In 1929 Elliott Merrick left his advertising job in New Jersey and moved to Labrador, one of Canada’s most remote regions. In September 1930 he and his wife, Kay, joined the menfolk from North West River, a Labrador village, up the rivers “into the country” to the furring grounds hundreds of miles away. They set off by canoe and returned by snowshoe down the frozen rivers and lakes in January. Both were inexperienced canoeists but the good natured trappers, a hybrid of Montagnais, Iroquois, Inuit, Scots and English found in these parts, humoured them. After days upon end of backbreaking work poling and tracking heavily laden canoes up river through rapid after rapid, portage after portage, Merrick and his wife are almost regarded as equals.
At regular intervals, the company stop for a boil up on the river bank. Tales are told and pipes smoked.
“All the hills are covered with blueberries and redberries. The famous berry banks are just above the Mininipi and when we went ashore to boil we picked nearly a quart. Tall yarns are a never-ending source of joy over the tin teacups. Arch demurely assured us this morning as we sat around the fire that when he lived down at Davis Inlet the berries were so thick that you couldn’t step out of the house without rubber boots on or you’d get your feet soaked with jam, and that after a big breeze of wind in the fall when the berries were overripe, the brooks on the hillsides would rise a foot with juice.”