It's all about a stallikin.

Yours truly with Jigger last summer

This rare and endangered breed will find hope in the promise of the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary Inc.

The votes are in, the judges have made their decision and the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary has been awarded the grand sum of ninety thousand dollars in the Aviva Community Fund Competition!

I have spent quite a number of times in the past few days talking to people and a question that arises frequently is why I personally took on this cause.  I’ve answered that this province was built on volunteerism and community spirit and I’m just one of many.  That I like to elevate people and that it’s not about me, it’s about everybody doing what they can.  I am someone that prefers to dwell on all of the contributions of others—too many to mention—but I thought I would give it a bit of an explanation as to my own personal motivation since it’s been asked so much.   Perhaps it seems rather insane to some to spend hours and hours devoted to something you don’t get paid for or really get credit for just because it’s there to be done.  It’s not unusual, I see people giving of their time more here in Newfoundland than anywhere but here is my own personal motivation.

You see, for me,  it’s all about stallikins.  Now you all know what a stallikin is right? I am unsure of the spelling but phonetically that is how you spell the word.  Basically a stallikin is a scrawny crooked stick, a tree with branches missing that isn’t particularly attractive but entirely functional and serves a lot of purposes particularly in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

This month—January 9 to be exact—held the sixteenth anniversary of my father’s( Harold Parsons) passing.  It is a difficult day and it tends to make me melancholy and introspective.  In order to cope I went back to the memories of the rest of my family and their support during that time.  I believe that all you leave behind are your stories and it through their anecdotes that I got to know my father as the man he was even before he was my dad. 

And of all the stories told about him at that time I recall one in particular.  It was told by my Uncle Bruce and it was about how, when he was a young boy, my father bought him a hockey stick.  Yes, it was a real honest to goodness hockey stick.  This was a big deal back then and from what I recall, a surprise gift on no particular occasion. Times were difficult, money was hard to come by and yet, my father got him a hockey stick that, of course, became his pride and  joy.  I do think though, that the memory of that gift might be more of a treasure than the hockey stick. 

In any event, at the time I asked my Uncle Bruce “Why do you think he did that?” and he replied, “I guess he got tired of watching me play with a stallikin.” 

The humour was wonderful but even more so was that it solidified in my mind one of the key character traits of the man my father was.  He was the type of man who, if he saw a need, without a thought, provided a solution if he could.  I think it’s a common trait in Newfoundlanders but my father had an abundance of it and I grew up watching that but even more so, upon his passing it was impressed upon me that this very characteristic was the most valuable of all his good ways.  Yes he was patient and kind and had a great sense of humour.  He was understanding and listened well and is still the most intelligent man I’ve ever known but all of those attributes would have meant much less if he had simply sat in a chair and done nothing with them.  

I grew up watching him join committees and go to meetings and writing letters on behalf of others to this authority and that.  He was well read, educated, possessed an ability to comprehend big picture issues and bring them down to the basics.  He was not a sideline type of person. Neither am I.

What does that have to do with the ponies and the Aviva Community Fund competition?  Everything.   I came home to Newfoundland write books, fiction of all things.  I’m a poet really so perhaps I should just be sitting in a corner making up rhymes.   But all my life, my father, who didn’t once engage in any sort of traditional discipline, has been looking over my shoulder.  In all things I look and think if it’s something he would do or approve of.  I always get a yes when it comes to helping others. 

 I come back to this province and I see Netta LeDrew and her ponies. She gives her entire life happily to them and their needs are great.   She does it so well, her love of them is the biggest love you ever saw. Her devotion is beyond measure and her gift to the province of trying to preserve this heritage treasure is worthy of great reward.  She uses her gifts and talents to the fullest, a trait that I have deepest respect for.

We all are meant to use the talents we have to the fullest.  I happen to have a knack for writing.  I also have, as some might call it, the gift of gab.  While this may not be appreciated by all, it’s served me well  and it’s served others well, because  I’ve chosen to take an active part in making my voice heard to the betterment of the lives of others particularly towards those things that benefit the community and the people I love the most, Change Islands. 

I am incapable of halfway measures. I’m in or I’m out and if I’m in I will not stop.  I will lose sleep, forget to eat, and do whatever it takes to reach the goal.  You all saw that. Many of you stayed up nights with me.  I don’t care if people don’t like what I’m doing, if it’s a good thing, good people will want to be part of it. The rest are kind of irrelevant.   There will always be the dissenters, the negative people, those who minimize and who criticize and that’s fine. They write their story, I write mine. 

The best part of anything is the people.   I love people.  I love finding out their particular abilities and seeing them utilize them fully and I see resourcefulness and a skill set among the people of the islands that stands out.  This tiny town of just around two hundred with talents takes me aback and makes me wish I was more like them.  I can’t sew beautiful quilts, I can’t knit, I can’t crochet, I can’t carve beautiful wooden art but what I can do is write and what I can do is participate.  I see Netta LeDrew playing with a stallikin and  I see Jessica  Porter at just sixteen trying to help her and it’s inspiring.  I think of all the people I know who want to be a part of a good thing and I figure they could all chip in a bit.  So I asked people to help and they asked people to help and we were all a part of a wave of good things that culminated in the grand prize of ninety thousand dollars towards a facility that will make Netta’s work easier, make the ponies lives better, impact our community and give others the opportunity to know about the treasure that is Change Islands.

Netta could have sat out the game but instead she picked up a stallikin and started playing. She plays harder than anyone I’ve ever known.   Least a person could do was get her a hockey stick.