Glad To Be Back
“Got anything sharp on you?” he asked.
“There’s a knife in my pocket,” I said, wondering what prompted them to put me through this. My wife stood by, wide-eyed.
“Have you got a gun in your truck?”
“No,” I said and explained that I usually kept a small .22 revolver to shoot porcupines when I checked the properties I take care of around Kezar Lake, and that’s why he found those .22 shorts. I didn’t mention that I usually have .38 and 9mm shells in there too, but I’d been practicing with those guns lately and used most of it up. I haven’t been able to find any more in the stores for the past few weeks. Since the election last November, people have been hoarding it, fearing Democrats will try to ban it again.
My problem started when I pulled up to the little booth at the border like everyone else to answer questions about why I was coming to Canada. A seemingly nice young woman asked if I had any alcohol. I told her we had some wine and beer in the back. She said we were over their limit on wine and instructed me to pull over so I could pay Canadian taxes on three bottles. I parked, went into the office with the wine, and noticed that all the young men and women were wearing bullet-proof vests and sidearms - even the ones punching computers. One entered data on my wine and told me I’d have to pay a $28-something tax. That was more than I’d payed for the wine back in New Hampshire! I decided to pay $9-something on one bottle and leave the other two to pick up on my return trip. Then he told me the two burly guys outside would have to search my truck “for my safety.”
Maybe the guards noticed the small, circular sticker on the back window of my truck cap saying “I’m a bitter gun owner and I vote.” The NRA had sent it and it mocks what President Obama said about people like me when he was campaigning in liberal Marin County, California. I don’t think those guards understood the nuance, however, and my wife believes that’s why they searched me. Oh well. Whatever the cause, it was an inauspicious beginning of our Canadian vacation.
We’d traveled to Canada several times, visiting Quebec City, Montreal, and Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. Merchants seemed apologetic for high taxes on nearly everything, and repeatedly told us we could get refunds at the border if we saved our receipts. On this trip nobody told us that. Because they think Americans are getting accustomed to big government perhaps? In Nova Scotia, for instance, there’s a “Harmonized Sales Tax” or HST of 13% on all goods and services. However attitudes of people I talked to in Cape Breton were anything but harmonious when referring to their government.
One had been a fisherman with two boats and a crew of four who said the federal government told him he couldn’t fish for cod anymore and offered to buy back his licenses for $30,000. “I still have them,” he said, because they were worth far more than that, even if he couldn’t fish. “They’ll just give them to the Indians.” He ridiculed a policy that tried to protect seals, cod and lobster because seals ate up both the cod and the lobster, while local fishermen like him were restricted. Meanwhile, fish buyers purchased huge catches from large, foreign vessels fishing in the same waters.
The United States was born in revolution against an oppressive British government overtaxing Americans, restricting their trade, and trying to take their guns. Loyalists who supported those British policies moved to Canadian Maritime Provinces like Nova Scotia, so I expected to find descendants who didn’t mind government running their lives. Cape Breton Island didn’t meet that expectation. It’s dominated by descendants of Roman Catholic Highland Scots - a feisty, independent-minded strain of Celt, who seemed less than thrilled with their big, liberal, federal government. I saw a pro-life billboard near Mabou with a big hand and a little one reaching out for each other and the script: “Take my hand, not my life.” I liked Cape Breton.
Coming back across the border into Houlton, Maine last Saturday I retrieved my two bottles of wine from the Canadian guards, then drove a little further on where the the US border guard said, “Welcome home” and waved me through. I felt especially glad returning to a country ruled (so far) under a Constitution with a 1st and a 2nd Amendment.