Morning walk along the Stuart River – a tribute to my grandfather
It has been more than ten days since you have heard from me here on Creative Potager. There is a good reason for this. My grandfather passed away and I have again just returned from Vanderhoof. Though this post is a tribute to my grandfather it is really not about him much at all. Sometimes the best way to honour a person’s life is to do what they taught you and what they most loved to do. So this is what we are about to do – take a long walk along the Stuart River on my parents’ farm with my mother leading the way.
It was a gorgeous early fall morning. The sun was just catching the old cabin near the cow pasture that is now used for storage.
Thick fog is still clinging to the river.
The night before it had frozen. We had arrived home to the farm shortly after dark with clear skies and a temperature that was just above freezing. Like a family raccoons we headed to the garden and greenhouse to pick corn, cucumbers, tomatoes and melons. The only difference was we had headlamps and flashlights.
Before it got so warm that the foliage wilted, I wanted to catch a few of the beauties still blooming in the garden. This is one of the prize sunflowers with its face up to the September dawn.
Then there were the smokey rose gladiolus…
And the Joe Pie plant…
To be very honest with you, my grandfather appeared to care less about flowers and I can be fairly certain if he was walking with us he would have headed out without so much as a pause in front of these cultivated beauties. But I like them.
How we got started on this adventure was because I wanted to take some reference images of the tall lean poplar trees for painting when I get back to the studio. My sister asked if it would be okay if she tagged along. Of course it would be and then I asked mom if she wanted to bring her camera too and join us. My daughter looked from one to other of us and slipped into a pair of my mother’s rubber boots and we headed out.
I got my reference shot.
As you can see, it is nothing special. I just wanted the structural bones of the tree. I announced with satisfaction that all I had intended was accomplished and I was happy to follow along with whatever everyone else wanted to do. My mother got that thoughtful look – the one I have seen on her face for all of her almost 75 years. It means she is mulling something over but that it has already been decided.
The morning is stunning. With a slight shrug she turns and heads out across the top of the pasture towards the river on the far side.
I am pretty sure at this point that we are headed out around Sturgeon Point which is about a mile of river frontage on the home place. It is a beautiful walk but on years such as this that the river floods it is unusable during the summer. Also parts of the banks are sometimes washed away and there is a fair bit of brush that will cover the trail. As mom looks up river to see what she can see, I am certain that, if the trail is dry enough we are taking it.
I look down at my waterproof garden clogs sensing their inadequate though comfortable structure. I should have grabbed the other pair of rubber boots – too late. If one is to dawdle it is to find yourself following glimpse of the others through the underbrush.
Several times I pack my camera back into the backpack camera bag as I poke it through the brush in front of me or slide through a mucky spot along the river-bottom land. My sister looks back as if to say – are you coming?
Mom points of things along the trail such as wild mint that we should pick if we want it for tea later. She scans her way along the area keeping an eye out for moose, bear or maybe a beaver or muskrat on the water. She warns us to follow her footsteps so we stay on reasonably solid ground.
As usual I at one point do not heed this warning and end up with my clog stuck in the mud. I step back in my sock foot pick it up then scrape out the mud and wipe my sock foot on the grass, reunite the pair and continue on.
My sister spots some mist rising on the creek across the river.
While she is changing lenses I take this and it is a good thing because the mist is gone by the time she is ready.
I coax my daughter into standing for a moment in the warmth of the morning sun.
“Baby Too” is due in the third week of November.
With my pockets stuffed with wet wild mint leaves we are almost around the point and ready to head back along the old trail. However the water is still a bit high in the draw so mom takes us out to continue along the riverbank trail instead. I get her to hold up while I capture the natural riverbank on the far shore.
And another photograph of Fishing Creek.
We are wet and muddy almost to our knees.
We can hear the tractor running as dad sorts cattle. Mom comments that her trail is now well packed for the fall. Above all, we know we have done the most important thing we needed to do this morning.
I take one more photograph of the poplar trees that I had come out to capture.
All is right in the world for another day.
My grandfather, Charlie Baxter Davidson, was born May 29th in 1916 weighing 1.5 pounds. His twin did not survive. During these fragile first days of his life his mother kept him in one of her shoe boxes inside the warming oven of her wood cook stove feeding him with an eye dropper. He was so small that her wedding band fit around his wrist. With such a strong heart and will to live, it is not really surprising that he was 96 years old when he passed away on September 9, 2012.
He arrived on the Stuart River with his parents to homestead when he was five years old. This is where he lived until he was ninety-one years old making a living as a guide to hunters, trapping furs, raising cattle and doing seasonal work such as hand falling trees. His children, step-children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren have had the good fortune to inherit through the generations an appreciation and respect for the outdoors. This walk I share with you today may even seem familiar in some ways for those of you who have been taking walks with me in the southern gulf islands over past few years. Walking in the woods or along the water is a strong thread in my life which has its roots with this man and his daughter – my mother.
The photographer for the photograph I share with you of my grandfather is unknown but my aunt, Anne Davidson, has taken the time to scan many of the old photographs in recent years. My thanks go to her for printing me a copy of this one which I have rendered as a black and white digital image.
SPROUT: If you were to give a tribute to a family member who has greatly influenced your life, who would it be?
P.S. I know this post is long but it seems to me necessary. I hope you have enjoyed the adventure…. My mud-soaked garden clog was dried out in front of the wood stove and is as good as new.
© 2012 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.
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From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada
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