campfire tales Nanook's Campfire Tales

It sounded like Pete and I were going to paddle a jungle river, although in truth it was deep in the woods somewhere near St. Quentin.

It was early spring, and we were on a northern river. Monsieur Ouellette drove us in. Nice man, an older gent who had traipsed the woods up there all his life. But well, most everyone was older then.

But I digress. I remember we stopped for coffee and some trip treats on the way, and he greeted the waitress with a jovial "La mouche est sortie." That's seasonal chitchat up there, it means "The bugs are out." But it meant much more, the way he said it ... and the way she smiled in agreement.

M. Ouellette also talked about the Ballmagillion, which I figured out soon enough was a certain tree. He promised we would see it all newly leafed out, near the mouths of brooks feeding into the river. I had no idea which tree it was, this was way back when I first went so far up north.

It got to be a catch-word during the trip, a phrase which would bespeak a wide variety of emotions. We knew what it meant each time, of course.

ballmagillion (8K)   "Ballmagillion!"

I get this vision sometimes when I paddle round a bend and see a familiar look downriver. The breeze is setting the green and white leaves to blow and tumble in the tree beside the brook. The locals call the tree Balm o'Gilead.

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