Archive | 5:59 am

The Dam

5 Nov

I used to play on a dam.

Dad worked for Ontario Hydro and when I was in grade 2, we moved to Fraserdale. It was an isolated community. Before there was a Polar Express,  we had the Polar Bear Express that ran through our railroad station on its way to Moosonee. We were the last town before you got here.

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Ours was a hydroelectric dam, tapping the power of the Little Abitibi River. As youngsters we ran all over town and into the woods. There was an old boat docked on the dam and we played on it, using our imaginations to fuel our play. Near it was a plaque, on which was written Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Sons of Martha”, in celebration of the care and dedication of workers–engineers, mechanics, and builders–to provide for the safety and comfort of others.

I got all sentimental about these halcyon days of my youth after reading David Almond’s new picture book The Dam.

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A father and daughter go out with a fiddle to sing in the abandoned buildings soon to be covered with water. The language is beautifully poetic and the illustrations, by Levi Pinfold, are exquisite.

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Publisher’s Summary: Kielder Water is a wild and beautiful place, rich in folk music and legend. Years ago, before a great dam was built to fill the valley with water, there were farms and homesteads in that valley and musicians who livened their rooms with song. After the village was abandoned and before the waters rushed in, a father and daughter returned there. The girl began to play her fiddle, bringing her tune to one empty house after another — for this was the last time that music would be heard in that place. With exquisite artwork by Levi Pinfold, David Almond’s lyrical narrative — inspired by a true tale — pays homage to his friends Mike and Kathryn Tickell and all the musicians of Northumberland, to show that music is ancient and unstoppable, and that dams and lakes cannot overwhelm it.

Although the dam is still there, the town where I lived is gone. They moved everyone out  and tore down the houses. Workers now commute in and, as I understand it, stay in a bunkhouse. It is sad to think this town of my youth no longer exists.

Despite the initial sepia tones of The Dam, the book ends more happily than my own tale. Although the residents of the Northumberland community no longer live in their homes, the area has been reclaimed by nature and the people still come.

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