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NICHOLAS MERCER: Be prepared — Cyril Goodyear offers survival tips for newbies

Deer Lake's Cyril Goodyear is an avid outdoorsman and has written a book about surviving in the deep woods.
Deer Lake's Cyril Goodyear is an avid outdoorsman and has written a book about surviving in the deep woods. - Photo by Roxanne Ryland

The Boy Scouts have a motto: "Be prepared."

It is simple and to the point in its message, and covers everything young children are taught through the scouting movement.

Now, 92-year-old Cyril Goodyear might not have been a boy scout at any point in his eventful life, but that doesn’t mean their motto shouldn’t also apply to him.

The former mayor of Deer Lake has everything he needs in his car should he get stuck somewhere accommodations cannot be found.

In the trunk of his vehicle is a foldable saw, a tent, some fire logs in case dry wood isn’t an option and a sleeping bag.

While the scouts were formed 16 years before Goodyear’s birth, it is possible he would’ve been what they had in mind when they first started teaching children to be prepared.

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if that were the case.

For Goodyear, that sense of preparedness comes from a lifetime spent in the wilderness. When he was 10 years old, he worked at his father’s logging camp in the woods near Deer Lake, where his only reprieve from the biting cold was a woodstove on the compound.

Years later, he spent time in the Royal Canadian Air Force and followed that stint with five years as a member of the Newfoundland Rangers police force until he was transferred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

He served in northern Labrador as a ranger and learned plenty about surviving harsh winters from the Naskapi Innu in the Nain area.

Goodyear remembers one trip with some Naskapi guides in the 1940s. After one trek, he made note of how the Innu would stop at certain points and observe their trail.

Goodyear said they would make mental notes about any landmarks they had passed. Things like a large rock, broken tree or cliff were just a couple of things they might have noticed.

“They didn’t need a map, they had it all up here,” Goodyear said while pointing to his head with his right index finger.

When he left the north in the '50s, Goodyear still maintained his love for the outdoors.

He’s since gone on plenty of canoe trips all across the province.

He figures he’s navigated all of the major ponds, lakes and rivers in this place we call home. This includes one where he and a friend spent six weeks camping in Labrador.

There have also been times all he has had to eat in the bush is squirrel soup.

“That’s why they say I’m a little nuts,” said Goodyear, a noted lover of puns.

In 2001 Goodyear wrote a book about his experiences called "Against the Elements." It’s part cookbook, survival guide and autobiography.

Heading into this summer, I thought about putting together some camping trips in the surrounding area.

I thought about taking the ferry in Burgeo and spending some time in places like Grey River and Francois. Now, I know it isn’t a six-week trip into the Labrador wilderness, but it would be a big step for me.

Truthfully, I don’t have the skills for it right now, but was looking for some tips about getting the best out of my camping experience.

That’s where Cyril Goodyear comes in.

He offered some simple suggestions. Things like making sure to bring extra clothing, being prepared to live off the land and having a good fishing rod were paramount tips.

“Make sure you have a good .22,” said Goodyear.

The only experience I have with firing a weapon coincides with a New Year’s Eve party at my uncle’s place a couple of years ago.

As the clock creeped closer to midnight, several of the partygoers headed outside to ring in the new year with a piercing volley of shotgun blasts.

My lack of firearms knowledge notwithstanding, Goodyear is an experienced outdoorsman and will have forgotten more about surviving than I will ever know.

His tips are simple and to the point.

I’ll let you know how far I get with them as a part of my repertoire.

Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at

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