Spent a wonderful week up in my artist buddy’s studio in Cape Breton working on a book proposal.
Each day, after I’d written and read as much as I could, I’d take a walkabout, and do a little work in my field. But a bad shoulder and lousy weather kept chainsaw fun to a minimum.
When I bought the land from my buddy six years ago it had gone wild and was full of twenty-five year old spruce trees. Every summer I cut, cleared, and burned – probably toasted $10,000 worth of Xmas trees - and now I have a beautiful field to enjoy, and a place for a getaway shack of my own. If my kids want to build it for me!
Down at the bottom of the field runs Middle River, a sweet, clear Canadian stream, home of trout and spawning salmon. It was one of the features I liked best about the land, but lately it’s been on a rampage.
Over the last five years it’s eaten up about fifty feet of beach, and now is chawing into the hillside, causing massive mudslides and collapses. It’s already obliterated the bottom of the path that used to lead down to it, leaving instead a ten foot cliff.
The Effects of Global Warming? I dunno. But if this keeps up. I won’t have to worry about clearing any more trees out of my field. The river will do it for me.
Saturday I drove down to Halifax to scout books and try to pay for my trip. It was a lovely warm day, and the streets were full of basking students. Stopped to see my friends at Schooner Books, on the far end of town, then down to John Duoll on Barrington St. John is a madman. He can’t stop buying books. Found a couple of interesting things there, then hit the road, drove as far as I could, and got up the next morning and kept driving. There was one other place I wanted to hit on my way home. I was pretty tired Sunday afternoon, and couldn’t decide whether to keep driving or not. Almost on a whim, I stopped. And boy, am I glad I did!
Waiting for me there was the first manuscript account I’d ever seen of an American ship being captured by pirates. Really cool!
Manuscript LOG OF THE SHIP HANTONIA, ICHABOD ROLLINS, MASTER. SEPTEMBER 20, 1805 - APRIL 14, 1806. PORTSMOUTH, NH - KINGSTON, JAMAICA. Tall folio, 12 x 19 1/2 inches. Unpaginated (approx. 47 pages manuscript entries.) Because of its excellent level of detail, clear writing, and impressive physical appearnace, this would be a valuable and interesting log in and of itself. However, something happened on this voyage that makes it most ususual. In September 1805 the Hantonia departed Portsmouth, NH with a full cargo of lumber and fish. They made Port Royal by the end of October and spent three weeks repairing their ship and discharging their salt fish and staves, boards, and planks. Then they “got under way and proceed’d to the Balafin ground... Employ’d one black man on board to work” taking on ballst. Apparently the work was hard. Two days later they employed “two more Negroes to work.” The day after that three men, named in the log, refused their duty. Finally, by the end of November, they’d gotten themselves repaired, ballasted and watered, and got underway. A week later, on December 6, 1805, they were captured by pirates, who locked the crew up, ransacked their ship, stole everything they could pry loose, ate and drank freely from the ship’s stores, and then took what was left of those along for good measure. The pirates stayed aboard through the night, “behaving in a shocking manner breaking & tearing & taking every thing they could lay their hands on” before sailing off. The pirate captain “said his vessel was call’d the Queen of Spain he had Spanish coulours sett but they were all french men on board of her.” The Hantonia then limped into port in Cuba, got repaired, and took on a cargo of sugar for New York. They departed January 15 and, after a rough winter trip, Made Sandy Hook light a little more than a month later. This is a remarkable log. The pirate account is about 500 words long, and all the entries are intelligently written and full of information about shipboard conditions. This is the first manuscript account I’ve ever handled of a capture of an American vessel by pirates. These were the real Pirates of the Caribbean! $5500
Next week, a little late, will be a report on the Rare Book & Manuscript Librarians conference in Baton Rouge. I’ve got to give a talk on archives there, but I promise I won’t make you listen to it.