My savior in the forest green pickup truck

A student’s memoir about summers spent on a remote island in Canada


Evan Ford, Contributer

I spend my summers on a small island, surrounded by moody waters and a family of friends. I’ve visited the island every year since I was a baby, and the island has stayed the same for as long as I can remember. With no telephone poles, roads, or authority, the two-by-six-mile stretch of glacial sediment is a time capsule. 

Our guilty pleasure — mischief — is how we spend the long summer days.

There are numerous terms on the island that only locals know, a dialect composed of made-up words, convenient slang, and familiar surnames. The rope swing on the intersection of the Jones’s property is the Zunga, a Jenny is a generator, and if anyone says you “Kebarley’d it,” know that you’ve made an eccentric mistake. Even though the Kebarleys haven’t been to the island since 1998, they’re remembered as the most unhappy family of happy drunks. 

One term coined by the residents before us is “Savary feet,” which is the result of a summer well spent: a broad, calloused, sap-stained foot telling a story of running barefoot on dirt roads and a month of stubbed toes, courtesy to roots of the forest. So when we all sat on the porch of the Donovan Cabin with a week of summer left, we were horrified to see that our feet were not calloused, dirty, and thick. Running out of time, we anxiously decided we needed to have an adventure.

With a mission to make the six-mile trek to the general store on the other side of the island for ice cream, we did what we knew best; hitchhiked. With our thumbs up and delicate feet on the ground, we readily rode with Mr. Sampson on his golf cart. Bria and her cousin Taylor sat in the seat with Tinsley on Bria’s lap. My Sister, the Donovans, and I hung onto the cart roof with our tippy toes balancing on the floor. The already humorous spectacle was made only more outlandish by my little brother, Will, stretched out like a starfish on the cart’s roof. We had ten people riding on a three-person golf cart. We got to the first hill before Mr. Sampson decided that this heavy load was more than his weathered golf cart could handle, and we were on the road again. We walked the remaining five miles on foot.

When we arrived at the general store, it was thirty minutes from closing. With pooled pocket money of thirty-five dollars in loonies and toonies, we bought a big bag of large sour keys, two boxes of Popeyes Candy Sticks, a bag of ketchup chips, and nine Cream Sodas. 

We walked down the road until we found a spacious piece of driftwood in a patch of dusty grass on the side. We unanimously sat in silence, cracking open the cans. It was so quiet all we could hear was the fizz of the carbonated beverages, singing us to sleep like a lullaby. We were all either tired, bored, or both. We sat silently for a few minutes until the rattle of stones on ceramic broke our daze. Slowly pulling our heads upward, we looked across the road. A sky-blue ceramic toilet sat across the street from us, toilet lid up. It was too inviting. Silently, one by one, we all began throwing stones from the road into the open mouth of the seat like a basketball net. Finally, one stone hit the toilet, producing a sound similar to a glass stem breaking.

Rio Donovan squealed, “Nooo-oo-o” in a playful yet disappointing tone. After the hailstorm ceased, my older sister inspected the damage. Ryann is usually the one to fix a situation, but this one she aggravated, running her thumb over the crack. The sheer forces of physics, which held this toilet together, shattered under the pressure. The toilet split in half. 

An old man appeared from the dark blind of a screen door and hollered. One kid shrieked and ran, and before you knew it, the sound of our feet on the ground was as loud as someone beating a carpet with a broom handle. We got a head start, but the man began to gain on us. He rode an electric bicycle like the wicked witch of the east.

Then, a glimpse of hope: a forest green pickup truck sputtered to a stop. A man with an Albertian accent asked, “Need a ride?”

 We answered by piling into the back of his pickup truck instantaneously. Just as he started the engine, we heard a hand grab the truck’s tailgate. It was the jump-scare I hadn’t anticipated, and I screamed. The engine stopped. The driver exited the vehicle. Both angry men approached each other, staring the other man down.

The old man spoke with an exasperated voice and said, “Those kids are tress-pursers.” 

The Albertan man responded, “And how—.” 

The Albertian was interrupted by the older man. “They broke my toilet.”

The Albertian man turned to look at us, all in the back of the pickup truck and said, “Is this right?” 

Bria, looking distracted said, “No.” 

I chimed in, “I’ve never seen him.” 

The Albertian man said nothing, pivoted, turned to the truck, and a second later, the truck sputtered back to life. The older man gripped the side of the truck and walked alongside it as we accelerated. The dust began to kick up, and he slowly slipped away. I smiled and waved as the dust clouded his spiteful eyes. I felt guilty for not feeling guilty at that moment.

Ryann looked down as her foot bled onto the bed of the truck, she’d stepped on a barnacle. She smiled as she looked at her feet, and we all observed our own feet; stubbed, bruised, cracked and dirty. We knew it would take months to scrub the dirt out of the pores on our feet. We were content, we had completed our mission, and had our own souvenir. This way, our battered feed allowed us to hold onto Savary for a few months longer. 

 As the truck sputtered away, I had the opportunity of experiencing one of the most complex emotions I’d ever felt.