Monday, August 17, 2009

The good Sheppards

Bottle Cove is almost 50 kilometers due west of Corner Brook, on the west coast of Newfoundland, about a third of the way up the western seaboard. The Cove is a kilometer or two from the settlement of Lark Harbour, which is the local municipal administrative unit. Among the 1800 or so people living in the Lark Harbour-York Harbour-Bottle Cove-Littleport area a good number have the surname Sheppard.

During the 19th century, so we are told, our families of Sheppards settled in the area, mostly having come from the east of the island, over toward St John’s. From a statistical standpoint it is not surprising that the first local person we met after buying our land was a Sheppard. This was Harvey. The first weekend after we bought the land we came out with a machete and a bushman’s bow saw and a set of long handled pruning shears and began clearing some of the scrub on the land to get a better send of how the land lay. After a while Harvey appeared and introduced himself. After a short chat he said “I’ll be going now”, so we said goodbye. A little while later he came back – with a chain saw. He proceeded to thin a large area of the scrub and after 40 minutes or so said “I’ll be going now”.

Since then he has been a constant friend and companion to us out here. He arranged for us to be able to run a water line from his family’s well, introducing us to his nephew, Perry – also a Sheppard. Perry has shown us many kindnesses over the years, including helping with our water supply, ploughing out the snow from the driveway in winter, clearing the ditch alongside the road so the snow melt can get away in the spring, and bringing in topsoil by the truckload so we could sow a lawn to help stabilize the land after building..

Roger Sheppard and his heavy machinery operators landscaped our property, brought in endless loads of rock, gravel and topsoil, dug the foundation areas for the house and barn and excavated the field for the septic system. He also dug the trench 400 metres along the side of the road for our water supply, and has always been there to give advice and to lend a hand when something has come up that needs the kind of attention he can provide.

Alison and Dave Sheppard run the local store and gasoline service, keeping a brilliantly stocked shop that has rarely been unable to come up with what we have come to buy. From vegetables to plumbers supplies, to caulking material, and paint, via Lamb’s rum and Budweiser – The World’s Best Beer – they have it pretty well covered.

Last winter when I came up to do some flooring and window casing I ran out of time, and Harvey arranged for George Sheppard to come in after I left and finish casing the lounge and kitchen windows – so the still incomplete cottage would look as welcoming as possible upon our return here for the summer.

So, it is hardly surprising that when we arrived on this trip with a lot of finishing work still to do Harvey suggested we ask Lawrence Sheppard, a retired fisherman and builder, if he would be available to help with the finishing. We thought that sounded an excellent idea, and Harvey promptly organized it. Lawrence came over and we talked about the work. We all thought it would be a good arrangement and Lawrence began immediately. Two weeks later the work we thought would consume this summer and next is all done. Doors hung, all the trim has gone in, doors and remaining windows cased, the laundry completed, hot water hooked up, kitchen cupboards built, a hatch put into the top floor ceiling to give access to the roof area for fumigating and for quick checks of the wiring. He has done beautiful work at a pace that has been stunning – even after we got used to it.

Neither is it surprising that when the well ran dry soon after we arrived this trip it was Perry and his son, Col, and brother, Dwayne, who got the air out of the 400 metres of tubing and got the water running again. The expansion and contraction in the tubing after 5 winters had opened up a join, and the water had been leaking. The additional drain on the well from our daily water use had proved too much for the well. Once the water had fallen below the foot valve the flow stopped and air got in the pipes. Once the well filled again after we had located and fixed the join the water could not flow because of the air in the pipes. Harvey and we had tried to get the air out with borrowed pumps, but to no avail. But Perry knew where to get hold of a very powerful pump, and that did the job.

So far so good, thanks to so many good Sheppards.

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