On November 30, 2012, traffic started to move across the new Mackenzie River Bridge. Yellowknife and the North Slave region of the NWT became permanently linked to southern Canada for the first time. That same day, the much-loved Merv Hardy ferry which has served Northerners for decades crossed the Mackenzie for the last time.
To mark the occasion, NorthWords held an impromptu writing contest on Facebook, inviting people to post short stories about the Merv Hardie ferry. It was a quick and fun contest with a deadline only hours after the original post. We got three responses and are re-printing them all here. We like all the stories but our favourite came from Angele Cano of Hay River who wins a copy of the northern anthology Coming Home. Here are the three stories:
The ferry was the only way we could get to the hospital. I was on the highway with my sister, heading home to Hay River after a final road trip: just the two of us. She was nearly 35 weeks preggo, not due in Yellowknife for another week yet. The bumps and dips musta’ done something to this born again northerner, because she started leaking. We had been in Kakisa to see the falls. We started driving north, not even one bar on my phone. In the bathroom of the Merv Hardie ferry that leak became a splash and suddenly cell reception was the least of our worries.
The Old Woman leaned over the icy railing murmuring the Slavey prayer for safe passage across the Big River. It was dark and minus 40. Mist swirled over stretches of open water. Powerful beams reflected off splinters of ice. Eerily the boat moved in slow motion and seemed to turn in a circle following the deepest channel. Deck hands’ coveralls layered with ice resembled the glaze on a chocolate cake. With a wheeze the Merv Hardy slid onto the ramp. With reverence the Old Woman bowed her head. The crossing was over. The journey had begun.
– Patti-Kay Hamilton
I keep thinking about all those seagulls at the ferry landing and how we would feed them – then watch and laugh to see who got what first. I think they will be sad today.
– Carol Morin