“Are ye a screecher?” This question was asked by a gentleman named Austin in the now-familiar Newfie draw. In unison, five of us responded with “‘Deed I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw!” With that, we downed a shot of Newfoundland rum known as Screech. We had already eaten the ceremonial mountain oysters.
Myself, Joe, John, Bert, and Matt were undergoing the Newfoundland rite of “Screeching” in which one is given the honorary title of “Newfoundlander”. I had heard rumblings of this ceremony throughout the week and I suspect Bruce was the main driver behind the idea. But Trevor had rounded up right and proper local officials to perform the job. Two lifelong Newfoundlanders, Austin Dower and Gerard Chaytor showed up just after dinner Thursday.
These two gentleman entertained us for over an hour. They both played and sang and performed a number of popular folk songs and some of Gerard’s original music. This included a melancholy number about Newfoundland’s resettlement program where small coastal villages with few people were coerced by the government to move and centralize to reduce the cost of infrastructure maintenance. The song was a touching number about home and close friends. But there was also lively musing played on both guitar and accordion.
After the initial group part of the ceremony, we each had some individual tasks to perform. The hardest and most challenging was to listen to and repeat a Newfie phrase as best as we could. Our effort would be judged by our peers in the room
and if we got a thumbs-up we would earn the right to kiss a frozen cod and thus become an official Newfoundlander. What? Yes. It was a real frozen cod. Remember this is a ceremony that was probably thought up by fishermen in a bar. At a minimum, alcohol must have been involved.
Each man in turn got his opportunity and each performed admirably. Joe was given the most difficult phrase and performed well. I excelled at the cod kiss.
After the three of us and Matt and Bert were all screeched and had our official certificates, Austin did some interpretation and explanation of the Newfoundland expressions he had chosen.
In the end, perhaps with some leniency from the judges, we all managed to screech in. Each participant received an official certificate bestowing the title of Honorary Newfoundlander. While clearly a ceremony meant to be fun, I have to admit that being considered one with this fine group of people feels very nice.
The day had started with a cold wind and hard rain. In fact this would be the most terrible weather day of the week and, at breakfast, Bert and I decided we were glad we didn’t have to hunt in it. Instead, we had turned tourist and had taken a ride to L’Anse aux Meadows, This encampment was established and used by Leif Eriksson to gather supplies before heading back to Greenland.
You can click on the link above to learn more since they will do a much better job of explaining things then me trying to repeat it here. I will say it was worth the visit though I don’t think Bert expected so much of the tour to be outside. The 1/2 mile walk around the grounds in the wind-blown rain wasn’t much different than if one were moose hunting.
Except while moose hunting one usually doesn’t find a viking shelter being reenacted complete with primitive weapons, and warming fires.
Meanwhile back at the lodge, there were still unfilled moose tags. Bob and Matt still had a bull tag between them, and George and Bruce also had unfilled tags. Bruce had elected to skip hunting in the crappy Thursday rain (I don’t blame him) and had gone to see Leif’s place with us. George, Matt, and Bob persisted through the weather but had no luck.
Our Canadian friends had to leave Friday afternoon. Technically the hunt continues through Saturday with departures Sunday morning. Joe, John, and I had already moved our departure up a day. Our moose would be butchered, packed and ready for travel Saturday so we would catch the Saturday night Ferry instead of Sunday. This would put us home a day earlier and help us avoid some heavier weekday traffic. The Canadians had planned to leave Friday. They were flying from Deer Lake.
But there was still one last hunt for the four tag holders. George hadn’t seen a moose all week. At dinner Thursday I said “You only need to see one”. And guess what? He did and managed to hang his tag on a last-minute bull. But the big bull of the week award went to Matt who managed to knock down a nice bull with paddles after Keegan had called it in. An adventure apparently ensued after the first shot, but they got it done without the big animal dropping into a deep creek a scant few feet away. With the last minute success, we had scored 7 out of 8 for the week for moose. This is really good and everyone would head home with plenty of fresh moose meat.
It is amazing how close you get to new friends in hunting camp. I have the same experience in running and triathlon. I guess good people are good people. As the Canadians prepared to depart after lunch on Friday, we all lingered for a bit not wanting to say goodbye. I hope to share a camp with these great friends again someday.
The lodge was notably quiet Friday night. The guides had departed, Trevor and Marley were home doing the business of the lodge, and it was just the three of us and Craig in camp. We enjoyed one last great dinner from Craig, watched a movie and turned in early. As I readied for bed I thought about the week, the hunt, the adventure. I studied the little present Shane had given me (and each one us).
It was a letter opener made from the dew claw of a moose. I smiled as I ran my fingers down the smooth bit of bone. I would remember this trip for a long time and hope to come back someday.