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Tales of Hamish Iain Iye Haggis, Q.C.
(Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
by Janet MacKay
Chapter 2 - The Journey to Balmoral Mills


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"Oomph!" Hamish grunted, when the alarm clock shattered his slumber. He hated rising before sunrise, but today there was no help for it. He stretched out his long leg and whacked the 10 minute snooze button. "Ah," thought Hamish, as he snuggled back beneath the covers. "Today is going to be a long, long day."

Angus MacDougall would be at the door at 6 am, to give him a lift to the Acadian Bus Lines terminal in Halifax. Angus was the regular driver for the Halifax to Antigonish route, and the only driver Hamish trusted. He felt safe sitting on the bus window beside Angus's left elbow. He preferred trips when the bus stopped at most villages and communities along the winding highway #2 to Truro. There was more to see on the side roads, and Hamish found "people watching" entertaining.

This evening, Hamish was scheduled to speak at a dinner meeting of Haggai gathered at the Balmoral Mills grist mill in northern Nova Scotia. He had to arrive in Balmoral Mills by 3 pm, and there was no time to waste. Hamish jumped out of bed on the second alarm, and quickly groomed himself for the day.

Stifling a big yawn, Hamish stirred the porridge he had set the night before, added a bit of milk, and turned on the burner to medium. Soon he had water boiling for tea, and was spreading gooseberry marmalade over whole wheat toast. This was Hamish's last jar of gooseberry marmalade, but he would get a fresh supply in Balmoral.

It was a sturdy breakfast, to fortify Haggai and Humans alike. Hamish gave a long stretch, rinsed his dishes, checked his briefcase for his speech, and went out on the verandah to wait. It would never do to keep Angus waiting, for the bus had to leave on time.

"Now, there's a sunrise! commented Angus, as the bus entered the village of Shubenacadie. Rays of fresh gold and soft purple were reflected on the cloud formation in the eastern sky. A gentle haze was on the hills, and the dew on the fields answered the light of the rising sun. Few places are more beautiful than Nova Scotia at dawn.

Three passengers got off the bus at Shubenacadie, and two Micmac Native people settled in the front seat. They were long time friends of Angus, and Hamish enjoyed their lively banter all the way to Truro. The highest tides in the world happen near Truro, where the Bay of Fundy empties upstream along the Salmon River. Hamish always enjoyed watching that powerful rush of water, but today there was no time. He had to get to the grist mill.

It was almost ten o'clock when Angus stopped to let Hamish off 15 miles north of Truro, by the road to Earltown and Balmoral Mills. "Good luck with your speech!" Angus called after him, though he knew Hamish was an accomplished orator.

It was a long way to travel, as humans do along the gravel and paved roads to Earltown, but Hamish knew the Haggai shortcuts and was in Earltown at noon. It was not far now, to Balmoral Mills, and it was lunch time.

Hamish slipped into the Earltown Village Cemetery, paid his respects at the grave of "John MacKay, the Old Miller", and scurried into the bushes at the top of the cliff overlooking Earltown. It was a sunny day, not too hot and not too cold. The autumn leaves were still on the trees in their rich red/gold/orange splendour, interlaced with some stubborn green leaves and evergreen trees. Hamish settled in his favourite spot in those bushes, not far from the headstone of John MacKay, and unwrapped his lunch.

He enjoyed visiting each of the four cemeteries in Earltown, where the first Scottish pioneers were spending their final earthly rest. Unlike the others, this cemetery offered a majestic view of Earltown nestled below the cliff.  To the north, just beyond the road to Denmark, lay the original land grant of John MacKay and beside it, the land grant acquired by his brother, Neil MacKay. The brothers were born and brought up on the croft of Rossal, in the Parish of Rogart (Sutherland, Scotland), and emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1818.

At the invitation of the earlier settlers in Earltown, they settled there and John built the grist mill which served the community into the late 1800s. It was erected above the river, just before the waterfall dropped into a deep ravine. Nothing was left now, except the wooden highway bridge which once abutted the large door of the grist mill, and a millstone in the waters of the ravine. And the winds, which whispered tales of past accomplishments and courage, hardship and victory among the early pioneers.

Humans cannot understand those wind whisperings, but the Haggai can. Hamish always enjoyed listening, but time was getting on. He gave the last of his lunch to a friendly squirrel, preened himself, and was on his way through the back Haggai trails to the grist mill John MacKay's son, Alexander, built in Balmoral Mills.

He arrived at the Balmoral grist mill early. This mill is still in operation, and maintained as part of the museum complex of Tourism Nova Scotia. It had closed on October 15th for the winter, and would not open again until May 1998. The water wheel, in recent years powered by electricity, was still and silent.

Water still poured over the dam on the Matheson Brook, beside and beneath the grist mill, and Hamish ran to the centre of the walkway across the dam to bask in the tranquillity of the magnificent autumn scenery there. Red, yellow and orange leaves floated on the surface of the pond above the dam, and the trees along the banks of the Matheson Brook were mirrored in the still water. This was a favourite haunt for photographers, professional as well as amateur, and Hamish understood their attraction for it.

It was only 2:00 pm, and time to rest before visiting his friends near the grist mill. No one was about, so Hamish stretched out on the walkway and let the sound of water rushing over the falls lull him to sleep. It would be a short nap, but it had been a long journey from Halifax by bus, then on foot along the Haggai trails. Hamish deserved a rest.

By pre-arrangement Sally, a kindly crow, woke Hamish at 2:30 pm. He thanked her, then scampered along the walkway and up the wooden stairs to the park opposite the mill. He worked the pump at "Archie's Well," and was rewarded with some fresh, cool water to drink. "Ah," said Hamish, "There's no water like this in Halifax!"

Then he pumped some more water into a small pool, and groomed himself again. Some of his wiry fur was unruly, but fresh water and a haggis comb worked magic on it. He brushed his teeth, and gave a long stretch so his fur would fall in natural formation.

Then Hamish was away, along the trails to the nearby home of his haggis friends. He arrived at 2:55 pm, fashionably early in Haggai rules of etiquette. "Purrfect!" thought Hamish, who was proud of his innate skill of punctuality, and waited for his friends to answer his knock.


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