COUNTRY BOY MUSINGS A GREAT READ (July 12/02)

If you appreciate witticisms and what the Celts call wry humour, you’ll enjoy this book.

On the other hand, if you enjoy reading about the early days of a few generations ago, about the pains of growing up in the period just before the second world war, then you’ll also enjoy this book.

Or maybe you’re just country, and like reading about country and how country people lived before television, modern roads and fast foods arrived. If so, then you’ll also enjoy, even cherish Scott Sheffield’s book.

In Musing of a Country Boy, Sheffield looks at growing up in Advocate, Cumberland County, in the 30s, the “dirty 30s” of the depression era when, as the author put it, “a dismal economic pall (was) hanging over everyone in our community.” Sheffield’s book was launched recently at the Kings County Museum; it was praised at the launching for its humour and earthy stories by several speakers, but the heart of the book is its realistic look at a way of life that exists now only in the memories of senior citizens.

However, the humour was fine and Scott Sheffield has a knack for telling a good story. To repeat myself, the book’s best feature is the authors’ sketches of life as it was in an isolated rural area of Nova Scotia. I enjoyed the humour, but Sheffield’s recapturing of life in hard times is what makes the book. Writing of his boyhood and his boyhood friends, for example, Sheffield says, “we were, to say the least, a ragtag group of country children burdened somewhat by our parent’s economic worries. It was 1933 with a dismal economic pall hanging over everyone in the community.”

In another part of his work Sheffield writes that “we groped and grubbed our way through the great depression of the 1930s. I expect it has marked us for life; having experienced the worries, frustrations and anxieties of our parents. I clearly remember on one occasion my mother didn’t have the three cents she needed for postage. She was upset, crying and embarrassed.”

Life in the 30s wasn’t all gloom and doom, however. Sheffield tells us of the happy times spent fishing and learning skills that in the computer age seem arcane and ancient. Such as cattle hunting, cattle herding, milking, gathering firewood, which today Sheffield says are “requirements of only a very few.

You’ll find that Sheffield’s nostalgic, sometimes witty and always realistic look at rural life in Advocate in the 1930s makes his book good reading. The title is a bit of a misnomer, however. A country boy Scott Sheffield isn’t. An Acadia graduate with a B.A. and Masters degree, Sheffield spent some 35 years as a teacher, administrator, school inspector, director of special studies and projects and director of inspection services with the Department of Education.

As I mentioned, Sheffield excels as a storyteller and has a wry sense of humour. Which is perhaps best illustrated by one of the stories he tells in his book. When he was in Advocate a few years ago a visitor asked him where he was born. “I pointed to the Sheffield house and said, ‘in that house.’ I was perplexed by his next question. ‘Why?’ I hardly knew how to answer, so I merely said I wanted to be near my mother.”

Sheffield’s book is available through the Kings County Museum.

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