Walter is Murphy’s  Mentor

The Light, circa  2005








Murphy and I went out for a walk this morning . We arrived back in South Carolina last night. My dog is no fool, he is already aware that the rules have changed, Murphy has travelled south before, he understands that all walks can only happened if he is on the lead. We are both aware that we can’t go walking without the special bag to clean up Murphy’s strategically placed deposits.

We both realize that all plants and flowers must be avoided when one’s leg is in the Go position. If wet messages have to be left, leave them on the posts provided. How does Murphy know all these strict rules, Walter told him last year. Walter is the resident Basset Hound who coaches visiting dogs on the Dos and Don’t of life in this gated community. Murphy deals with these changes while on vacation but not everything is to his satisfaction. As a Springer Spaniel, Murphy has little patience with doggies that have ribbons in their hair and names like Soap Opera stars. Murphy deals with these differences like he does with most changes on the road , he’s cool.

Perhaps I should learn from his ability to go with the flow, so to speak.

While we have a lot in common with our American neighbours to the south, they are still very different from us in many ways. Spending two months in someone’s country is not the same as going for a visit to Cape Breton or Oshawa. My first memory of travelling over the border was to visit relatives in  Boston. Like most Nova Scotians I too had an Aunt that settled in Boston after the war. Employment opportunities were plentiful back then and immigration hassles or border delays were nonexistent.

Nothing was more exciting than two weeks in Boston when your are eight. Even then I knew that I was visiting a foreign country. My American cousins spoke with a strange accent. They went to more movies, sometimes twice in one day. The ultimate highlight was that they could take me to Fenway Park to watch the Red Socks. American kids back then had more colourful clothes and they ate pizza and pasta.

But our differences, be what they were, had to be more complex than going to the movies and access to Pizza in 1955.

Early on I knew that in general my Americans family and friends went to church, prayed and read the Bible a lot more than my family. In the 60s when my male cousins were going off to Viet Nam, I prayed for their safe return and gave thanks that as a Maritimer I wasn’t involved. I guess you could say that in this case I was grateful for our differences.

Now that I spend 20% of my year south of the border , I am coming to grips with the differences between our two nations on a daily basis. I am not complaining, for the most part these differences are of no major concern. To be on the safe side I never discuss religion or politics when travelling out of Nova Scotia. I always form a cue on command and religiously open doors for anyone. If that wasn’t enough Canadian content I encourage cars to go in front of me in traffic jams.

If you asked anyone on the streets of Tatamagouche most would say “ Oh were all the same aren’t we”? On the surface Canadians and Americans still dress alike, talk alike, like the same books, television shows and movies. Unfortunately we Canadians have had some recent disagreements over soft wood lumber, other trade issues, drugs and the war in Iraq.

The fact that we refused to send troops, has made our relationship with our American friends more contentious and at times difficult. To some extent this has caused us to be more outspoken about the things that divide us. National pride or patriotism is all well and good but being a more tolerant people must be a better national trait.

Sadly despite all of mutual approaches to life in general, I believe that the cultural gulf between our two countries is widening.

In the 70’s we were lead to believe that Canada would be absorbed by the United States, and in the 80’s it looked like it actually was happening. Then came the latter part of the 90’s and it was like the rules of engagement changed and all bets were off.

On the whole I am completely at ease living two months a year in South Carolina. The people are gracious, kind and for the most part just like us. My hope is that we can continue to respect each other’s differences and be a good example of citizenship to each other. Thankfully we have excellent examples on how this can work, Murphy and Walter have their act together.

Edward C Sampson

Quietly Retired on Waugh’s River

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