The Mayflower

Ten years ago my five brothers organized a moose hunting trip to Newfoundland, the place of our birth and early childhood. Fourteen of my fifty-seven years were spent living in Corner Brook but unlike many “down homers” I never learned the skills of hunting, fishing, and trapping. While I love the outdoors, my youth was spent snowmobiling. skating, sledding and skiing.  Since 2005, many other hunting trips, mostly for deer, were taken by my brothers with me absent. My brothers were so devoted to their hunting adventures they invested in a 300 acreage north of Hunstville and built a lodge on the property to satisfy their appetite for the sport. As a result I had to listen to their many crazy but fun filled exploits as an outsider as opposed to an active participant. It was difficult realizing that as we grew older I did not have those experiences and memories to share. So when the announcement was made for a 2014 Newfie repeat, I invited myself, since my siblings assumed like before, I had no interest in joining them.

We left on the Thanksgiving weekend with a flight to Halifax and a transfer to Deer Lake. Then we travelled by car for six hours to Roddington, 100 km from St. Anthony. I hadn’t visited this part of the Rock (Newfie nickname for NL) since my Dad took the family (all 8 members) there for a camping trip back in 1965. It is such beautiful country, among the best geography and landscape I have seen in any part of the world.

But we got lost. Well, my brother Lloyd would say we didn’t get lost just confused and/or disoriented. The night was black as tar, no signs were evident to direct us, and there were no stores existing or open to ask for directions. Finally my brother Harold decided to check his original map only to discover we had made a wrong turn. As the driver, he decided to follow exactly the directions provided, then we came upon the sign that said “Mayflower Outfitters”. Within a few minutes we were checked in to our rooms and sitting at the “supper” table to enjoy the equivalent of a roast beef dinner, the beef being substituted by moose meat. And so began the week. We were isolated from civilization, no cell phone service, no internet connection, electricity provided by a generator, lake water for showers, and stories for entertainment.

I don’t have a gun licence so I couldn’t obtain a moose hunting permit (“tag”). I was classified as an observer. Really though, I was considered more of a nuisance then anything else since my eldest brother David, believed I would interfere with the process and prevent a successful outcome. I didn’t mind though. I just don’t have the ability to kill an animal no matter how right or justified it may be. (The moose hunt in NL is necessary to control the ever growing herds creating a significant driving risk for locals and especially visitors.) I took it upon myself to be the official photographer. Rather than lugging around a rifle I filled my back pack with camera gear waiting to shoot the moose with the most current and sophisticated equipment Canon had to offer.

It was a great week. But as I told Trevor Pilgrim, the owner of Mayflower Outfitters, (note the names) while trekking through the woods and sighting caribou, bears and moose was exhilarating, the real enjoyment was sitting around the supper table and sharing life stories. (Craig the cook explained to me in NL, there is breakfast, dinner and supper. Lunch is what you carry in your backpack! Craig was the head chef on the ferry between NL and Nova Scotia. He was using his vacation time to get away and thus assumed the position of the Mayflower Cook. My stomach hurt from gorging myself on his daily offerings.) I will forever remember Tom from Pennsylvania telling us about his struggles being a dairy farmer, then switching to raising cattle after low milk prices destroyed his dairy business, when he had to sell some land to pay his property taxes or how he lost his barn to a fire. But then last year a few gas wells were drilled on his farm and from the royalties he was able to rebuild his barn, pay off his debts, add to his cattle herd, and have a few extra dollars to enjoy a trip to NL and get away from it all with his brother and best friend, at the Mayflower Lodge. Then there was Brian from Nova Scotia, a commercial fisherman. His wife was diagnosed with cancer in August 2014 and one week after being told, she died. Brian and his wife were regulars at Mayflower Lodge. In addition, after a general medical his Doctor had him undergo a MRI. The result they said to him was bone cancer. They then conducted a CT scan just to be sure. Surprisingly, a week later the Doctors reversed their earlier decision since the CT exam was negative. They blamed Brian for moving during the MRI! He was riding an emotional roller coaster and found rest at the Mayflower Lodge. Chris from Barry’s Bay, Ontario was there with his son Scott. The Mayflower Lodge had become a place of bonding for father and son for the last five years. And there were the Hillier brothers, David, Harold, Lloyd and Merv, from oldest to youngest, from 57 to 64, three retired and one left to go, realizing that this trip was more about filling our plates with brotherly memories than fresh moose meat, though the latter was good too. As brothers, we gathered at the supper table and talked. Afterwards we met in one of our guest rooms and talked. At supper time we relived the day’s events. Afterwards, we talked about life.

The Mayflower Lodge was started by Trevor’s Dad, Ross, 23 years ago. Ross while present to say hello to us, was too old and feeble to care for the place now so his sons, Trevor and Shane have accepted the responsibility. I wonder if the sons knew that Mayflower Lodge had become more than just a place for hunting, fishing, or trapping but had become a place where lives were being changed, fathers and sons were bonding, emotional wounds were being healed, new relationships were being birthed, and irreplaceable memories were being etched in the minds of so many from so many distant lands.

When the Pilgrims immigrated to North America, they travelled on a ship called the Mayflower. The Pilgrims, sacrificing much were responsible for bringing new life to Canada and America. We have much to be thankful for. Likewise, Ross, Trevor, Shane, their wives, the dedicated hunting guides, Chef Craig, and Marley the golden lab, from May to October each year, provide a place where the weary can find rest from an exhausting world.

As I sit here today in my office in Oakville, just arriving home from being at the Mayflower, I am thankful for those times and places where rest can be found. We don’t know what ills people are suffering, what burdens they carry, what stressors they face, what hurts they feel, what fears have accumulated, or what needs must be met. But what we do know, there is a place of rest where each and everyone can if just for a brief moment, find strength from each other, and are able to enjoy the stillness of a star studded peaceful night.

Where is your place of rest? If you don’t have one I encourage you to find it.

The Bible says to us: ‘Come unto me all you who are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest!” These words were not written to criticize us but to help us understand our need to remove ourselves from life’s pressures, and find or create a special place where we can gain perspective, develop strength, build tolerance, and increase our perseverance so that regardless of life’s events, our lives our shielded from the world’s attacks and we live as overcomers, consistently and continuously victorious.

Thank you.

Merv Hillier

T. 416.409.6378