In a vast forest just outside of town, the Denoons strolled through an autumnal rainfall of red, orange and brown leaves blowing off the trees, a fresh breeze carrying them through the air onto the damp soil, where fungi sprouted. Nearby, a moose munched on blueberries off a thorny bush. Pictou looked around himself. “Beautiful, isn’t it, Picky-tou?” asked Port Hawkesbury. “Yes,” Pictou agreed.
Pictou caught sight of a mound of toadstools growing at the base of a giant oak tree. He examined them carefully, and Port Hawkesbury and Stellarton came closer. “What are these?” he asked, stepping out of the way. He sniffed the musky smell of dead leaves in the air. “They’re toadstools, my dear,” Port Hawkesbury replied. Stellarton jotted some notes down in his notebook, and Pictou carefully examined the toadstools again. “They look like the ones in storybooks,” he remarked. “Yes, picky-Pictou,” Stellarton replied. “They’re lovely.” Pictou reached out to touch the toadstools. “Don’t touch, Pictou,” Stellarton warned him, and Pictou quickly moved his hand away. “Oh, sorry,” he apologized.
Pictou gazed at his parents. “Don’t eat the toadstools, my little one,” Port Hawkesbury advised him. “They’re poison.” Stellarton gazed at his nine-year-old son. “Some Canadian Boys ate those mushrooms. They became very ill and they died, because they’re toxic. And, of course, I don’t want my little Picky-tou to die just because he ate a poisonous mushroom, do I?”
“No,” Pictou quickly replied, shaking his head slowly and solemnly. “Good Pictou,” Stellarton praised him in a serious tone. Port Hawkesbury picked Pictou up to keep him safely away from the toadstools. “You can also get skin diseases from touching those mushrooms,” she warned him. “Ooh,” said Pictou. “But they’re pretty.” “Yes, little Pictou,” Port Hawkesbury smiled sweetly, but her sweet smile soon turned stern. “But they’re also dangerous – and deadly.”
As the Denoons strolled on, they could hear the plaintive, hooting call of a loon. A wild rabbit scuttled out of its burrow, while a beaver paddled in a nearby stream. A fellow outdoorsman trudged past the Denoons, jabbing his walking stick into the soil.
The Denoons broke their walk to admire the surrounding environment. The sun shone through a gap in the trees, creating a natural spotlight. Pictou sniffed woodland aromas in the air, spotting a caribou lapping up water from a nearby stream, some geese swimming about in a small puddle of rainwater, honking loudly, and a pigeon perching on a sycamore tree branch.
Soon enough, Pictou created a puddle of his own kind – the kind that stank of ammonia, which Port Hawkesbury quickly caught. “Oh, where can we changed you with some privacy, Pictou?” she asked, picking him up. Just then, Stellarton spotted a thorny bush beside a maple tree. “Oh, très bien.” The Denoons hid behind the bush, being careful not to prick themselves on the thorns, and Port Hawkesbury lay Pictou down on the ground, the leaves rustling and crunching as she pulled his pants down. She removed Pictou’s wet diaper, disposing of it in a convenient bin nearby. Stellarton made notes in his notebook as he watched. Port Hawkesbury cleaned Pictou’s backside with a baby wipe – thankfully not a dead leaf, and she slipped him into a fresh, dry diaper, pulling his pants back up. Port Hawkesbury grabbed Pictou’s hand and hauled him up off the ground. Pictou was caked with dry soil, and some leaves were glued to his back.
Port Hawkesbury gave Pictou a good dusting-off all over his body. “I’ll need to give you a hot bath tonight, Pictou,” she told him, then she looked down at herself. “Oh, goodness me! I’m gonna need a bath, too!” she exclaimed, then she turned to Stellarton. “Oh goodness, not you too, Stellarton!” “I’ll be needing a bath too, unfortunately,” he smiled wryly. “Well, looks like all three of us’ll be needing a good old hot bath tonight, eh?” Port Hawkesbury giggled, and the Denoons laughed all together ruefully.
The Denoons set off again, listening to the relaxing whistle of the soft breeze. Pictou spotted a squirrel scuttling down a tree, an elk chewing at some grass beneath a thorny bush, and a sparrow warbling on a twig.
The Denoons suddenly jumped up, their hearts leaping, gasping in shock. They all scanned around themselves, breathing heavily. Pictou sighed. “Oh, that scared me!” he clamoured. Port Hawkesbury nodded. “It scared us too, Pictou.” Stellarton jotted the noise down in his notebook. Strolling on, the Denoons discovered who’d made that startling noise – a young hunter, who was carrying a rifle, trying to take down a moose. His face had annoyance and determinism plastered across it. “Oh, hello. I’m Port Hawkesbury,” she introduced herself to the hunter. “And I’m Stellarton,” he added. The hunter focused on Pictou. “Hello, little softness.” “I’m named Pictou,” Pictou introduced himself. The hunter made sweet sounds to Pictou. “Pictou,” he repeated. “An endearing little name.” “Mmm-hmm, yes,” the Denoons all agreed, nodding at each other.
The hunter re-focused on the moose. “What you hunting?” Pictou asked him. “Moose,” the hunter replied, steadying his aim. “Ah-ha.” “I’ve also hunted bears, beavers, deer, caribou, elk, ducks and geese. Pretty much the whole lot,” the hunter added. “Ooh,” said Pictou, surprised. The hunter kept his focus on the moose while the Denoons watched.
Then he thought. “Maybe if I place a little bait there, he’ll come closer,” he suggested to himself. “Alright,” said Pictou. The hunter rummaged in his backpack for a salt-lick and carefully placed it down in plain sight of the moose, then cautiously moved back. The moose sniffed salt in the air, and it slowly edged closer to the salt-lick, taking one little nibble at a time. The hunter stayed focused as it nibbled away. His breathing began to deepen, and his heartbeat quickened. The moose was now in his line of sight. “Now!” Pictou commanded.
Taking a deep breath, the hunter fired once at the moose, piercing its skin and causing it to bleed, roaring in pain. The Denoons and the hunter stared out, gasping in shock. The hunter fired another shot, wounding the moose further and making it pour more blood, roaring in pain again. The Denoons and the hunter were on edge as they watched the moose suffer, breathing heavily. “One more!” Pictou yelled.
The hunter took another deep breath, and he pulled the trigger on his rifle, firing a third and final shot at the moose. The bullet pierced the moose’s heart, causing it to roar in agony and bleed profusely as its heart ground to a halt. It crashed down to the ground, grunting and struggling to raise itself up, until it grunted its dying breath… and dropped dead, the dry leaves rustling underneath.
The Denoons and the hunter all uttered a huge sigh of relief, breathing heavily. “Got him,” the hunter smiled. “Oh, finally,” Pictou sighed again. The hunter returned the salt-lick to his backpack, held onto the moose’s antlers and began to haul it over to the Denoons with all his strength, straining and staining himself with some of the moose’s blood. The hunter set the moose down, sighing with relief and wiping his brow. “Another one down,” he proclaimed proudly, and the Denoons all smiled.
Pictou looked at the moose. “What you gonna do with him?” he asked. The hunter held the moose by its antlers. “Have his head mounted on my sitting room wall,” he announced with pride. “Alright,” Pictou replied, and Stellarton jotted down more notes in his notebook.
“Well, thanks for meeting me today – and bringing some big game down,” the hunter thanked the Denoons. “Oh, aren’t we glad we did?” Port Hawkesbury smiled. “Farewell, my friends,” the hunter bid goodbye. “Farewell!” the Denoons called back as they left the hunter behind with the dead moose.
The Denoons once again set off into the forest, with an otter diving into a nearby river. A monarch butterfly flapped its wings as it soared through the air, while a bluebird fed its hungry newborn chicks with freshly-excavated, pink, juicy worms.
The Denoons stopped for another pause, and Port Hawkesbury stared up towards the sky, the sun spotlighting her and the other Denoons. She unexpectedly began to cry, warm tears coursing down her cheeks. She buried her face in her hands. “Aw. Whatever’s the matter, ma chérie?” Stellarton asked her in French, stroking her with care. “Pictou,” she sobbed. “Aw.” Pictou turned to Port Hawkesbury. “Here I am, Mom.” He sniffed, touched and stroked her lovingly, then he caught a sugary aroma in the air. The Denoons passed by a young Canadian Boy, who was picking berries from a thorny bush and storing them in a seagrass basket, Stellarton comforting Port Hawkesbury. Pictou examined the bushes, sniffing the air. “Berries,” he said. “All kinds of berries.” “Be careful, Pictou,” Stellarton warned him, “some berries are inedible. And if you’re gonna eat the edible ones, wash them first.” Pictou nodded in understanding. “Mmm-hmm.”
Pictou noticed some blackberries, sniffing them. “Here,” he called in French, and his parents came over. “They look very juicy,” Stellarton commented in French. Port Hawkesbury agreed through balmy tears.
Next, Pictou sniffed some raspberries. “These ones, too.” “Lovely,” Stellarton remarked. Then on to sniffing some strawberries. “These taste delicious with cream,” Pictou commented. “I know, Picky-tou,” replied Stellarton, and he jotted some notes down in his notebook.
Pictou then sniffed at some round, dark bluish berries. “Hmm? What kind of berries are these?” he asked, giving them another sniff. “Blueberries, sweetheart,” Stellarton replied. “Oh,” said Pictou, sniffing the berries again. He made sure that he also caught the unmistakable blueberry aroma.
Pictou gave the blueberries a thorough, detailed sniff. “Blueberries are a very Nova Scotia thing,” he remarked. “Yes, Pictou. A very Nova Scotia thing indeed,” Stellarton agreed. He jotted more notes down in his notebook as Pictou gave the blueberries a finishing sniff.
Pictou and Stellarton returned to Port Hawkesbury’s side. “No crying, please,” Stellarton pleaded her in French. Pictou sympathized with his mother. “No need to cry,” he comforted her, sniffing, touching and stroking her sweetly.
Once again, the Denoons strolled off, experiencing the sights and sounds of the forest, like a fallow deer looking out from behind a tree, a brook trout leaping out from a nearby stream, and a duck quacking as it waddled out of a puddle. The sun shone down on the Denoons like a spotlight as Pictou and Stellarton comforted Port Hawkesbury, Pictou sniffing, touching and stroking his mother caringly.