My Car is in the Ditch in Chebogue River

So after my visit to the Yarmouth County Museum I said goodbye to this fishing town on the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia and set off on my trip along the Lighthouse Trail. It was an overcast and drizzly early afternoon when I began my trip along the curvy roads heading east from Yarmouth. A flat landscape with marshy areas and occasional rocks and forest was stretched out in front of me. The odd farm house or small village brightened up the drive.

Barely out of town I saw a unique scene that would tickle every hobby photographer: a meandering river with a few small dark islands stretched out like a huge animal’s paw prints. A ray of light was shining down from ominous looking clouds. Naturally I had to take a picture….

So I decided to park my car on the side of the road where there was a patch of mowed grass and a patch of higher grass. I just wanted to get my vehicle out of the path of the traffic that was moving pretty fast on this cross-country road. What I did manage to do was not only to move my car out of the traffic flow, I also succeeded in putting my vehicle in the ditch!

The stretch of higher grass was not simply a continuation of the mowed section, it was actually a two foot deep ditch!! So here I was, with my vehicle at a 30 degree angle with two wheels in the ditch and definitely no way to get out. Believe me, I tried, but the wheels just kept spinning through.

Just as I was spinning my wheels and reflecting on my stupidity, two vehicles approached my location, one coming from the west and one coming from the east. Literally seconds after I had gotten myself into this predicament both these vehicles stopped, and their drivers came up to me to help.

My three good Samaritans, from left to right: Randy and Don Cook, Sandy McCall

I felt very embarrassed for having put myself into this ditch and apologized profusely. I explained that I was just trying to park the vehicle to snap a picture of the interesting landscape that was stretching out before us. The gentlemen laughed and introduced themselves: Don Cook and Sandy McCall were driving a delivery van for Cook’s Dairy Farm while the man from the pickup truck turned out to be Randy Cook, Don’s cousin. Well, I always like to make connections with the locals and meet the people behind the destinations, and I always try to understand what makes up the collective psyche of an area. My rather unfortunate predicament could not have given me a better opportunity to meet some of the locals and to get some real insights into their way of thinking.

Don, Randy and Sandy first tried to lift the vehicle, but my Chrysler Sebring rental vehicle was way too heavy to even budge. So they all got down on their knees to have a look at my vehicle and concluded that the first course of action should be to bring in Uncle Hugh, who actually owned the property that I got myself stuck on. He was also the owner of a tractor, a powerful vehicle that might actually be able to get me out of the ditch. So Don walked over to the nearby farmhouse and I saw an older gentleman come out. They talked for a bit, and Hugh Grimshaw went to the garage and fired up the old tractor.

Uncle Hugh comes over with the tractor

Uncle Hugh tuckered over on his tractor, parked in front of my vehicle and also evaluated the situation. Upon some deliberation he said that if he tried to pull me out of the ditch, he might actually damage the underbody or the muffler of the vehicle and concluded that this was a case for a professional tow truck driver. At the same time all the gentlemen reassured me that it is a relatively frequent occurrence for people to go off the road right at this point. Apparently various other people before me had mistaken the high patch of grass for a safe place to park.

So after accepting my very embarrassed thanks Uncle Hugh and Randy left while Don and Sandy packed me into their delivery van to take me to Cook’s Dairy Farm from where Don would call a tow truck. Sandy got into the back of the van and kindly offered me the front seat, and Don drove us three minutes up the road to his family’s business: Cook’s Dairy Farm.

This puppy won’t budge – professional help is needed

We went upstairs into the office and Don offered me a coffee. I took a glass of milk instead, indeed milk that was pasteurized and packaged right here on site at Cook’s Dairy. While we were waiting for the tow truck to come, Don showed me around a bit and took me to a wall in his office that held several old family pictures. He explained that his great-grandfather, Francis Cook, was a sea captain and a descendent of the Mayflower. Don’s grandfather Stephen Cook had gone into farming and started the family’s cattle farm. A number of years ago fire destroyed the barn, fortunately the animals were outside at the time, but the family made the decision to get out of the farming business. Today it is the third generation of the Cook family that runs this dairy operation.

Don also told me that as a young boy, he spend a lot of time on the very river that I was trying to take a picture of. He went fishing with his grandfather who had a very poignant saying: “There are only two kinds of people: those that live in Chebogue River, and those that want to live there.” A simple way to sum up his sense of local pride.

Don runs a local dairy – Cook’s Dairy. I had a chance to try his products.

A few minutes later it was time to go to meet the tow truck driver. A local gentleman by the name of Ken Gillieo arrived just minutes after Don and I had gone to my car, and hooked up a cable to the underside of my vehicle. He started his tow truck and within a minute or two he had pulled my car out of the ditch with not a scratch on the vehicle. My ordeal – and it had not really been an ordeal at all – was finished in less than an hour from when I went into the ditch. I was ready to roll again.

I profusely thanked Don Cook for his generous assistance and drove off on my explorations along the Lighthouse Trail reflecting on the lessons that I had learned: first, never park your car anywhere unless you know what kind of surface you are on. Secondly, the often talked about friendliness and helpfulness of Maritimers is not just based on rumour – I experienced first hand the generous instant help extended by the locals to a complete stranger. I also learned about the deep sense of rootedness, tradition and family that characterizes this area, and the pride of place that people feel in this region. I also detected a preference for a simple contented life, so different from our harried urban lifestyles and our constant futile quest for happiness.

This is the landscape I wanted to take a picture of.

I drove off on my journey with a warm positive feeling about my encounter and a real sense of gratitude for the instant selfless help that these people had extended to me – a memory that will stay with me for a long time.

Sometimes a road trip can teach some very meaningful lessons…

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