Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Glad To Be Back

Two burly Canadian border guards searched my truck. They told my wife and I to stand in front of the grille “for our safety” while they were pulling our stuff apart, and I watched them through my windshield. One found a box of bullets in my glove compartment and showed it to his partner. Then he came around to me and said, “Put your hands behind your head. Lace your fingers. Point your toes outward.” Then he patted me down, including my groin.

“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.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back! Long, long ago, while in the United States Navy, I returned home to the United States from a "cruise" around the world. I felt like kissing the ground when I got off our aircraft carrier. I'd seen and experienced other countries and that made me appreciate our country.
God-given rights are uncommon in other countries. I can see that even a short trip elsewhere, even to a close neighboring country, can bring out the drastic difference.
God bless America... We hope to save her from our enemies - foreign and domestic.

Django said...

Great stuff Tom. That's some territory that I've always wanted to check to check out, along with Newfoundland.

The pictures are stunning and almost like like HDR images.

Anonymous said...

As a naturalized citizen of the USA (since 1953), I want to say that I could not agree with you more: I have always been glad to return to the USA every time I have traveled out of the country. It may not be perfect, and we may not agree on everything, but if we can keep our perspective and common sense, one day (hopefully in 2012) we will return to the America I know and love.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Tom. As a 20+ year Navy veteran, including Vietnam, I never want to leave the country again. I have spent my time overseas, and this is home. I'm getting too old for the aggravation of jumping through all the hoops of foreign travel these days.

Harvey in North Baldwin

Anonymous said...

We just got back from a trip to Nova Scotia as well. But you can darn well be sure that I had gone over that car with a fine tooth comb to make sure that I had not left any ammo in it.

On one previous trip our profile must have meet some criteria as the American border people took every thing out of the trunk and had us open it, then let us continue.

They asked us more question going into Canada then returning to the states. The wife has relatives and her dad came from Nova Scotia.

Anonymous said...

...Ha! That used to be the other way around. When I visited the States, I used to get searched and asked the same question over and over again. Then when I came back to Canada, it was like, "hey how'd it go?"

I was just down in the US and I can attest the reverse has happened. At the US Customs, I said-a-stupid in asking "that's it?" when only asked where I was going and for how long. The guy said yep and looked at me like I was nuts. Coming back I had to explain to this young bilingual probably university student, why I was in the States, what did I purchase (even though it is all on the custom's form) and basically because I had an Irish/Scottish name I was a lower class citizen.

Indeed times have changed.


Anonymous said...

Tom, I found you through the picture of my barn in Capstick, you story is funny about the border guards as I live in Sparks Nv. and have enjoyed this pleasure of crossing the border, only thing is I always get this treatment on both sides, coming and going!

Tom McLaughlin said...

That's interesting. What a beautiful spot you have there. You're a lucky guy. At least I think you're a guy.

I enjoyed that area very much and my wife still talks about Meat Cove. Pretty treacherous road going down there.

A fellow from that area told me Capstick got it's name because someone put his hat on a stick to signal someone else out to sea that he was in the right place. Is that right?