4 – The Tracks
First thing you do when you walk the tracks, you ask permission of the crossing guard.
Railway authorities frown on track walkers. They tend to smear moose-catchers with their blood. So, all you track walkers out there, ask permission of the crossing guard.
In our case, the crossing guard had not reported for duty. Since 1914, I believe. Under the law, silence means consent. So we walked the tracks.
These tracks had concrete ties ballasted with very loose and very sharp rocks. It behooved us to tread the ties. We were behooved to take very short steps. We minced along, with one ear hung out behind us.
In mincing good time, in forty-five minutes we arrived at Taradale. Well, we arrived where we believe Taradale used to be. There was no sign, just the name, which hung in the air.
What is a Taradale? We will find out some day, but so far, Google has failed us. There is a nearby lake named Tara (on the map — no sign), and there was a Tara in Ireland. Tara in Ireland was the haunt of Irish kings, with a very large cabin, called in their haunting language, a castle (The “t” is silent).
Now, back in the days when railways were naming stations, there were so many names required that namers became inventive. They used people’s names, and geographical names, and Biblical names, and Aboriginal names, and foreign names . . . When name sources dried up, they even spelled names backwards, which is why Tamarac (a name already used elsewhere) became Caramat.
Tara spelled backwards is Arat, which sounds suspiciously like the Biblical name for the place where Noah’s Ark ran aground. No one has ever found that place again; no one has, lately, found Taradale. Were we about to solve a Biblical mystery? Probably not. At best we might find a decaying birchbark vessel considerably smaller than the Ark.
At last we arrived at Taradale. We knew because there was a sign . . . which said 55. On an ancient map, there was a clue. Taradale was located at Mileage 55. There was a brand new metal sign which said 55. In the weeds, John found an ancient wooden sign, much decayed, which said 55. Putting two and two together, we had 55, the location of Taradale. Bush historians do math like that.
So, we set about methodically scouring the whole location, up and down the tracks, for half a mile. We scoured the bush on both sides of the tracks. When I say “we”, I mean I personally scoured the tracks. I kept an ear hung out for John’s cries if and when ensnared by vines and brambles.
We found scores of historical artifacts. Rusty pails and rusty cans and rusty pots and rusty cans and rusty wires and rusty cans and . . . Okay. For variety, John found a rusty stove, one he had missed forty years ago. It was a beauty, a paragon of engineering.
But. No cabin. No cemetery.
Not this trip.
John will be back. He will talk to more people and accumulate more clues.
We found stuff that bears further investigation. We found a hitherto hidden stream that must’ve been the water source for Charles Dunkley and his family. We found a mysterious well, lined with concrete, that was not a well. We found a beaver-felled poplar that had previously lain across the tracks. Okay, that wasn’t helpful. But someone should question the beaver for this act of sabotage. It could’ve been the cause of another locomotive sinking into the muskeg.
We followed our tracks back to the pickup. It wasn’t hard. They hadn’t moved.