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Copyright (C) 1997; Janet MacKay First UK Serial Rights
Tales of Hamish Iain Iye Haggis, Q.C.
(Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
by Janet MacKay

Chapter 5 - Travel to Pugwash with Willie Haggis

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 teen-age haggis, if he could get the best of schooling.

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 andwiches, and drank heather ale. Willie was curious about the trains that chugged along the rails in earlier days.

"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 Canada.

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 rovince 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 there.

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 Alastair.

"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 Willie

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