We sailed away at the break of day to pull traps in oilskin trousers
Last summer, you may remember seeing the news article about the bridge in Northport, Nova Scotia that was named in honor of Larry Brander. Larry was a fixture of the community. A life-long resident, Larry was always interested in the people who he lived alongside. Larry was always there to lend a hand or drop by to visit. Seldom did he go away without a few dollars in his pocket or a satisfied sweet tooth. Most of my memories of Larry involved the Northport wharf back in the late 80’s, early 90’s. My father bought lobsters from several of the fishermen, many Larry’s brothers. So needless to say Larry was there to see how things were going, lending a hand filling bait bags for fishermen or going out to help sort and band lobsters. Sometimes, he would help out with the weighing of the lobsters and loading of ice onto boats. A hard worker until the clock struck noon or 5 PM. Larry was always interested in whatever was in your lunchbox or on the supper table. Nothing ever went home or in the garbage. A man with a firm sense of priorities. Larry liked to help out in many, many ways. Until it was time to eat.
Larry loved people. Often you would be greeted with a friendly handshake. The ladies usually received one of his warm hugs. As gentle and as friendly as Larry was he was also an avid wrestling fan who liked to challenge you when there was a lull between unloading boats. If you were lucky it would be an arm wrestling match on the crates. If not, the elevated platform for weighing lobsters became a squared circle and the match was on. More than once I was the victim of one of his sleeper holds. Often inspired by Atlantic Grand Prix wrestling's Killer Karl Krupp, Larry would have you in the claw hold and crying "uncle". It was always in good fun.
You can’t fish lobsters without bait. So sometimes I would go on a bait run with Steve Russell, who worked for my father at the time. If you happened to be passing through Northport and Larry was around, you better stop and take him along on a trip, or you would be on the receiving end of one of those claws. Now a couple of things that you need to know about Larry that two of his absolute favorite things were the Toronto Maple Leafs and Stompin’ Tom Connors. More than one trip to New Brunswick involved Stompin' Tom on heavy rotation in the tape deck. Yes, tape deck. It was 25 years or so ago you have to remember. If you were lucky, Larry would grab 2 or 3 Stompin' Tom tapes. If not, it was the same single tape over and over again. The only break from the marathon was the stop at the fish plant and at Fred's in Cap Pele for a hot hamburger sandwich, washed down with diet pop. Dessert was usually another serving of Stompin' Tom. Understandably, it would be many years before I listened to his music again.
This is how I remember Larry. Stompin' Tom always makes me think of him. And he makes me think of Northport. Larry has been gone for years. Many of the fishermen from that time are gone too. So other than memories there really isn’t much left for me to hang onto. Visiting the wharf just isn’t the same. The day that they officially renamed the bridge in Larry’s honor I walked down along the wharf with Steve, his son and my parents. It just isn’t the same now.
So last night I received this photo in my inbox. I was absolutely thrilled. Not nearly as thrilled as Larry likely was at the time. I don’t know who took the photo but it is a gem. I wonder if he and Larry sang Gumboot Cloggeroo? When Larry sang that song on the wharf I usually had a front row crate. Look at Larry with his arm around Stompin' Tom, the glass of beer. This is how I want to remember. I am smiling looking at this photo. It sums up my experiences with Larry to a T. Often when I think of Larry it makes me sad that someone with such a huge personality is now gone. If only all of us could live our lives as honestly, compassionately and unabashedly as he did. Now if you excuse me, YouTube is calling. I have one more walk down memory lane. O.K YouTube, take me to the Gumboot Cloggeroo.