Not long ago, a group of people dropped in on a neighbour to give him a helping hand.
Of course, this sort of gesture happens all the time in Nova Scotia, where people care about each other and friends look after friends.
This group of people was special, though, and so was the neighbour who needed their help.
Many in the North Queens and South Annapolis communities know Charlie Hearn of Westfield, near Caledonia. He grew up in Princedale, Annapolis County; and his mother still lives in the family home at the age of 90. Charlie is as close to a being a legend as there is in our neck of the woods. “Eclectic” hardly describes a man who is not just a woodsman, a craftsman, an artist, a musician, or a philosopher--but is all of these things.
Charlie and his wife, Heather, live in Westfield, in a house that was originally a shingle mill and then a store; he and Heather had the building moved from Westfield “corner”, renovated and added to it. Most recently Charlie worked as Backcountry Maintenance Supervisor at Kejimkujik National Park, so there isn’t much about woods lore and the myriad lakes, rivers and trails that make up the park that he doesn’t know. But besides that, if you were to drop in to the Keji Visitor Information Centre, you would see on display a number of gleaming paddles handcrafted by Charlie Hearn. If you visited the Rossignol Cultural Centre in Liverpool, you’d see handcrafted baskets (complete with hand-tooled leather fittings), “crooked knives”, and more paddles--some carved from rock maple--also all created by Charlie.
If you were to visit his workshop in Westfield, you would see not just these projects in progress, but also a collection of accordions (all Hohners), handcrafted wooden sticks and spoons, harmonicas and even a Celtic drum, or bodhran. If you were lucky enough to be there with Charlie himself, you’d hear him play them all.
And if you lived in North Queens, you’d know that Charlie Hearn is a man who has always found the time to help out a friend when that friend needed help.
Over the past year or two, Charlie has faced some health issues that continue to prevent him from being able to do all that he’d like, particularly things that require greater strength and endurance. That is why a group of his friends, many of whom are employees of Kejimkujik National Park, got together recently to put in Charlie’s wood.
This was no ordinary group and no ordinary job. A lot of the wood was still growing in Charlie’s hillside woodlot. Charlie’s good friends, Peter Frank of Pleasant River and Carl Canning of Caledonia, rounded up a group of 24 people who in one day would fell the trees, trim the limbs, “junk” the logs, and split and pile the firewood. Peter provided the tractor, Allan Ford of Maitland Bridge brought the splitter, Keji supplied some of the chainsaws, and everyone else brought muscle power! Sandy Ford (Allan’s wife) provided a meal for everyone, and Rick Brunt of Keji kept the coffee brewing. Another friend, Murray Frank, delivered two tractor-trailer loads of tree-length logs to be processed.
Because this all took place on a Thursday, many of the Park employees took a day’s vacation to complete this neighbourly project. Others, like Peter Bowers (the son of the late Norm and Thelma Bowers) and Peter Hope of South Brookfield, gave their time.
Throughout the day, Charlie helped with what he could, and kept the music playing. By day’s end, there were two mountains--twelve cords--of cut, split firewood in Charlie’s yard. The crew--some of whom Charlie had met that day for the first time--were tired, but satisfied. It was a good day’s work for a friend who had, over the years, done much for many of them.
As for Charlie, every time he sees those piles of firewood he thinks of the good friends he has, and realizes that saying “thank you” is not enough. He’s retired now, and has more time to create his paddles and baskets and musical spoons. His workshop is a busy place--a place for friends to drop in, share some stories, play some music and watch an artist at work.
That day at Charlie’s was special for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it represented a celebration of what community is all about--people looking out for people; people working together for the love of their community, their families and their friends.
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