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Hamish stepped aside, to let Willie Haggis slip
safely underneath a caboose at the Train Station Inn. Then he followed, choosing a spot in
the undercarriage for them to rest.
This caboose, like the other three at the Inn, had ended its days of following trains
around the tracks. They were mementos of an earlier time, not really so long ago, when the
Shortline Train ran daily along the northern Nova Scotia coast and stopped at the train
station in Tatamagouche for convenience of passengers or shipments of freight.
Hamish took out the lunch Sally Haggis had packed for them. He had not planned to spend so
long in Balmoral Mills after the banquet, but Sally and George insisted that he not travel
further until his knee was free from pain. Sally had rubbed heather oil into it every
night, before wrapping a warm towel around it. Her healing ministrations were magic, and
now the knee felt as if new again.
Willie Haggis had come over in the evenings to chat with Hamish. Hamish had always been
impressed with young Willie, who showed a keen mind for learning and an avid interest in
history. There was a good future ahead for this teenage haggis, if he could get the best
Willie was glad his parents accepted Hamish's invitation to take him along to Pugwash, the
home of the world renowned Thinkers Lodge. But, for now, his own legs were weary. It had
been seven miles from Balmoral Mills, and he needed to rest. It would be another twelve
miles to the lighthouse in Wallace, where Alastair and Maggie Haggis had invited them to
stop for a visit.
Willie stretched his legs, and propped them on a nearby ledge. Hamish did the same, being
careful his knee was properly positioned. They munched on lettuce and tomato
and drank heather ale. Willie was curious about the trains that chugged along the rails in
"It all began in Scotland," said Hamish with a yawn. He was getting sleepy. But
he told Willie about Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada and one of
the founding fathers of Canada. Sir John A. had advocated a railway across the nation, and
ensured that it was built. Indeed, it was Sir John A. himself who drove the last spike
connecting the rails built from the west coast to the rails built from the east coast of
Willie had learned this in school, and how the driving of that last spike signified the
unity of Canada. With transportation for passengers and goods from coast to coast, the
Canadian provinces could then work together more easily as one nation. He had other
questions for Hamish. "Wasn't Sir John A. Macdonald born in Scotland?" he asked.
"Yes, he was," replied Hamish. "Sir John A.'s parents had a home on
Brunswick Street in Glasgow. But his father was born in Dornoch, up in Sutherland in the
northern regions. His grandfather was born in nearby Rogart, where there is a cairn to Sir
John A. Macdonald today."
"Little John was only five years old when his parents emigrated to Canada,"
Hamish continued. "They wanted to make their home in Kingston, in Upper Canada (now
the Province of Ontario). They came out on the ship `Earl of Buckinghamshire'. It ran
aground on a sand bar in the St. Lawrence River going up to Kingston. All night the waves
buffeted the ship, and it was feared it would be beaten to pieces. Little John slept the
whole night in his parents quarters in the hold of the ship, unaware that their lives were
in danger. In the morning, with the rising of the tide, the ship floated free and they
reached Kingston safely."
"On its next trip to Canada, the `Earl of Buckinghamshire' sank to the bottom of the
ocean. It's 600 passengers perished. We came very close to not having Sir John A.
Macdonald as first Prime Minister," said Hamish. "It would not be the same
Canada without his wise leadership in the founding years."
Willie Haggis was also getting sleepy, so they settled down for a snooze. History was
great, but better in small doses. They were safe under the caboose. No one knew they were
A grey and white cat, wandering beneath the caboose, woke Willie. It was a friendly kitty,
and they chatted for a few minutes. Finally Hamish stirred, and stretched. The kitty
rubbed noses with him, glad to greet another friend.
The sun was high in the sky, so Hamish and Willie began to make their way westward along
the railway trail. The kitty went with them until they were just outside the village, then
wished them well on their journey.
It was easy travelling along the trail, where the railway tracks had once been. There were
no humans out that day but, as the trail crossed the highway at Bayhead, a big dog came
racing towards them. He was a beige and brown collie dog, but he did not look friendly. He
stood, growled and bared his teeth. Willie shook, terrified in his tracks. Hamish stood up
tall, fixed the dog with his eye, and sent that horrible silver gleam that haggai can send
so well. That ray of silver haggis light can blind a person or animal, if they look
directly into it for long.
The collie yelped, then cried and buried its head in its paws. Hamish and Willie stood by,
to see if the dog would be OK. Finally, it raised its head and shook it. When it saw
Hamish standing there, it cowered and slunk away whimpering. "That's how it's
done!" Hamish reassured Willie, who was still pale from shock.
Hamish chuckled when he told Willie that the silver gleam of the haggai gave rise to the
phrase humans often use: "spear him with a look"!
They had another rest and snooze at Malagash Station. Before they resumed their westward
trek, Hamish told Willie a story he had heard from the haggai in the Canadian Rockies.
Some of the western haggai had hitched a ride in the back of a pickup truck one winter
night. They were going through a mountain pass, when they noticed the driver keeping pace
with a freight train on the tracks that ran parallel to the road. The locomotive had three
bright headlights, which shone on the white ground and mountains, making all sparkle with
a Christmas sheen. Suddenly, the train engineer began to blow his whistle.
The haggai wondered. There was no crossing ahead, and nothing was on the tracks. Then they
gasped in wonder. The engineer was tooting out the tune, Jingle Bells, as they travelled
together through the pass.
They were soon on their way again. Willie wanted to go in to the Malagash Salt Mines, but
there was no time now. They had ceased operation several years ago, after the salt mine in
Pugwash opened. Willie begged to see the salt mines in Pugwash. Hamish gave that very
annoying reply, "We'll see." With a sigh, Willie realized he'd just have to wait
his luck and hopped along beside his older friend.
It was after 4 in the afternoon when they reached the outskirts of Wallace. Travel was
hazardous now, as many humans were out in the village. Hamish and Willie snuck into the
rushes, and moved only when no one was in sight. Finally, after a couple daring dashes
which brought Willie's heart to his throat, they reached the lighthouse safely.
Alastair and Maggie Haggis were waiting for them, and flung open their door to bring them
inside. They quickly had Hamish and Willie settled in comfy chairs in their living area,
with mugs of hot heather cider in their hands. "How was your trip?" asked
"We made good time," replied Hamish and told Alastair about the dog. Alastair
chuckled. And so they relaxed together, chatting, while Maggie and their daughter Elspeth
prepared supper in the kitchen. It's good to be safe inside a haggis home again, thought