mortified about playing solo and felt prickles of heat climbing up my neck and poking at my skull. My face was enflamed and my mouth become dry. Making my attempt at blowing into the French horn worse and resulting into nothing resembling a song. Except perhaps a fowl call.

It was hardly the band teacher’s fault that I never practiced so the music escaping my horn wasn’t music at all but a mournful, flat sound like a sad goose squawking over a lost worm. Terribleness that no one should listen too.

Those Wolfville kids were staring at me, wondering why I had left the mountain and climbed down into their green and plush Annapolis Valley. It must have been an inside joke that we were learning John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”

I stayed with the French horn for a year. Then I asked to switch to the trumpet and joined six other horn players. I was much better at being a part of the crowd at this pre-teen point in my life. These would be my “personality developing” years. Most of my friends have had these too. The years where we wanted to fit in. There would be time for learning how to march to our own beat, but not in junior high.

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