Miramichi Men Are the Tough Ones

Posted on December 21, 2007
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            TV coverage of airport havoc during a snowstorm early this week seemed to feature mostly Atlantic Provinces people trying to get home at Christmas. That’s logical given the number of them fanned out all over the world to earn a living.

            There will be more after UPM Kymmene’s announcement this week. The fine paper mill and groundwood pulp mill, like the kraft mill before them, will be decommissioned permanently. Several hundred men will lose their company jobs and untold numbers of truckers, woods contractors, woodlot owners, and all their suppliers and support systems will feel the effects.

            David Adams Richards had a fine and touching article in the “Globe and Mail” this week. He pointed out that skilled Miramichiers always have been going away for work.

            It occurred to me that most Miramichiers arrived here because they had to leave their native lands elsewhere. Scottish, French, Irish, Lebanese and others came here to escape troubles elsewhere over the past 400 years.

            During the last oil boom in the west, I sometimes heard Albertans talking about how Maritimers needed to develop more drive and self-reliance to escape their welfare mentality. Prime Minister Harper bought into that idea, I think.

            Anyway, whenever that happened, I would thank them for the advice and tell them I would go home and pass it on. I asked them to confirm that, if we did show some drive and self-reliance, there would be oil under the ground here too. They would never do that.

            Then I’d ask them how deep the holes were they drilled to plant the explosives for seismic testing. When they said they didn’t know or made up a vague answer, I would tell them they are 60 feet deep. Then I’d ask them why they supposed it was that a Maritimer knew that and they didn’t.

            “Could it be,” I would ask, “that it is because it is Maritimers dragging those coils of wire over the frozen muskeg every winter and drilling those holes?”

            Miramichiers and Maritimers and Newfoundlanders have done a lot of the heavy lifting for every economic success west of here. Many of the most successful companies on the continent were built and led by Maritimers.

            As the folk song goes, “Miramichi men are the tough ones.”

            There is another reason why it is possible to get the Miramichi down but impossible to keep it down.

            A local, self-employed man, Stacey Allison, was recently diagnosed with a cancer. The famous Dr. Ruben says he can drive it into remission with an aggressive program. It will come back in a few years and have to be driven back again.

            Last week a friend asked to borrow Stacey’s truck. He had to go to Saint John to pick up some stuff he had bought there. He needed the truck for the weekend.

            Come Sunday night, it turned out Stacey’s friend had lied through his teeth. He hadn’t gone to Saint John at all. Instead he had put the truck in a workshop across the street from Stacey’s own home.

            There a gang of friends and neighbours had worked all weekend to do a complete makeover on the truck. They had done extensive body work and a paint job. They had even installed a remote starter so Stacey doesn’t have to get into a cold truck when he goes for treatments.

            On Sunday evening, Stacey’s friend told him he had dropped it off at the neighbour’s to wash it after the weekend trip to the US. They went over to get it and, when the door opened, there was the refurbished truck with a large “Merry Christmas” on it.

            So, yeah, the Miramichi is facing up to another setback this Christmas as Stacey Allison is facing up to a personal challenge.

            I don’t know about you but I’m going to continue to bet on the Miramichi to tough it out and fight its way back.

            Oh, and it isn’t just the men. On Friday we were holding our breath waiting for our youngest, Aaran to get home from Grande Prairie where she and half her friends from high school are part of the army of Maritimers driving the current energy boom. Miramichi women are out and about too.

            May you and yours have your family home and healthy this Christmas.

            What more could I wish for you?

            Merry Christmas!




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