I recently read the book, The Ocean at My Door. During his lifetime, the author, Ron Pollett (1900-55), was voted by the readers of the now-defunct Atlantic Guardian as “Newfoundland’s favourite storyteller.” And with good reason.
I laughed aloud as I read his story, “The Tongue That Never Told a Lie.” It’s a classic rabbit incident from his childhood. A portion of it bears repeating here, for reasons which shall become apparent later.
“I had the head, my favourite part, on the plate in front of me,” Pollett recalls. “I probed for tid-bits, then cracked open the crown, leaving the tongue till the very last. Finally I hooked it out and held it up on the fork.
” ‘Some tongue, hey, Uncle Bill?’ I said. ‘Some tongue. Almost half the size of a caplin!’ ”
In a former life, when I pastored in rural Newfoundland, parishioners frequently invited us out for meals.
One day, my wife received a phone call. “Does Pastor Janes like rabbit soup?” a senior lady asked.
“He loves it,” Sherry answered. But she didn’t add that she greatly disliked rabbit. In fact, she didn’t even like the thought of rabbit. I often asked her why. “Because rabbits remind me of cats.” I restrained from asking her, “And when did you last eat a cat?”
The night of our rabbit soup supper finally arrived. I was looking forward to it, fondly remembering eating rabbit as a boy.
At the house, the couple and their young granddaughter sat at the table. Sherry and I were there with our two-year-old daughter, Krista. After grace was said, I dug into the bowl the lady had set before me. The rabbit portions were large and scattered generously through the mixture. I was more than ready to enjoy my ambrosial delight.
Sherry, on the other hand, picked up a spoon and absently stirred her soup. I knew she was battling the thought of cat parts swirling around in her bowl. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her sip the occasional spoonful of broth. She fed some of her soup to Krista. Then, when Sherry thought nobody was watching, she hoisted a lump of rabbit from her bowl and plopped it into mine.
By now, my first bowl of soup was only a memory.
Our hostess asked, “Pastor Janes, would you like another bowl? There’s lots left.”
“Yes, I sure would. Thanks.” Within moments, a second bowl of steaming pottage had been set before me.
Suddenly, the granddaughter spoke up. “Look, Nan,” she exclaimed. “I got d’head.”
Oh, no, I thought. This is going to be tough on Sherry.
Nan said, “That’s nice, dear.”
The girl began playing with the rabbit crown staring up from her bowl.
“Look, Nan,” she continued excitedly, lifting an object for all to see. “D’tongue.” She popped it in her mouth.
I turned and looked at Sherry; by now, her face had blanched.
The girl dug deeper. “Look, Pop, d’brain,” she said, as she crushed the crown between her fingers.
Sherry kept her eyes averted, for she knew what the girl was about to do. In a flash, the savory morsel disappeared into her mouth. Sherry was aghast.
The hostess, noticing that Sherry wasn’t eating, asked, “Mrs. Janes, more soup?”
“No, thanks,” Sherry said. “I’m full.”
Truer words had never been spoken.