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> Issue 63 > Page 36 - "Oh, You Will Not Drive Over Ben Verick? No, Man, No!" A Cape Breton Travel Tale from Dawn Fraser's Book, Echoes from Labor's Wars

Page 36 - "Oh, You Will Not Drive Over Ben Verick? No, Man, No!" A Cape Breton Travel Tale from Dawn Fraser's Book, Echoes from Labor's Wars

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1993/6/1 (466 reads)

uid Mountains and passed through the Canadian Rockies. These latter are of course higher, but the former seemed to me just ordinary green hills. I have heard mountains referred to as "mgged," but think those of tiiis section of Invemess would be better called "ragged." They seemed to lack regularity • seemed like one mountain piled on top of another in disorder • one tottering on its toes and another balancing on its ear as if dissatisfied to remain in its present position. Passing below these, one was inclined to duck his head in the fear tiiat a large section of the universe was alxiut to tumble down on top of him. From such a scene a timid man is glad to escape, and af? ter Sandy reharaessed the horse we started up tiie mountain to recover my sleigh. I noticed that while Sandy led the horse with one hand grasping tiie bridle, in the other hand he carried a long, stout rope, and because he kept as? suring me that we would have no difficulty, I felt that he might himself have some doubts in the matter. CUmbing tiie rough road tiiat I had descended tiie night before in tiie dark, we finally came to what I recognized as "the bad place." I could see marks in the icy surface where McDonald had hacked into it flie night be? fore. On my right hand was tiie bare, slaty mountain, in front of me die nar? row ledge, and at my left a sti'aight drop, I know not how many feet or yards, down, down into the sea below. It made me sick to look. Guess I grew pale at the prospect of crossmg that devil's dip. Noticing my hesitation, Sandy asked, "Are you scared, man?" And then added, "I adinit some don't Uke it. But we must get across. You catch my coat-tail, keep close to the rib • don't look down or stop. Better close your eyes and think of sometiiing else." It was, after all, not a long tiip, and after taking perhaps fifty steps behind Sandy, I heard him say, "There, now, tiiat was not so bad." Then I opened my eyes, but my legs were shaky and my stomach rushing up into my throat Observing me, Sandy said, "Take a rest man. Wish I had a drop of brandy." Sandy then went back to observe tiie ice on the trail. Some moisture from tiie upper mountain had made the ice shppery. There were no mts like on well- O'veUed roads to hold the sleigh runners in a kind of groove, and I could see my friend feared that the sleigh would sUp down into the depflis below. It was tiien I reaUzed why Sandy had carried tiie rope. He now went and at? tached one end of it to tiie outside ranner of the sleigh, hitched tiie horse to tiie vehicle and gave me my further instiiictions. "Now, Fraser, I will get in the sleigh and drive over slowly, and you hold tills rope and feed it out also slowly, so as not to let the sleigh mnner slip over tiie side. You are quite safe here and so am I in tiie sleigh. Only for tiie damn ice there would be nothing to it." Of course, due to Sandy's plan and the sense of the horse, tiie crossing was accomplished. Sandy was delighted witii himself and hopped back over tiie trail to my side Uke a toe-dancer. The only problem left was to get me back to the otiier side and strangely enough now the prospect of crossing did not seem so terrifying. On tiiese pages I have somewhat enslaved tiie expres? sion, "familiarity breeds contempt" and here again it was to some extent proven. It is always tiie prospect of danger tiiat chills and not tiie experience. Many people fear tiie dentist but are astonished to find, after tiiey get into his chair, that he is not such a bad fellow. It is not on record tiiat men experi? ence much fear in battle, but the thought of receivmg a bullet or bayonet tiimst is very disagreeable. I recall a story I read of a naval man who was on a torpedoed ship. He described vividly how the ship tumed over as he sUd down tiie side; but what he tiiought peculiar was that he did not experience fear, but rather was dis'pointed to see his nice new service-cap leave his head and slide into tiie ocean before him. Still (or again) cUnging to Sandy's coat-tail, I recrossed tiie "bad place" and we drove down tiie ti-ail to tiie house. But would I drive over tiie Ben Ve? rick again? No, man, no! From Echoes from Lalyor's Wars • a collection of Dawn Fraser's writings about Industrial Cape Breton in tlie 1920s and Iiis expe? riences in World War One. 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