My father had the habit of taking me to the woods from an early age. Six years old, to be precise.
Back then, one didn’t have to drive for four hours to reach some form of legitimate wilderness. We had woods even in developing areas such as Ville Saint-Laurent and even more on Laval island in Montreal.
I’m talking about woods you could hunt in. But, of course, now all these areas are covered in residential developments and shopping malls.
On one occasion, my dad went the extra mile, and we drove up to a beautiful area called Les Cascades, near Ste-Marguerite du Lac Masson, a few miles from Ste-Adele in the Laurentians region of Quebec.
The central attraction was the most beautiful, multi-colored pebble-covered stream one could ever hope to see. And this is where I would take my first shots with my Cooey .22 caliber single-shot bolt-action rifle, bought at Simpson’s department store in downtown Montreal, for the princely sum of $9.95.
This pristine little creek, about 40-50 feet wide, had the advantage of containing two to four-inch-long copper-colored crayfish, a fascinating little creature to a nine-year-old.
On this trip, while I attempted in my little rubber booties to find these little marvels of nature by lifting riverbed rock after riverbed rock, it dawned on me and my numb fingers - the water was icy - that a stick would simplify my task and set out to fashion one.
Before I continue, I must share an important fact with you.
The rule remained until I turned around fourteen years old that I must ask permission from my very strict dad to use anything related to hunting or fishing that might represent a danger to me. This condition had no grey areas or latitude for interpretation. It was absolute.
Sadly on this day in question, my nine-year-old brain forgot about that.
As I discovered a branch that might serve me as a fine crayfish digging tool, it struck me that it was a tad too long, and a shortening was required.
So what better tool I thought to accomplish this than my dad’s heavy seven and a half inch blade Bowie skinning knife stored in our 1963 International Scout 4x4.
Going down to the shore of the creek while my father wasn’t looking, I grabbed the branch in a firm hold with my thumb pointing up.
I decided that a swift stroke of the heavy knife downwards at an angle would lop off the extra length of wood.
With its razor-sharp blade and heft, it sliced through it like butter and continued down to imbed itself in my little thumb, about half an inch deep and right through the nail.
Screaming like a banshee, I ran to find my father peacefully fishing a few dozen yards away.
Upon seeing me, he grabbed my hand, pulled out his white handkerchief, and wrapped it around my bleeding digit. Then, to hold it in place, he jammed the plastic toy ring I was wearing on my other hand over it.
Packing the truck with our gear, we sped off to what I expected would be some local doctor or hospital, but instead, we drove to a road diner he liked in Sainte-Adele called Le Chaudron or something like that, located on the main highway back then. It’s now the Gueule de Loup microbrewery.
Slipping onto two stools, he ordered food for us and asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital. But, of course, at nine years old, the answer was a firm no on my part.
While this was going on, the waitress was eyeing the situation and piped in that I should at least clean it up and put a proper bandage on it, which she kindly did with great tenderness as I recall.
I never did get stitches or any shot against infection.
The way my father’s mind worked, it had all amounted to a good hard lesson well learned.
Decades later, I still have the knife in question and a clear scar line on my left thumb to remind me.
Excerpt from my upcoming eBook "Recollections from my time on earth" - Snackable short stories.