The Lay of the Land

[slideshow]My Uncle Lorne lives on the home place where he, my mother Hazel, their sister Jean and other brother Louis grew up and at least five previous generations of MacLean’s since sometime before 1812 when they arrived from Colonsay, Scotland. The MacLean gambrel-style house is 200 years old this year. Lorne lives in Meadowbank, but he has to walk all the way to Clyde River to get his mail. It’s not as far as you might think, as the way his land lays in a North-South angle is all within Meadowbank, except most of his driveway and mailbox which are in Clyde River. If you walk about 10 steps out from the corner of his barn, you are in Clyde River. The angle of his farm slopes down to the river and actually lines up with Harvey MacQuarrie’s farm across the main highway by Clyde River bridge.

My grandfather Harry at one time owned three farms, so he paid taxes in both Clyde River and Meadowbank. When my mother and her sister Jean started school in the late 1920s, they went to Meadowbank. As Lorne says, “They took a shortcut through the woods, and when they came out on the other side, they still had a long way to go.” Eventually they started going to Clyde River because Lorne said, “There were more rides going that way.”

Lorne went to Clyde River School, and as a young boy, he and his good pal and neighbour Eric MacKinnon had their journey well planned. In winter, they would take their wooden sleigh and coast down the hill to the river. It was important to get up such a speed that you could make it down the hill and across the river on the ice without stopping. He drove me down through the fields in his truck to show me the point of lift off, and the bank, in my estimation, looked like an 8-10 foot drop, but maybe the snow softened the landing. This sleigh trip would have them arriving at school in 10 minutes. On the way home, the sleigh run would take them down Murray’s hill. He said that you had to steer with your boots, so they would wear out after a while.

Going to school in summertime, Lorne said they would walk down to the river and along through Murphy’s Hollow, below where the Mallett’s and Mervin and Joyce MacPhee now live, to the bridge and up the hill to school. It would take 25 minutes, and coming home would often take an hour and a half, because they were not in as much of a rush. He and Eric had stones lined up from Murphy’s Hollow right over to the large granite rock just behind MacKinnon’s and they were never sure where exactly this large rock came from. They had a game of running or jumping from stone to stone without touching the ground. They gathered all the stones themselves and lined them up over a half mile, so he said it was a lot of work.

For winter sport, they would run their sleighs down Clyde River hill on the main highway, which is a dangerous trip in a car these days. A few kids would be stationed to check for cars coming. There were no transfer trucks to worry about then. They would have two sleighs each with three people riding in them and the two teams would race down the hill and try to steer clear of hitting the bridge or going into the river.

For summer recreation, the MacLean kids and the neighbour MacKinnon kids walked down to the river to swim. My mother told me the ladies would wear long house dresses, and Lorne said that the boys wore overalls most of the time. There was even a sandy beach back then; however, since they built the causeway on the West River, the water never flowed as well up the Clyde River, so the marsh area has expanded significantly. When we were there, we saw a blue heron wading in the marshes; there are also osprey and wild geese and ducks.

The photos feature the beach where the kids went swimming which is all grown up with trees and marsh and further over where the winter sleigh route led across to the Murray’s.

Even though most of Uncle Lorne’s farm is planted in a crop, he has a buffer zone where he can drive his truck down to the river to tour the memories of his childhood. His wife Sadie told me that after our tour, she is afraid Lorne might consider clearing the trees and marsh grass on the beach so he can go swimming again.

Thanks Uncle Lorne for touring me along your part of the river and telling me about the childhood memories that you and my mother shared.

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