The gales of November

People, I am writing tonight’s post as fast as ever my little fingers will skip over the keyboard – because the wind is howling outside, the lights have been flickering like crazy, and I fear that here at the Manse we will be plunged at any moment into the darkness and cold that come with a hydro outage. But while we still have light and heat (and as Raymond prepares the vintage oil lamps for lighting, should we have need of them), let me tell you about the directions that this child of the Manse’s mind takes on a night like this.

I’d heard on the weather reports that it was supposed to be very windy here in Eastern Ontario tonight, but only realized how windy it had got when, on my drive home from work, I turned onto the last road that leads home to the Manse, Queensborough Road, and all kinds of interesting-looking things were blowing across the road in front of me. Not just leaves – much bigger things, like maybe branches. Yikes!

Very large trees very close to the Manse

Our huge and beautiful evergreens, alarmingly close to the Manse.

When I pulled in at the Manse and stepped out of the car, it sank in just how hard the wind was blowing. We’ve got a lot of very tall evergreen trees around us (some rather worrisomely – on a night like this – close to the house, as you can read here), and their branches were positively flailing. Raymond was outside doing a couple of car-related chores that I helped him with, and as I remarked on the strength of the wind he informed me that the waves on Lake Ontario were predicted to go as high as 13 feet. “I feel a Gordon Lightfoot song coming on,” I wryly commented – referring, obviously, to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Which at that moment I was utterly convinced had become a hit during the years of my childhood at the Manse (1964 to 1975), but which I have discovered just now thanks to my friend the internet actually hit the world’s airwaves a year after that golden childhood, in late 1976. But I’ve included the video of it at the top of this post anyway, because it’s pretty much the perfect soundtrack for a wild night like this.

Anyway, yes, one thinks tonight of the Edmund Fitzgerald and the 29 souls lost aboard it in one of the Great Lakes “gales of November” that Lightfoot sings about. And also about how fortunate one is to be under cover and warm and dry on such a night.

But, if one happens to be one of the three (counting Sieste) inhabitants of the Manse, one’s mind also turns to how we really should be thinking about getting a generator, as every other sensible household around here has, in the interest of still having heat and light when and if the power goes out.

And finally: one ponders those huge trees, which are awfully close to the house. Let’s hope they stay proudly upright through tonight’s gale of November.

2 thoughts on “The gales of November

  1. Ah, the “Fitz”! What a terrible tragedy. Those poor men. Can you imagine what they went through? My cousin, Kenny, was on the Canadian Steamship Lines Hochelaga on Lake Huron just below Whitefish Bay the night the Fitzgerald went down. He was second mate and having just finished his watch was trying to catch a few Zs before he went “on” again. Suddenly he was thrown out of his bunk and catching the guard rail (similar to the railings that are pulled up and secured either side of your hospital bed following surgery), he found himself hanging parallel to the cabin floor. This meant that the old “Hoch” was on her side and he could both hear and feel the huge waves smashing against her keel doing their best to keep her that way. But after what seemed like an eternity the big ship finally righted herself. The “Hoch” was fully loaded right up to the hatches with grain and Kenny credits the cargo and the full load for saving the ship that dreadful night. According to Kenny, the old Hochelaga could not safely carry full holds of stone and if the cargo had have been stone (which she often carried), the load would have shifted and probably kept the ship on her side resulting in her sinking. Anyway, shortly after this event, Kenny put his degree to work and ever since has made a very successful career selling group insurance.

    • My goodness, Douglas, what an experience for your cousin to have lived through! I can well see how an office job in insurance looked pretty darn appealing after being on the Great Lakes on that terrible night when the Edmund Fitzgerald went down. Thank you for sharing the story!

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