Page 33 - "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
feature lessened the value of tiieir property • something like a haunted house wiU be avoided. They did not wish to have tiieir happy community shunned. At a home I visited as I approached nearer to tiie mountain I discussed tiie possibihty of tiie crossing and getting down into tiie valley below. The fanner at this home seemed to have even less respect for the Ben Verick than those who Uved fiirther back along the traU. This gentieman declared tiiat if there was no ice at this particular point and if I had a good steady head and a good steady horse I might make the crossing. But he advised tiiat I stop at tiie McDonald home which was the last farm on this side of the mountain and en? quire of these good people as to the condition at the narrow point of the trail. "One of the McDonald boys wiU inform you of this and he wiU probably at? tempt the crossing with you, if conditions seem favourable." And it is one of tiie McDonald boys who is tiie real hero of tiiis tale. As I drove toward tiiis home I noticed tiiat the road led upward and it was evident tiiat I was cUmb- ing a sharp hill or mountain and doubtless nearing the dreaded Ben Verick. Looking at my watch I found that it was about nine P.M. and a very dark night At tiie McDonald house my knock attracted a young man to the door and I was invited inside. I explained my problem and at once young McDo? nald volunteered to go witii me and investigate tiie condition on tiie mountain. 'There has been a recent thaw," he explained, "and if the road is icy at tiie danger point your sleigh might sUp down and carry you and the horse witii it into tiie depths below. Is your horse sharp?" the young man enquired. He then lighted an oil lantem and I noticed that he hastily grabbed a hatchet or a small hand-axe, then he said, "Come on. Let's go!" As we drove higher and higher up tiie incline I began to get nervous and I suggested to my new friend that perhaps he had better take the reins and guide the horse, as he would be aware of the danger points. "Oh, there is no danger here," tiie young man assured me. "It is only at one point near the top of the mountain. If you could see here, you would find tiiat tiiere is ti-ees and vegetation on each side of us and we could not leave tiie road if we tried, but near tiie top, where the old foUcs cut the ledge years ago, tiie road is bare slatey shale. I guess tiie water from the mountain top came down the side all through the years and washed aU tiie good earth away, and nothing grows in this rock formation. That is why one needs a sharp, well-shod horse in aossing tiie Ben Verick in tiie wintertime. Drive on. Mister, I wiU tell you when we come to the bad place and tiien maybe we wiU have to lead the horse. It wUl be in our favor if tiie animal is steady and does not stop or balk at tiie bad part of the road. It is perhaps better for him and better for us that it is so dark and we cannot see tiie right side of tiie road where it dips down straight into tiie sea. Of course, I have driven over this mountain in the daytime before and, if you can trust your animal, tiiere is really no danger." After we had proceeded a bit further, with me stiU driving, my friend said, "Now, you stop the horse and wait here. The place is just beyond. I will go ahead and see about tiie condition of the road." After taking tiie axe witii him, McDonald proceeded up the ti-ail. Retuming after some minutes he in- stiiicted me, "Leave the horse and sleigh here and you come witii me." "Is the road icy?" I asked with apprehension. CAPE BRETON REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY TRANSIT '1' %% INFO Itt *>- 539-8124 PEOPLE ' • ' ''' ON THE MOVE ' Get your DISCOUNT BUS TICKETS at Shoppers Drug iVIart stores in industrial Cape Breton "Some ice, but we wiU see," he answered bravely. Proceeding further, at one point he got down on his hands and knees and I could hear him chopping with the axe. Then he said, "We better leave the sleigh on the mountain for the night. I am afraid it wUl slip. But you unhitch the animal and wait here." I did as insOiicted and he soon retumed with fur? ther instmctions. "Now I wiU lead tiie horse by the head and you foUow me." Soon we halted again, and again McDonald descended to his knees, re? marking, "Now, Mister, right here is tiie bad place. I am going to crawl across. You take the reins out through the rings at tiie animal's middle and leave tiiem attached only at the bridle so they wiU be long. Catch tiie end of tiie reins in your hand and crawl after me, keeping very close to your left and in close to the rib of the mountain. I will meet you and take the end of the reins from you. I am afraid to walk with the animal in case he shies or balks and we both go over the side." I handed him tiie reins when we met near the middle of the "bad place" and he insttucted me to aawl back to safety. He also crawled to safety on die otiier side with the ends of the reins in his hand. Then I heard him say, "Gid up. Come on boy." The gallant steed obeyed and soon I had a triumphant caU from my guide. "AU right. Mister. Now you can crawl over here and don't be afraid • the ice is weU chopped and the distance is not great. You can now lead the horse down to Sandy's. It is only a short distance to the val? ley below and tiiere are no bad places." AND IT WAS THUS THAT I CROSSED tiie Ben Verick. One tiling I always regretted was that I do not ever recall thanking my good friend or rewarding him in any way for his kindness and care. I was excited, nervous and shaky after tiie experience, but I tiiank God tiiat it was at night I lUledical Hall EST. 1906 • COMPUTERIZED PRESCRIPTION SERVICE • FILMS • SUNTAN LOTIONS • FIRST AID SUPPLIES 66 Commercial St. , 1 Commercial Str DOMINION GLACE BAY 849-0200 I 849-6552 (if busy) 849-1030 PHARMASAVE Office for Race Relations and Cross-Cultural Understanding Nova Scotia Department of Education The Department of Education, through the Office for Race Relations and Cross Cultural Understanding provides leadership regarding race relations, anti-radst educa? tion, multiculturalism. Black and Native education and human rights. The aims and objectives of the Office are met through co-operation witii Deparbnent of Education staff, external educational parbiers such as school boards, universities, associations, other govemment agencies and the general public. The Race Relations and Cross-Cultural Understanding Office staff provides a variety of services both internally and to the public school system, some of which are: • Support in developing and implementing policies and programs on race relations, cross-cultural understanding and human rights • Developing a provincial comprehensive sb'ategy in race relations, cross-culhiral understanding and human rights • Identifying and developing resources reflective of racial, etiinic and cultural groups which are free from bias, prejudice and stereotyping • Developing racial, ethnic and cultural specific curriculum and complementary resources • Providing information on anti-radst education, English as a second language, Mi'Kmaq shidies. 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