Thursday Tidbits

Posted on September 27, 2018 under Thursday Tidbits with 2 comments

A bald eagle sighting at Salsman Park

(Betty MacDonald photo)


You may have noticed that like many other baby boomers, I like to travel.

Actually, I have always enjoyed traveling. As children, our trips to P.E.I. in the summer were a big deal. The sport of golf took me to some far flung places. I played junior and senior hockey where almost all the travel was by car. Back in the golden days of the Montreal Canadiens in the early 70’s, I hopped on the train in Antigonish and alit in the bowels of Gare Central underneath the Queen Elizabeth Hotel to watch my beloved Habs. In recent years, I have vacationed in Florida, traveled extensively in the U.S. with my son, traveled to the homeland of my ancestors in Scotland and Ireland and spent six months in India.

And just a few weeks ago, Peter and I crossed our great country from Victoria to Antigonish.

Travel is educational and gives a person a broader perspective. One thing I have learned is that most ordinary citizens want the same things: a roof over their head, enough food to eat and somewhere to feel safe.

So when my wife proposed a road trip to Salsman Park in Guysborough County last Sunday, who was I to turn down an opportunity to go somewhere I’d never been. Have you been to Salsman Provincial Park?

Until the new divided highway opened in Antigonish a few years ago, I must confess that I had never heard of Salsman Park. When the new signage appeared at one of the interchanges on the outskirts of town, it mentioned the park. It is located on a small peninsula on the east side of Country Harbour. My only stipulation for going was that we would be back in time to watch the final round of golf where Tiger Woods was in the lead. This hardly seemed problematic as Google Maps indicated our destination was a mere 57 minutes away.

It was a picture perfect Sunday morning with bright sunshine and clear blue skies. We traveled in a clockwise direction driving through St.Andrew’s and Upper South River. We passed the Fraser’s Mills Fish Hatchery where staff was busy preparing for the 90th anniversary celebrations of the facility to be held that very day.

The number 316 highway meanders through Antigonish and Guysborough Counties. You have to pay attention to the signage especially if you’re a tourist. The gates to Salsman Park were closed so we parked the car and wandered in. It’s hard to describe how beautiful this place is so you’ll just have to pack a picnic and go there someday. In a few weeks’ time, it will be spectacular there when the leaves turn color. I humoured my wife by posing for the picture shown above. Minutes before this, on that very same railing, sat a majestic bald eagle. Imagine that. Two bald eagles in the space of a minute!

Exiting the park, we decided to go home by a different route, the road less traveled as it were.

Passing through Goldboro, we wandered up a side road to the gas plant. This facility has been processing offshore gas for nearly twenty years, shipping the final product to markets in Eastern Canada and North Eastern United States through an onshore pipeline. The plant is due to be decommissioned in the near future as the offshore wells reach their end stages of productivity. I have lived most of my life around these parts but this was my first visit to the plant. Go and check it out if you have a chance.

Drumhead, Coddles Harbour and Seal Harbour. These are names I’ve heard before. The scenery is stunning, at least in mid-September. I try to imagine what it must be like in the dead of winter with icy North Atlantic winds whipping through these communities.

You haven’t been to the Tor Bay Provincial Park? This is a must see if you decide to travel the 316. You have to take a 5 minute detour off the main highway to get there but it is so worth the effort. Once parked, a boardwalk takes you to one of the most picturesque sandy beaches you will ever see.

We are now three hours into our day trip and hunger is calling. We pass through Larry’s River. The road forks here.To continue on the 316 would take us through Charlos Cove, Port Felix and Whitehead and back along the 16 through Queensport and Halfway Cove. While this would be a stunning drive, it would have to be for another day. We take the road to Lundy and land in the town of Guysborough around 12:30.

The parking lot at the Days Gone By Bakery (eatery, antiques and gifts) is full, the aftermath of after mass. The food is wonderful and the service second to none. Did I mention pie? I think that the word “pie” has appeared in more of my stories than the word “the”! I am too full to eat a slice of homemade raspberry pie but with no weight restrictions on the highways, I am able to transport a piece for takeout. At the checkout, conveniently located in the bakery section (the ownership are very clever people), I spy and smell, freshly baked dinner rolls. My wife has also been lured by some antiques… besides me. The back seat of our car is occupied with goodies from Days Gone By.

Oh yes. If it is your birthday, they’ll treat you to a free turkey dinner.

The last leg of our trip takes us on the back roads through Roman Valley en route to St.Andrew’s. This turns out to be a dust eating exercise.

Nearly 5.5 hours after our departure, we pull into our parking lot in Antigonish, just in time to watch Tiger Wood’s historic win.

Guysborough County is a treasure. You don’t have to travel halfway around the world to experience the wonders of nature. Be a tourist in your own province.

Have a great weekend.


Tor Bay


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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on September 24, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with 2 comments

PowWow at Paqtnkek


We have much to learn.

When I saw a poster for a bus tour out to the First Nations community of Paqtnkek to attend a PowWow, my interest was immediately piqued. How many times (hundreds if not thousands) of times in my life have I sped by Afton en route to Cape Breton, never once stopping in to visit? I bet you that I am not the only Antigonisher who has never set foot upon Mi’kmaq land.

I won’t begin to try and explain the untold harm done to our First Nations people over the centuries. A cursory glance at The Truth and Reconciliation Commission or the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) will help to enlighten.

A group of us gathered at the Antigonish Heritage Museum on Saturday for the short trip out to Afton. A young, bright Mi’kmaq woman accompanied us and answered many questions along the way. The PowWow, or Mawi’omi as it is referred to in Mi’kmaq was moved inside the gymnasium because of inclement weather. Prior to commencement of the day’s activities, we sat in the outdoor amphitheatre and received a brief history lesson from Rose Paul, Director of Economic Development. Among her many duties, Rose Paul is overseeing the development of their lands with the new highway interchange and business centre soon to open.

Our tour group was made up of people a wee bit long in the tooth. As one of these people, I know I can be quite easily distracted if I am not engaged. This was not an issue with Rose Paul. You can understand why she is heading this transformative project. She is a very bright, determined, can do type of person. Her zeal to right the many wrongs done to her people is very evident.

It is apparent to most of us that First Nations communities across Canada are on the move. Self-governance and self-sustainability seem to be their mantra.

The grand entrance for the Mawi’omi was very impressive as were the dances and songs.

When asked by one of the members of our group how non indigenous people could help, Rose Paul said, “Get to know us first.” I believe that most people on our bus went to Patqnkek last Saturday to do just that. It’s a start.

Oh September, how you deceived us.

You promised us that you would trundle along slowly. Your languid movements would be barely discernable as we enjoyed unseasonable warm and sunny days. You assured us that you would pace yourself so that September would last forever. But, no, you betrayed us and sped along like a river sodden with water after torrential rains. And now we are staring at your sister, October.

I am certain that Labour Day was just yesterday. I guess it was but then Fridays seem to arrive with shocking regularity. Am I the only one who feels that seconds, minutes, hours and days are going faster? Probably not .This is the price of admission when you become a senior.

Time does not stand still.

Have a great week.

P.S. We stopped for lunch in Guysborough yesterday on our Sunday drive. At a table near us in the restaurant, there was an elderly couple. The man was wearing headphones and had his head down. His wife was chatting incessantly to (at) him. I so wanted to take a picture and write THAT story!



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Just Listenin’ to the Radio

Posted on September 22, 2018 under Storytelling with 23 comments

Joe Chesal and Gerard MacDonald

So long Joe and Gerard. Thanks for the memories.

(This story was first published in 2013)


Real men don’t eat quiche.  But they do make their own dough.  No, not that kind of dough.   I’m talking dough that turns into real, home-made bread.   It is Saturday morning.  My beleaguered wife is a tax preparer and while she slaves away seven days a week during the initial rush, I take over the domestic chores.  The first load of laundry is on the go.  Ditto for the spaghetti sauce.  Love letting it sit all day in the slow cooker.  And just last week I dusted off an old recipe and have decided to make my own bread.

I flick on the local radio station just as I am kneading the bread for the first time.  On any given Saturday you will get either Joe or Gerard as your host.  These guys have been at the helm since around the time of Adam and Eve.  And they are old pros at their craft.  I don’t know their ages for sure but I’m guessing they are my vintage because they happen to play the music that I grew up with.  As I wait for the bread to rise, I grab a coffee and the New York Times crossword puzzle and settle in, with “Take it to the Limit” by The Eagles playing in the background.

If you want to feel the rhythm of a small town, turn on the radio on a Saturday morning while you’re doing your chores.  It is a pleasant mixture of music, news, local events and announcements.  Nowhere else but in small town Canada will you hear that bingo has been cancelled due to a death in the community.  They must sell a lot of cars on a Saturday because invariably there’s a live feed from one of the car dealerships.  And then I hear the Dave Clark 5 pounding out the lyrics to “Glad All Over”.

No Saturday would be complete without the buy and sell segment.   And when spring rolls around, my wife and her ilk wait breathlessly to hear about the yard sales.  Only in a small town would you get the “lost dogs” report.  Spencer Davis belts out “Gimme Some Lovin’”.

Is the entire globe fixated on weather?   Back when I was growing up, weather just happened.  You knew there was bad weather by looking out your window.  Nowadays, it appears to be an obsession.   And despite all of the sophisticated weather tracking devices, my arthritic knee is the best gauge of all.  Just after the umpteenth weather report, the Beach Boys ramp things up with “Help Me Rhonda”.

One thing is absolutely certain on a Saturday morning.  You’re not likely to hear any rap music.  Joe and Gerard just don’t seem to be rapper kind of guys.

As I’m taking the bread out of the oven, Anne Murray is crooning that old favorite “You Needed Me”.   I look at the bread and the bread stares back at me as if to say “You kneaded me”.  Is there anything better than warm bread just out of the oven?

Yes.  Joe and Gerard.  Like an old pair of slippers; familiar and comfortable.

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