EPWORTH, NL – “I thought he was a pirate.”
Gerald Moulton admitted he didn’t know what to make of the 39-year-old writer, who appeared out of the fog in late summer of 1960, chugging into the bay of Moulton's tiny community of Epworth in a schooner.
Mowat, who didn’t have any navigational aids, came out of the fog a few feet from George Baker’s wharf. Baker, the local merchant, let Mowat tie on to the wharf for the next two weeks so he could repair his boat.
“He was quite an interesting gentleman,” Moulton recalled.
At 14 years old, Moulton’s reference was limited to Epworth.
“In the beginning, we were very skeptical about him. Who was this red-bearded guy? He’s coming up here in a fishing boat. Why isn’t he fishing? Then he told us he was a writer. How can someone make a living writing books?”
"The Boys From Burin,” a chapter of the book The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float, was named after Moulton and his friends. Mowat describes meeting the boys and the adventures he had, swimming and fixing his boat. He recognized Gerald and his cousin Alan, who organized an operation to tan Mowat’s sails. Moulton said he was happy to see his name in the book but revealed that Mowat’s stories of him were embellished.
“For the reader it just makes it a little more interesting. It gave me a reason to wonder how often his boat actually sank. I’m sure that many of his adventures were probably imagined. I can understand totally, that’s Farley," he said.
"You didn’t always believe everything that he said, because he was a character. He wasn’t always a gentleman either. Mr. Baker let him tie off on his wharf and helped him with supplies and did everything he could, and he (Mowat) wrote him a cheque for $200 that bounced when he left. I think it was two to three years before Baker finally caught up with him. Baker did get his money but how could he do this to Mr. Baker? A man who had been so kind to him? Maybe Farley was totally broke. Maybe he didn’t know it would bounce.”
Moulton said despite Mowat’s indiscretion, the experience of hanging out with him was “life changing.”
“He was ahead of his time. We never thought outside of just what you can see. He had an understanding of how other people lived, of birds and fish and animals. We never thought do fish have feelings, do birds have feelings. We got educated into thinking about tomorrow, next week, next year," Moulton said.