by Leo Doucet
When I was eight years old I was allowed to go to the beach without
adult supervision. Before that time I had to be accompanied by one or
another of my older cousins which did not always fit my plans, and I was
only allowed to go to Labaubeís beach.
The beach was named after an old Native man who lived in a small shingled house he had built there long before my time. He was a kind old gentleman who would recount stories by the hour. He occasionally built small rowboats for individuals and for this he charged $5.00. I donít know how he could have lived on that and I suspect that many times he did without. He saved driftwood along the beach to cook his meals and heat his home. I believe Edward Labaube was a Mic Mac and he certainly did not live on a Reserve. No one seemed to know where he came from. My Grandfather knew him and used to cautioned me to listen to his stories but to understand that not all of them were true. To Grandpa he had always been a great story teller.
Labaubeís beach was a little less than a kilometre from home. His house was situated about fifty meters from the water and near the railway tracks that continued on to the paper mill. Although I used the path that went by his house often I never noticed anyone ever visiting him. On a few occasions I stood in the open doorway of his house to ask him some questions and observed that the place was always tidy if somewhat sparse in furnishings. In summer his door was always open whether he was there or not. He was a small and slender man with a friendly smile. Everyone respected him and he was bothered by no one.
The Beach had fine red sand and one could walk out a long way at low tide, there were numerous large rocks jutting out of the water and on the beach. Often there would be large rafts of logs or pulpwood anchored to the larger rocks on shore, the logs were encircled by booms chained end to end and afforded the opportunity of walking out on the booms to deeper water. It also afforded the opportunity to "cuff logs".
Cuffing logs was an exciting but bruising sport. Ideally the water should be about one meter deep for those who could not swim and deeper for others. Tag was placed and when the 'It' player approached one would start running over (cuffing) the logs, generally heading for a larger log on which to stop and rest. The lighter one was, the smaller the logs that could be run over. It gave the younger boys a bit of an advantage. When the pursuer was close, one chose the direction of the smaller logs hoping that they would sink under the weight of the pursuer. Often however no matter how fast one ran the logs would begin to sink and when the water got about knee deep it slowed one down enough that he either slipped and fell between the logs or the logs sank under the weight. Either way the knots sticking out of the logs left bruises and scrapes to legs, hips, arms and sides as bodies slipped through.
As I think back now I can see a game in progress with each boy having found a larger log and daring the ďItĒ person to cuff over the smaller logs to come and tag him. No one ever played that game without getting his share of whelts and scratches. The salt water didnít help the burning sensation on the scratches but likely warded off infections.
On this particular day it was hot and sunny with about fifteen of us running in and out of the water. I climbed onto a rock and jumped down onto a broken pop bottle. Only the bottom of the bottle with a piece of what had once been the side was sticking up but it was enough that it sliced through the outside of my foot. The cut was more than an inch deep. I remember looking at it and for a moment the cut was white, then it started to bleed. I sat down on the rock and held on to my foot but the blood was running through my fingers.
A lot of people came over to see and to tell me I had better get home quick. I knew that, but I would have had to walk down the railroad track, cross a field and pass some houses to reach home, besides when I went to the beach I always went barefoot. There was no direct road from home to the beach, and I could not walk while my foot was bleeding. Finally someone said they were leaving and they would tell my mother when they got to our house.
I was sitting quietly on the rock holding my foot when it suddenly stopped bleeding. Now I am not a superstitious person, I donít believe in mysteries and I can explain most phenomena, but I must here and now relate that on my fathers side of the family there was a long held belief that certain members of the family can stop the flow of blood in the case of an accident without touching or seeing the victim. Whatever, the blood suddenly stopped. I sat there for a while longer, then someone noticed my Grandfather coming up the tracks towards us.
When he arrived he looked at my foot and asked when the cut had stopped bleeding. I said about fifteen minutes before and I told him what had happened. He took from his pocket a roll of white cloth that I recognised as a piece of bed sheet my mother used to keep for emergencies. When a sheet was worn my mother washed it, tore it into strips, loosely rolled it and left it in the oven of the wood stove in our kitchen all day, she then stored it in a large glass jar.
He bandaged my foot and told me to stand on the rock and get onto his back. He was then seventy years old, weighed one hundred twenty-five pounds and was about five feet seven inches tall. When I got home Mom took the bandage off and poured tincture of iodine into the cut. To those who have never gone through this ordeal I will spare the details. Suffice it to say that the fires of hell are not any hotter.
Nobody in those days ever went to a doctor to have a cut stitched, and mine wasnínt. It eventually closed and by the time school started I was none the worse for wear. I still carry the scar. It did however put a stop to my going swimming for the rest of that summer.