One might get the idea from the wagon wheels strewn the length of the trail from Barrington up to the Barrens that this was an ancient wagon-train road.
This story starts a long time ago, arriving in Nova Scotia after a cross-country journey in the old van, loaded with what was left of our worldly possessions after a couple of months unloading at flea markets. Worldly possessions had caused the axle of our van to break and the wheel to go off on its own as we were heading out of San Francisco on our odyssey. Deciding so many worldly possessions were a burden, we stayed longer and flea marketed some more, then got on the road again.
Jayme and I had bought 149 acres of Nova Scotia land sight unseen from a catalog of cheap land for 3,300 good old U.S. dollars.
We found that the land was about six miles upriver from the coastal town of Barrington with no passable roads, so we decided to get an ox. We borrowed a truck and went to Yarmouth where they were selling oxen. Moo (the locals thought we were crazy naming an ox Moo) was one of a young pair. We hated to separate them knowing that they had bonded, but he quickly became at home with us.
Now we needed a wagon and yoke, so we asked around. A local person knew of one that might be for sale. We went to look at it. It appeared to be in pretty good shape for its age (guessing about a hundred years). It came with extra wheels, which came in very handy later as we went through quite a few on the rough trails to the land.
Now we needed to paint the wagon (traditional red) and train Moo to pull it. I hitched Moo to the yoke, the yoke to the wagon and began the training (Moo or myself?). I went up and down the road many times trying to instill the idea of going forward, turning and stopping. Moo, on the other hand, tried to convey the idea to me that he didn’t give a damn. At the end of the day we had both learned a little and I was covered, head to foot, with slow-drying red paint.
Moo helped immeasurably in building our small house, hauling materials up the six miles from town. We shared quite a few adventures the year we were there.
The sad ending to this story is that after a year of building and living in our house, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told us that, being illegal immigrants, we had to leave or become deportees. Seeing little other choice, we loaded the wagon with our remaining worldly possessions, hitched up Moo and headed out. We found a buyer for the little house, a neurosurgeon from Maine, and sold Moo to people in the village with the understanding that he would have a good home until the end.
John Lamkin is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. He is a board member and global membership director for the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association. He is widely published online and in print. Lamkin has been a SOMOS member sporadically almost since its inception.
This story was published in SOMOS’ anthology, Storied Wheels.
Edited by Barbara Scott
A SOMOS PUBLICATION
TAOS, NEW MEXICO