Jan returned from a joyous week with Lexi in Burnaby. I showed off some of the new homemaking skills I’d mastered during her absence and claimed I hadn’t missed her. It was a lie but only a white one: I don’t want her thinking I can’t survive future pilgrimages to see her beloved granddaughter.
An 11-year-old boy followed close on Jan’s heels. Not an everyday boy, mind you. Not for him a boyhood squandered in front of a computer screen. Cai is Jan’s nephew, the son of younger brother Marc. He knows how to rebuild lawnmower engines and a few other things too. He is restoring his own 1931 Model A Ford, five years before he’ll be legally licensed to drive it on a public road. At Big Bras d’Or he drove – in Bob’s field – my big standard-shift Ram pickup without a hitch. Mention was made of a potato cannon. What’s a potato cannon I inquired. Before you know it Cai and Mark are building one in my workshop out of bits of ABS pipe and a barbecue igniter. The fuel is automotive starter fluid, a combination of ether and naptha. A couple of aerosol squirts in the combustion chamber produces a loud bang and a 20-inch muzzle flash. It sends a potato a long way out over the Great Bras d’Or. Or an apple, of which we have an infinite supply on the old farm. I call the artillery Cai’s Bofors Gun.
The lad photo-documented the raising of Kevin Squires’ roof and took a turn at sawing boards from a big poplar log at Stu Squires’s mill. Cai knows what happens when you drop a Mento candy into a two-litre jug of Diet Coke. He showed us: an instant 12’ geyser. One day Kevin took us all for a boat ride to Otter Harbour. My great-uncle Harrison claimed it as the most beautiful spot in all of Cape Breton Island. I am disinclined to argue. Cai showed the most impressive Tarzan-like form on the swing rope that launches the bold into Otter’s tiny hidden harbour. On the way home the boy took the helm of the lobster boat. No one worried. Bob Nagel labelled the lad a genius and predicted a brilliant future in engineering or, better still, rocket science.
Nephew Michael arrived with Alice and 6-year-old Ana and Rex, just 2. Rex reminds me of his father at that age, only better-looking and even livelier than Michael was when he liked to empty my toolbox twice a day, and ‘Bigador’ was the best he could do at pronouncing Big Bras d’Or.
Darling twin cousins Lynn and Louise came out to watch the Perseid meteor show with Bob and me from the vantage point of the porch roof. Conditions were ideal: a perfectly clear sky on a windless night. There is much to like about ‘The Darlings’, no feature more compelling than their abundant and boundless joy in life. Joy abounded again as we all joined the bioluminescent diatoms in the swimming hole below the cabin. Imagine swimming among a glowing galaxy of microscopic stars. Maybe, just maybe, I marvelled as much as The Darlings but their rhapsody was punctuated by irrepressible yelps of wonder and amazement.
Now Jan and Marc and Cai are off at the Miners Museum in Glace Bay which claustrophobia dictates is off-limits to me. Hurricane Bill has arrived in Cape Breton and is lashing the cabin roof with an astonishing tattoo of rain. So far the rain gauge shows three inches. Weather-wise we have been spoiled rotten here for weeks so I have no objection whatsoever to the precipitation. Indeed I am as happy as can be, wealthy as Warren Buffett with every rain barrel overflowing. Sometimes the simplest pleasures seem the best of all.