Page 32 - "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
ISSUE : Issue 63
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1993/6/1
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 In 1923 Dawn Fraser travelled over Ben Verick Mountain (Beinn Bhiorach • Gaelic meaning "Sharp Mountain"). A travelling salesman from Glace Bay, Fraser describes it | here as a treacherous, rugged bit of road. in 1980, Hiking Trails of Nova Scotia described part of this; trail • between Sight Point and MacDonald Glen in Inver? ness County • as: "Landslide area. A very narrow sheep track crosses this region. Proceed with extreme caution, especially if the path is wet." Dawn Fraser crossed it in winter! HAVING DOUBTLESS CONQUERED FEAR, andl)een over the Cabot Trail, perhaps you are seeking new worlds or moun? tains to conquer. Very well! Just follow me, friend. I WAS REGISTERED at the hotel in the town of hivemess, having arrived by train, and that evening after supper I b'gan to quiz mine host, Mr. Alex Campbell, about the territory I had to cover dur? ing the next few days. I had customers to interview all the way from this town of Invemess right down to Port Hood and most of them were in rather remote sections off the so-caUed beaten trail. The post road through Mabou and down to Port Hood did not interest me, as my contacts led me down the shore road through Strathlome, Port Ban, MacKinnon's Brook and further south. It was the winter season with consid? erable snow, but Mr. Campbell assured me that the shore road was passable. He had talked that very day to a farmer who had driven in with horse and sleigh from Port Ban. There were, he said, no crossroads or anythmg to con- fiise a traveller. AU I need do was follow the road along the shore and I should have no difficulty. The following moming I engaged a rig at the livery stable of Johnny Owes-ther-bic • which is probably not the correct way to spell the last name, but what can one do when he is no GaeUc scholar • ?and away I go down the shore road. Concluding my business at Strathlome and at certain other scat? tered farm houses along the road, I drove in to the tiny viUage of Port Ban. It was here Uiat I heard that dread name, "Ben Verick" {PubUsher's Note: "Beinn Bhiorach," Gaelic for "Sharp Mountain"} • and I was to hear it many times before and after nightfaU. TaUdng to a very agreeable but slightly curi? ous resident, he asked me what my destination was after leaving his home. There is not a doubt but tiie gentleman meant to be helpful to the stranger at his gate and I, needing information, replied, "I am headed down to MacKin? non's Brook and beyond to Mabou." "Oh! You are on the wrong road, you wUl have to go back to Invemess and take tiie post road to Mabou and come into MacKinnon's Brook from tiie south." "But is tiiere not a road over the mountain?" I asked. "You wUl not go over tiie Ben Verick?" came tiie shocked answer. "I intend to," I repUed. "Oh, no! You will not go over the Ben Verick. No, no!" "But they told me at tiie hotel and tiie livery stable man said there was a road over." "Oh, no, man. The ice from the top of the mountain rans over that narrow road and to the right it is a clear drop of hundreds of feet straight down and into tiie sea. Oh, no. You wUl not go over tiie Ben Verick." I did not argue further with the gentieman but thanked him for his kind? ness. I had otiier customers further down tiie road and I determined to call on these and tiien if necessary turn back and approach MacKinnon's Brook from the soutii as I had been advised. NaturaUy, at tiie otiier houses I pursued my inquiries and at many met the dread warning, "You wUl not go over the Ben Verick! No, man, no." But it seemed as I came nearer to flie dread mountain, the natives seemed to be losing respect for it • 'perhaps proving again that "famiUarity breeds contempt." I also leamed tiie reason or excuse for this secondary road. Most of tiie settlers along tiiis northem shore had business contacts in Invemess town and this road or traU was to accommodate them. As the shore became settled further south tiie road was extended untU it came right down to tiie Ben Verick. Those Uving on the soutii side of tiie mountain did not rel? ish tiie idea of going back to Mabou to catch the tmnk road to Invemess, ei- tiier. They could not mnnel through the mountain, so they cut a ledge along the side of it facing tiie sea. In the summertime when there was no ice, a per? son witii a good steady head and a good steady horse could pass along tiiis ledge, there being just room for the widtii of a carriage and with perh's a few inches to spare. AS ONE APPROACHED THE MOUNTAIN from eitiier side it was evident that the residents did not like to have it referred to as impassa? ble. There was a legend that many years before two young men belonging to the section but who had been out west came home to visit tiieir friends. They and two botfles of Scotch whiskey drove over tiie Ben Verick in the pitch dark in an old Ford car. And did not Sandy Beaton from the Brook bring a thrashing machine over tiie Ben Verick? And did not his daughter "Marack" drive a load of hay over it? No, tiiese good people feU that any dangerous CO. Cape Breton Auto Radiator RADIATOR HOSES • REPAIRING • CLEANING • RECORING .r-?r' _. 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