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It came to pass in Bible times that Cain, who was ticked off because God preferred Abel’s fatty lamb chops to Cain’s freshly dug spuds or some such, slew his brother Abel. Since that first murder, in some form or other, for some insane reason or another, humans have been slaying each other.

Treasury of Newfoundland Stories

If I remember my Sunday school lessons accurately, Cain was marked like a haddock and banished from Eden. In latter-day Newfoundland, by the way, banishment was sometimes the sentence for crimes less serious than murder — stealing sheep, for instance.

In days not as distant as Eden’s gates, as a result of some indefinite slight, sometimes one horde of naughty little bay-boys would ambush a second horde of equally naughty bay-boys and banish them with rocks, pelt the offenders with stones until they fled the neighbourhood.

Truly, eh b’ys?

In “Treasury of Newfoundland Stories: True Crime and Adventure” [Creative Publishers] Jack FitzGerald opens up a … well, a treasury of yarns, many of them featuring the heinous behaviour of some of Ol’ Cain’s descendants.

“Bus Ride,” the first story in Jack’s collection, took me to the hills of Bryant’s Cove where I’ve occasionally gone to claw blueberries into a bucket.

I can’t help that I associate Bryant’s Cove with berry-picking. That’s how I’m familiar with it.

In “Bus Ride” however, there’s not a single berry picked. Rather, Bryant’s Cove is identified as the home town of Donald Stone who, back in 1960, climbed down from the tangled branches of Cain’s family tree, and slew 19-year-old Joan Ash.

Why?

Because she would not be his bride, as is sung in ballads galore.

The third selection in Jack’s book tells how, in 1968, Gerard Parsons slew Audrey Ballett — not with a bloody big rock like Cain brained Abel — but with a hunting knife that’d he’d won at The Regatta hours earlier.

Why?

Because she would not be his bride.

Take a breath.

Now is the time for some German vocabulary. The German language has a lexicon of jaw-breaking words that succinctly express — in a single word — what it takes…well, English, for instance, a lengthy sentence to convey.

Here’s one: schadenfreude.

Of course I’m too inept to pronounce it correctly, but it means this: Satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.

Okay. Off to the courthouse where — eventually — Gerard Parsons was brought for trial: “People came from everywhere and waited in line for five hours to get a glimpse of the killer being brought into the building.”

Waited for five hours! Sounds like schadenfreude, eh b’ys?

Some in that same crowd, rather than risk losing their place in line “…sent kids for Pepsi and chips.”

Imagine.

In “The Tong Murders” there’s a macabre piece of information about three Chinese men: “The bodies of the three slain Chinese men were placed in wooden coffins and displayed in a slanted position in the front window of the funeral home.”

This was St. John’s, 1922.

Forty years earlier, out in the Wild, Wild West [?] of Missouri, Jesse James’ corpse was displayed in an open coffin for a photo shoot.

Truly.

Don’t believe me? Trot on over to Mr. Google’s house and see for yourselves.

In Port de Grave, not awfully far from Bryant’s Cove, in January 1834, Tobias Mandeville and Arthur Spring were hanged for John Snow’s murder…

… and by all accounts of the times, they deserved to be hanged.

But get this: They were hanged, dissected and then gibbeted.

Dissected and gibbeted!

In another case [1754] a couple of killers named McGuire and Halleran were sentenced to hang: “Hanging, however, was not sufficient punishment [!] for the murder of a judge. McGuire and Halleran … were given the additional sentence of gibbeting. Their bodies were left hanging at Gibbet Hill on Signal Hill and remained on display for a week as a deterrent to others.”

A deterrent to others!

I bet a loonie some of you have played Hangman, a word game that ultimately hangs a stick figure from a…well, from a gibbet.

How about that?

This treasury is filled with horror stories.

That friggin’ Cain, if he hadn’t been so envious of the favour God showed Abel because of the lamb chops, perhaps none of this slaying would have happened.

You think?

Thank you for reading.

 

Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at ghwalters663@gmail.com

 

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