all the rage. It’s all the townies talk
about; the outports, too.
Newfoundland, now, more an idea than a place, readies itself. Though baymen are scarcer than cod fish, hundreds
of communities wait to be emptied. There
must be a few residents left, capable of raising a mortgage, that resettlement,
the moratorium, Fort McMurray or the Avalon Peninsula has, so far, failed to
dislodge. All of them will be needed to
populate the already iconic enclave; though, it is still barely a concept even
among the somnolent planners at City Hall.
The City of
St. John’s has already discarded its zoning manuals as a compliant, though
otherwise uninspired Mayor,
and unanimous Council move, with deliberate
haste, toward an approval process that, prior to ‘Dannymania’, always moved at
something less than a glacial pace.
decades, the City has missed several opportunities to grow; though Mount Pearl
and other towns have done little to distinguish themselves. The seat of Government, once a suckling on an abundant
fishery and now offshore oil, has been kind to St. John’s; its
perceived greatness thrust upon it. Like
the expectant and the spoiled, it does not govern with the confidence of past
achievements. Its chief regard is for its
entitlements so long embraced they just seem normal.
one of the City’s very own. He
understands entitlement. Entitlement is not about being deserving; nor is it about destiny or rights. It demands only an attitude. It is, of
course, that attitude which gives support to the long held view that rural
resettlement ought never to have ceased when Smallwood gave it momentum, in the
1960s and 70s. Many townies believe an exit ramp ought never to have been permitted until the displaced hit the
overpass, at Kenmount Road.
is huge; its proportion makes every modern developer a carpetbagger. Andy Crosbie, Craig Dobbin, Ches Penney and
Garland Clarke, all have been penny ante
players. Dannyville is, well… iconic;
just like its namesake, the eponymous former Premier.
had better get on; they now have a new destination, virtually next to Paradise.
Baymen are outliers,
of course, people whose intransigent ties and cultural traditions pull hard and
keep them close to home. The hope is that those who have so far stayed, will be eager to connect
with the many who broke away; that they will join the toiling masses of
bureaucrats, trades people and service providers already lined up to buy a plot
in Dannyville. Thousands of their
compatriots have already taken mortgages in every town, from Bauline to Bay
Bulls. The Towns emulate the insular Capital City, too, or at least as best
they can; those who came from outside the “Overpass” don’t think much, anymore,
of what they have left behind.
residents will come from South East Bite, Lumsden and Petite Forte, from
Croque, Brent’s Cove, LaScie and Francois and a host of other villages whose
names are quaint and whose inhabitants speak a common language. In recent times, the place-names have been livelier
than the villages that give them residence.
They not only suggest a context that is the history of the whole
Province; they imply a profound sense, less, perhaps, of premonition, than
outright warning. Culture, traditions,
even the graveyards speak to humanity’s need to belong; in a bayman, it is
every bit as rooted and ingrained as his sense of survival.
doesn’t understand, but is destined to discover, is that Dannyville does not as
much offer an antidote to his innate fear of separation whether from family, culture
or identity; Dannyville is the antidote.
preponderance of fisher people, the fishing industry has all but disappeared;
yet, they still like to go out in boat and catch one for ‘the pot’. The huge sheds, the old ‘stores’, are now less
a place for nets and gear as much as they are a shelter for the trike, the
ski-doo and as a hang-out, away from the Missus. Life is not overly generous
but it is still pretty good, though their friends tell them they would be
not people of the ‘pay-cheque’. They can get by even when times are tough. Nor do they queue at the bank machine, each
pay-day, like those who will populate Dannyville. Still, the allure of riches stirs them to bewilderment;
it confuses the souls of even the most grounded. What is worse, the magnetism of ‘the man’ is
stronger than the pull of a dozen generations.
understand them but he needs them just the same. He might be a ‘townie bully’,
not to be trusted in the ‘corners’, as his hockey buddies speak of him in an
undertone of criticism that seems valid enough; though it feels unpatriotic in
a way. They know that, if they are overheard,
it will deny them his friendship.
did he ever tell off that crowd in Ottawa. And, didn’t he say “we won”! We don’t quite know what we won, but if Danny
said it, by Christ, it had to have been big…it had to have been huge…because
Danny is huge. He’s smart and successful and the richest man in Newfoundland,
or, so they say…so, Dannyville has to be huge, too, and successful and perhaps,
we should have a piece of what Danny has…who knows, whatever it is, might rub
older ones have been thinking silly stuff, lately. Why, just the other day,
Skipper Jerry Seymour was up on Deadman’s Rock.
He was shouting into the breeze and you could hear him, perhaps, as far
away as Cape John. The old man was
saying: “Why shouldn’t I leave this ‘hole’ anyway. I’m sick of the goddamn
ocean. All I wake up to is rocks and
hills and trees and more ocean. I’m just
surprised there isn’t trees over the bloody ocean”, he fumed, to no one in
expected Skipper Jerry to end his boisterous and seemingly senseless, but lonely rant, right there.
But, he had more on his mind that day; a lot more.
Missus was saying, just the other day”, he continued, “she was tired of all the
higgledy piggley of the place; up over cliffs and down over the rocks. You can’t even walk on a straight road if you
wanted to go over and see Mary Jane. To
go up to Uncle Jack’s, I can’t just stroll over. Oh, no! I got to pay a price to walk over
there. I can’t just mind my own business; I can’t even glance. I’m forced to
look at the two Methuselahs, just a few hundred yards offshore! God, the memories from that place, the stories we
use to tell; Ned and Bill and Pad…jesus, they were the best. Used to be some
good salmon on that spot, he added, almost wistfully.
“And, if I look over my shoulder, I see the
place where ‘Billy broke the jar’. Must
have been some shaggin’ crock of ‘shine for everyone to remember a place like
that…that must have happened a hundred years ago. Well, I’m sick of it all, anyway….I
see is fog and there’s neither fish in the water, for jesus sake, and speaking
of water, you can’t even get a cup to
drink, there’s a boil order on every other day…and the kids, the half dozen
that are left, they got to get on that bloody school bus, day in day out. I bet
they’ll have a school right in the middle of Dannyville, right next to the
Walmart. Danny would think of that. I know he would.
Dannyville I wouldn’t have to see where Billy broke the goddamn jar, would I?
He’d have some nice straight roads and the beach wouldn’t be a sidewalk, where
the waves wash up hundreds of sea shells and god knows what else; some of it is
unimaginably nice, though.
have to watch that friggin’ seal lollygagging, with her two pups, as if Brian
Watson had given her enough stamps to get her through the winter. And, I won’t have to look at any more shaggin’
icebergs; though despite the cold wind they send into the Cove, some of them
are some nice. Yes, my son, they have a majesty that ought to be reserved for
will have nice concrete sidewalks with fire hydrants…but, I s’pose if Rover
pissed on those he get shot faster than Skipper Jim Shea can run for his remedies”,
Jerry laughed heartily at his own humour.
would be nice lawns and streetlights.
We’d never hope to get any of those in this Cove. Yes”, he declared with
an affirmation that had all the force of an insect attacking an old sound bone:
“Think I’ll go and check out Dannyville”. Jerry shook his balding head, the hair or what
was left of it, showed plenty of grey, as he compressed his weather beaten face
in his two hands. He held it there for
what seemed an hour as if he was reliving his whole life right there on
his hands gave way and Jerry stood erect, like I saw him, sometimes, at
funerals. Not ready to keep his silence,
he spoke as if he needed to complete his narrative aloud, as if a public
testimony would assuage what he was about
to do. “Guess, I had better ring up Susie”, he declared. “She’s married to that feller with the Bank,
in St. John’s…see if he’ll give me and the Missus a mortgage. I’ll get me
pension cheque next week; he’ll be looking for the stub and proof, I guess,
that I makes fifteen thousand in a good year.
S’pose, if we don’t like it, we can always come back home; we won’t be
thing about Dannyville. Staying does not
have to be permanent.
of Dannyville can leave; but, why would they want to.