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 Goes Back, b'y   Return to Labrador

Submitted By: Judy Reid

The flight attendant hugged herself while the door cracked opened. As snow blasted into the plane she cried "Close the door! We go back!"

Welcome to Labrador, also known as the land God gave Cain. In the event you can't place Labrador, I direct you to that big chunk of land attached to the eastern border of Quebec, approximately 2.5 times larger than Newfoundland with almost 8000 kilometres of coastline. There are less than 30,000 people in all of Labrador so pay attention if you're lucky enough to meet a Labradorian. You may never meet another.

I grew up in Labrador City, a mining town less than 50 years old, tucked away in the
westernmost corner of our province. Iron ore is so plentiful in this part of the world
that two other nearby towns, Wabush, NL and Fermont, QC have their own cache of buried treasure. We're all small communities so we pool our resources. Wabush shares its airport, Fermont guards the gateway to the Trans-Quebec Highway and Labrador City gloats over its Tim Hortons.

Labrador City
I've been home a day now and I still can't get over all the snow. It's April and here I
am crotch-high in the stuff, tunnelling through the driveway. After I finally free the car from the snow-packed barricade I take a spin around town. I'm listening to a radio
station from Edmonton advertising lawnmowers and leaf-blowers as I navigate slippery corners, spying streaks of pavement through the mostly ice-covered streets named after trees, explorers and First Nations tribes. I'm told our lakes are named after women who married bigwigs on the mining project. The water supply was named after Beverly and Carol was the name given to one of our biggest lakes.

I drive by a long stretch of grey paint and brick called the Carol Lake Shopping Centre and spot the Bread Basket. I'll be stopping there for lunch sometime this week. I'll also fit in some chips-dressing-n-gravy (think of it as a Newfie version of poutine, except we use stuffing instead of cheese) at DJ's, toutons (pan fried bread dough) at Heddy's, and the world's best deep-fried mozzarella sticks at the Side Deck Cafe. Of course I can't forget the Chinese buffet at the Great Wall Restaurant in Wabush, and pizza with butter at the hotel in Fermont.

I'm in town to get my parents' house ready to rent. I'll be clearing out the closets,
checking under the beds, packing up the china and hiding it all in the basement until Mom and Dad return from Toronto. It'll be a busy week but I'll still manage a beer at Jarge's Pub or the Cabin, enjoy live music at Drake's Return and dance until the wee hours of Sunday morning at the K-Bar.

Judy Reid, "Queen of the mountain"....of Labrador snow.
I'm surprised at my newfound love for my hometown. As teenagers my friends and I
couldn't get out of here fast enough. Success was measured by how far from home one made it. I always took it for granted that home would be here waiting for me if I ever needed it. I didn't appreciate the world class cross-country ski trails or the northern lights. I believed Labrador City wasn't pretty, but didn't realize that on a December night I couldn't find a more beautiful place, every street strewn with Christmas lights and frosted trees.

The empty boxes piled in my parents' bedroom remind me I've got work to do. I can't
imagine this house belonging to another family. It was a hard decision for my parents to make, but they might be in Toronto for a while yet. They've waited 15 months already, hoping every time the phone rings in their small one bedroom apartment, that the person on the other end will tell them to come to the hospital, that it's finally time for Dad to get his lung transplant.

It won't take me long to pack. I've done it lots of times since I left here more than a
decade ago. Nova Scotia, Scotland, Ontario, Bosnia - I've called them all home for a
time, but Labrador was the first.

You know, this isn't just a good place to grow up, it's an excellent place to visit. Aunt Rosie and Uncle Don could save a bed for you at their Tamarack Bed and Breakfast. My cousin Brad could show you the best hills to get your snowmobile airborne. If you want to know about the Trans-Labrador-Quebec Highway, talk to Uncle Vince or his son Bud, both transport truck drivers. My hairdresser Sherry can give you the recipe for 'Caribou', a potent alcoholic brew originating in Quebec. My friend Max can tell you how to hunt, skin, bottle and make sausages from caribou. And if you like it here so much you want to stay, Aunt Cathy can make sure your parcels get forwarded to your new address in Labrador West.

In case you were wondering, I'm not a travel or real estate agent. I simply want to make sure that Labrador City is still here when Mom and Dad get back from Toronto.

There is talk of a probable strike, a possible shutdown, and what would happen if
the mine closed for good. The mine is the single biggest employer in this town. The
mine is also where Dad worked for 33 years and inhaled enough iron ore dust to destroy his lungs.

Labrador City - Mining

I may be overreacting but we've all heard of towns dying once their mines closed. Mind you, I don't think any of them had a Tim Hortons... or the friendliest people in
Canada willing to open their homes, hearts and wallets to tourists from around the world.

So consider this an invitation. Catch a plane (tickets sometimes less than $300 on the Internet), a train (good luck finding a schedule for the Quebec North Shore &
Labrador train) or automobile (don't forget to carry a shovel, snowsuit and Coleman
stove).

And please, hurry. This may be a limited time offer.......

Email the Author: Judy Reid

 


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