Wednesday, March 27, 2024

A Chain of Surveyor Stories, and an Ode to Tatamagouche

My dad, now retired, is an author.  I just helped him publish a new book this week, a compilation of short stories about the profession of land surveying.  Some of the stories in the book are his own, but it also includes a number of stories submitted by seven other authors.

Although dad spent much of his career working for Lafarge Canada, as a quarry manager, he was also a land surveyor by trade.  In fact, that was his original training, and the reason he got the job at Lafarge - he helped do the land surveying for the Brookfield plant while it was being built, and they offered him a permanent job.  However, he kept doing a fair amount of surveying work on the side, in addition to the surveying work while he was at Lafarge.  In fact, at one point he was the president of the Association of Nova Scotia Land Surveyors, and at another point, the president of the national Canadian Council of Land Surveyors.


Here's a link to the book on Amazon:

And a link to the book on Google Play:

When dad grew up, he lived on a farm in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, out at the end of the Lake Road.  I spent a lot of time there too, while growing up.  I always enjoyed playing in the barn, running around in the woods, and occasional visits to the see the two-headed calf at the village museum (real, a polycephalic birth defect which is not entirely uncommon).  Tatamagouche is a thriving village now, one of the most vibrant tourist destinations in Nova Scotia now thanks to attractions like the Tatamagouche Creamery, Tatamagouche Brewing Company (run by a couple of my friends), the Farmer's Market, the Barrahois Harbour Yacht Club, the Sutherland Steam Mill Museum in nearby Denmark, and the Grist Mill in nearby Balmoral.


I'll leave you with this bit of prose, which dad included in his book...

Ode to Tatamagouche


Our storied past one learns no doubt,

Of events that happened here about.

What took place in times before      

Now the stories of local lore

How I wish I'd been taught more

To know the truth of times of yore.      


When I was young there was a time

That little mattered in my mind.

The days flew by with school and play;

We studied yes, but with dismay,

Of exploits rare we did not hear,

Lost now those tales of yesteryear.


Ten thousand years the Mi'kmaq came

To camp and fish and hunt the game.

They came right here where rivers meet

The summer seasons in the heat.

They sought the shellfish by the shore

Wild ducks and geese and so much more.


Of early times we do not know;

Little proof is left to show,

Steele's Island graves across the bay,

Long since lost to present day.

Only in tales of marked stones found,

Then lost again from Native ground.


Of Tatamagouche, my memories yield

Those school yard games on grassy field.

Yet once inside the lessons learned

Were not about the tales not heard.

How a naval battle in the bay

Changed the course of life today.


The marshland dikes are all that's left

Of hope and toil, of dreams bereft.

Early Acadians who farmed the land

Were forced to leave it all behind.

Loaded on ships to a distant shore,

Banished to return no more.


Then came DesBarres with settlers new

He had plans that slowly grew

To work the land from years left idle,

But on his terms without clear title.

So many left without a promise

Of a future free of rent and lease.


With passing years there came a time

To break the soil on lots so fine.

As people came to plant their seed,

To divide the land there was a need;

MacNab and Byers surveyed the land

Their plots still show the lots defined.


The Scots then came for better lives,

With homes and children and their wives.

They settled lands both far and near,

Built their community year by year.

With such strong faith and local church

Those hearty souls we owe so much.


The forests around were cut for wood

In work for a wage and that was good.

Ton timber was shipped to foreign buyers,

Other wood needed to stoke home fires.

The ancient hemlock, oak and pine,

To build the ships, that worked just fine


None will see the billowed sails

Of schooners built with wood and nails.

On long ago voyages across the seas

To reach a port on favoured breezes.

Loaded full with local stores,

Destined then for foreign shores


Those hearty men who toil no more,

In Campbell's shipyards on the shore;

They built the ships of yesteryear.

What a pity we do not care

To tend their final resting grave

And tell their story of impact made.


Of others who went off to wars,

To fight the fight on distant shores;

Some gave their lives to change the way

We live our lives in peace today.

Here at home, and far away,

We honour them Remembrance Day.


Tatamagouche a name that matters

Derived from meeting of the waters.

A walk along the Butter Trail,

A gravel track instead of rail

Where once steam engines chugged along

Long silent now except in song.


Where once a place of cream and butter

Now holds those memories of times other.

And in another place nearby

Those old railcars repurposed lie

Guests who stop to break their fast,

Have little knowledge of the past.


So life goes and so it should,

With changes made most often good.

Our legacy of Scots and old world stock,

Grew though generations a varied lot,

Who made the town to have a name,

A place to live and grow in fame.


What a shame it is to tell

We were not taught our history well.

We know not stories from the past,

Of how our folks took on the task,

To make a life and have a home,

To have this place no more to roam.


Those of us who call this home

Deserve to seek the truth unknown,

For history has formed our life

Across the years of love and strife.

To give our thanks that is the right,

To those before who won the fight.