Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Ugly Pokioker !

My good friend , Art McGuire , and I usually get together once a week to have a coffee and reminisce about the "glory days" of Pokiok........ people we knew back then and what has become of them , things we did or didn't do , happenings and events , the objects and places of our little universe and how we called them , etc Well , yesterday I decided to run a story by Art ...... hoping to elicit a response or reaction on his part which would settle a nagging wee query I've had ever since my return to Saint John ..... a nomenclatural problem...that is the popular name of an uncommon species of fish in the tidal waters of the Saint John River that we all knew in our youth.     
It was maybe the summer of 1948 and Tommy MacDonald and I had "badgered" our parents into letting us camp out "under the stars" on Higgins' Beach. Tom was 11 and myself an aging 12 years old! We didn't have a tent .... simply a tarpaulin to lay under us and two old blankets to roll up in .... the stars above us for a ceiling ...... and the universe was ours for a night ! The following morning we were awakened by the sound of waves breaking along the rocky shoreline ..... as a tugboat with a boom of logs in tow about 200 yards offshore was heading downstream to the mill. Something moving at water's edge caught my attention so I went to have a looksee........ and there IT was ! ........ the ugliest fish I'd ever seen in my life. It was simply lying there in the shallow water , its extra-wide , gaping mouth opening and shutting very slowly as though gasping for breath so to speak  ......... and when open , revealing ominous upper and lower rows of short , sharp teeth ...... two huge eyes bulging out of its head ..... slimy , bumpy skin ..... one big flat-wide head with a tail.... and then Art injected the long-awaited word I was hoping for .... "ballast-fish", says he affirmatively. And then I knew I had not been dreaming all these years away ....... the word in my reveries really did exist !

Art went on to add that the ballast-fish looked somewhat like a big frying pan and that one of the kids swimming off the rocks below the Burner had once been bitten by one. Having seen many when I was a kid I have been quite taken aback since my return by the fact that nobody I've asked seems to know either the word or the fish itself. Even called Lord's Fishmarket and the Dipper Harbour Coop without any success !I started feeling a bit like Rip Van Winkle ... but then along came my friend , Art !

While living with the Montagnais ... nowadays Innu.... of northeastern Qu├ębec and working on native zoological terminology I learned both the popular French and Innu terms for my ballast-fish.... crapaud de mer or sea toad and matshustukuan or ugly head........ rather picturesque and appropriate names for the beast ! I contacted one of the resident zoologists ...... Mary Sollows by name ....at the New Brunswick Museum this morning who very kindly gave me other words for the ballast-fish ..... monkfish , goosefish , allmouth .... as well as its scientific name Lophius Americanus.


  1. Monkfish...surely you remember Julia's funny program, as she manhandled one, turning it into a goumet meal? There's GOT to be a video of that show...I never laughed so hard.

  2. Hi Angh... Gosh , yes.. I do remember Julia Stiles ????and my Mom loved to watch her show .... especially her slow .. phlegmatic ways of doing things.. and her British accent to boot !!I'll try to google up that video...and thanks for dropping by Pokiok ... come back again soon.

  3. Hi Gerry,
    This is just a test run as I post messages but they never seem to be received. I am sending it ounder the "anonymous" selection so I am hoping to see that this test will work.
    I love reading your blogs and wish your readers would have more input!
    Sylvia (Johnston) Spencer

  4. I think it worked. It looks like it went through. I know it has in the past because you replied. This time I "previewed" the message and then posted it so, perhaps, that may be the trick :).

  5. Me, again,
    First message....OOOPPS! "under" not "ounder".

  6. Hi Sylvia,
    I'm Rebekah, Gerry's wife. There is an option in the drop-down menu under «Comment as:». It says Name/URL and there you can just type in your name and leave the URL box empty. That's a good option if you don't have a Google/Gmail account.

    So true what you said about input. Feedback means a lot when you're writing like this.

  7. No sweat about spelling or lapsus linguae in here , dear Sylvia. I truly appreciate your dropping by and commenting when you think appropriate..... so please come back soon.I still have manys a story to share with my readers and hope they will liven up this wee site with their own reminiscences , wit and humour.Should you have any old photos of Pokiok .... of people or places that might jog or stimulate my aging memory... I would love to see them and maybe borrow them and copy them for use in this blog. Thanks a million in advance ..... and come back often.

  8. Thanks Rebekah and Gerry,
    I will try your suggestion, Rebekah.
    I will find some pictures, I have lots of them.
    I do not know how to transfer them to the computer but, perhaps my husband, Rick, does. He is more savvy than me in that respect.

    In what area of Saint John did you choose to live? If we did not have grankids here, it would be nice to live there. I live in the Wolfville area and it is wonderful, too.

    I will keep in touch.

  9. Great news , Sylvia..... so glad you have settled all technical problems and that you will forward a few old photos to prod on this aging memory. Should Rick scan them he can e-mail me at buckmcnulty@gmail.com And we are camping in the Fort Howe Building which the undertakers refer to as Pill Hill.... I feel like a teenager here since most residents are in their 80s and 90s.Stay cool in this scortching weather and come back often.