Chapter 2 Indian Point © August 2010 by smck
In late May of Seventeen and Eighty-one the barkentine Northern Cross landed eight families by longboat to the bar of beach at the mouth of the unnamed river flowing clear and smooth from the unremitting forest. To the eastward as far as the eye could see the shore and sea and the sand pipers did their ancient dance of wave on wave up the beach of sand and stone. To the westward the shore climbed abruptly from the deep, reaching for the sky in an immense barrier of living stone overlain with the glacier till of gravel, clay and rocky boulders of every kind that had been scoured and carried from the great Canadian shield ten thousand years before, now crowned with the same arboreal forest that had blessed their vision this whole bless-ed day coasting down from Sydney. An on shore breeze mercifully kept the myriads of flies at bay.
Four fishing shacks and seven human souls were already on the shore - three Indian women from a local tribe, and four Basque fishermen eking a living from the sea, supplying great racks of drying cod to the firm of Sweetman and Saunders out of Placentia in Newfoundland. Their small cod seine skiff was anchored just inside the mouth of the river and slightly behind the island like tip of the long sand bar peninsula that stretched westerly to the great hill of the mainland. Three of the fishing shanties were on the rocky rise of the spruce covered island tip and facing the open breeze of the sea. The fourth primitive structure was across the hundred yards or so of the river mouth, to the east nearer to the long cod covered racks that stretched impressively down the shore. This particular nameless summer fishing settlement had been here for more than a hundred years and never in that time had a soul, or at least never a European soul, ventured farther inland on the small and handsome river except to retrieve an occasional duck or goose, shot to mitigate the fisherman’s unrelenting diet of fish and salt pork.
Even today, the stoic workers made no great movement toward the longboats but simply clustered, staring for a moment or two at this unheralded intrusion into the long isolation of their lives and then turned to their present task of turning the drying fish. Luckily, the mate in the long boat knew some smattering of French and was able to piece together an introduction of the two groups – the one Gaelic, the other Arcadian, as united and clashing as they ever had been along the coast of Normandy. It would be no small matter to have the unprepared settlers an access to fire and shelter and food for the coming days while they would begin wrestling shelter and substance from the wilderness. Summer would be short and the winter, more brutal than they could ever envision, would be soon.