- The cook pulled out of the fire the largest cast-iron skillet I think I had ever seen, a two-hander skillet and those two hands had best be strong. He flipped that skillet over a Indian made basket, and out fell a pile of biscuits, gold-brown on the tops, straw-white on the bottoms. LeBlanc reached over and grabbed the basket, winking at the cook, as he did. He tossed three biscuits on Granddad's plate, three, no four on is own, before passing the basket on to Red and me. I took two, one for me and one for Blue-Eyes, Red took his share before a guy in a grey wool shirt reached over my shoulder and hauled off the rest.
The voice behind me was so low it almost rattled, "Red, did ya get yourself enough?" Red gave a wave. "How bout the boy?" Red nodded and as he did, I leaned back to see towering over me the biggest man I had ever seen - even bigger than LeBlanc. His long hair, tied back in a pony tail and his well-trimmed beard was of that salt-and-pepper color, a little white, a little black, a little grey. He then peered down at me as I looked up, "Hey, little man, what did ya mama call you?"
I didn't answer. I suppose I was a bit intimidated by the sheer size of the man and weight of his bellow ... but most of all it was his penetrating steel-blue eyes, a color of eyes I was sure I had never seen before, yet somehow looked familiar. Lord, those eyes looked like ... I kept thinking ... Lord, those eyes looked like ... I couldn't think of it, then.
He laid the weight of his hand on my shoulder, gave a rumble of a laugh and said, "Well, my mama called me Salvador and I didn't care much for that name either."
As he lifted his hand, Red gave me a clue, "Padre, he goes by Sandy." With a slap on my back, he confirmed Red's words, "Well, Sandy it is."
After he walked away and after taking a glance to be sure that he was out of earshot, I whispered to Red a one word question, "Padre?"
"Oh, yes, young Sandy. Believe it or not, that big, old oak of man was a Franciscan friar when he was young, a Greyfriar. He left one night and headed north to cut big timber. He's been here ... well, he's been here since before I ever got here."
I thought, "Strange that he would call the padre, an old oak of a man." For the first time in a long time, my thoughts raced back to the other side of the Chateauguay, that land I left so long ago.
I was in my thoughts for a time until my Grandfather's voice jerked me back into this lumberjacks' world, "Leblanc, Red, do you have any news about the Northern Wars?"
They bowed their heads for a moment then checked silently with each other. It was Red who began. "The Northern Wars have grown cold in recent months. Some say they have all gone home, that they have all gone home defeated."
Leblanc jumped in, "Well, God knows that most of them did not go home at all. They now sleep beneath the frozen snow. And for what? Over an inherited hatred not born by anyone now alive!"
Grandad slid his hand over and placed it over mine. His face looked like sadness, his hand felt like hope.